Tag Archive | social skills

You’d never imagine…

I’ve just been to my daughter’s wedding! Can you imagine?

Yes – that little girl in the stories in ‘A Home Education Notebook’ and ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ who made things and created things and had ideas beyond those I’d ever taught her.

Can you imagine your littlies getting to that point? Or doing any of the everyday life things that everyone ends up doing like working, driving, living and earning independently beyond home educating, having their own place, getting out into a world other than ours?

I couldn’t. Still can’t believe it really. It’s a scenario unimaginable to all parents whether the kids are in school or not.

However, it’s perhaps more concerning for parents who home educate, who are not following a well trodden and tested path, who inevitably worry whether not being in school will inhibit the building of skills the youngsters need as well as their education, like life skills, workplace skills, social skills particularly.

This is to reassure you that of course they do.

And there, at the only-a-covid-little restricted, DIY, jolly, happy wedding were a wonderful group of people whose background education didn’t come into it at all. Also hard to imagine when you’re so wrapped up in the details throughout those home ed years. People whose warm loving connections were far deeper than the relevance of home schooled or not home schooled. Irrelevant as it is in life anyway really.

Hard to imagine that all this home ed intensity you may be going through now will become so diluted as to not matter a jot.

And what was even better was that for the most part nobody looked at their phones. An even bigger delight. We were busy sharing the occasion face to face.

It seems sad that staring at these soulless gadgets has become a strategy for avoiding looking at and engaging with others which can be less comfortable, especially if they are strangers. Phones have become a technological dummy to suck on, to escape the challenge of social skills. Ironic isn’t it, that ‘socialisation’ – or lack of it – is thrown up as a down side of home educating, when no one ever mentions the damage to the development of social skills created by staring at a phone rather than engaging with the person next to you; the behaviour of so many. I would say phones are a bigger threat to building social skills than home educating!

It was a glorious day. A delight to enjoy the happiness after so many thwarted plans, to wallow in the warm loving connections with family and friends that had nothing to do with school or not. Even though I continued to be freaked out wondering how my two lovelies ever got to this point when I’m still remembering life in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ as if it were yesterday.

How did they ever get to be so old, to be so grown up?

It’s a good job I’m not ageing at the same rate, I always say!

The two little girls from ‘A Funny Kind of Education’

What’s socially adjusted anyway?

Sometimes for escapism I watch Channel Five’s ‘New Lives In the Wild’. I can’t always do it; Ben Fogle’s ignorant remarks about home education grate on me so much I have to switch over.

This recent programme got me just the same. He’s revisiting some of the families featured on his programmes five years ago to see what they’re up to now. Tonight it was the turn of the Goddards, who were living on the Isle of Rum in Scotland, but now have returned to the mainland as their needs changed and the children, who are home educated, grew up.

You can see the programme here

Of course Ben wants to see how things have panned out for the family (me too) and in particular the youngsters. Because Ben is concerned, as he’s expressed before, about home education; in particular about how well home educators ‘adjust socially’ when they’ve had such an isolated existence.

Now isn’t this just typical of those who have limited experience of home educators, and actually limited understanding of how people actually become socially adjusted?

It’s almost like there’s a national disease of wanting everyone to be the same and fit in and be normal – whatever that is. And it rankles! As did his comments, after interviewing the young people, about them seeming to be ‘socially adjusted’ after all – as if that was some sort of surprise!

Odd, isn’t it, how it’s always the social bit people raise concerns about as if it was socially normal in school – it isn’t.

Now I know I’m biased and in support of all those wonderful parents who want to home educate. And in my experience the social side of doing so is NOT a problem. The kids are fine, socially, intellectually, communicatively.

But others don’t know this. Others just listen to ignorant assumptions. And very few people, Ben among them it appears, actually question what social means and how it’s arrived at.

Firstly it perhaps refers to skills; skills of communication, empathy, interpretation, connection, conversation, understanding of others and what’s appropriate, and skills of care as important as any. Anyone who cares is bound to have good social skills by the very nature of what care is. That begins with family and spreads from there. You don’t need to be with a massive bunch of others necessarily, although broad experiences are always good.

Secondly, the expectation is also that youngsters need to be able to cope in socially crowded situations and learning out of them may hamper that development. However, many home educators don’t learn in crowds and their socialisation is rarely under developed. They end up in college, Uni, work, mixing, just like other youngsters.

Not everyone is either a crowd seeker or a crowd pleaser, but that doesn’t automatically mean they are not ‘socially adjusted’ in Ben’s terms.

Some people live in uncrowded places yet still integrate into social situations they’re presented with. Human empathy, intelligence and care, mostly learnt from family, teaches you how to do that, not crowds!

But what grated on me the most about Ben’s presentation of the programme was his arrogant assumption that he was entitled to judge whether the young people, after being fairly isolated, were ‘well adjusted’ socially or not. As so many others think they’re entitled to judge home schoolers – even though many of those judges seem fairly socially unskilled themselves!

It’s also ironic that very few ever consider whether schools make young people ‘well adjusted’ socially in the real world out of school. In my view, many are not!

And never is it ever argued that having less people around, being in less densely populated areas, might be a good thing because it might make us value people more and behave differently.

The incidence of Lockdown has brought home how irreplaceable are those real time, face to face, hug close, interactions with our special few, despite all the digital interactions we can now have with so many. It’s valuing each other that makes us socially adjusted, not being in a crowd.

And it’s fine not to like crowds. Doesn’t mean you’re not ‘socially adjusted’.

What’s socially adjusted anyway? Who is really qualified to judge? We all have social idiosyncrasies.

I so admire the Goddards for sharing their story in the programme and for their inspirational philosophies on life. Good luck to them. And good luck to all who decide on a lifestyle that doesn’t fit Ben’s idea of a norm!

Finally, good luck too, to all you home educators who don’t give a toss whether other pompous arses think you’re socially adjusting or not!

Home educating time for yourself

“So how do you get time to yourself?”

This was one of the questions often asked by other parents when they discovered we were home educating and – shock horror – were with our kids all the time!

Sometimes, so appalled were they at the thought of not having the kids away from them in school all day, it even preceded the more important questions that were actually about learning and education! We generally got fewer of those – apart from the ones like ‘How do kids learn anything without being in school?’

Anyway, you’ll no doubt be gaining the answers to that as you progress through your home ed life.

But the time-to-yourself issue is very personal and different for everyone, depending on how much you feel the need for it, and how you want to manage it within the relationship with your children.

I say that because all our home ed is dependent on our relationships. And part of education is learning about relating to others with respect and consideration. And that’s at the core of finding time out for yourself, however it is needed.

It’s a subject I talk about in ‘A Home Education Notebook’.

And in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ I tell the story of how I first started practising this in a tangible (if laughable) way. I described how I’d tell the kids I was slipping upstairs to read quietly whilst they were happy playing and I’d be down to help with anything in a little while. Did it work? Well, after spending the first few sessions worrying myself sick at first about what was going on whilst I wasn’t there it developed into a habit I was able to practise with some success when I’d got to the end of my tether (yep – I wasn’t perfect!) and needed some time to myself. Didn’t always work. But evolved as the children grew. They do need to be at a certain age and stage of development to be able to manage it.

But I saw it as part of their social education – part of the give-and-take of living with others – they won’t always be living with their parents hard though it is to imagine when they’re young.

I explained it to them this way: when the kids were busy immersed in their playing or other individual pursuits I didn’t pester them as I could see they were busy. So referencing that, I talked to them about me needing time to be busy in my own way and I’d appreciate it if they could keep their requests for when I’d finished. This is part of the respectful way we interacted in the home and the way we learned together about having consideration for others’ personal space and privacy at times.

Everyone needs time out from each other who ever you are, whatever relationships you’re in; lovers, relatives, parents, kids, siblings, etc. Taking time apart is not a denunciation of love in any way and should not be tied up with that. It’s just a natural need, greater in some than in others. Some never need it at all. I actually need quite a lot of solitude. Sod’s law I have far too much now and can go head-crazy! 😉

I just thought I’d mention it in case you’re one of the parents who I’ve heard about that can feel guilty wanting time away from their kids. We need time away from our partners, or our own parents too on occasion – but somehow that isn’t something we feel so guilty about.

Guilt has nothing to do with your personal need for personal space. We are all individuals and should take the time we need, asking for respect for those needs from the people we love. Respect is an essential ingredient to all loving relationships. If you need time out – arrange it.

And then you can go on loving your kids in the way you want and building a strong respectful relationship with them that will last a lifetime.

As ours has.

Here they are on a recent visit home; Charley left, Chelsea right

Hurtful and potentially damaging

I sit in a cafe where no one is talking. Everyone has their head down. Do they all hate each other? Are they depressed?

No – they’re staring at their phones.

Phones distract from real social interaction study shows; click the pic for the article

A child pipes up in a train carriage with a reasonable question for his mum about their journey. At first she ignores him and continues to stare blankly at her phone. So does everyone else in the carriage. He asks again, a little louder. So she yanks her earphones out her ears with a vicious glare and screams at him to leave her alone – she’s already told him – will he shut up – and various other hurtful remarks. Then she returns to watching her screen. He has no such entertainment and has to be content with nothing. And learn nothing about interaction but a lot about how it’s okay to ignore one another if you’ve got a phone in your hand. For that’s what most folks are doing.

We recognise additions to drugs and alcohol but we’re soon going to have to acknowledge addictions to technology which some people use compulsively. Not to mention to excuse inappropriate behaviour.

Like alcohol changes behaviour and severe alcoholism can ruin relationships I fear that compulsive checking of notifications and absorption in social media or gaming could be sending us the same way. We may have more facilities than ever with which to communicate but is this diminishing our skills to do so in warm humane ways, face to face? Diminishing interactions which communicate feelings and meanings more accurately than a digital emoji can. It’s certainly in danger of ruining our parenting and trashing the responsibility we have of teaching kids how to be social.

People would once have chit-chatted to strangers at the next table, on the next seat or in the bus queue. Now we’re all heads down creating isolation and distance. We’re learning how to ignore the person next to us in the room – familiar or stranger – by engaging with others miles away, or by gaming, which can overtake the desire to connect with anyone at all.

It’s easier not to. Our phones give us a chance to disengage and close ourselves in a digital bubble, avoiding the slight social difficulty of face to face, eye to eye.

The trouble is, apart from the fact that it is deskilling the youngsters – well and the oldsters too who are supposed to be setting an example – disengagement leads to desensitisation. Desensitisation makes it easier not to care. When you care less you can commit offenses and crimes against others more easily, you can bully more easily, you can disassociate the responsibility we all have to care for one another and maybe be polite to one another which makes a day go round more pleasantly than screaming.

I don’t know what preceded the incident on the train when mum sounded off loud enough for the whole carriage to hear. I acknowledge we’re all driven to less than acceptable behaviour with our kids on occasion, although she kept it up all journey. But I do know that kid did not deserve to be spoken to like that – no one does. Or be ignored for the rest of the hour’s journey without anything to do. He needed his own phone! Better still, he needed someone to talk to.

We all do. However updated we all are, and connected as we need to be to modern communications, it is nothing more than hurtful to be in the company of someone who clearly seems to prefer to communicate with someone else. It hurts us all; child or adult.

And it’s something we perhaps need to give serious thought to as we parent and prepare our kids for the wider world. Phones are absolutely brilliant. But we have to consider and take charge of them and their place in society, not have them in charge of us. Or replace the time given to the warm loving interactions we all inherently need.

A little bit of championing!

It’s not often I champion the daughters. I’m just not into blowing trumpets in people’s faces – as much as I might secretly like to!

But the thing is I do get asked.

One from the archives from when we were making the iron age hut described in A Funny Kind of Education

People who’ve read about the little girls in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’, who’ve read about all those comical antics and Home Ed moments, not to mention the stories in ‘A Home Education Notebook’ (their pictures are on the back), ask me what they’re up to now.

And with current events I thought it might be a good time to mention those two adults I still think about as my two little lovelies.

For tonight is the opening of ‘Model Organisms‘.

Chelsea, the poster girl

It’s a one woman performance (yep – that’s Chelsea) of a play that is part of the Brighton Fringe.

How this daughter, of a woman who does her best to hide away from any performance whatsoever (not great for selling books), has grown into an actor with the guts to take the stage for an hour all by herself is beyond me.

As well as this performance she’s also the founder of a production company which, through a collaborated effort, are also putting on a piece during the Fringe. As if this wasn’t enough she also has a job to help keep the roof over her head – did I say? I feel exhausted thinking about all she does. And some people would suggest that home educating makes the children unable to mix and work shy?

Charley having a chuffed moment

Charley meanwhile has fought her way through a lot of dross in recent years. This has come in various forms consisting of a crap Uni course which she left in disgust, dickhead employers, and general disrespect of young people. And with much fight and staying power has finally landed herself an assistant manager’s job and is determined to give that her all for the time being. Consequently disproving another accusation aimed at home schooled kids that it’ll make them too dependent and not give them the life skills needed to get out in the real world. Since both live independently and have vibrant social lives I hardly think that stands up now does it!

Just thought I’d say, since many of you Home Ed freshers ask about those little girls and I thought it might be reassuring for you to know that they’re out in the world achieving the kind of stuff everyone else does – quite like normal people!

I said ‘quite’! 🙂

 

An invitation…

Will you come and say hello? It would be lovely to meet you.

In celebration of my new book ‘Who’s Not In School’ the publisher is holding some public events so we get to meet. And the first is in

BEWITCHED Coffee Shop

Bridge Street in PETERBOROUGH this coming SATURDAY

20th June 2 – 4pm

Others will be held at home education groups around and about, but this is the first of the public ones and anyone interested in children and books can attend.

I’d welcome your support if you’re around…believe me, I’m more shy than you at meeting new people; something I had to bluff my way through when I was with the children in the hope they grew competent and confident in social situations! I think it’s worked a bit – Charley says she’ll come along to this one too and hold my hand. It was once the other way round!

But you don’t have to be a home educator to come and enjoy a coffee and natter with other parents sharing thoughts about their children’s education and books and that’s what these events are for.

So do see if you can make it.

And if it’s too far for you, get in touch with the publisher at Bird’s Nest Books and arrange for one over your way. If you check in regularly with their website or sign up for their newsletter you’ll keep abreast of other events too.

Meanwhile…I hope to see you!

Five good reasons to Home Educate

Just in case you’re wobbling about home educating I thought I’d repost this from a few years again. All the reasons still hold true:

Although Home Educating is not for everyone, neither is school!

One grown up home educator still enjoying her world

One grown up home educator still enjoying her world

And it’s often a little way back into the school routine when parents start to have misgivings again about what goes on inside those school walls. And a time when the thought of home educating, that you’d shoved down under the lure of promising new term beginnings, pops back up.

Just as there are lots of good things about school, there are lots of good things about home educating too, although they are less well known. So here’s a few to make you think…

  • You can nurture your children’s natural love of learning. Did you know they had a natural love of learning about and exploring their world? They do; their curiosity – it’s been there since birth, but when their learning gets taken over by schooling it often dies a death. By home educating you can develop it even more and use it to enhance your child’s learning experience.
  • You can use different learning approaches to overcome difficulties. ‘Learning difficulties’ can develop at school because schools have a rigid style of educating. Many parents who’ve withdrawn children who have these so called difficulties find that with a different approach the difficulty is not an issue. With home educating you can use any approach that works for your child. Thus children can achieve where once they failed.
  • Alongside academic skills, you have plenty of time to devote to personal, physical and creative development, often neglected by the school timetable. These areas of development contribute enormously to overall intelligence and achievement.
  • You also have time to pay attention to developing their thinking skills, personal skills, practical skills and social skills all of which make young people much more employable.
  • And if they’re struggling and unhappy in school, home educating is pretty likely to make them happier, healthier and more motivated all of which better sets them up for a successful future. And taking away the school stresses usually makes for a happier family life too!