Tag Archive | support for home educators

Will I fail the children?

It doesn’t matter who you are, how long you’ve been a parent or home educator, beginner or seasoned, whether you’ve been in teaching or not, this will no doubt be a question that lurks menacingly in the back of your subconscious like an unwelcome zombie!

I asked it too, not only when we started home educating but throughout.

Being a very pragmatic person I eventually evolved an answer, so I thought I’d share it here in case you need some reassurance.

But let’s start with something bizarre; bizarre, isn’t it, that parents generally don’t ask the same question – will I fail the children? – when sending the them to school! Perhaps we should.

Of course, with schooling, there are more guarantees – supposedly! Thousands go to school, it’s got to be okay hasn’t it? And for thousands it works. So that’s become an accepted guarantee.

But other thousands are questioning it now; questioning its outmoded approach, it’s lack of attention to the needs of contemporary young people, it’s damaging testing and regimentation of what is supposed to be a broadening and inspiring life experience (that’s education I’m talking about!) So school definitely isn’t as much a guarantee of a successful education as once supposed.

Anyway, how could it be? Kids grow and change constantly – there are in reality no guarantees with any of it. So don’t think that just because you home educate there’s more likelihood of failure than with school. There isn’t.

But the basic reasons you won’t fail your child if you home educate are because:

  1. If you’re considering home education, or already embarked upon it, you’re probably a thinking, conscientious, engaged parent – you wouldn’t be reading this otherwise. A thinking, engaged and conscientious parent can easily make a success of home education by the very nature of being so and by parenting in the intelligently thoughtful way you no doubt do, so in this way you cannot fail.
  2. The thinking, engaged and conscientious parent you are makes a success of it by remaining open, learning yourself, trial and error, facilitating what’s needed at the time, revising often and embracing new challenges. You don’t need to know it all – no one does!
  3. A thinking, engaged and conscientious parent is able to build respectful and engaged relationships with their children and it is these relationships which facilitate the development of an educated young person, as much as any other resources you may provide.
  4. A thinking, engaged and conscientious parent is one who is intuitive to their child’s needs and yet is also able to see those needs within the context of the wider world, how the children fit into it and contribute and take a responsible place within it.
  5. The thinking, engaged and conscientious parent you are researches, connects with others, discusses and considers, remains flexible and develops an approach that works because when it doesn’t you change it and make new decisions, until it does succeed.
  6. And finally, failure is only a human label, not necessarily a ‘thing’. Failure only exists when something doesn’t work as expected which we fail to learn from or move forward from in new ways. Failure is part of an educational journey from which we grow and develop and which points the way to success. Therefore, failure is only failure when you stay there! You can make every ‘failure’ a step towards success when you don’t give up on it.

So, if you encourage, stimulate, provide a variety of experiences, remain flexible and conscious of young people’s needs and lives, in relation to the needs of the wider world, learn and grow yourself (as parents we do that all the time anyway), and above all LOVE and RESPECT your kids as I’m sure you already do, YOU WILL NOT FAIL!

What do you do with family skeptics?

You’ll know who this lady is if you’ve read ‘A Funny Kind of Education’

One form the achives of our most cherished supporter

One from the archives of our most cherished supporter

She featured large in the story and the children’s lives. And accompanied us on our educational rambles and expeditions; the regular purveyor of hot chocolate and biscuits as I recount in our story, teamed with twinkle and mischief!

She was the girl’s only grandparent, my mum, and our most ardent supporter, inspiration and comfort. What love and support she brought to our home school days. We were truly blessed.

I’m very aware though, especially as I get asked about the issue, that not everyone gets this support from family when they decide to home educate. And that must be the hardest thing ever.

We did experience skepticism from some family members but it was muted with their respect for us (okay – they thought we were weird and risking it, but they kept those opinions mostly to themselves). But it was nothing to the hostility some families experience and it’s difficult to know how to deal with it. You have to be strong to ride it out.

This is where the home education community, both physical and online, are a lifeline. For basically you’ll need them to be your ‘family’ for the time being. We can’t choose the relatives, but we can choose to create another kind of ‘family’ support and my experience of most other home educating families was that they’d be happy to offer that.

Some other things you can do to keep strong are:

  • Keep your priorities and principles based firmly in what YOU think is best for your family and don’t be persuaded by the scaremongering of others
  • Consequently, do what you do for your child’s sake and not to please others
  • Do some research and arm yourself with informative arguments. If it doesn’t work, ask people to reserve judgement – as you don’t judge them for their life choices
  • However, you don’t have to defend, explain or justify your choices. Sometimes it’s best to say nothing and smile knowingly!
  • There’s no right or wrong way (not counting abuse here) to parent or to educate. Everyone is different and responds differently so you can only do what you feel is right for your circumstances. There are lots of individuals in schools who silently suffer their circumstances
  • Family members may want you to stay with mainstream simply because they are ignorant or afraid of other approaches. That’s not a good enough reason to stay with a system that’s failing your child. Don’t let them push their fears onto you
  • Establish a good group of firm supporters you can turn to when you need it
  • Don’t be afraid to tell them what you’re up against with family and how much you welcome their support
  • Witnessing you standing up for what you believe is right is a great example for your child. It will help them stand up to unsupportive family members in their future, if they ever have the unfortunate need to
  • Home education WORKS. There is much proof of that now. Doubters really have no argument!

My mum was surprised-cum-shocked when we told her what we were doing. But she could see the possibilities, could see the kids so unhappy in school, and was willing to wait for the proof. We were the first in our family to do such a radical thing and clearly some didn’t approve at the outset. But as the children flourished their doubts turned to admiration – the wait paid off.

If you’re experiencing family opposition, hang in there, stay strong and here’s wishing you’ll experience admiration eventually. But also remember that some will never give their approval – but that’s their problem, don’t make it yours!

And if you have a way of dealing with family doubters do leave your experiences in a comment here so we can help each other.

A little taster of the new book

AHEN-THUMBNAIL-200It’s always extremely daunting to publish a new book. You never know how it’s going to be received. So I’m really heartened by the lovely messages I’ve received so far in support of ‘A HOME EDUCATION NOTEBOOK to encourage and inspire’ which was recently published.

I wrote it in support of all you home educating parents for I remember myself what it was like on days when you had a mega wobbly and needed a bit or reassurance. That’s what I’m hoping to supply with this.

So if you’re feeling that right now consider getting a copy of your own to have to hand. Meanwhile, here’s a little taster:

There’s no doubt that some days we lose the plot!

Parenting can definitely make you lose the plot regularly. Being a home schooling parent there’s times you begin to wonder if you ever had a proper plot in the first place.

This book is intended for those very times.                 

Firstly, don’t worry. We’ve all felt like that, even the most experienced, matured home educators whose grown up young people seem to be the epitome of success. And secondly, don’t be put off by them, thinking you’ll never get there – success comes in many forms and you can be successful too. Thirdly, don’t feel plot-less alone; talk about it with others and you’ll be able to swap stories that help you get back on track.

Meanwhile, the stories here are intended to bring comfort and support till you do and hopefully remind you what the original idea was.

When you decide to home educate you probably already had the idea that school wasn’t going to be right for your family. Or you may have tried school and discovered that as a result. There are so many different reasons parents home educate; some to do with their child’s well being and happiness, others to do with approaches to learning and education in general. But although you may know what you don’t want, your plan about what you’re doing in place of school can wobble on occasions.

Now, this isn’t a book to tell you what to do with the kids all day. The best way to find that out is to connect with all the others who are already doing it and those who have done it, research, (maybe read my other books) and adopt others’ ideas until you establish your own.

Instead, this book is more to help bring you back to your core intentions when you’re wobbling. And give you some company and encouragement until you do…

Becoming sucked into the way schools do education is often is what causes us to lose sight of our own core intentions and plot and make us forget what we want for our children within our own individual circumstances. And I guess you wanted something different from what schools provide or you wouldn’t be home educating.

With so many following that mainstream path you wouldn’t be human if you didn’t get seduced into thinking you ought to be doing school too. You can also feel alienated from the ‘real world’ (a term school users will often use as an accusation – disputable which ‘real world’ is the most real), and wonder sometimes why on earth you’ve chosen to home educate.

Well, this is to remind you that you’ve chosen this path because you thought that was best for your child – and you do know your child best.

It’s also to remind you that HOME EDUCATION WORKS. You chose this route because you thought it would be better – and it is in many circumstances.

It’s been going on long enough now for there to be home educated adults out in the ‘real’ world working, living productive, happy lives, contributing to society, who have ‘normal’ social lives and plenty of friends. And as someone once said to my daughter; “you couldn’t tell” they’d never been to school. We weren’t sure how to take that at the time, but we had a good laugh over it.

There’ll be quite a few things you need to laugh over. It’s often the best response!

I’ve shared many of these home education moments along the way, some on my blog, some even pre-date it, before my books were published. But as it’s so time consuming to trawl back through all that to find comfort and reassurance when you need it, this is a collection of them in one place with edited and added material. My home educating friend and publisher told me that she had a book on her bedside table for those wobbly moments so she could dip into it and feel reassured. And that’s what we wanted to produce. It’s set out in fifty two stories, one to dip into each week of the year.

I know how lonely it can feel sometimes stepping away from the mainstream, even with the wonder that is social networking which we didn’t have when we first started. I know personally how you can doubt, worry, wobble, cry, lose the plot and feel you’re losing yourself sometimes even though you love home educating, love your kids and on the whole love what you’re doing.

I’ve been in that situation too but there is one absolute truth I can tell you for certain; it was bloody WORTH IT! I have no regrets, not one single one…

Hope you find that as encouraging as I have found your supportive comments. Thank you!

And if you live in the vicinity of Boston in Lincolnshire do come along to Waterstones next Tuesday evening and say hello, it would be lovely to meet you.

waterstones poster

A bit excited…


My new book – out by the end of the month

It’s a while now since our home educating days. Even longer since we started all those years ago and not without an amount of anxiety and trepidation. But that was soon overcome with the delight and joy in seeing the children flourish, learn and develop without school. (You can read the story in ‘A Funny Kind of Education).

They’re grown up now but it’s not as if education ever ends really, as our children knew. It goes on throughout life; they learn, research, adjust, experience, develop, all the time.

The best thing they learnt from home education was that learning doesn’t necessarily need to have nothing to do with school or school years, but is something they can continue for themselves as part of their personal growth, wherever they are, whatever time in life.

They still come to me for guidance and wisdom on occasion. But I find that often, with their contemporary experiences, they’re wiser than me and teach me things. Thus our learning journeys are reciprocal.

Over all the time we were home schooling I was writing about our experiences; how we learnt, insights into education, what we learnt about learning itself, and children’s general and personal development. But a lot of that writing was in a variety of other places and pre my blog and books, although it influences what appeared there. So I’ve been working recently on a book of pieces from that inspirational time, collating it all in one place so you don’t have to go searching but can keep it to hand.

This is a book of comfort and reassurance for all you inspirational parents already home educating (and those who want to) who might just need a little personal help through a wobbly day, with ideas about how we tackled various issues, like panicking, losing perspective, socialisation, dealing with others waving school style results under your noses, too much gaming, LA visits, keeping yourself sane and normal!

Because I know from doing it and being in turmoil myself at times that it’s the parents who need support as much as the children. In fact, I discovered that – and at the risk of a generalisation – if you take care of yourself the children’s education will follow and flourish.

And I’m excited to tell you that it is to be published very soon with Bird’s Nest Books. If you sign up to their newsletter you’ll get to know when. Or keep popping back here for updates.

And perhaps I could just say how much I’ve appreciated all the support shown for my books and my work throughout those years. Without your wonderful encouragement, writing would be an even lonelier place than it already is at times.

So heartfelt thanks – you’ll find more of those in the book’s preface – for I want you to know how much you’re appreciated.