Tag Archive | teaching

The ignorance of some of the educated!

The fight or flight response kicks in automatically now. Palms sweat, breathing goes gaspy, limbs shaky. I brace myself for an onslaught.

This is what happens every time I listen to another piece about home education on the news. For it’s often laced with an attack.

LBC radio featured a piece about it the other night with callers chirping in. (Sorry – can’t find a recording!) As well as a few positives there was a right barrage from an angry teacher (surprisingly it’s often teachers who feel the need to attack) who obviously felt threatened. But it wasn’t from directly offensive remarks the like of which we get, she was threatened by us mere parents assuming they can do what teachers do, without all their training, and educate our own kids. She was incensed at the thought!

It’s odd that teachers should feel threatened by homeschoolers – why would that be? And it also displays the depth of the misconception they are under.

For parents don’t assume they can do what teachers have to do because they’re not teaching in the way teachers have to teach and they’re not doing it to a system which requires them to teach it. They are educating completely differently from what teachers understand as teaching.

And ironically it is those professionals’ narrow minded view of teaching and learning that prevents many from understanding the true nature of education in the broader sense, as opposed to simply institutionalised schooling.

The other thing we were wrongly accused of in this particular discussion – and another common one – was of preventing our children from mixing and inhibiting the children’s chance to gain qualifications. Our kids have as much opportunity as they choose to go where they want to go, be with who they want to be with and get what they need to do it – how is that inhibiting? It’s school which inhibits those choices surely – for they should be choices.

With all the work so many of us do to raise awareness and understanding of home education you’d think people were becoming a bit more enlightened. So I find it totally ironic that whenever home educating parents are accused of being ignorant of educating – usually by someone in the teaching profession – those professionals making accusations do so from a position of their own obvious ignorance of home education – without direct experience usually. Is that not a clear case of the pot calling the kettle black as the saying goes?

When these ignorant people are being so insulting, they should perhaps remember they are also insulting all the EDUCATED, INTELLIGENT, QUALIFIED PROFESSIONAL, HARD-WORKING home educated ADULTS who are now already grown up, already out in the WORKPLACE, who never went to school.

So despite panic attacks I keep on saying how it is when I can, as many other brave parents do, in the hope of lessening this ignorance about a positive and successful approach to children’s education.

And on a more positive note I’d like to bring your attention to a more enlightened piece here in the papers asking why so many parents feel the need to give up on school and home educate.

Marta Drew and her children home educating featured in The Guardian

The question could also be asked – why are so many teachers turning to it too? For they are. Is it because they’ve seen what happens to kids’ in the conveyor belt system? Is it because they don’t want their individuals on that conveyor belt either?

I wonder?

Teaching the world

When I was a green young teacher I didn’t understand the most important thing about teaching. 20150529_144147

I thought I was there to instruct. That’s what teachers were employed to do, wasn’t it? And also, as a young person pre-parenting, I wasn’t aware of the impact you as a person have upon the children you’re teaching. Not to mention others too.

In fact, I guess you don’t even twig this when you first become a parent either. You’re too besotted with this bundle of delirium that’s just been delivered to the bed, transforming life as it formerly was into something a bit bewildering to say the least. Not only transforming life, but principles, priorities and purpose, as you grow into realisation that probably for the first time in the whole of your life you are accountable.

Your actions matter to someone else more important than you!

The other thing I didn’t spot which I have now is that when you become a parent you automatically become a teacher, but a completely different one to the one we recognise in schools. Everything this tiny being learns, right from its first few moments, weeks, early years, is down to you. You are suddenly accountable for teaching them things – through your example.

It can feel a bit overwhelming!

But it is also beautiful. And it is a beautiful thought that you can teach, and you are now a teacher too. For that’s what parents are, although ‘teacher’ is perhaps the wrong word because of its school associations.

But teaching is not necessarily to do with schools.

For, if you can take your view even broader, it is also a fairly magnificent thought that we are all, always, not only teachers of our own children, but also teachers of the other children we come into contact with, not to mention all the other parents and people with whom we meet and mix and share ideas.

What we do in our own homes is the beginnings of a way of teaching the world, through our demonstrations and ideas.

You can inspire and teach others through your parenting. You can teach yourself as you grow and parent your child. And you will definitely be teaching the child, as you interact, nurture, care for and show them everything. You will also more importantly be teaching them what it is to be human – the single most valuable lesson of all. And this all happens just by you being human and humane and caring in the way you parent.

I now understand that the academic teaching teachers do in classrooms is insignificant to the other messages they give through their behaviour and example, and less significant than parents teaching their children what it is to be human, to care, to have compassion and consideration, empathy and tolerance. All of which impacts on other children, who in turn pass it on, and so on. And it impacts on their education. A caring child reacts to learning far differently to one who doesn’t.

So, in such ways, you teach and parent the world. Your example teaches best of all.

And that’s the most important thing about it which I didn’t get before.

Thus we are all of us teachers too.

Managing a moody homeschool monday

It’s been one of those Monday mornings. You’ll know the ones; where you want to stick your head back

A bit of blue sky for Monday brightness

A ray of sunshine for a Monday morning

under the duvet and pretend it’s not happening.

You get those whatever you do.

I got them when I worked full time. I got them when I was a SAHM – even though I felt it was the best thing I’d ever done and was besotted with the little ones. I got them home educating, even though that then became the best thing I’d ever done. And I get them now, even though writing full time was something I always wanted to do.

It’s the nature of our human psyche more than it’s about what we’re doing. And however much we love what we’re doing, overkill can sometimes prevent us from feeling that. It’s quite normal. It’s how it is. Accept that and it gets a whole lot easier, because once you accept it, I’ve found, you can then do something about it.

I thought that might bring a little comfort if you’re waking up as a parent or home educator who doesn’t want to face the day and are feeling guilty about it. Don’t! Guilt is irrelevant. Planning how to deal with this very real part of all family life is more practical.

Some of the ways I’ve found to deal with this are:

  1. Take it slower with the children this morning. Nothing wrong with doing things like reading stories in bed together or watching films or just letting them play. Playing is an enormously valuable developmental activity anyway. And a less directed day will give them time to practise the essential life skills they need to take charge of themselves.
  2. Explain you need a little time to recharge this morning and they can sort out their own activities. Don’t be afraid to admit you’re not up to much today – they’ll only worry if they suspect something’s wrong and you pretend it’s okay. They’ll be better people for understanding you’re human and they have to cope with that.
  3. Do something different with the day. Change your routine. Swap things round. Look at photos. Have a de-clutter. A change is as good as a rest.
  4. Get out of the house. Walks – city or rural, picnics, parks, playgrounds, explorations of areas you’ve not been before, all change the tempo of the day. Get out under the sky. Find some space.
  5. Phone another parent/friend and get together with their kids.
  6. And don’t worry – it’s not going to scar the children. You’re not going to look back in ten years time and say I ruined their education and their life with this moody Monday, are you? I had plenty of moody days and I’m pretty sure my kids aren’t ruined. They’re intelligent young people who understand what it is to be human, how to be compassionate when others need it and that life isn’t only about their needs!

And one last thing – it helps to think of all the teachers who’ll be going into school in a horrible mood this morning. Because they’re human too and many of them will feel this way and the children probably won’t be getting a very inspired day either, could equally get shouted at, and are stuck with it. At least yours can go in another room!

Lighten up and let go and the day and the mood may very well change itself.

Now my daughters are home educating me!

I got in a right stress making the little talk on You Tube. I’m not good in front of the camera. filmmaking 010

“You can take a break and swallow, mum” advises the photographer in the family, grinning from behind the lens. ‘I can always cut bits out’.

Her skills with the camera and technology far exceed mine. Pity she can’t do anything about my grimace, I thought, as I try and rid my mouth of the fur balls that seem to have filled it.

When I look at it later I cringe with embarrassment.

“We can all think we look rubbish on film at times,” reassures the performer in the family when I whinge at her down the telephone and recount our film making adventures. “Play with the setting and light, and make sure you have something on that helps skin tone and things like that.”

I was picking out all the things wrong with it when I realised something; they were using the same strategy on me that I’d used when they were here full time home educating. Namely; polish up your courage, do it don’t judge it, use all errors to learn from, and above all have another go.

Throughout our home educating days, mistakes, or not getting it right first time, were a valuable opportunity to grow, discover and point us in the right direction. Not the mountain of shame that’s often associated with them in a classroom.

Mistakes mean you’re having a go a something new that’s obviously a challenge. When you’re challenging yourself, you’re growing and learning. Examining your not-quite-right attempts in an analytical (not self-demeaning) way teaches you things about yourself and your skills that will be developmental.

But being overly critical or judgemental in a personal or negative way is of no value to the learning process at all. Getting it wrong is a positive opportunity to learn, which helps us grow and extend who we are.

It took a while for the girls to recover from the scars of schooling where getting it wrong was terrible, humiliating, and a cause for pain. Now they set themselves challenges and see them as an opportunity for growth. Getting it right or wrong in the early stages of growth is not personal. And not a crime.

They were both so beautifully encouraging when I was having a go at this. And morally supportive. Stayed on my side. Helped me push on through the tricky bits.

This is just what any learner needs, me included.

I changed some things round in the film. And did it anyway – as I’ve always told them to do. (Funny how we forget our own words). We none of us ever have to be perfect, I was always telling them that too. And yes; they fired that one straight back at me right away.

Thank you girls, for continuing to home educate me!

(If you missed it last week you can watch the film on Youtube here)

What to do with an uninspired Monday?

I wake up some Mondays and just don’t want to know. I’m sure everybody does at times.

When it gets too much, go where they day takes you.

When it gets too much, go where they day takes you.

I remember that happened when we were home educating too, even though it was overall the most inspiring and liberating experience. Finding that you can actually break through conventional barriers and do something different usually is. But there are times however magical life can be that you just can’t hack it!

If you’re home schooling, not to worry; I looked at it this way: You can bet your boots that there are many teachers also waking up with that same feeling, so if you’re going to be less than inspirational for the kids today then you won’t be the only one – you can be sure of that.

You can also rely on the fact that even though you may not be having much stimulating input some days the children will still be learning. Because they learn without your input too – that’s the nature of their inquisitive minds.

And another point is that as a parent, you don’t always have to take the stage, be the leader, be in charge, come up with infinite ideas, or be the jester who jollies everyone along. The children also have to learn to do that for themselves.

So it’s just as important that sometimes you ‘sit in the audience’ as it were. And let the kids take the main stage. Let them be in charge, come up with ideas and control the day. And you go with their flow for the day.

This gives them an important opportunity to make decisions, not to expect to always be entertained, to problem solve for themselves, to even look after those whose needs are bigger than theirs at times. Important life skills.

I had days when my needs were bigger than theirs. When I had to fold into the nucleus of my self for a bit and not be the sole inspirational leader of others’ lives, but just look after my own and get my strength back up.

And you know what?

Those days always worked out just fine. The kids found things to do. We watched stuff. We may have even stayed in PJs all day and were they ruined as a result? Did they turn into lazy, jobless, no-hopers unable to get up in a morning as someone nastily suggested they would?

Course not! They are hard working adults who know what it is to work, who are always punctual and responsible – and sociable – and sometimes more conscientious than colleagues, who contribute to the working world as does anyone.

So don’t worry about those Mondays, or any days, when you really cannot give out. You’re not ruining your kids just because of the odd day. In fact you are teaching them something of what it is to be human – and humane!

Something I often wonder, after reading Nicky Morgan’s latest proposals (see my last), if they’ll get in school!

Another bit of me shrivels

I’m shrivelling from reading the new proposals from the education minister. I initially had hope but now reckon she’s no better than Gove with a handbag after hearing yesterdays news on her intentions.

Read the report here.

These people have about as much insight into the needs of real people and real children as my dog. Actually, I think that’s maligning my dog; she seems to know when things aren’t right and is more attuned to human beings than those in Westminster appear to be.

Those in Westminster appear to have no idea what it is that human beings (and all those who live in the rest of the country) need in order to develop and learn.

How can they disregard the professionals, disregard research and disregard the growing body of people like home schoolers who are abandoning the schooling system because it stinks? Are they blind?

More tests and more rigorous academics is not the answer to helping children learn because these things don’t. Inspirational humans do. And even the idea of more ‘good’ teachers makes me cringe because their definition of ‘good’ refers to nothing humane, but is about how ‘good’ they are at forcing children to perform like robots churning out robotic results for the good of the establishment.

The answer is and always has been people with time to inspire and care.

Give any child a caring humane adult who can inspire them in their innate desire to learn and they will. Stop testing them then we can stop prescribing what they learn and their desire to learn won’t then be trashed as the system is doing. And give every teacher no more than ten kids and freedom to inspire them then those kids would probably flourish. Stop treating kids like a product in mega industry that’s to be moulded into industrial shape and we will have young people who have something individual and creative of benefit to the developing world.

As home educators are. Home educated kids are rarely tested yet they still get grades and develop into productive members of society. Testing is just a tragic waste of everyone’s time.

The educational system is designed for its own perpetuation and not for the good of real people.

If you look at every policy recently made that becomes glaringly obvious. The elite who make the decisions are perpetuating the elite. And trashing the education – and lives – of all the rest of the population in doing so.

And another bit of me shrivels at the blatant ignorance and arrogance of it.

I admit it; I’m ‘one of those’!

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Other books from the LitFest

“Are you a home educator, then?” asked a portly lady who’d picked up my latest book ‘Who’s Not In School?’ and was flicking through it at a recent Literary Event. She sat down at the display table rather regally as if establishing her right to rest.

My feet were killing me and could do with a rest too. I’d been on them chatting to people all day. But I wasn’t going to hog the chair.

“Yes, that’s right,” I smiled. But not without a sneaking suspicion that she was making more of an accusation than asking a question!

I was right.

“Yes, you look like one of those,” she replied.

And before I could think of a suitable response she went on; “I’ve just retired from forty years teaching in the classroom and I think it’s wrong parents keeping their children away from school. I mean, all the opportunities and people they meet in there, they miss out on all that.”

Try not to bristle before opening your mouth, Ross, I’m thinking. I managed to respond ever so gently.

“Or you could look at it the other way round. You could say that there are thousands of experiences and people outside the school in the real world that home educated children are getting the chance to engage with, which all those kids stuck in school day after day are missing out on.” I smiled the most intelligent smile I could muster.

She looked away not quite so sure of her righteous opinion now! “Hmmm, yes…Oh I think it’s time for the workshop to start,” and she heaved herself up and waddled off.

Teaching for forty years? How many children does that make who have been through her unchanging view of the world? Forty years of it and she still omitted to see how it doesn’t work for all and it’s not just the kids’ fault.  Sometimes I feel defeated by people’s closed attitude.

Later, a chap with three young children came to talk to me. He was one of those, a home educating dad with a happy open attitude to learning who talked to me a little of their approach, how there were so many other families they knew home schooling, and so many groups, they could go to something every day if they wished. He was enthused and energised by their inspired learning life and keen to tell me about it. And open to everything. A pleasure to talk to, restoring my faith.

Here was someone who was as keen to learn himself, and embrace new ideas, as the other lady was determined not to!

What a contrast. I know who I would consider to be the most educated!