Tag Archive | teenagers

The return of the happy children

It’s so delightful to hear of yet another happy home educating success story.

A new parent made the leap to home schooling recently and reported that her child had returned to being the happy contented little person that they were before they started school. The many distressing flare-ups and tantrums which had become part of their everyday behaviour after starting school, but which were never part of their nature beforehand, had all but disappeared again.

And yet another conversation I had with a parent I’m connected  with on social media also said that they had their ‘happy little child back’ now they’ve started home educating.

I hear that remark frequently – as I commented at the time; they are not the only parents to experience this. And it happened to us just the same as I described in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ (Scroll down the My Books page and you’ll find an extract)

Our happy children came back! Enjoying their ‘Funny Kind of Education’!

So, why is that? I was asked recently.

Well, the most fundamental reason I feel is that school is just not good for some kids!

We are all different. And we all react differently to different situations according to our natures. Some of us like crowds and hubbub. Others of us don’t. Some of us can concentrate with distractions going on all around us all the time, others cannot. Some can sit still easily, others find it impossible. And these are not always easily recognisable needs; they are a spectrum of needs that are different for each individual. The class setting of hubbub, peer pressure, powerlessness, the claustrophobic and unnatural social clustering of kids all your own age, with minimal interaction, support or attachment from adults you’re involved with, is not a setting many children thrive in. Understandably – would you?

Add onto that the pressures of the curriculum, the pressures kids feel of meeting targets and test demands, the pressure of pressurised teachers having to fulfil these demands or risk their jobs, the uninspirational task of having to learn stuff you feel is totally pointless, far too complicated and of no interest to you, and being identified as ignorant if you don’t, are the ingredients of a potential meltdown in my view. I’m amazed how many kids survive this climate at all.

Even more worrying is that these pressures continue to build, and I cannot see how that will change, as long as politics and politicians are in charge of it. Politicians who are more interested in political gain than individual children, who have scant knowledge of education – or kids, some of them – and who disregard the advice of professionals.

We continue to uphold a system of schooling that is long out of date. It no longer serves the needs of children who have access to knowledge and learning without schools and teachers, and who are parented in a completely different way, and live in a completely different culture, to when the system was set up. It no longer serves the needs of a society that is completely different to way back then.

And as an educational approach it’s success rate is questionable, leaving many of our youngsters unfulfilled, disengaged, unmotivated to do anything and at worst, unwell.

However, I haven’t spoken to a family who has not had these outcomes reversed once they decided to remove the child from school and home educate. The best thing of all is that they get their happy children back. And educating becomes a happy experience.

And if you want to know why happiness is important, there’s a post here! 🙂

Be happy with your home education. It’s a great decision!

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Home Educating – surviving the frosty bits!

We face many challenges in life. Winter is clearly one of them that’s foremost in our minds right now! But, also like winter, most of them are seasonal and pass over.

And home educating can be just the same.

The frost will eventually melt off the snowdrops. Frosty times at home can be melted too!

It presented us with challenges – of course it did. They passed over. We reviewed, made changes, adapted to suit the nature of the challenge and pressed on.

If you think about your own home educating life, it’s never going to remain the same although we are sometimes caught out by expecting it to.

It doesn’t remain the same for the glaringly obvious reason that the kids never remain the same either. Like plants growing through a season, they have their seasons too. So will your home education. So does all family life.

I think, as adults and parents, we’re a bit sticky! We like to stick with what we know. We get into a habit, a way of thinking, a way of responding, a way of expecting, and forget that we need to make adjustments to these changes too.

And that’s to do with family life, life in general, not just to do with home schooling.

You’ll have times when family life flows smoothly and everyone is happy. You’ll have times when family life is as frosty as winter and everyone hates one another!

Quite normal!

This is no one’s fault. This is just how it is. And in order to weather it you have to do the same as you do for winter; examine what you might have to do in order to rectify it.

For example – you feel cold, you look at why, you put another jumper on!

If family connections turn cold, you have to look at why. Has someone grown and changed? Is someone hurting? Have your children outgrown your habits? Do you need to change your responses to accommodate that? Do they need something different?

Whether it’s toddlers or ten year olds, tweenagers or older teens, their seasons and our responses to them have to continually adapt. That’s life – so make sure you don’t blame home education, as some peple tend to do.

If it’s a bit frosty right now don’t seek to blame, seek to understand what might be the cause. Be honest. Don’t give up on it, or think you’re doing it wrong, or that you’re no good for the kids. You will be fine – but you might need to change something in order to keep up with them.

It might simply be that one of the things you need to do is relax and allow your kids to grow – I missed that solution a number of times!

But be reassured that, like with seasons, nothing lasts forever. Moods don’t last forever. Phases don’t last forever. You’ve weathered them before you can do it again!

This is a skill that will support you throughout your life and well worth the practice.

Meanwhile, let’s wish for spring to come soon, in whatever sense!

There’s nothing wrong with our children

I feel so sorry when I hear parents desperately worrying over their children not being able to achieve certain things at certain times. So I thought I’d post this chapter from my ‘Home Education Notebook’ in the hope it may bring comfort and reassurance if you’re one of them:

I want to reassure you all of something: there’s nothing wrong with your children.

I say this because there are folks who would make out that there is. They make out that there must be something wrong if a child who doesn’t thrive in school, for example, or doesn’t read easily, or can’t run as fast as others, or who is shy.

It’s just that people like to make out that others who are not the same as them must have something wrong with them. But the real truth is that; everyone is different.

It took a while for this to really sink in with me – particularly the implications.

Take gardening as an example.  I just never took to it, even worse my plants seemed to die when everyone else’s flourished. There must be something wrong with me surely, for this to happen.

I did try. My mother was a great gardener. Her roses yielded abundant blooms, her cuttings thrived, her shrubs grew enormous.

Mine didn’t.

All mine did was whither. I planted plants she bought me and they died. I even managed to kill houseplants. I’m sure all I ever did was look at them and they shrivelled.

This soon led me to believe there definitely must be something wrong with me.

I’d watch my mother in raptures round the garden centre and I’d look at my watch and think; how much longer? I’d listen to my friends going on about their plants and their gardens and I’d feel there must be a gaping hole in my emotional development because I just couldn’t feel what they did. I used to visit my friend who had a creeping fig right over her living room ceiling yet all my attempts at growing one had failed. I was useless.

It took a while for this to change.

Firstly, I do actually like gardening now. It’s something I’ve grown into – pardon the pun. Now that I have a little more time I enjoy it more. Now, also, that I have had time to mature my skills and accept that a slower turnover of success is just as fulfilling as a quick fix.

So I began to feel a little better, a little less like I’d got this major inability.

I also learnt two important things; however hard I might have tried at the time I just wasn’t ready for the delights of gardening. I just couldn’t apply myself enough to hone the necessary skills and patience. And I don’t think that whatever I did, at that time, I could have made any difference.

But, secondly, there was nothing wrong with me because of that. It wasn’t an inability, a learning difficulty, or anything else you want to call it. It was just the way it was and I shouldn’t sweat it.

So what about the skills that are pressed on kids in the form of their education? Isn’t it the same thing?

The way I see it, many, many skills are pressed on kids as a means to educate them. Knowledge is forced into them. Subjects are heaped upon them. Achievements are expected from them. None of which children particularly choose. Few of which they particularly like. Even fewer bearing any relation to the children’s lives at all.

And then schools make out there’s something wrong with those kids who don’t achieve.

Yet I can’t see the difference between this and the gardening really. It seems the same problem to me. It seems we expect children to acquire the skills we think they need, regardless of whether they think they need them, and then suggest there’s something wrong with them when they don’t succeed. Isn’t that a bit bizarre?

A love of gardening was something I matured into. I acquired the skills to do it when I became ready. There was nothing wrong with me before I was ready, or before I had those skills.

Many of the things we ask children to do as a way of educating them they are simply not ready for, or able to do, or interested in. But it doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with our children. That’s just the way children are.

I find it quite extraordinary that we set a curriculum of subjects that are as important to children as rheumatism and then expect them to enjoy studying them.

We set them tasks to do that are as appealing to them as cleaning out toilets is to me and expect them to do them willingly.

We expect them to practice skills that are as irrelevant to them at that stage in their lives as training to be an astronaut is to me as a parent.

And then, when they don’t succeed (surprise, surprise!) we call them failures. We make out there’s something wrong with them. Extraordinary!

It takes a long time to mature into things. Like wine and good cheese, Shakespeare and advanced maths. And some of us never do. But that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong in that. There are other nutritious things besides wine and cheese to enjoy, other subjects to get to grips with. We have to be at a certain stage to see the benefits of certain tasks (like cleaning the toilets – or writing perhaps). And some may never reach enjoyment of them. (Definitely me with the toilets). But there’s nothing wrong in that either. Some skills will never, ever be for us, however hard we push and practice. It’s just the way we are – it’s called individualism. There’ll be other skills we’re good at.

Just because your child can’t write, or can’t read, can’t do maths, doesn’t take to sitting down doing any kind of school work, or didn’t thrive or achieve in school, does not mean that there is anything wrong with them. We must make sure we avoid thinking about our children in that way.

Allow the individual to be the way they are

What we must do is allow each individual to be the way they are without thinking there’s something wrong with them if they’re not the same as other children.

Some kids mature into reading late. Some kids mature into writing late. Some take ages to understand the intricacies of maths. Some take ages to understand the value of perhaps doing things they can’t see any immediate relevance to. Some kids never get it at all. Some kids have very special other skills that are harder for us to appreciate and value. It doesn’t make them wrong for being like that. Some dyslexic children have very special skills that those of us who are not dyslexic will never have but it doesn’t make anyone wrong.

One skill is not more valuable than the other – even though advocates of the National Curriculum would have us believe otherwise. It’s hard in our current educational climate to keep faith. To value all the diverse things our children can do rather than only notice what they can’t. It is hard to truly believe in our wonderfully individual children and the special talents they have, particularly when those talents don’t match those required to succeed in schools.

But if we want our children to grow with confidence – and confidence is the very best tool they can have – if we want our children to succeed in life, we must never begin to act as if there’s something wrong with them when they don’t achieve the same as others. They will achieve other things that are equally as valuable to them. We must support them for who they are and what they can do.

I hear stories of children having to see an educational psychologist because they’re not achieving at school. That to me is the same thing as dragging me to see an educational psychologist just because I couldn’t achieve at gardening.

I didn’t need to see an educational psychologist; I needed to do something different.

I appreciate there are rare and specific problems, but generally children don’t need to see an educational psychologist either; they need to do something different. They need a different kind of education. That’s all. There’s nothing else wrong.

I know adults who can’t drive and have never managed to learn. I don’t tell them they need to see an educational psychologist because of it.

Everyone is different. Each child has different learning strengths. We need to change our attitude not the children. It’s only when we try and make everyone the same that problems arise.

No, there is nothing wrong with our children. Nothing wrong, if they don’t fit in school. Nothing wrong if they don’t like academic stuff. Nothing wrong if they take a long time maturing into certain skills. And we must guard against being talked into believing that there is.

Read the book for more stories to comfort and support. See the My Books page.

Fresh new year – fresh ways of seeing

Happy New Year!

I love a new start. New opportunities to learn, new things to do, new ways of being.

But I’ve been thinking about the last – inevitably! And how I’ve enjoyed doing Instagram over the past year; recording my daily being with the natural world. It’s a great change from always working with words under the laptop! And it had other benefits as well which I didn’t spot at first.

The beauty of frosted nettles – when seen with fresh eyes

For a start, it’s made me find something more positive in the sometimes challenging winter days when I tend to keep my chin on my chest and my spirits in my boots. It’s made me look up, lift up, which generally raises the spirits as well as the eyes.

Secondly, it’s made me really look. As I take my daily walk it’s quite hard to be inspired by what you think is the same old…same old… Except it’s not the same old…not if you really put those observational skills to good use. I can nearly always see something different. But the trick is not only to look, but to see with fresh eyes.

And mind.

It’s made me change my mind on many things.

Sometimes we can’t see with fresh eyes because we’re looking with old mind sets.

This could happen when the kids were growing up, when we were home educating. I could get stuck in parenting routines, and former assumptions that had become out of date.

It’s so easy to forget the simple fact that kids grow and change constantly and we need to as well.

To allow them to be different we need to refresh our view of them just as constantly. We need to see our kids with fresh eyes and minds. When things got tricky in the household it was very often the result of me looking at the children – and consequently behaving towards them – in ways that were out-of-date and which failed to allow them to grow into fresh ways of being.

As well as encouraging our youngsters to practise their own observational skills, we should remember to practise our own! And not keep them stuck by reacting to them through the lens of what they were, and not what they are becoming!

Fresh eyes and fresh minds allow children – and parents – to be who they need to be! And is a great way to start the new year.

May you have a happy one to come.

Forget testing; educate for Love and Independence

We are a nation obsessed with stats. We seem to need tests results for everything. And our kids are at the mercy of this adult obsession, for test results mean nothing to the kids, even though they’re the ones suffering for them.

The crazy thing is that the most important things in life, the things that are vital to our wellbeing, success and survival cannot really be tested. Things like love, happiness, warm relationships, responsibility, family, health. And neither can educational maturity be tested. You can test how much is learned. But you cannot test competence in using it – which is the whole point, surely. So why are we putting our kids through it and damaging their mental health with the pressure in some cases?

It’s a shocking deception. For we’re telling our kids, through the hidden curriculum incessant testing promotes, that results are the only valid thing about them, about education and about life.

Read George Monbiot on the subject here

Worse than that; it makes ‘failures’ of far too many kids who could achieve in so many un-measurable ways, like through practical subjects, creative subjects, game design, environmental skills and experiences. Achievements that could be immensely valuable to society – some more valid than an A* in English, for example.

So I think we should stop all this testing and start educating for the untestable!

Educate for experience. Educate them to experience happiness and contentment. Happy and content people make up a better society than those who are frustrated and dissatisfied as many youngsters end up.

Educate young people through experiences that will help get to know themselves, what their strengths and weaknesses are, to understand what they love and why, who they love and why, thus developing all aspects of their character and allowing them to see how they can contribute and what great contributions they can make with those strengths. Un-measurable strengths.

Educate for love. That is; educate to create strong bonds in a climate of mutual respect (rather than hierarchical one-upmanship), let them learn how relationships can be nurtured by nurturing an understanding of each other, of empathy and inclusion, not failure, comparison and shame.

Educate for independence by offering independence, rather than keeping them so controlled and inhibited by dismissing what they would (and can) bring to their own learning. Instead, abandon learning for tested objectives and leave experiences open ended so that they can take away the idea that independence (and education) is open ended and their own responsibility. There is no chance to practice responsibility in a place where youngsters have no say.

Most adults are not brave enough to allow any of this. They are stuck in their desperate need to have everything qualified. That’s ‘how to get on in life’ they threaten. Funny how so many people have got on in life without (Jamie Oliver springs to mind)!

Home education is creating independent, articulate, intelligent young people who are getting on in life having bypassed the incessant testing routines of school. Some have opted – as independent decision makers – to become qualified to further their chosen route. Others choose other pathways.

But home schooling is an un-measured pathway. Yet despite that, it seems to be producing un-measurable success in these youngsters! And proving that testing is not necessarily a prerequisite of becoming educated.

So what’s this obsession with testing really for, other than satisfying adult comfort and political manipulation?

A question many do not want to face!

Don’t forget to adjust and enjoy!

I always loved this picture of my eldest walking through the trees with the dog when she was little.

Twenty years later I snapped another one; same girl, same place, different dog! Which just goes to show how everything grows – kids and trees!

We know that obviously. But when you’re with little ones, and when you’re home educating especially, it’s not something you can ever possibly imagine. You don’t even need to really. You just need to make the most of the time you’re in.

That’s important, I think, to be in the now.

However, there will be times when the ‘now’ is driving you nuts. Wearing you down. Frustrating you into pieces! Be comforted by the fact that it’s not you, it’s not them, it’s not because you’re home schooling. It’s just the normal way of human relationships. It’s normal.

So don’t worry.

Instead, I found it helps to be proactive. Ask yourself if there’s something you need to do to help you past this little bit. Like; have some space from each other? Get outside? Get some physical activity? (essential for the wellbeing of both you and the children). Make changes?

Review your approaches to your parenting or your home education?

We know kids grow and change. We know we grow and change. But what we fail to notice sometimes is that we might need to adjust our behaviour to each other, adjust the way we speak, act, re-act, as a consequence of those changes. Not just carry on in the same old way – now possibly outdated. You wouldn’t react to a fifteen year old the same way you’d act to your five year old. But sometimes we forget that simple adjustment.

So if you’re having ‘one of those days’ take a step back, view it as an objective observer for a moment – as if you were someone else looking at you. There may be a sign of a simple solution. There may be change required to accommodate the way things grow. Relationships grow like the girl in the picture.

She and I have a lovely relationship now. We did then. It is obviously quite different. But there were times when it was less obvious to me that I had to halt a minute, review what I was doing, and adjust. Hard to see sometimes when you’re going through it. Just thought I’d give you a gently reminder to help your days grow better.

Adjust and enjoy whatever stage you’re at!

Thanks Nadia and family

I shared this uplifting video on my Facebook page but for those who don’t do Facebook I thought it was of value to share here

I love Nadia Sawalha. She sounds so down-to-earth for someone in the celeb-sphere. She still feels like an ‘ordinary’ parent, despite that, dealing with the ordinary issues we all face like her children’s unhappiness at school. I can relate to much of what she’s saying here about home education, her comments about testing, etc. And you should definitely check out her videos on bullying.

Of course, she isn’t ‘ordinary’ as the rest of us know it, she being a celebrity. She will have a life far removed from the rest of us, being constantly in the limelight. That will have it’s drawbacks as well as it’s benefits. But we shouldn’t take the view that it’s all right for her to home school, she can afford it – or whatever – and I couldn’t! Because, as she states in the film, true education is not about what you can afford or not. It’s about engagement with the children.

She happens to like being with her children, she says, clearly thinking about those you see who don’t seem to, as we all do too. Which is exactly what makes home education such a great success. Because the most important resource a youngster could have for their education is not wealth, it’s an interested, caring facilitating adult – who hopefully inspires too. who has time for conversation, answering questions, encouraging a fascination with the world and of learning itself.

Nadia chooses to use tutors as part of her home education provision. But she clearly states that not everyone does, it’s just their choice. and it certainly isn’t essential. Other parents make provision in other ways. For being tutored is not the only route to learning, or becoming an educated person.

Educative experiences are what educate – in whatever form.

I’m so grateful to Nadia and her family for sharing their experiences of home schooling. It is a such valid contribution to helping raise awareness of the choice and understanding of the fact that school is not for all. And it shouldn’t be necessary for kids to suffer for the sake of education.

Alternative approaches are there and work extremely well.

Thanks Nadia.