Tag Archive | teenagers

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!

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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.

Is this all that matters to parents?

So schools are doing their best to get punters before the term starts again.

I’ve just seen this banner hanging outside a school on my travels.

I found it incredibly sickening.

Are exam results the only thing kids go to school for? Are they the only thing that is the measure of an education or an educational establishment? Are results the only things that parents care about so the only thing that will ‘sell’ the school to them?

Is this all there is to sell?

Where does it say what EXPERIENCE the young people are going to have there? Does that not matter at all? Would you not as a parent want to know about your child’s LIFE in school while they are learning?

Okay I’ll stop ranting now and instead put my brain to answering the question; what would I like to know about a school that would induce me to consider it?

Here’s the five things that I came up with to put on a banner:

  • the widest range of inspiring activities your child will ever experience with a high proportion of adults to help them
  • encouragement of individualism, independence in learning, and choice making, irrespective of age
  • development of respectful relationships between ALL, regardless of age, stage or hierarchy
  • equal importance placed on ALL subjects including the practical, physical and creative and the freedom to choose between them
  • NO testing or publication of any results, emphasis instead on personal development

If schools don’t want to be considered as factories, as some are accusing them of being, then they should stop measuring themselves on a factory style output. Education is about developing young PEOPLE. Not producing commodities. Or percentages!

Tell me; what would your five most important things be?

Home Education – Less something you Do, More something you Are

I met with my friend, former home educator, and now publisher, the other day for a catch up, to talk a little bit about books, the publishing business, and a lot more about our children – well adults now really as most of them either approach – or are – twenty somethings!

Always interested in the variety of home educating experiences there are out there I asked her if she’d share her own. 

She has four children. Her first started at school as she knew little about home education and like many of us at the outset, just thought it was school-at-home. By accident she stumbled across it again on the Net, the diversity of approaches, and realised immediately that this was what she wanted to do as by then her two schoolers weren’t thriving there at all. And she herself was becoming increasingly unhappy with the teaching to the test, the box ticking, and no chance for the kids to learn through a pace or style suited to them.

When she started, she told me, she had a wonderfully idyllic idea of all the fab activities they’d do, across all their ages. But all they seemed to want to do was watch telly, and then they’d get bored. She tried several ways to inspire them and discovered that what worked best was a more project-based approach, mostly starting from their own interests, into which she could incorporate basic skills as and when needed.

“I never forced them to do stuff they didn’t want to, or to do it in a particular way” she told me. “The projects evolved as we got into them, we researched and did related stuff like watching films, relevant visits, cooking, and met others for activities and social events. If their enthusiasm waned – we stopped.”

“As time went on and the children grew up I realised that home education is less something you do, and more something you are,” she told me. “It became less planned. Themes emerged, they learned naturally through their own interest and motivation, and they started to join all the random things they’d learned into a coherent form.”

“Although we were quite rural, we travelled to meet other home educating families, but were also lucky in having a lot of youngsters in the village, and clubs and classes they joined in with so social isolation was never an issue.”

I asked if it got harder with teens:

“The hardest thing was for me to let go! Especially my expectations. And to properly listen to them. My two girls were academically minded so they opted to go down the GCSE route, knowing where they wanted to go later on. One is now at Uni, the other about to start A levels at college. The boys rejected the idea of GCSEs, were more sports orientated, and that was harder for me to let go of. However, my eldest decided to advance his interest in sport through college, gained qualifications that way which showed he had a standard and has gone into work. My youngest boy is looking to go straight into work, deciding he is happy starting on the bottom rung and working his way up. His attitude towards learning is very much that it is a lifelong activity; he has interests in video production, media and science and knows that these areas of study are always available to him, should he want to follow them.

“As I come to the end of my home educating years now, I’m really happy how it all worked out and am proud of my motivated, engaged young people who’ve basically done it for themselves! Along the way they learned that they could have control of their learning, it didn’t have to be done in certain time frames, they can learn whatever they want, when they want. It’s more the case that they are educating me now. We help each other. We talk together about what we’re all doing now – I share my business stuff with them.”

“I started Bird’s Nest Books aware of the lack of books featuring home school characters, but it’s broadened now into looking at books featuring communities whose lives are often under represented. As well as the desire to support new and local authors. And my children have been so supportive in encouraging me – almost as if the home educating has come full circle!”

Thanks so much to Jane for sharing her story!

 

Schooling reminds me of Sat Navs!

It was partly the girls’ comments for my last post on the significance of home educating and partly the sad journey back to the train station as they were leaving that made me think of Sat Nav’s.

And that’s when the similarities struck me.

Sat Nav’s are very useful. But the girls’ remarks about ‘obedience’ and ‘permission’ were still buzzing around in my head, like that automated voice that says; ‘turn around where possible’!

It made me think that although Sat Nav’s have a use, the downside of them is that they can both condition us in a tendency to be obedient and inhibit the growth of our independence, if we’re not on our guard.

Think about it: you soon become a slave to the Sat Nav if you don’t have either the skills to understand a map, or the knowledge that there are other routes and choices should you wish to make them.

The schooling system does the same; it can inhibit you from knowing that there are other routes and other choices in life ahead than those the system would have you obedient to! And the system wants everyone obedient. It much easier for them. Much easier for them to perpetuate their strange ideas about what kids need. Much easier for them to perpetuate their own glorification!

Much easier for them if you have to seek permission to think for yourself, as the girls observed in some people.

Permission.

It’s one of those words that always comes up in Life Coaching or inspirational workshops and techniques? When you’re supposed to give yourself permission to do the things you love, live the lifestyle you want and not be a slave to convention. How many of us are actually unquestioning slaves to convention, so much so that we never even realise? Never even realise that we don’t make many of the choices that we could because, firstly we don’t know they’re there and secondly, we unwittingly feel we haven’t the permission to make them?

Right from being small we are conditioned to be so. Schooling certainly conditions us to be obedient to a certain way of learning, obedient to a future they would set out for us. And before you know what’s happening we’ve lost the skills and the independence to learn any other way (and there are lots of other ways), or the skills to live a life with independent thought and independent choice.

Sat nav’s can be useful. Schools can be useful. Curriculum, courses, workshops, route planners, convention, can all be useful – at times, maybe even a lot of the time.

But we must always encourage our children to see the multitude of choices – some that might be less conventional, to keep a broad and open mind, give them the thinking and reasoning skills to use it through conversations, explorations, experiences, varied activities and exposure to a range of ideas.

And show them how obedience and route planning of any sort is only useful when it is an explored and valid CHOICE.

And when you know that you do have the choice to turn things around when possible, whatever those things may be?

Does home educating ever fade into insignificance?

Thanks everyone for the comments and messages on my last post – most of them coming to me via Facebook and social media, rather than comments here. Whichever way – I always appreciate them.

family giggles!

Facebook groups have become such a fab way of instant support to many parents home educating and I think has increased parents’ confidence in having a go. It’s great for me too, to know that my posts are of help.

I know it seems such a monumental thing to home educate and leave a conventional system behind. But guess what? It does actually fade into insignificance one day. Well – almost.

This week those little girls from ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ (now in their twenties) are here at home again for a rural holiday and a break from their busy urban working lives. We’ve been enjoying some of our old familiar outings – some that even date back to our Home Ed days! And we got talking – didn’t we always!

“Does home education have any relevance in your lives now?” I asked. We don’t talk about it now – it’s kind of paled into insignificance. But it was really interesting what they had to say.

“Not exactly on a day to day level” answered Charley. “And even when I’ve been applying for jobs it didn’t seem to come up much. Or the fact that I don’t have GCSEs. In fact, some of the bosses can’t have even have read the education bit on my application because they didn’t even know I hadn’t been to school!”

Then she went on to talk about applications she and her colleague are looking at now when staff apply for positions; “In fact, we often don’t look at that part of their CV even though they’re young candidates, we tend to go straight for the bit that talks about the experiences they’ve had relevant to the post. I notice with some of the staff I train that, although I know these employees are very young, they do seem to lack confidence and initiative as if they need permission all the time to do stuff – everything has to be directed so much.” She made that remark because she felt it was a noticeable difference between herself and some of the schooled children. She’d also heard in the past her contemporaries remark that they didn’t learn the useful stuff which she knew whilst they were in school, by which they meant some of the life skills and confidence that showed in her.

Chelsea also picked up on that remark about permission; “I think home education is very relevant day to day in that it taught us to be independent about stuff, in the way we think, especially problem solving, to be resourceful. And most of all I think it’s relevant because I’ve been taught to question and that’s something that seems lacking in some of the young people I come across. The people I teach at drama groups (and some of them are mature people) don’t seem to have these skills. What’s even more noticeable is that they seem to need permission for even having ideas, for being creative and straying from the norm a little. Everything has to be spelled out – as if they daren’t express themselves. Obviously many school kids do have those skills, but in some people I feel they’re less strongly embedded. It’s like they never question or think for themselves without permission. It’s second nature to me!” And she laughed.

“Why do you think it’s important to question then?” I asked.

“If you don’t question you just remain subservient and obedient to what everyone else wants you to do. And questioning is what makes the world progress; if we didn’t question we’d just stand still,” she said.

Good point!

I thought you might be interested to hear those remarks from these two grown up home schoolers.

Insignificance?

It seems, whether it is or not now, home education certainly gives them the ability to think for themselves. How I miss those independent minds – and discussions – now they’ve gone again!