Tag Archive | teenagers

New to Home Education? It’s worth a look…

Please feel free to share the post as much as you like!

You might be surprised to hear a former home educator say that home schooling isn’t suited to everyone. But, of course, that’s the truth because of the simple fact that every family is different, every child has different needs and everyone lives with different characters and in different circumstances. So it’s obvious really!

It’s also the truth that school does not suit every child and that IS NORMAL!

We should not de-normalise those who don’t flourish in a school setting. Firstly, it’s discriminative. Secondly, there’s nothing ‘wrong‘ with those who don’t – it’s criminal to suggest there is. Thirdly, some of us quite rightly need alternatives. Finally – and obviously – we are NOT all the same!

So for those of you who want to consider an alternative education – and home education is as valid and successful as school education – I’ve collated some posts especially for you:

The real truth about home education dispels the common myths

Thinking about home education instead of going to school looks at common doubts.

The ‘About Home Education’ page above briefly answers the usual questions, has a link to my talk about whether you could home educate or not, and further down has a wider educational philosophy which may help you formulate ideas.

The post 5 tips for new home educators may help get you going!

Among my books you’ll find my guide to Home Education; ‘Learning Without School’, the story of how we approached it; ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ which is an easy read, and lots of tips in ‘A Home Education Notebook’. All details on the My Books page above.

Meanwhile link up with me on my Facebook page or Twitter (or Instagram just for fun!) I’m happy to answer questions there or in the comments below.

There is a vast and on-growing community of parents who want something different from schooling. No one home educates alone and most find it an inspiring and liberating experience that they never once regret!

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Insulting!

Still giggling! Lovely to be with those girls from ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ again!

It’s always so lovely to spend time with the girls. Those two lovely beings I’ve blatantly used as material in my books and blogs about home education!

My saving excuse is that they did know I was doing that, so kind of gave their permission, and I did it with good reason – to support all the other families coming along the home schooling road behind.

Your kind hearted comments tell me that it does. Thank you!

One story that I told was when Chelsea was about 14 and at her drama group along with other youngsters who were in mainstream school. (Ironically, she teaches it now!) Someone commented, after hearing she was home educated, that ‘you couldn’t tell’ and we had a laugh over that! Mostly at the suggestion that she wasn’t weird or double headed as some people seem to think home educators are bound to be. She was home educated and still ‘fitted in’; surprise, surprise! So in a sense I suppose that was reassuring.

However…

Recently we were able to spend time all together again. Now in their mid twenties, we still have the giggles and the fun, although the conversations are a lot deeper. And the content of that story came up again, as it’s a comment still commonly received even in adulthood, but Chelsea has a very different attitude to it now.

In the light of so many minority groups who are different, like those who come under the LGBTQ+ umbrella for example, she feels very strongly that none of us should have to either defend or justify the way we are – home schoolers included. Everyone should be more open and inclusive.

And in relation to the fact she was home educated, she finds it offensive to equate that with an expectation of someone being ‘weird’ just because of it.

She says she is a person who may be described as different to many others in that she is very creative, confident, fairly feisty and chooses a entrepreneurial working lifestyle, which is unlike the mainstream lives many others choose, often lacking the courage to do so. If that makes her weird, so be it. But she finds it insulting to imply that home education is to blame.

She looks at it this way; there are plenty of ‘weird’ people who have been through school yet no one thinks to blame their educational past – i.e. school – as a reason for it. And this attitude is more a reflection of people’s discriminatory narrow mindedness, and is in complete contradiction to the inclusiveness society is aiming for. It’s incredibly insulting and she’s not prepared to put up with it.

Consequently she puts people straight!

We thought we’d share that with you in case you’d like to use the argument if ever you needed to!

Try some ‘Unsafe Thinking’!

Before you panic that I’m encouraging you to take suicidal risks, I’m not. Although I believe some parents have been told they’re taking suicidal risks with their children’s future just through home educating them! But some ideas I want to tell you about this time come from a book I’ve been reading called ‘Unsafe Thinking’ by Jonah Sachs. (He talks here – about wandering where no one’s been before!)

This book is not about taking stupid risks, it just talks about thinking creatively, about being able to spot and bypass our preconceived ideas and learned obedience from systems that would like to keep us compliant. The education system springs to mind!

Stepping away from mainstream education has been for many the start of a kind of thinking that would have been considered ‘unsafe’! Having the initial idea and courage to break out of our safe habit of educating in schools, ingrained into most of us all our lives, we’ve challenged convention and are showing that learning can happen in all sorts of other ways not just the approach sold to us through schooling (and political manipulation). And proving actually that it’s not ‘unsafe’. It works extremely well for most families.

And it’s ideas like this – ideas beyond the accepted norms – that this book is about. It is a discussion about the rules and conventions that keep us stuck with something, despite the fact it may not be working. Like schooling. And the dire impact that has on creativity which is essential for developing new strains of thinking, necessary for leading happy lives, or ones that could save the planet, for example.

Reading it, I spotted these relevant ideas:

  • Pay attention to your intuition. Many parents have intuitive thoughts about their children’s needs which most often turn out to be right.
  • Free yourself from the expectations of others and the games they play to manipulate you. Stick to your own intentions and your own ‘rules’ – if you must have them. Creative thinking works best without rules.
  • Develop, practice and enjoy your own strengths and those of your children. It’s these talents that will take them forward so it’s best to make good use of them. There are worthy talents outside the academic.
  • Don’t waste expensive time and energy on practices that don’t work for you. Many find formal academics don’t suit their kids as an approach to learning, until much later when they return to that approach successfully.
  • Step boldly out of comfort zones and try new ideas. Watch out for ingrained expertise too – ‘experts’ once told us the earth was flat! ‘Another example; experts’ (or politicians) tell us kids need measuring through SATs or GCSEs, yet people still manage to lead successful, productive and happy lives bypassing them!
  • Become a learner again. Learning or not knowing makes you vulnerable, by being in that position we learn what our learners are going through and what they might need.
  • Beware your biases. We have ingrained biases – like the one that learning only happens through teaching – which once we break away from allows us to explore all sorts of other creative approaches.
  • Remember that you don’t always have to be compliant – it’s good to challenge and encourage your kids to challenge. I believe it is the compliant ones who are the most ‘unsafe’! There’s a great phrase in the book; ‘intelligent disobedience’ which is worth keeping in mind!

These are the kinds of ideas we can use to review our approach to home schooling to get the best out of it. After all, we’ve abandoned mainstream schooling – lets make sure we abandon all the habits and practices associated with it that didn’t work and drove us to home educate in the first place! We don’t always have to accept the mainstream ‘safe’ ideas – we have to examine them and do what works within the context of our families, the wider society and the planet.

It’s the youngsters who have the ability to do that, who will help the world progress.

A reason to be old fashioned about cash!

It suddenly struck me the other day as I was paying for shopping with a contactless card that, with the increased use of contactless payments and credit cards, it is almost unusual for children to see real money being used in exchange for shopping, coffees, fares etc. So an understanding of money, amounts, and the useful maths skills that go with it doesn’t happen naturally as it did twenty years ago for example.

When kids see money practically changing hands – and can get their hands on it themselves – it reinforces the more academic maths they’ll be doing via the curriculum. But the way we use our money nowadays, so much of it online, denies the children opportunities of real contact and consequential learning about using it – and where it comes from!

Learning about money, for small kids, needs to be practical – so perhaps we should revert to using it the old fashioned way.  Let them count it, hold it, play with it and chat about coinage and their values. This could develop into counting in twos, fives, tens, twenties, etc, which in turn develops skills that are transferable to all numerical computation like adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing, for example.

So using cash can be a useful approach to show children how numbers and money work. If they can see it happening in front of them for real, get to handle and play with it physically, (using single pennies too as counters – while we still have them!) it helps reinforce their understanding and supports their wider mathematical learning.

So maybe:-

  • Keep a stock of coins for youngsters to play with and count and use for a play ‘shop’
  • Use cash instead of cards to pay for small things whilst they’re out with you so they can see the exchange
  • As they get older allow them their own pocket money, or allowance, and see what they can buy with it
  • Talk about how you earn money in exchange for the work you do and how you spend accordingly
  • Some find it helpful to provide the opportunity for youngsters to do ‘jobs’ in return for ‘earnings’
  • Talk to your older children about finance in a positive proactive way, what financial commitments you have and how you handle them.

A regular criticism of young people is that many of them finish their education with paper qualifications but without the important life skill of handling their finances, even though supposedly they can do the maths. So beyond teaching the smallest of our kids about coins and money value, it’s also important that older children go on to understand the wider implications of cash and credit, of living within your means, and how to avoid getting into debt. We can do this by openly discussing the way we use money, what we have to pay for and how we budget.

Using cash for transactions – whilst we still can – is a useful base for these skills. And to talk about money openly as a practical, rather than emotive, subject is a way to continue to reinforce them.

There’s some further interesting reading on money habits on the Money Advice Service website if you need it.

 

Thinking about Home Education instead of going back to school?

Whenever there’s a new school term starting there are a flurry of parents trying to decide about home educating instead.

If you’re one of those you’ll no doubt be wavering through nagging worries and doubts. Quite natural – all conscientious parents worry. It’s a condition of responsible parenting!

But look at it this way – you’d worry just as much if your children were in school. I know I did before we home educated. All home schoolers worry about the same old things:

  • Will the kids turn out okay?
  • Will they be able to make friends?
  • Will they achieve anything?
  • Will they be intelligent?
  • Will they still be speaking to me when they’re older?
  • Will we be able to enjoy a happy relationship?
  • Will they be able to fit into ‘mainstream’ life afterwards?
  • Will they be able to become independent?

I’d like to reassure you with the answer to those questions: YES!

Yes to all the above.

All the young people we knew who were home educated have grown into adults who have achieved, (many the same qualifications as their school contemporaries if that worries you), have all learned and developed their intelligence and knowledge (often exceeding that of their school contemporaries!), have good friend networks (and better social skills than many of them), have all integrated successfully into work, higher education, employment, the ‘real world’ for want of a better term. And have all continued a warm loving, respectful relationship with their parents.

So I hope you find that reassuring.

One way to manage inevitable worries is to focus on the NOW rather than the future. All worries are about the future and most of the educational approaches in schools are geared towards ‘the future’. The daft thing is no one can predict that, can predict how kids grow and change, learn and absorb, develop interests and intelligence. They change all the time in unpredictable ways. So trying to educate for some unforeseeable future is a waste of time.

What you can do is make the childrens’ educational experiences good ones at this moment in time. This way they’ll want to take over the learning for themselves, and will go on doing it until they see what they want and go for what they want. That’s what most home educated young people end up doing. Their education, which has been independent from an institution and decided upon through democratic discussions together, naturally leads them towards an independent life – not the opposite as some doubters would suggest.

So trust in yourself, trust the example of thousands of ‘graduated’ home schooled young people now successfully ‘out’ in society (they always were really – that’s how home education works), and be brave about deciding what’s right for your family.

Our two children are now in their twenties and out making their valid contribution to the working world and put me in mind of the things that were said about us which I wrote in ‘A Home Education Notebook’:

Hope that helps!

Curriculum doesn’t constitute education – it can even choke it!

Parents who are fairly new to home educating often worry about curriculum. It’s a common mistake to think that without it there will be no education.

But a curriculum doesn’t constitute an education. It is equally possible to become an intelligent and educated person without following one at all – as many home schooling families are proving.

For curriculum is nothing more than a set list of subjects or course of study. And whereas it can be a useful tool guiding a learner towards prescribed outcomes (exams for example) which most find valuable, a curriculum can also have a detrimental effect.

This has been highlighted in an enlightened piece of writing by a sixteen year old pupil who recently described curriculum as having a ‘chokehold on the throats of the nation’s children’.

This was Harriet Sweatman, who won the Scottish schools young writer of the year award with her piece about going to school.

Harriet Sweatman pictured in the TES

It is absolutely astounding and reflects what many of us feel about the system, including I suspect many parents who are not home educating! She goes on to say that she’s ‘been flattened by a concrete curriculum, so structured and unforgiving that I have forgotten how to function without it’. She feels that schooling has made her grow backwards, knowing less about herself now than when she started.

Can’t we just imagine that!

If you ever forget just why you ended up home educating this incredibly honest piece will remind you. I’ve copied it below for you to read.

And it also might remind you not to get hung up about which curriculum to use, whether you should be using one or not. Curriculum is a tool which can be extremely valuable, but do remember it doesn’t necessarily guarantee becoming educated – just as school doesn’t!

Here’s Harriet’s piece borrowed from the TES; 

The horde of hunchbacks slouch on, dragging their feet up the school drive. Hearts heavy and school bags even heavier, but what can you do? Lockers are expensive and always wind up graffitied or smeared with Vaseline anyway. The path is lined with overflowing bins, padded with empty coffee cups from the new Costa in the village (the place that, for the bargain price of £2, will sell me the sweet elixir that promises to make up for the fact that I only got four hours’ sleep last night).

Once inside, the scuffed yet shiny linoleum floors are covered in curious stains – blood or food? We may never know. The corridor walls are painted a jarring blue and covered in stickers and posters saying that mistakes are just part of the journey. And oh, the places you’ll go! This children’s hospital aesthetic is fooling nobody. We’re too old for that.

The abrasive B-flat bell sounds and so we traipse from room to room, ankles shackled with our stresses. CCTV watches all, waiting for one wrong move. The hallways are lit only by harsh fluorescent lighting, each door leads to a new prison cell complete with wired windows, to stop us breaking them, or breaking out of them.

In reality, school is not a place where you are imprisoned. In here, you are manufactured. You move along the conveyor belt of exam seasons, hoping for the grades you need, so you can be packaged up with a pretty label saying you got straight As and shipped off somewhere else. Capitalism tells us that if we are not fit to work, then we are worthless. There is no love in learning any more. Every student has given up or is about to. We envy the people that have left already, but we have no plans for what to do if we did.

By now I am the ripe old age of 16. Apparently, by now I am supposed to have a plan. By now I should know what I want to do for the rest of my life. I am supposed to already have experience in the field. We have lost the middle ground between child and adult. I am stuck in what remains. At the age of 12, I was asked what I was going to be when I grew up. I soon learned that “I want to be a wizard” was not an acceptable answer. I still don’t have an answer.

Fear not! There is help out there. If you want to study medicine or law that is.Advice on how to get the top grades, workshops where they cut things open and show you how they work, what oozes and what snaps. Meanwhile, the painter sits taut in front of their still life, ticking off a checklist of techniques they must display. The musician doesn’t dare push the boundaries, exchanging originality for safety in the hope it will be to the examiner’s taste. The historian memorises essay structures down to the word, the linguist knows how to write an essay not hold a conversation, and the writer wades through Shakespeare trying to pick out an essay from a play that was made to be performed not studied. Whatever happened to expanding your horizons? Now we must all ensure our tunnel vision is pinpoint thin.

Well then, perhaps the real adventure is the friends you make along the way. The cast of lively characters who go on adventures: the love interest, the comedy relief, the antagonist and their schemes. Until the seating plan in the classroom changes and you never talk to them again. You may see them on your way to or from school, at breaks and lunch, but at the weekends not a whisper. These are not the friendships that novels are written about. These are barely friendships at all. After we leave, when the battles are over and the war is won, most of us will never see each other again.

When we leave, will we even survive? Yes, I can do differentiation and also integration, but can I do taxes? I don’t know how insurance works or how to buy a house. I barely know basic first aid, so let’s all hope nobody starts choking to death anywhere near me. I can talk for days about condoms, but birth control is another story. We just learn by the book everything we need to get us through exams, competing with peers for the most approval.

Primary school was better and I still miss show-and-tell. Posters about the ancient Egyptian god of the underworld, a presentation about the Wombles of Wimbledon, projects on anything that captured my imagination. At high school there is little time for such fanciful feats. Assignments where you can research what you want count for almost nothing, and even then there are strict rules. Finding out who I am and what I care about has been deemed unimportant. I have been flattened by a concrete curriculum, so structured and unforgiving that I have forgotten how to function without it. With no bell throbbing at even intervals and no marking scheme to build our lives around, how will we cope?

They say high school is the best years of your life – but not in this world, where qualifications matter more than personal qualities. I feel like I have grown backwards, as if I now know less about myself and who or what I could be than when I started. We can pretend that we are happy all we want, that our lives look just like the teen movies we used to idolise (it is true that we often burst into song, a chorus of “kill me now”, and only half of us are joking). Yes, we may be the next generation of leaders and scientists but we are also the next to be shoved on to the production line known as the world of work.

There is still time to change things. The curriculum can release its chokehold on the throats of this nation’s children and let them breathe. We can still save our siblings or maybe even our children. But for us, it is too late. For now, we just have to wait until the final bell rings and we walk out of the school door forever.

Congratulations and thanks to Harriet (and the TES for publishing it)

And if you want to learn more about using the curriculum – or not – I’ve written about it in my book ‘Learning Without School Home Education’. 

See My Books page for more.

Who’s not good enough?

How many of you had the feeling growing up that you were not good enough? Especially with relation to your achievements

From an exhibition by Ann Bellamy called ‘Just Be Normal: Memoirs of a Dissenting Child’

educationally?

Answers in the comments below please!

I certainly did.

Being ‘good enough’ as a kid was an impossible task. And the painful feeling associated with it returned when I saw this piece of artwork in an exhibition recently, about being good enough.

Making people feel not good enough is a dangerous mistake we easily fall prey to as we raise and educate our kids.

On the one hand we want to be encouraging and supportive in helping them achieve. On the other hand we don’t want to be complacent about what can be achieved by over praising or staying still. I know there was a point in our home educating years where I was suddenly mindful of the fact that through my constant encouragement towards taking things further, I was inadvertently suggesting that the point which had been reached was never enough!

This is somewhere between a stick and a hard place I fear! I hope I changed.

The important thing is, when we are raising and facilitating our kids learning and growing, to remember that;

the children are already perfect, whole and complete, in the moment.

This does not mean that there is no room for advancement, or that there is not a journey of learning and growing to enjoy. It’s just means that no one is ‘not good enough’ yet without.

And we also have to be careful not to make educating in itself something judgemental and something that suggests the kids are not good enough without.

Of course, you have to define ‘education’! Something I’ve talked about before. (I’ve discussed this in numerous posts, examples here and here and in the last chapter of my ‘Home Education Notebook‘) I know that many make the mistake of equating education with qualification only. So people without qualification can end up feeling ‘not good enough’ if they didn’t go down that route. Hopefully, we are beginning to place that in a different perspective now as we’re recognising that over-qualification has often meant the lack of more important life-skills.

What we want to nurture is a feeling of optimism and potential for change within our learners that comes from an understanding of their many talents, encourage their openness to learning and growing and opportunity, within the context of knowing themselves, what they want, how achieving those things is fulfilling and worthwhile.

And that being ‘good enough’ in other people’s eyes – for that’s what we’re talking about here – bears no relation to their education whatsoever!