Tag Archive | teens

You cannot force a child to learn…

I’m working on sharing ideas with pictures right now – I know it gets boring wading through print all the time!

Here’s my latest thought:

It’s something that most people never think about, as they threaten dire consequences to force kids to learn with sayings like; you’ll never have a life if you don’t do exams, or; you’ll fail in life if you don’t do your school work, or; if you don’t learn this now you’ll never have another chance. All complete balderdash – I’ve seen the opposite happen!

And anyway threats like this don’t work because, although children may be giving the impression of taking it in, it’s absolutely true that:

All you can do is provide the right environment, nourishment and encouragement; physical, mental and spiritual, give their roots and limbs room and time to expand and grow and connect, and let go….


Are you discombobulated about your children’s learning?

If you’re struggling with your children’s education right now, being mindful in the way you think about it might make you feel a little easier.

Whether you’re doing school-at-home or home educating many of the same issues arise in ‘doing the work’, creating pressures in family life that make everyone feel discombobulated!

I love that word. Discombobulated describes very succinctly what we’re all feeling during this corona crisis. It’s defined as confused and disconcerted. Fits the bill, doesn’t it?

And I imagine many parents are discombobulated about their children’s education right now, both those doing school-set tasks at home and those who were already home educating for whom the lockdown is just as inhibiting.

Some of our feelings are caused by the pressure that we put upon ourselves when we’re not mindful of the way we think about it.

For example; think about the school day. Parents tend to think about kids in school doing useful stuff from 9 am til 3 pm but it doesn’t exactly work like that. During those hours there is a lot of moving about, messing about, distractions, disruptions, wandering attention and general procrastination and time wasting. I averaged it once in a classroom; the children actually only get about 7 minutes an hour of constructive time! So if you’re pressurising your child to do 9 til 3 non stop ‘work’ because that’s what you think they do in school I should stop. Whether you’re home educating or doing school-at-home your child will work more quickly through stuff and will have a lot more time for other valuable pursuits which contribute to their educational advancement in ways you’d never imagine!

Another example, thinking about the basics; the maths, english and science done in schools is designed to be done in schools and in such a way it can be measured. This can make it dull and the children switch off from seeing them as interesting subjects. However maths, english and science come up in everyday life at home all the time in much more relevant ways. For example, budgeting (maths) is a constant consideration (and essential life skill). Messaging, searching online, reading anything, comics, any form of writing like lists for example (not forgetting drawing and colouring are excellent for practising skills involved in writing) all increase the use and understanding of vocabulary and language as do discussions and chats – all useful literacy practice. And we are involved in science all the time in everything we do if you just notice – and use it as a starting point for investigation. We have bodies – biology. We use stuff and live in stuff which all originated at some point from the earth (materials, properties, sources etc). Not only do we have a virus crisis (what’s a virus?) we have a planetary crisis – the planet being one of the most important subjects for scientific research. Do you see what I mean? Scientific questioning and discussion develops a scientific mind as much as anything you might do in a workbook – and it’s real. Making maths english and science relevant to the youngsters’ lives through real stuff is as valuable as the maths, english and science you do on the curriculum. Be innovative about how you tackle it; relating it to life makes it more interesting and doable.

And finally be mindful of the idea that everything you do has the potential to be educative; your family interaction, discussions, contact by tech, cooking, organising, getting your exercise, playing, looking after yourself, managing life together, clapping the NHS. All builds skills, mental, physical, life skills – all has a worth.

This is a time of trauma for everyone. No one needs added pressure brought by needless worry about ‘school work’ or dull academic exercises.

We are all discombobulated! Many of our comfort blankets are gone and we’re all having to work life out in new ways for the time being. Fretting about academics will not help. And is not necessary for I bet that when the kids are in their twenties you’ll never even notice the school days they missed or this time of home schooling – however you’re doing it!

Family harmony, security, nurture and getting through as happily as you can are more important than academics right now. Far better the children remember a happy time of family learning together than the pressure of being forced to do stuff that’s less than relevant in this discombobulated time. Not forgetting that even discombobulated, and how you tackle it, can be educational!

So I suggest you take the pressure of yourselves – and the kids – and rethink it!

Do Home School kids ever manage ‘real’ work?

My youngest is on holiday from work and pays a visit. As a working girl now, she doesn’t get many of these.

She’s also ‘on-call’ to beeps on her phone as work messages come in all the time we’re together, on outings, even during a leisurely breakfast.

Me and she out having fun!

I raise my eyebrows.

We have a natural habit of respect in this house; of paying attention to the person you’re with, rather than the person on social media. She notices my quizical grin.

“It’s work!” she says indignantly, knowing what I’m thinking. “And it’s part of what being a good manager is. I want to look after my staff and help the business run smoothly.”

“But even while you’re on holiday? Surely even managers need time off,” I said.

But what I’m also thinking is; how on earth did she get to be so hardworking and conscientious about it?

There were times home educating – plenty of times, in fact, especially in her teens – when she couldn’t get out of bed in the morning. Sometimes most of the day. There were times when it was hell trying to get her to do anything that resembled ‘work’ of any sort. There was a time when she didn’t read – right into her teen years. There were times when she spent more energy procrastinating than accomplishing a task in hand. There were plenty of times when people made comments like; ‘If she’s not in school being made to do things, how will she ever know what real work is?’ Or; ‘If she doesn’t get up in the morning how will she learn how to get up for work?’ Or ‘She’s never going to be able to hold down a job if she doesn’t have a routine of work’. Or ‘How’s she going to cope with a proper working life?’

Etc. Etc.

But I just kept faith. I knew my daughter. I knew she had an active mind and was building skills, even if not in a recognisable routine way; building life skills, not school skills. And I held onto the strong belief that it is NOT necessary to give youngsters ‘practice’ at a schoolish kind of ‘work’ in order to practice for a working life, because school life is totally unlike a real working life, for all sorts of reasons (choice being among them), although most people don’t own up to that. But the youngsters know!

Young people are not stupid. They know what they see for real and what others are doing. Young people work out what they need and why they need it, and with some adult support they’ll build the skills they need and want because they naturally want to get into the real world of earning and working at fulfilling work. With a little guidance they’ll find out how to do so.

My youngest, in her twenties, lives independently now. She goes to work – far earlier than her scheduled hours – like her home schooled contemporaries. She is a conscientious, skilled, competent and empathetic manager, after only a few working years, who works so hard, even during her holiday, that I’m now telling her to slow down rather than get up and get on!

Who’d have thought it?

And what’s particularly satisfying is that those ignorant and insulting commentators all turned out to be completely WRONG!

So what did we do? We had faith (as well as the encouragement and – ok – maybe a bit of nagging which didn’t work). And we stuck to our belief in the fact that young people do not need coercing into work, they’ll do it when they see the reality. And we kept faith in the abilities of our young people.

Hope this little story gives you the courage to do the same.

Dealing with wobbles over home educating teens.

I popped over to Rachel’s home education blog (here) recently and felt such empathy for her wobbles!

Meet Rachel over on her blog

We all get them – I did too – even though when writing about home education I always try and herald the positive.

However, it’s not entirely accurate to consider wobbles a down side of home education, because wobbles are a down side of any educational route, school or otherwise. And if the kids were in school there’d be just as many concerns. Actually – there were – as ours went a while.

And wobbles are in fact a down side of parenting, for, whatever style you adopt, whatever sort of person you are, anxieties about the children are ever present. Wobbles are a natural part of family life and not exclusive to home education. The up side is; it’s because we care. We’re caring parents and caring parents worry.

However, we have to keep that in perspective and one of the techniques I used regularly and one that many parents are bad at is self-care. We have to look after ourselves to home educate (and parent) long term. (This post explains)

The other thing that sometimes worries us about home educating longer term is that you can feel as the children get older it gets more serious and that ‘time is running out’.

I’ve put that in inverted commas to identify the fact that it’s not true. Time is not running out. You can take as long as you like (or the kids like) with their education. They don’t have to be finished, polished, qualified by the time they’re 16. It’s not law. There are variations that work just as well. And the whole point of home education is that you do whatever suits the needs of your child.

Inevitably we compare our kids with those in schools. And that always gives us wobblitus! Best to forget what schools are doing and stick to your principles to educate to suit your child’s needs, rather than the system’s needs.

And as for serious; thinking back to when the children were little I imagine that you took quite a lightweight, inspirational, almost playful approach to their learning life. Well, just because the children are teens does not mean it has to be any different. Whatever you do as part of their education can still be done with a light touch.

Children’s education in schools, between the ages of 14 and 16 suddenly becomes a heavy slog of GCSEs with little other inspiration. If left up to the school, the more GCSEs they can pile on a youngster the better they tell us it is. It’s not! They do this not for the good of the child, but for the good of the stats of the school – I heard that from a head. Large numbers of GCSE qualifications has nothing to do with the personal educational development of a child, unless it’s their choice.

The educational development of children between the ages of 13-16 can feel like a plateau. This is what both myself and friends who were HEing at the time felt like. It is already a physiological difficult time for them; their neural pathways are changing which up-skittles their personalities, their thought processes, their sleep patterns, as well as their bodies. What a terrible time for them to be doing exams anyway. (Some useful info here)

It’s also a time they begin to challenge their dependency – sometimes in less than pleasant ways for us. We have much to tolerate. But understanding that they mostly can’t help it, and maintaining as much mutual respect as possible, will help.

So it’s a tricky time whether parenting or educating. The youngsters do literally lose their way a bit, unless they’re incredibly lucky to have found a course they’re passionate about.  Otherwise they can become extremely unmotivated sofa-sloths who want to do little other than game.

Parents I knew tried various strategies to push them on past this inertia, usually in the form of continued dialogue about what they might do, why they might do it, what they’d like to do, what’s good to do both personally and health wise. And what they might need educationally in order to progress. As well as suggesting stimulating activities other than gaming! Sometimes it worked, sometimes not.

But I’d like to reassure you that all those gaming, sofa loving sloths have gone on to do something. Some did GCSEs at home, over a space of several years, some post 16. Some went to FE colleges when they discovered courses they might like or to do qualifications there. None I know did more than the statutory Uni entrance requirement of 5 or 6 yet, despite competing against others with ten or more, still were interviewed, awarded places, or jobs. They all found a way forward.

On the Home Education UK Facebook group (you have to ask to join this one) there is an inspirational document about autonomously home educated youngsters who are grown up and what they’re doing now which is reassuring reading.

It is very much a question of trust.

Kids want to get out into the adult world, with adult possessions and have a crack at gaining the adult income that goes with it. I’d guess that you’ve educated yours to the degree of intelligence that, with your guidance, will help them find ways to do that.

Educating teens is the same as parenting teens – education being very much influenced by parenting whether they’re in school or not. It requires tolerance, empathy, compromise, confidence (you had the confidence to HE, after all), and trust.

Trust in yourself as a parent.

Trust in them as intelligent young people who will go for what they need when they need it, whatever form it takes, despite the odd plateau.

So wobble not!

Look after yourself. Be patient. Personal development doesn’t happen to order. Education is life long. It’s never too late and we don’t have to do it like sheep! That’s what you home educated for in the first place, wasn’t it?

(You might like to look out for my new book especially to help both new and longer term home educators with the wobbly bits – coming later this year. Pop over to the publisher’s website and sign up for their newsletter, so you’ll get first news of when it’s available).