Tag Archive | unschooling

Help for the Home Educating long haul

When I meet home educators, it’s often those who are new to it and starting out. To them it seems very scary and daunting and feel they need lots of support. I’m very happy to give it.

But I’m also aware, having done it, that there is another challenging side to home education; sticking with it for the long haul. That needs supporting too. So I thought I’d repost this article for those of you doing just that.

Going out to work day after day takes some grit. Unless you’re lucky enough to love every single bit of your job and there’s few jobs like that.

And guess what? Parenting can be like that too. A few years in and I began to realise that this was the longest I’d ever stuck at one job. Before that I’d get restless and switch, or change something, make a break into something else. Can’t do that with parenting!

I totally adore and love being a parent. (Even though my children are adults now). I consider it a privilege.

I totally adored and loved being a home educating parent. It was the best thing ever. But that too is a long long haul and like with all jobs there’s good and bad bits. It takes a lot of grit to keep at it. And sometimes I felt I so needed a little bit of comfort and reassurance from a grown up on a bad day! A grown up who understood and didn’t raise their eyebrows in criticism of our choice, or worse; a ‘what-did-you-expect’ kind of silence and an expression to match. Even expressions can be critical!

It was these kind of times exactly which prompted me to write ‘A Home Education Notebook to encourage and inspire’. To offer you a hand to hold on that long haul and a friendly voice from someone who gets it and knows that the bad bits need negotiating too. Knows that bad bits are not an indication that it’s going wrong. Knows that you need to look after yourself too (whole chapter to cover that in the book). And to reassure you that this is the best thing you could be doing and to help you to keep faith in your convictions.

I know exactly what the long haul is like. But keep going – it will work out okay and if it isn’t you will change it till it does! You’ll be doing a grand job. I salute you!

After a home educating long haul you end up with lovely intelligent educated adults like we did!

So if you haven’t got a copy to keep beside you for those wobbly bits now’s a good time to invest, because there’s new edition. And, even better, in this new edition is a special epilogue that tells you how successfully it all worked out for those we home educated alongside. The best kind of reassurance of all.

It’s been unavailable a little while but it’s back now on Amazon if you’d like a copy. It’s been called a home educating bible and comforting bedside book, so I hope it feels like that for you and brings you the encouragement you might need both for today and for the long haul.

Learning is not the result of teaching…

I had such a treat the other day; the opportunity to meet some fresh new home educators just starting out on their home education adventure.

They had two young children who’d only been at school a little since they’d started due to the pandemic. And it was this which had presented the parents with an opportunity to witness other approaches to learning. And see a change in their children’s health and wellbeing when out of school.

The biggest reason for them finally making the decision to take the children out of school now that they were attending again full time, they told me, was the deterioration in their children’s happiness and health again, both of which had dramatically improved in the months they’d been forced into doing school-at-home.

That was exactly what we witnessed in ours and a story that I hear so often from others.

It happens, I feel, because of something so many people fail to see or acknowledge: It’s not that children don’t like to learn – their curiosity and endless questions are proof that they do. It’s more because schools do not provide an environment in which all learners will thrive. That’s through no one’s fault. It’s just the way it is – although huge improvements could be made – but no one wants to acknowledge the needs of some children for something different.

Not every child’s personality is suited to the hubbub of school. And why should they be forced to endure it at the expense of their learning potential and wellbeing. These parents felt exactly the same about this and it’s what fuelled their decision.

Another interesting conversation I had with them stemmed from the fact that mum was a primary teacher. But she admitted she had an immense amount of un-learning to do herself, about the way children were taught, in relation to the way children learnt. And that these, in fact, are two very different things. She’d begun to see that now as she examined other approaches to educating, especially the more autonomous ones that she’d read about.

It put me in mind of an idea I came across very early on in our home educating days which was so helpful: That learning is not the result of teaching. It is the result of the activity of the learners.

During our early home educating days I thought a lot about what that actually means and kept the word ‘activity’ to the forefront of my approach to the children. It really helped.

Some valuable science going on here but sometimes the activities of my little learners seemed questionable. However, they all piece together to make a stimulating and successful education

This new home educating parent felt like I did about much of what went on in schools and what teachers were obliged to do to children under the guise of educating them. And how much of that was not only a waste of time, but also on occasion not doing the kids any good at all!

When you’re stuck in an institution you learn to do what the institution dictates. Schools are institutions which are at the mercy of decision makers and politicians who mostly have little knowledge of learning, education, children’s development and what is needed to become truly educated. Indeed what education truly is and what it’s for; in life beyond school and at a personal level. It’s not just about exams. (Read more on this in my educational philosophy by scrolling down the page ‘About Home Education) All politicians think about are the stats which tests and exams provide. But stats have nothing to do with the humanity of children and the way they learn and how to integrate into society.

These two little ones I met were happy, articulate, social, busy, engaged and had an actively developing intelligence.

This little family are clearly going to be okay as they find their way along the home educating road, making it up as they go along, as most of us do. Just like we do with parenting. And I’m confident it will all turn out okay as it does for most, despite the fact that it feels like a bit of a patchwork, DIY affair when you start out. It all works.

Of course, the big exams of the future question came up, even though these children were only at the primary stage. And I know it’s what a lot of parents worry about – politics has taught us to!

I told them that parents find their way with that at the time and not to look too far ahead. I always say that if you take care of the little learning moments, conversations, activities of your learners, and their well being each day, the future will take care of itself.

It was such a delight to be in the company of this little home educating family. And it made me feel again how I miss all those Home Ed times and the activities of my little learners!

Learning to read – whatever age!

How will the kids learn to read if they don’t go to school? This is a question often asked by potential home educators.

Bearing in mind the fact that there are kids who have gone to school and not learned to read, and adults out in the working world who also can’t read like Jay Blades, the presenter of the programme ‘The Repair Shop’, I’d like tell you that school is not the only route to learning to read. And sometimes even hampers it by the approaches and strategies they attach to it, particularly if you’re dyslexic, a condition which affects the way you process information like the written word.

I watched the programme by Jay Blades; ‘Learning to Read at 51’. It was brave and insightful. Yet he’s not the only one who has been blighted by school approaches to learning to read and the lack of empathy for an individual who needs a something a bit different. It was great that he brought that to the public eye.

The education system has over complicated the process of learning to read with their use of strategies and schemes and over intense focus on acquiring certain levels at certain ages and not allowing time for those who need longer. Even worse is the fact that children who learn differently and not at the expected generic rate are made out to be failures.

Added into this recipe for disaster is the way in which the literacy curriculum inhibits the associated use of language by the complicated dissection of it into named parts like ‘frontal adverbials’ and ‘split infinitives’, and invent academic exercises to practise use of them, as if this helps kids to use it more competently. It doesn’t really.

I’d like to tell you a little known fact: none of these approaches are in fact strictly necessary. Or will guarantee a child learns to read or communicate effectively through the written word, which is after all the point of it. But parents have been frightened into thinking that their children won’t learn to read, or be able to successfully use language throughout their adult life, without such approaches.

Totally untrue.

Children can – and do – learn to read without any of these formal approaches. There are enough home educated adults now who are living proof.

Although most home schooling parents do guide and facilitate their children towards reading, there are children who have learnt by themselves without any formal intervention at all apart from encouragement and exposure to reading and text. And there is plenty of opportunity to do this surrounded as we are by signs, packets, media, texting, gaming, all of which are valuable opportunities to experience reading. It’s not confined to books!

Another very important influence on them acquiring the skill is the sight of you reading. Children want to do what you do, want to access and enjoy books like you do, want to read your tablet, texts and messages, and love being read to – which has a direct effect upon their reading skills. It’s all part of their desire to read, important for motivation. If they’re motivated – and not put off by dull strategies that kill the joy of using language – they’ll read.

It doesn’t have to be attached to age either, despite what schools would say. Each child is different and will come to it at a different time and maybe in a different way. Even those with specific challenges like Dyslexia, like Jay, have been able to read in different time frames.

A marvellous book which illustrates how this happens, and how we should perhaps change our minds about the teaching of reading is ‘Rethinking Learning to Read’ by Harriet Pattison, an educationalist and home educator herself. (Blog here about it). If anything is going to give you the courage to believe you could teach your child to read it’s this book – worth a read.

What’s most important is that parents should believe in their ability to facilitate their child’s progress with reading, and trust the fact that with encouragement and faith, they can make it happen.

After all, I have known adults who’ve been through the school system and come out unable to read. But I haven’t known a home educated child who hasn’t managed it in the end.

And maybe if Jay had been afforded more patient and sympathetic approaches during his education, he would have been able to read before the age of 51, as he clearly has the ability to overcome the challenges he faces.

However long it takes, and unless your reader has very severe or specific difficulties, home schooling gives you the time you need to develop a reader – you just need to provide the encouragement and patience!

Is shopping on the curriculum?

I know I was talking about not buying stuff on the blog last time but with home educating there were always a few essentials we went out for and it put me in mind of this story.

It was a typical home educating day – while back now I admit but as clear in my mind as it ever was. And that was because of the horrible git in the lift!

It was an out-of-the-house day. Very essential. We’d needed a library trip; we were loaded with books. We’d also been looking at buying a couple of books to learn from, which the kids had fallen in love with in the book shop. We needed some groceries anyway and then we’d got a trip to the park planned for outdoor lunch, exercise, a clamber on the apparatus there and observation of anything wild that came up. It always does.

So laden down with our stuff, picnic included, we were in the lift on our way down from the book department. Standing in there was an elderly chap looking down on us from his great height with clear disapproval.

Now quite often when we were out and about we’d get a smile for the kids from people who we came across. A look of interest. Maybe a gentle chat or enquiry. Today it was different. Today it was term time and my children were clearly not in school. Today this chap was clearly not pleased.

He ignored me, looked accusingly at the girls and said ‘Not in school today?’

Before I could answer my eldest pipes up confidently and proudly, hugging her books to her, ‘No we’re home educated.’ I was so pleased to see how she’d grown – she’d never done this before.

Again he directly ignored me and confronted her, with a cross tone and a glaring eye and said; ‘Shopping on the curriculum is it?’

She deflated like a spent balloon and that old oppressed and guilty look she wore in school – eradicated since we’d been home educating – fell back onto her face at his intended put-down.

I’m not usually a violent person but quite frankly I could have smashed his face in!

‘Actually, shopping is very educational,’ I retorted. And the lift doors opened and we parted before there was any time to argue the point further. Not that I probably would have bothered as you know how pointless it is against some people’s narrow minded ignorance.

I was so upset. Mostly because of the attack on my child by this arrogant bully who obviously thought he had some kind of authority and licence.

Happily, most people we came across when out were fairly interested. ( I think I describe some of the comments in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’) But way back then, when home education was still fairly unheard of, people were more suspicious. In fact you could easily feel that you shouldn’t have your kids out in public in term time as if they weren’t fit to be seen; they should be tidied away in school.

If there’s one thing this awful pandemic has done for us it’s brought home schooling to the fore. It’s much more recognised and possibly even understood better by thousands more than way back then. It’s certainly opened people’s eyes and minds to an approach to education that although unfamiliar, is totally workable, successful and a life saver for many children who through no fault of their own do not thrive in school. Not to mention the fact it’s encouraged more parents to question the awful flaws in schooling and the system.

Let’s hope this will be one positive outcome of the pandemic that will remain for good and continue to grow. And those parents who choose to home educate (and I don’t mean do school-at-home as many were forced to do during Lockdown) are supported in that decision. And whatever approach one chooses it is less divisive than it has been as understanding expands.

And actually – shopping is educational as it supports many concepts of the curriculum if you delve into it’s diverse subject matter with an investigative mind; maths, science, environment, origins, language, vocabulary, design… it’s all in there in various forms. So put it on your curriculum, get out as much as you can, try not to actually buy too much stuff and good luck with those you come into contact with!

Lots of investigative learning possible from just a basket of shopping!

School is just no good for some kids

Since Lockdown put home schooling back in the spotlight I’ve heard of several parents thinking about making the change from school to home educating permanently. So I thought this would be a good time to re-share this post of old…

The leap to home schooling is always a big decision, but I often hear parents saying how uplifting it was to see their children returning to being the happy contented little people they were before they started school. One specifically reported that 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.

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

From the archives; our happy children back enjoying ‘A Funny Kind of Education’!

It’s something I hear frequently and they are not the only parents to experience this. 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)

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, they have scant knowledge of education – or kids, some of them – and yet feel qualified to 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 now 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 its success rate is questionable, leaving many of our youngsters unfulfilled, disengaged, unmotivated to do anything and at worst; unwell.

Yet, I’ve never found 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

I readily admit that school works for many. But not all, so should you wish to make the switch permanently to home education be bold and go for it. It’s a great decision and one which we and others like us never once regretted!

What’s socially adjusted anyway?

Sometimes for escapism I watch Channel Five’s ‘New Lives In the Wild’. I can’t always do it; Ben Fogle’s ignorant remarks about home education grate on me so much I have to switch over.

This recent programme got me just the same. He’s revisiting some of the families featured on his programmes five years ago to see what they’re up to now. Tonight it was the turn of the Goddards, who were living on the Isle of Rum in Scotland, but now have returned to the mainland as their needs changed and the children, who are home educated, grew up.

You can see the programme here

Of course Ben wants to see how things have panned out for the family (me too) and in particular the youngsters. Because Ben is concerned, as he’s expressed before, about home education; in particular about how well home educators ‘adjust socially’ when they’ve had such an isolated existence.

Now isn’t this just typical of those who have limited experience of home educators, and actually limited understanding of how people actually become socially adjusted?

It’s almost like there’s a national disease of wanting everyone to be the same and fit in and be normal – whatever that is. And it rankles! As did his comments, after interviewing the young people, about them seeming to be ‘socially adjusted’ after all – as if that was some sort of surprise!

Odd, isn’t it, how it’s always the social bit people raise concerns about as if it was socially normal in school – it isn’t.

Now I know I’m biased and in support of all those wonderful parents who want to home educate. And in my experience the social side of doing so is NOT a problem. The kids are fine, socially, intellectually, communicatively.

But others don’t know this. Others just listen to ignorant assumptions. And very few people, Ben among them it appears, actually question what social means and how it’s arrived at.

Firstly it perhaps refers to skills; skills of communication, empathy, interpretation, connection, conversation, understanding of others and what’s appropriate, and skills of care as important as any. Anyone who cares is bound to have good social skills by the very nature of what care is. That begins with family and spreads from there. You don’t need to be with a massive bunch of others necessarily, although broad experiences are always good.

Secondly, the expectation is also that youngsters need to be able to cope in socially crowded situations and learning out of them may hamper that development. However, many home educators don’t learn in crowds and their socialisation is rarely under developed. They end up in college, Uni, work, mixing, just like other youngsters.

Not everyone is either a crowd seeker or a crowd pleaser, but that doesn’t automatically mean they are not ‘socially adjusted’ in Ben’s terms.

Some people live in uncrowded places yet still integrate into social situations they’re presented with. Human empathy, intelligence and care, mostly learnt from family, teaches you how to do that, not crowds!

But what grated on me the most about Ben’s presentation of the programme was his arrogant assumption that he was entitled to judge whether the young people, after being fairly isolated, were ‘well adjusted’ socially or not. As so many others think they’re entitled to judge home schoolers – even though many of those judges seem fairly socially unskilled themselves!

It’s also ironic that very few ever consider whether schools make young people ‘well adjusted’ socially in the real world out of school. In my view, many are not!

And never is it ever argued that having less people around, being in less densely populated areas, might be a good thing because it might make us value people more and behave differently.

The incidence of Lockdown has brought home how irreplaceable are those real time, face to face, hug close, interactions with our special few, despite all the digital interactions we can now have with so many. It’s valuing each other that makes us socially adjusted, not being in a crowd.

And it’s fine not to like crowds. Doesn’t mean you’re not ‘socially adjusted’.

What’s socially adjusted anyway? Who is really qualified to judge? We all have social idiosyncrasies.

I so admire the Goddards for sharing their story in the programme and for their inspirational philosophies on life. Good luck to them. And good luck to all who decide on a lifestyle that doesn’t fit Ben’s idea of a norm!

Finally, good luck too, to all you home educators who don’t give a toss whether other pompous arses think you’re socially adjusting or not!

Learning Without School

I always thought that it would be the internet which would make the biggest change to home education. And education per se.

Little did I realise that it would be enforced by the set of such bizarre circumstances we find ourselves in now – forced into it because of the Pandemic and Lockdown rules! Everyone now forced into doing ‘school at home’, and I put that in inverted commas because it is very different to home educating as a thought out decision up front, (see this blog which explains a bit)

However, this enforcement has prompted many parents to take a more in depth look at home educating (or home schooling – see this blog for an explanation of terms) and begin to understand that children can and do learn without schooling, learn without the usual tests and ticks and structured classes, some of them learn without any kind of institutional influence at all. The accessibility to education the internet provides has given new parents the confidence to reconsider this option.

So if you’re one of the parents wanting to know more then you might find my very first book ‘Learning Without School Home Education’ helpful to delve into as it is broken down into chapters that ask all the common questions about home education.

The chapter titles are as follows:

  1. What is Home Education and why do people do it?

2. How do parents start home educating?

3. How do home educated children learn?

4. How do home educated children find friends and become socialised?

5. What about curriculum, subjects and timetables?

6. What about tests, exams and qualifications?

7. What is life like for a home educating family?

8. What about children with learning difficulties or special needs?

9. Where do home educated families end up?

Of course it was written long before the pandemic. It was also written before the Internet became the massive learning facility that it is now. But, you know what? That aside, learning is still innately a human experience and it is partly that which we have to consider; things like family influence, personality, the myriad of ways to approach learning other than the academic and structured, parents’ feelings and ideas about education, children’s responses to school circumstances – very valid but hardly ever acknowledged as such, all of which are important. Education is not just about ticking boxes.

Despite the glories of the internet; the marvellous tool it is for research, facilitating education and eradicating the elitism that came with the exclusive possession of knowledge in the past, it will never be able to replace the humane qualities of support, inspiration and encouragement that another human being can bring to the process – that human not necessarily needing to be a teacher as home school families are proving.

The internet can’t do human! Only parents and teachers can add the flavour of that – and yes – parents can and do adequately facilitate their children’s learning alongside the internet.

As time goes on there are increasing numbers of young people out in the working world who were home educated, some of whom never went to school at all, who are educated and intelligent, leading happy, productive and successful lives, and no one would ever know whether they went to school or not! Thus making parents ask the question, as they are doing now with the advent of on-line learning and enforced school-at-home, what is all this school stuff really about anyway?

A question I suggest you keep on asking!

You’ll find more details on the book ‘Learning Without School Home Education’ if you scroll down the ‘My Books’ page on this blog.

The case for un-learning

An illustration by Charlie Mackesy from his beautiful book; ‘The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and Horse’, details below.

You maybe don’t realise but in order to home educate successfully parents have some serious un-learning to do!

Un-learning? That’s a bit contrary for an education blog isn’t it? How is that going to help with home schooling when there’s so much new stuff to understand?

And that’s the whole point; there’s a lot of new stuff to understand about education. Old stuff to un-learn. Un-learn a lot of inhibiting ideas about approaches to learning and education that can get in the way of a successful home educating journey.

Firstly is the idea that only qualified professionals can facilitate a child’s learning. Not true. Anyone can help a child learn, anyone can give support and encouragement, inspire and motivate them, which are all the things you need to assist learning. You don’t necessarily need it to be teachers. The content stuff you can find out on the internet anyway.

Secondly, there’s the idea that kids need a classroom, to be quiet, to sit formally, to study all the time, to write stuff down, to do formal academic exercises, in order to learn anything. Also not true. There are all sorts of different ways to approach it, informally, incidentally, as a by-product of other activities, whilst moving about, out and about, through conversation, through active experiences, YouTube, visits to historic or scientific sites, as examples. Another example; reading any sort of material is as valuable for developing reading skills as wading through a reading scheme. Learning can successfully take place in informal settings in informal ways.

Thirdly, there’s the idea that in order to progress kids need to be tested. Not true. Tests have very little value to the learner. Why waste time regurgitating what you already know when that time could be more usefully spent on learning something new. (Understand more on testing here)

And fourthly, and a massively damaging idea; that all learning requires paper evidence of it having being learnt otherwise it hasn’t taken place at all. Parents are addicted to having massive amounts of stuff that shows what the kids have been learning. But no amount of paper evidence is proof that learning has been absorbed and understood. Now, I can totally understand that parents feel more confident with a nice wad of workbooks or written exercises or note paper with their children’s ‘work’ inscribed upon them to show off to relatives, doubters and the LA. And do it for that reason if you must. But this isn’t an essential approach to learning things. It demonstrates some skills, admittedly. But not proof of concepts having been deeply understood which is what really leaning is about. I appreciate it’s different at exam time and some youngsters find it helps to record stuff, but let that be if they choose to – not as a default.

And fifthly, the idea that how they do it in school is the right way. It isn’t necessarily. It’s just one way to approach education. In fact, is a wrong approach for many kids.

You have to brave to home school and continue to do so. Brave enough to let go of a lot of what you thought was true about approaches to learning. You have to trust that your intuition is right, that learning is taking place as long as the children are actively engaged, even when there’s no paper evidence. You have to re-learn what you may have been taught about education through your own schooling.

Especially that the school way is the right way to becoming educated.

It’s not.

Thousands of parents and families have un-learnt that idea. Perhaps you should join them.

Find Charlie Mackesy’s delightful book illustrated above, here It’s just what you need for troubling times!

A new kind of educational history

I read a fascinating book recently called ‘The Button Box’ by Lynn Knight. It is a social and fashion history inspired by the buttons of the times and their relevance to how everyone lived, the women in particular. Through the buttons the book illustrates the position of women through the ages, from the rich to the powerless (as most were in past times), and their ever changing roles and rights.

What struck me most was how resourceful women have always been, how ingenious they were at making use of what resources they had and how creative and entrepreneurial they were when, let’s face it, mostly they were up against it!

I think that is a fundamental skill most women have, developed further I think through mothering, home educating, and in times of challenge. A bit like now!

Throughout the pandemic we’ve all faced hardships and deprivation of one kind or another; social and spiritual as much as the financial and physical. And educational, even though it’s been education in itself. We’ve had to dig deep into resourcefulness some of us never knew we had.

I always equate that kind of resourcefulness with home educators – it’s almost a natural part of what home educators do; make an education with an entrepreneurial spirit. And maybe those who’ve had home education thrust upon them through ‘school-at-home’ which is very different (see this blog), have discovered that they can be resourceful with education and learning too and branch out from what they thought it was. I hope so.

Most people have always (wrongly) thought that school is the only route to becoming educated. And it also requires having money. Or masses of tech. Or qualified teachers. Or expensive materials.

All these may contribute to a broadening of an educative experience, but are still no guarantee.

What we need most of all to develop educated people is to encourage them to have resourceful, inquiring minds. Minds that can adapt, embrace challenge and diversity, think past problems, who have resilience and staying power, as well as the ability to find out stuff, seek out new experience and learn for themselves by whatever means we have.

Prescriptive schooling rarely achieves this. But this is what home educators generally do most of the time!

Home education and the people doing it are nothing if not resourceful. Unlike school-at-home where many schools prescribed the learning, home educators take a different approach and engineer it themselves. They consider options, navigate resources, choose their objectives and the route to take them there within the boundaries of what they have to hand.

Few have exclusive lab equipment or high brow tech, but they find ways open to them.

But what they do have is the best resource any educator can give; the time, attention, engagement and encouragement of another human being.

We are raising and educating human beings remember – social human beings. Tech will never show us how to be human however much we use it, or use online teachers and online schools. Whilst useful, tech can never show how to be empathetic and responsible, respectful and kind, in the way that humans show. And you need those qualities as well as knowledge and exam passes to be a truly educated human being.

As the book says; whether you have posh buttons or cheap ones on your clothing, wealth or poverty, underneath we are still all human.

It’s also true that whether you are school users or home educators; education is about humanity and developing personally as well as academically. Education should develop a mind that is broad and open, all embracing, and resourceful, and able to go on learning beyond being told what to do through prescriptive schooling.

And it is the resourcefulness of home educators and the approaches they’re using, that succeeds in doing this and in making a new educational history which other families and educators, current and future, should learn from!

Tips for tough homeschool times

Here we go again; another Lockdown and worries about where this is all going to end.

It can make for tough times, especially if you’re home educating and worrying about the children’s learning.

Just remember you survived the last Lockdown and the children will be learning all the time from whatever you’re doing. I’m sure they still will despite more Lockdown restrictions.

And if you’re worrying whether they’d be better off in school you should also remember that there are no guarantees that school will work out either. Just as there are no guarantees any style of parenting will work. Or any lifestyle will be right for you – and home educating is as much a lifestyle as a style of learning, since it becomes so integrated with life. So don’t worry about that as well as everything else!

Just carry on without guarantees. Put in whatever’s needed to give home education your best shot.

The best tips I can offer for that are:

  • Listen to your intuition. If a home educating activity or style of learning feels intuitively right for you and your family it probably is.
  • Do whatever’s needed to help you all cope whether that’s education wise or personal; actually, it’s all education anyway. And remember there’s no rush, take your time. This won’t last forever.
  • Look to the Now. Take each day as it comes. Your child will grow and change. Your home educating will grow and change. Lockdown will change – just do what you can, much will have to be be virtual at this time.
  • Keep in virtual contact, learn from others. Observe what they’re doing. Remain responsive to ideas but be prepared to flex or adapt them for your use. Don’t stay stuck. We’re so used to systemised thinking keeping us stuck we forget we have enormous flexibility with home ed – a chance to do things differently. Kids learn from everything!
  • Nurture your relationship with your children through respect. Respect is a two way thing (unless you’re in school!). Use it to build a workable and happy Lockdown learning experience. Demonstrate respect to them, expect it from them. Do that through the way you behave. Create space from each other within the boundaries of your home so you can keep relationships sweet. Be inventive about room use.
  • Keep talking things through with the kids. Youngsters can be part of the decision making, require explanations, can take charge, have ideas. Lots of conversations are extremely educative.
  • Keep it light though. It’s not law that educating should be burdensome. It should be joyous. It’s there to enhance life remember! And it doesn’t happen overnight – be patient. times are tough.

You cannot guarantee outcomes. But you can guarantee that you’ll do the best you can to facilitate your child’s learning experience, however you’re managing it at the moment. Obviously it won’t be enjoyable all the time – life’s tough for everyone. Let go the bad days – they’d have them at school where absolutely nothing would have been learnt. Some homeschool days will be like that too! Quit worrying!

There’s lots more tips and reassurance in my Home Education Notebook which covers all the concerns people have when they home educate – whether in Lockdown or not. For a lighter read try ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ which is the story of our own home schooling life with tips and suggestions thrown in, along with a little laughter which is what we all need right now. It’s had some fab reviews! And if you’re still stuck making the decision try my ‘Learning Without School Home Education‘ which answers the FAQs. See the My Books page for more details.