Tag Archive | Who’s Not In School

In celebration of ‘Who’s Not In School?’

The cover illustration by James Robinson – the toy features throughout – if you can find it?

I really cannot believe it is five years since the first Little Harry book came out. But the publisher, Eyrie Press, assures me it is.

Little Harry evolved because I felt that home educated children needed a book about children like them, who didn’t go to school, illustrating an ordinary family in an everyday kind of home educating life.

‘Who’s Not In School?‘ was the first of these. Followed next by ‘The Wrong Adventure’ again featuring little Harry.

Although welcomed by most home educating families, and I’m told the children loved it especially looking again and again at the beautifully detailed illustrations by young home educator James Robinson (instagram @jamesrobinsonart), it also caused a bit of controversy!

This was because some felt it portrayed home educated children and consequently their parents in a bad light, particularly with reference to the illustration of Harry climbing on an exhibit to see what was inside. In his eyes and in the eyes of many children he was just making an innocent investigation, even if his behaviour was totally unacceptable to us. But it was that picture that caused upset by suggesting, some felt, that home educating parents would let their children do such things.

Of course, they wouldn’t, any more than any other parents however they’re raising their children. But the most well behaved still do things they shouldn’t when you inevitably take your eyes off them for a moment.

However, I was sorry to have riled the feelings of many home educating parents when my only wish was to support.

I do wonder if those same parents have seen the ‘Horrid Henry’ books (far worse behaviour than Harry!) and feel accused of bad parenting by those!

My intention was to create opportunities between parents and children to discuss behaviour, discuss the reasons why certain types of behaviour are desirable and others are not – like Harry at the museum, discuss the reasons behind all that he did and what reasons are justifiable.

Children need all sorts of examples, good and bad, to understand how to behave and more importantly, why it’s of benefit to them to behave with respect. It boils down to them developing a basic understanding that if they want to be liked and popular and respected in turn, they have to behave in certain ways – as we all do – and some behaviours have to be curbed however justified they they think they are.

Most kids love to learn, Harry certainly does, but it is still not acceptable to do so in the way he does at the museum!

I do hope that controversial picture won’t spoil your enjoyment of the book, and your kids have fun reading about a family like them, or learning about a Home Ed life. But I also hope they spot the ways they are not alike too! And the book raises lots of discussion in your house, which is after all a valid approach to learning!

Another Illustration by James Robinson

You can buy the book direct from the publishers or from amazon.

Book offers: Celebrating ‘Who’s Not In School?’ and others

Back from the delights of Brighton Fringe and stunned as ever by Chelsea’s performance, not to mention production of the whole darn show along with her partner. Feeling in awe of their achievements and a little bit celebratory! Tearful stuff!

And this week also sees a celebration of another kind, along with Eyrie Press. 

It is three years since my first children’s book ‘Who’s Not In School’ was published by Bird’s Nest Books. I can hardly believe it, remembering back to when we were first discussing putting this book out there seems like only the other week!

It features Harry a home educated child who gets into all sorts of trouble because his desire to learn about and investigate his world is so strong it leads to inappropriate behaviour. So it was quite controversial and raised a few arguments. But he is basically like any other kid – schooled or not – full of the curiosity we parents need to manage, but not subdue!

In celebration of the anniversary of its publication the publishers have a give-away going on this week end so pop over here and take a look. And check out the 99p offer on kindle editions. You might get a great deal.

And enjoy your weekend.

Sibling conflict and The Wrong Adventure

 

Have you come across Harry? He’s the star of the story ‘Who’s Not In School?’ and he gets up to all sorts of adventures in a typical family week with kids at home.

In book two; ‘The Wrong Adventure’, he decides to tunnel out. Why? Because he wants to get away from his older brother and sister as everything he does seems to annoy them. He’s not doing what he does specifically to annoy, as all older siblings seem to feel, but because he’s curious. and it gets the better of him. He ends up exploring things he shouldn’t!

It’s typical in most households and was loosely based on what happened in this one, when the youngest was constantly fascinated with the activities of the eldest and wanted part of it, or hands on it, or to do the activities for herself however inappropriate. And however much I tried to involve both in activities at their own level there were times it seemed impossible, times when the eldest just wanted to absorb herself in what she was doing without having to guard against little fingers grabbing stuff all the time.

You have to be careful how you react to this scenario, I discovered. You can find yourself involved in a sibling competition to get you onside.

You have to be canny. You have to try and resolve it without that happening. Better still, you have to lead them to resolving it themselves to the satisfaction of both – but this can only happen with a certain maturity and there are times when they’re just no old enough.

I tried talking, explaining, compromise and keeping respectful and if all that fails distraction and diversion. And have to admit sibling rivalry could become quite wearing. But all would be resolved in the end, togetherness restored, even though I got it disastrously wrong at times as all parents do, so don’t worry, it’s not just you! And they’ve forgiven me!

And the only fights they ever get into now is united, side by side, in fierce loyalty against any challenges to it – together! It’s been lovely to see and not something I could ever have imagined when crayons were flying across the room!

So, why is Harry on the wrong adventure? Well, if you haven’t guessed by this post, I’ll leave you to find out for yourself when you read it. Read it together with your little ones and it might give you an opportunity to talk about how siblings treat each other and how it could be improved in your household when everyone is at loggerheads. For what’s required is to see each other’s point of view and hopefully this story will help that.

 

‘The Wrong Adventure’ is published by Bird’s Nest Books and is also available on Amazon.

It’s today!

It’s available TODAY: the new story for the little ones, so they get to read of a child who’s home educated just like them.

I remember all the books we read to ours were always about schooled children – I decided to do something about that. Hence the lovable little rogue ‘Harry’ was born in ‘Who’s Not In School?’. He’s out on his another adventure now – find him exclusively at the publisher; Bird’s Nest Books

Illustrations by James Robinson

Illustration by James Robinson

I also remember clearly what it was like to home educate. I look back on those days as treasured memories of delight and happiness.

Funny how memory eradicates the tricky bits! Because of course there were tricky bits and that’s what started me writing about home schooling. To bring comfort and reassurance, guidance and encouragement to those who wanted to have a go but lacked a bit of courage, and to those who’ve been doing it a while but need that little support during the long haul.

And I now realise that’s what my writing’s always been about – reassurance and personal support – so check my books out if that’s what you need right now. You’ll find them on the ‘My Books’ page; they’ll offer you comfort and kindness whilst I go AWOL occasionally during the summer.

Hard to believe there are all these now.

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How did that happen and where did the time go?

That’s what you’ll all be saying about your home education one day!

The Wrong Adventure!

I’m delighted to tell you that Harry’s off on another adventure.

Illustrations by James Robinson

Illustrations by James Robinson

If you haven’t already met him he’s the adventurous little homeschooler in ‘Who’s Not In School? who wants to learn about everything.

But his adventures in trying to do so often lead him into trouble as his curious investigations – particularly into the more interesting things that belong to older siblings – end up annoying people. So Harry decides to go off on an adventure on his own where he can’t annoy anybody.

See how he does this in ‘The Wrong Adventure’ which will be out at the beginning of August. It’s illustrated by James Robinson, a home educated young man himself with incredible talent.

If you pop across to Bird’s Nest Books to pre-order your copy you can receive a discount. Enter this code RMTWA at the checkout and your copy will only be £7.50 instead of the usual price of £8.99

It’s the perfect story to read outside with your youngsters this summer.

Out for some inspiration!

I’m so busy continually harping on about getting your children out and about and how valuable it is for their health, well being and education, I forget to do it for myself sometimes! Hypocrite or what?

My route through the trees when January's too wicked for me to be out on the marsh!

My route through the trees when January’s too wicked for me to be out on the marsh!

I usually have my constitutional walk – the one I used to pressgang the children into when they were here. But even that gets a bit samey.

I find mould growing on my inspiration and it’s likely to be showing in my work if I’m not careful.

Writing is a cloistering business and can make me as stale as all those mince pies that are still in the pantry I’m trying not to finish up. My current dilemma is whether it’s worse they end up as waste or waist? The birds usually solve this problem for me!

So I’ve decided I need to get out among all you inspirational parents and home educators and see what you’re up to.

So many people have told me that this work and my books have inspired them. Well you parents inspire me too. I love your comments and feedback and it was a delight meeting you in the summer last year when we were promoting my book for home educated children; ‘Who’s Not In School?’

It would be so lovely to meet more of you and if you’ve any concerns maybe I can be of help or reassurance. It’s a long haul home educating but just like anything parenting, you’ll work it out – we did – and we probably knew no more than you do!

So if you have a home educating/parent group in the Midlands, or East side of the country that might be interested in me popping in for a chat do get in touch. And I’m occasionally down South visiting my eldest in Brighton and could pop in if dates coincide.

I’m hoping to have some new books out this year, but let’s not wait for that to happen – publishing takes ages – let’s get together for a natter beforehand.

You’ll find contact details via my ‘Who Am I?’ page. Or just leave me a comment; I try and respond to all.

Meanwhile enjoy your home education for, like ours, you’ll find that one day it will have come to an end!

New book news!

I had an exciting meeting with the publisher this week.

More adventures from Little Harry and family soon. Illustration by James Robinson

More adventures from Little Harry and family soon. Illustration by James Robinson

We’ve got two more books in the pipeline; the first is the continuing adventures of Little Harry and the home educating family you met in ‘Who’s Not In School’, written especially for children. And the other is a collation of my posts and articles about home schooling from all the years we were home educating our two children, written especially for the parents!

I’ve written so much about it over the years, some even pre-date this blog. And the Home Education posts which are here are scattered among general parenting stuff and my forays outdoors. So if you’re looking for home educating tips and encouragement, rather than you having to trawl through all of that, I’m collecting it in one book.

For I understand that need for a bit of comfort sometimes as you tread this unconventional path as I felt it too. Or some fresh viewpoints, reassurance, or just the feeling that someone understands, so now you’ll know where to turn. There’ll be new material in there too, especially written for the book.

Hopefully this will be out in time for Christmas (dare I say that word?).

Harry’s adventures may take a little longer, though, as you can imagine that those beautiful pictures take the illustrator a while.

But I’ll keep you posted here. If you subscribe to this blog, you’ll be able to get updates on the progress and news of when it’s available. You can also sign up for the publisher’s newsletter to get updates on their site too.

Meanwhile; perhaps I could just say how much I appreciate the support shown for my work so far. Home educators are not the only ones who need encouragement – writers do too! Your kind words are always uplifting, either here or on Amazon. And all ‘Likes’ on my Facebook Author page, most gratefully received.

Thank you!

And in return I hope you find support in the forthcoming work.

I admit it; I’m ‘one of those’!

Facebook-Image

Other books from the LitFest

“Are you a home educator, then?” asked a portly lady who’d picked up my latest book ‘Who’s Not In School?’ and was flicking through it at a recent Literary Event. She sat down at the display table rather regally as if establishing her right to rest.

My feet were killing me and could do with a rest too. I’d been on them chatting to people all day. But I wasn’t going to hog the chair.

“Yes, that’s right,” I smiled. But not without a sneaking suspicion that she was making more of an accusation than asking a question!

I was right.

“Yes, you look like one of those,” she replied.

And before I could think of a suitable response she went on; “I’ve just retired from forty years teaching in the classroom and I think it’s wrong parents keeping their children away from school. I mean, all the opportunities and people they meet in there, they miss out on all that.”

Try not to bristle before opening your mouth, Ross, I’m thinking. I managed to respond ever so gently.

“Or you could look at it the other way round. You could say that there are thousands of experiences and people outside the school in the real world that home educated children are getting the chance to engage with, which all those kids stuck in school day after day are missing out on.” I smiled the most intelligent smile I could muster.

She looked away not quite so sure of her righteous opinion now! “Hmmm, yes…Oh I think it’s time for the workshop to start,” and she heaved herself up and waddled off.

Teaching for forty years? How many children does that make who have been through her unchanging view of the world? Forty years of it and she still omitted to see how it doesn’t work for all and it’s not just the kids’ fault.  Sometimes I feel defeated by people’s closed attitude.

Later, a chap with three young children came to talk to me. He was one of those, a home educating dad with a happy open attitude to learning who talked to me a little of their approach, how there were so many other families they knew home schooling, and so many groups, they could go to something every day if they wished. He was enthused and energised by their inspired learning life and keen to tell me about it. And open to everything. A pleasure to talk to, restoring my faith.

Here was someone who was as keen to learn himself, and embrace new ideas, as the other lady was determined not to!

What a contrast. I know who I would consider to be the most educated!

Help get books to those who need them

It’s only now, writing and publishing, that I’ve twigged how the powers of commercialism control what we read.

I should have guessed really; commercialism controls most of what we do. But it always comes as a surprise to know to what degree.

Big publishers only publish what will earn them big money. And mainstream bookshops usually only stock books that do the same. They are businesses after all.

And you probably think that writers earn thousands as it’s usually only the writers that do, like Dan Brown or J K Rowling, who get the coverage.

The truth is that most writers will be earning less than the minimum wage. And many will be covering subjects dealing with issues that are not mainstream and therefore not going to earn big money, so will not have big marketing machines behind them. Which means that it is harder to get titles out to the minorities who need it.

So you can see how those minorities often don’t get the books they need to support them.

With the chance to publish independently now, and the whole publishing process made more accessible, micro publishers like Bird’s Nest Books have a better chance of surviving and supporting writers like me who write about marginalised subjects.

But we still rely on your invaluable help.

Mainstream book companies are the ones that get all the attention – they can afford to pay for it. Publishers pay huge sums for shelf space and for stocking their books in the first place. This involves fees that small publishers cannot afford. So this boils down to the fact that what you get to see on shelves in bookshops, and consequently what you get to read, is controlled by them – if the book’s not got the potential for big bucks, it won’t even get published in the first place! That’s a fact.

For example, celebrities can write absolute crap yet it will appear in your face because big money got it there. If you’ve got a burning issue to write about but there’s no big money to be made – you won’t get it published and people won’t get to read it.

Many writers like me have a message or support they want to share that has nothing to do with big money. Consequently it is hard to get it out there.

This is where your help means so much.

Come and meet me, the illustrator and publisher of 'Who's Not in School' at the Wisbeck LitFest on Saturday

Come and meet me, the illustrator, and publisher of ‘Who’s Not in School’ at the Wisbech LitFest on Saturday

I am indebted to all the people who have bought my books, shared them around, mentioned them online and networked them about, passed on my messages, promoted my work, donated to libraries, written reviews, and mentioned them on forums, blogs and Facebook. Your work doing that has meant that many who wouldn’t know this work’s there to help them get to hear about it. Thank you.

Both the publisher and I depend on the word of mouth and networking power of you our wonderful supportive readers.

And your support might one day sow a seed of hope in the hearts of a family whose children’s are suffering in school, yet who didn’t know alternatives existed.

It also shows that minority communities can survive and thrive even without a big commercial machine, on the kindness of strangers.

More than just helping me, your support goes so much further. And I am humbly indebted to you for it.

Come meet me at the Fenland Lit Fest

This weekend I could well be dossing! litfest4

Next weekend, on Saturday 5th September I’ll be at the Fenland Lit Fest in Cambridgeshire, a new literary festival, so do come and have a chat – I love to meet new people and those who’ve read my books. If you haven’t, you’ll be able to buy discount copies too. I’ll be in the foyer with other authors and illustrators.

Here’s more of their info:

The first Fenland Literary Festival, “FenlandLitFest”, will be held at The Angles Theatre, Alexandra Road, Wisbech on Saturday September 5th and will be FREE OF CHARGE.This year we are delighted to be supported by Market Place. Market Place has people at its heart. It’s about more people creating and experiencing great art in Fenland and Forest Heath: Brandon, Chatteris, March, Mildenhall, Newmarket, Whittlesey, and Wisbech. Market Place is part of Creative People and Places arts engagement programme developed by Arts Council England with the support from NationalLottery funds.

The Festival will celebrate literature of all types and will feature a range of speakers and workshops from local authors such as Claire Upton, Simon Crow, Jon Lawrence and Darren Upton and poets including Fenland Poet Laureate Jonathan Totman, Mary Livingstone, Elaine Ewart and Poppy Kleiser.

Maybe you fancy an introduction to writing your own poetry or creating your own story? Or perhaps you’d like to listen to Jon Lawrence talking about his latest book ‘Playing Beneath the Havelock House’. Or maybe join horror writer Simon Crow’s ‘Horror Circle’, or listen to Darren Upton recount his experiences researching and interviewing the band WASP for his biography ‘A Sting In The Tale?

There’s plenty for the children too, including a fun reading of Claire Upton’s ‘Nanny Pam Joins A Band’, with instruments to play, or they can join Simon’s Slightly Spooky Circle and create their own imaginary monsters.

There will also be the chance to see illustrators James Robinson and Shannon Loveless and comic artist Glen Stone demonstrating their work, get some tips and have a go yourself. Or watch 20Twenty’s Sitcom ‘Xpress Yourself’ and chat to the writer David Johnson.

On top of that, there will be book sculpting, books and comics for sale, including a stall from Niche Comics from Huntingdon, and competitions.

The Fenland LitFest will run all day from 10am-4pm. There’s no need to book events, just turn up on the day and dive right in to whatever takes your fancy!

For more information and guest speaker and workshop schedules, ‘Like’ our Facebook page FenlandLitFest or follow us on Twitter @FenlandLitFest.

It would be lovely to see you there.