Tag Archive | writing

There’s nothing wrong with our children

I feel so sorry when I hear parents desperately worrying over their children not being able to achieve certain things at certain times. So I thought I’d post this chapter from my ‘Home Education Notebook’ in the hope it may bring comfort and reassurance if you’re one of them:

I want to reassure you all of something: there’s nothing wrong with your children.

I say this because there are folks who would make out that there is. They make out that there must be something wrong if a child who doesn’t thrive in school, for example, or doesn’t read easily, or can’t run as fast as others, or who is shy.

It’s just that people like to make out that others who are not the same as them must have something wrong with them. But the real truth is that; everyone is different.

It took a while for this to really sink in with me – particularly the implications.

Take gardening as an example.  I just never took to it, even worse my plants seemed to die when everyone else’s flourished. There must be something wrong with me surely, for this to happen.

I did try. My mother was a great gardener. Her roses yielded abundant blooms, her cuttings thrived, her shrubs grew enormous.

Mine didn’t.

All mine did was whither. I planted plants she bought me and they died. I even managed to kill houseplants. I’m sure all I ever did was look at them and they shrivelled.

This soon led me to believe there definitely must be something wrong with me.

I’d watch my mother in raptures round the garden centre and I’d look at my watch and think; how much longer? I’d listen to my friends going on about their plants and their gardens and I’d feel there must be a gaping hole in my emotional development because I just couldn’t feel what they did. I used to visit my friend who had a creeping fig right over her living room ceiling yet all my attempts at growing one had failed. I was useless.

It took a while for this to change.

Firstly, I do actually like gardening now. It’s something I’ve grown into – pardon the pun. Now that I have a little more time I enjoy it more. Now, also, that I have had time to mature my skills and accept that a slower turnover of success is just as fulfilling as a quick fix.

So I began to feel a little better, a little less like I’d got this major inability.

I also learnt two important things; however hard I might have tried at the time I just wasn’t ready for the delights of gardening. I just couldn’t apply myself enough to hone the necessary skills and patience. And I don’t think that whatever I did, at that time, I could have made any difference.

But, secondly, there was nothing wrong with me because of that. It wasn’t an inability, a learning difficulty, or anything else you want to call it. It was just the way it was and I shouldn’t sweat it.

So what about the skills that are pressed on kids in the form of their education? Isn’t it the same thing?

The way I see it, many, many skills are pressed on kids as a means to educate them. Knowledge is forced into them. Subjects are heaped upon them. Achievements are expected from them. None of which children particularly choose. Few of which they particularly like. Even fewer bearing any relation to the children’s lives at all.

And then schools make out there’s something wrong with those kids who don’t achieve.

Yet I can’t see the difference between this and the gardening really. It seems the same problem to me. It seems we expect children to acquire the skills we think they need, regardless of whether they think they need them, and then suggest there’s something wrong with them when they don’t succeed. Isn’t that a bit bizarre?

A love of gardening was something I matured into. I acquired the skills to do it when I became ready. There was nothing wrong with me before I was ready, or before I had those skills.

Many of the things we ask children to do as a way of educating them they are simply not ready for, or able to do, or interested in. But it doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with our children. That’s just the way children are.

I find it quite extraordinary that we set a curriculum of subjects that are as important to children as rheumatism and then expect them to enjoy studying them.

We set them tasks to do that are as appealing to them as cleaning out toilets is to me and expect them to do them willingly.

We expect them to practice skills that are as irrelevant to them at that stage in their lives as training to be an astronaut is to me as a parent.

And then, when they don’t succeed (surprise, surprise!) we call them failures. We make out there’s something wrong with them. Extraordinary!

It takes a long time to mature into things. Like wine and good cheese, Shakespeare and advanced maths. And some of us never do. But that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong in that. There are other nutritious things besides wine and cheese to enjoy, other subjects to get to grips with. We have to be at a certain stage to see the benefits of certain tasks (like cleaning the toilets – or writing perhaps). And some may never reach enjoyment of them. (Definitely me with the toilets). But there’s nothing wrong in that either. Some skills will never, ever be for us, however hard we push and practice. It’s just the way we are – it’s called individualism. There’ll be other skills we’re good at.

Just because your child can’t write, or can’t read, can’t do maths, doesn’t take to sitting down doing any kind of school work, or didn’t thrive or achieve in school, does not mean that there is anything wrong with them. We must make sure we avoid thinking about our children in that way.

Allow the individual to be the way they are

What we must do is allow each individual to be the way they are without thinking there’s something wrong with them if they’re not the same as other children.

Some kids mature into reading late. Some kids mature into writing late. Some take ages to understand the intricacies of maths. Some take ages to understand the value of perhaps doing things they can’t see any immediate relevance to. Some kids never get it at all. Some kids have very special other skills that are harder for us to appreciate and value. It doesn’t make them wrong for being like that. Some dyslexic children have very special skills that those of us who are not dyslexic will never have but it doesn’t make anyone wrong.

One skill is not more valuable than the other – even though advocates of the National Curriculum would have us believe otherwise. It’s hard in our current educational climate to keep faith. To value all the diverse things our children can do rather than only notice what they can’t. It is hard to truly believe in our wonderfully individual children and the special talents they have, particularly when those talents don’t match those required to succeed in schools.

But if we want our children to grow with confidence – and confidence is the very best tool they can have – if we want our children to succeed in life, we must never begin to act as if there’s something wrong with them when they don’t achieve the same as others. They will achieve other things that are equally as valuable to them. We must support them for who they are and what they can do.

I hear stories of children having to see an educational psychologist because they’re not achieving at school. That to me is the same thing as dragging me to see an educational psychologist just because I couldn’t achieve at gardening.

I didn’t need to see an educational psychologist; I needed to do something different.

I appreciate there are rare and specific problems, but generally children don’t need to see an educational psychologist either; they need to do something different. They need a different kind of education. That’s all. There’s nothing else wrong.

I know adults who can’t drive and have never managed to learn. I don’t tell them they need to see an educational psychologist because of it.

Everyone is different. Each child has different learning strengths. We need to change our attitude not the children. It’s only when we try and make everyone the same that problems arise.

No, there is nothing wrong with our children. Nothing wrong, if they don’t fit in school. Nothing wrong if they don’t like academic stuff. Nothing wrong if they take a long time maturing into certain skills. And we must guard against being talked into believing that there is.

Read the book for more stories to comfort and support. See the My Books page.

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Merry Christmas

The winter solstice.

It’s almost as important to me as Christmas. For when I get here I know that many of the dark days are done and yet we’ve still got the joy of Christmas to come.

Two celebrations! Three, counting New Year.

Then, after the Christmas and New Year sparkle are fading in memory (even if not in waistline), we will be able to look forward to a gentle increase in the light hours, even if only infinitesimal at first, stirring hope anew as the year begins.

But that’s then, this is now.

And what I wanted to do in this moment was to wish you happiness for Christmas and the coming year. And to thank you warmly and deeply for all the support you’ve shown for my work throughout the year. For the encouragement, the lovely messages, the compliments and the comments. I so appreciate all my readers and the time you take to message me. Thank you!

It has meant so much.

Merry Christmas!

Don’t Bah Humbug me!

 I may switch to making instead of blogging so much – just for Christmas!

I don’t need the excuse of little people in the house to get the glitter glue and art materials out! It’s something that I do for myself anyway. Practical, creative pursuits are my antidote to screen tired eyes and the medium of words!

I don’t know how ecologically sound it is still to be sending christmas cards. But I like making them so much and try to reuse materials already to hand or saved for the purpose, so they have a second life. I also use what nature provides and inspires. I picked and pressed some ivy leaves earlier in the year, from the mass that’s overtaken the barn roof. I felt sure it wouldn’t miss a few.

The cards that come into the house will also be reused. The ones I kept from last year make good tags. The backs used for scrap card and scribbled notes. The wrapping paper is always carefully untaped and used again. Some pieces last several Christmases and a friend and I have a decorated paper carrier we pass between us – it’s become a bit of a funny tradition!

Some people would think this is miserly. I look upon it as respect for what the planet provides.

And as well as benefiting a purse already stretched at christmas, a third advantage is that it gives your brain a good exercising inventing ways in which you can use what’s around, creating ways to reuse what comes to you, and making things. Creating is as good a mental exercise as doing maths.

And it’s enormously valuable for the kids to see you do this, to see you creating christmas as much as buying it. For inventive, creative, conservational, budgeting, and problem solving skills are the best gifts to be passing onto your children and down the generations. Along with respect for the earth and remembrance of its natural place in the season. These skills are gifts that set them up for real living as much as academic ones!

So to anyone who says this is miserly, I would say Bah humbug!

 

How writing is like homeschooling

I’ve just realised that writing books is a bit like home educating.

What next I wonder?

Why?

Well:

  • the initial prospect is terrifying and you think you can’t do it
  • you’re daunted by the fact it’s going to be one helluva long haul
  • there’s not much tangible proof you’re going in the right direction
  • there are no concrete ‘results’ until years have gone by
  • and just because you chose to do it doesn’t make it easy.

And there was me thinking life would be easier after my little home edders had graduated!

But the thing is; you get over these things by just ploughing on through.

Whether on the brink of home educating or on the brink of writing a book I have some advice:

  • don’t look at the long haul for now – keep focussed on doing each day
  • keep reminding yourself what you’re doing it for
  • keep faith with those ideals and keep going anyway, unless something dire isn’t working, then make adjustments and press on
  • don’t base your judgement on mainstream expectations, focus on how your kids’ (or your books’) progress
  • ignore all those who think you should do ‘mainstream’. If they haven’t experienced your route first hand what do they know about it?

And whether you’re home educating (which is also parenting and all the same things apply), or writing a book, remember that you are fundamentally doing it for love! And choice. You can make change at any time. And it’s an amazing thing that you do which takes grit, determination, stamina and courage… in case you needed reminding!

 

Home education – in case you didn’t know!

Wow! I can’t believe I started this blog in 2009 and I don’t think I’ve missed a week’s post in all that time. Mostly I’ve posted twice. What do I ramble on about?

Well, mostly about home education, although parenting comes into it too because that’s an essential part of it. And kids and books. And there are seasonal rambles out in the countryside which is where I’d rather be instead of under the laptop! I’ve published five more books since then and watched my teens grow into mature, working young people who amaze me with their drive and accomplishments.

Most of my writing has been to raise awareness, understanding and confidence in out-of-school education because it works – people need to know that. In many posts I’ve set out the facts so the endless myths about home schooling can be dispelled.

Here are some of them again in case you’re new to home educating or need some to pass on to others doubting your choice!

All sorts of approaches to learning!

  • Home educated children achieve good grades like other children do. They go to university, college, or into work like other young people. All of those I know have done so. Their academic, social, intellectual and personal skills, reputed to be in advance of their school peers, are what got them there.
  • Home educated children are not isolated. Most interact with a wide range of people, in a wide range of places, doing a broad range of activities, with loyal friends. Some have far more life experience than those children in school. Most have mature social skills and confidence standing them in good stead for interviews etc.
  • Home education/home schooling both refer to educating out of school although most don’t like the term homeschooling as it suggests ‘school at home’ which it isn’t, there are other approaches to learning. And the word ‘home’ in the title is a misnomer anyway since much of the learning takes place outside of the home, with others, in the community visiting places like museums, galleries, libraries, sports halls, going on field trips and other activities, etc.
  • Many families turn to home education because schools fail to provide for their children’s needs, both academic and personal. In some cases this has been a life line for children who’ve suffered in school the kind of abuse that just would not be tolerated by adults in a workplace. Home educators are the parents who take initiative to do something about their children’s suffering rather than just ignoring it.
  • Children who have been written off by the educational system or labelled as having ‘learning difficulties’ or ‘special needs’, for example, have gone on to achieve a good academic standard through home education.
  • Home educating families are mostly as ordinary as any other families who have the same ordinary aspirations for their children to achieve and be happy. They come from all ranges of the social, educational, financial and cultural backgrounds that make up our society.
  • Contrary to what most parents think, children learn in a multitude of different ways, not just in the conveyor belt style of the educational system. Home educating gives children the opportunity to learn in the way that suits them best, increasing their chances of success. This doesn’t necessarily mean academic cramming. It means acknowledgement of the myriad of alternative approaches there are to learning, to opportunities, to qualifications, to being educated, and making best use of them.
  • In my experience as a home educator within a wide network of other home educators, and whilst researching for my books, I have never come across an incidence of abuse which is often cited as a reason to ‘monitor’ home educating families. However I saw plenty of cases of abuse when I worked in schools.

Do feel free to share these on!

‘Daring Greatly’

“But it’s such a risk taking the children out of school and home educating,” someone once said to me. 

“It’s no more risky than leaving them in,” I remember replying.

They hadn’t thought of that!

I didn’t ever see it as a risk, really. What was I risking? That they would be happier, healthier and achieve more than the downhill slide we were observing whilst they were in school?

Home schooling reversed that slide. It was wonderful to witness.

Going against the norm does make you doubt some days though, I admit that. (Hence the reason for me writing ‘The Home Education Notebook’ to help you with those days).

But here’s a point to remember when you’re doubting and wobbling; it’s a sign of your conscientiousness.

Conscientious parents always question and review and consider what they’re doing. And that’s a good thing. It’s a necessary part of your learning process. But it’s bound to make you wobble at times. Be brave. Examine what you’re doing. Research (as in chat to others about your concerns). And wobble on.

Doubting days will come throughout life and not just from parenting or home educating. We’ll always have wobbles about our choices, it’s a natural part of a healthy consideration of them. Especially when the decisions we make mean doing something which makes us a little more vulnerable and a little less comfortable. I still have wobbles and usually turn to reading to help me overcome them.

I’m reading an uplifting book about that very concept; ‘Daring Greatly’ by Brene Brown which talks about feeling vulnerable and how it is a necessary part of the courage needed to live life in inspirational ways. It immediately made me think of all the home educating parents who are doing just that – daring greatly – in order to do what they think is right for their family.

I have a stock of books to turn to now, on different subjects, to give me the courage and inspiration to dare greatly when I’m having wobbles about the things I still want to do (writing among them). This will be added to the collection.

And I thought it might help you too, to carry on daring and taking risks and not letting the wobbles stop you from continuing to do what you think is right for you and your family.

I’m cheering you on!

Feeling daunted

Goodness you’ve no idea how scary it is writing!

Well – not writing perhaps. The creative part of it is the nice bit – when it’s working of course. But the creative writing is only a very small percentage of a writer’s life these days. You need to be part of the marketing, selling and publicity all which I find as excruciating as being drilled at the dentist. More so actually because it’s public and at least you’re hidden in the dentist’s chair and you can dribble in private.

But far worse than the dentist is the drilling you can get from readers. In fact, the minute you put your writing out there, you feel immediately exposed. Naked. vulnerable. That is quite terrifying. Few are brave enough to do it.

Many people write. Many people say – ‘oh, I was going to write a book’. Many people are forever engaged in the process of doing a book. Many people will even get to the brave point of reading that work to others – usually in the safe confines of a writers’ group.

But that is quite different to going properly public and only the bravest actually get to that point. It is the exposure to all and sundry – even those who think you’re writing’s crap and say so – as well as those who are encouraging, that is the real test of courage.

Everyone suddenly is a critic, those who know about the job and those who don’t. (A bit the same as Home Ed really!) And they can make that as public as they like.

Thankfully, most of my critics and reviewers have been delightful. I am eternally grateful to all those who’ve taken time to review my books and say kind things. For I know there are faults with them – I don’t need reminding, my shame does that every day. And like with most writers, I’m not arrogant enough to assume everyone’s going to like my stuff. Of course not.

It’s just that, like with most writers, I do it to inspire, to share, to hopefully give a little boost to someone else’s life. Writing is the medium I chose to do that by. Others choose other media.

My work happens to be to support a minority community. I don’t write to grab attention – that’s the excruciating bit for me – I write to quietly encourage. Encourage those courageous people choosing more challenging routes through life.

And that’s just what I need, as we all do, to help me overcome the fear! To start writing something new again.

It is your encouraging reviews that keep me going. Thank you so much. And if you’ve read one of my books recently – or anyone’s actually – think about taking the time to write a review on Amazon or Goodreads, or wherever you hang out and share a bit of love and encouragement around.

Encouragement, rather than criticism, makes the world a far, far nicer place to be – it’s good for the human race. And is a wonderful style of parenting and partnering too.

Pass it on!