Tag Archive | writing

Something other than writing!

One of my first on Instagram

One of my first on Instagram last Autumn

I’ve loved doing Instagram so far. I joined last Autumn, partly to try something new, partly to encourage myself to look in new ways at old routes I walk almost daily, and most of all because it gave me the chance to focus on something other than writing!

I know I write to supposedly enjoy it but, like with any work, there’s much of it that’s quite tedious. Same with my daily walks. Although I love to be outside and love the benefits of doing them, they’ve been grueling at times over the last few months in the chill and sometimes I really don’t want to go!

Helping me over that is the sense of wondering what I’ll find for my Instagram picture today.

Looking in a focused way at things takes time and attention. But it’s a great thing to do, especially with the kids. They often do it anyway, but we risk chivying them along towards our next destination.

Instead we should stop and give them the time to examine their world. From this observation and examination comes a host of other skills; questioning, increased attention skills, conversation – so consequently language development, perhaps extended research when you look it up, and  an inquiring mind, which is the foundation of learning.

But whatever you do – don’t suggest they write about it! Not unless the children want to. I made the mistake of doing this thinking that just because I was interested in recording my discoveries in written form, didn’t mean they would be. (You can read more of my tantrums and mistakes in ‘A Funny Kind of Education‘ see the Books page)

Not only that, writing things down for some children is the bane of their life.

Writing is so outdated! The handwriting part – I wonder if it’ll die a death?

With our technology there are so many other ways of recording and learning, why labour over writing when you’ve got that to hand? It’s the same question as to why labour over making bread when you can buy a sliced loaf?

Sometimes we do both the writing and the bread making for pleasure and that’s fine. And we probably want the children to have the basic skill of writing longhand, it’s still part of our educational tradition. But it doesn’t take hours and hours of laborious practice, and it doesn’t mean that everything has to be written down all the time – I made that mistake when we were home educating, putting the kids off doing anything because of their fear of having to write about it afterwards! Too much writing creates the danger of putting kids off learning altogether.

If you think about it, writing doesn’t necessarily have to be the basis of education, even if it plays a part in it. I knew many HE children, ours among them, who did very little formal writing at home when they were young but still polished up their skills when it became necessary.

Education is not simply to do with writing about stuff: it is the experience of learning, not the recording of it, that matters. And we don’t want to be forever spoiling a stimulating experience by writing it up like schools do.

I know, I know; that’s exactly what I’m doing here about Instagram, ironically! But just this once. The rest of the time I use it as a pleasing alternative.

So, have a think how many pleasing and alternative ways you can find to give your children experiences of learning that don’t involve writing about it?

(And if you follow me on Instagram you’ll be able to share in my daily walk)

Catch me other places!

blog-tour-badge There’ll be a slight change with my next few posts.

My publisher at Bird’s Nest Books has arranged for me to do a blog tour, so I’ll be posting in other places for a while.

It’s a great opportunity for me to visit other blogging friends and blog from slightly different angles. And a great opportunity for you to check out other sites you may not have seen before.

It’ll start this later week on:

Thursday 2nd Feb with Becky’s blog www.family-budgeting.co.uk where there are some great money saving tips.

On Friday 3rd I’m over at www.downsideup.com where Hayley talks about her work to support parents and children with Down’s syndrome.

Saturday 4th finds me with Louise, a fellow author also home educating, who asks where ideas originate. www.louisewalterswriter.blogspot.co.uk

On Monday 6th it’s David’s turn at dadvworld.com who blogs from a dad’s point of view as well as home educating. He posed some thought-provoking questions!

And on Tuesday 7th I’ll be over with Keris who also writes about home education as well as children’s books at https://happyhomeed.com

Finally, on Wednesday 8th I’m with Holly at Naturalmumma.com talking a little about our journey through parenting and home education.

And just to finish off on Thursday 9th the home education podcast site will be chatting about my latest book at Ep.44 and have one to give away!

I hope you’ll get a chance to pop over and have a read and don’t forget to tell me, or leave a comment there and share the blog. It’s always so uplifting to hear from you and know the post has been of interest and is getting to those who need it. And don’t forget to visit Bird’s Nest Books too for any extensions to the schedule.

‘Home educating can’t be that bad!’

Louise Walters is a friend and fellow writer who lives with her husband and five children. She is also a home educator so, always keen to showcase others, I asked her if she’d tell us a little of how it works out for her.
Her honest account reminds us that nothing is ever all roses – but can still work!
Here she is:
Two years ago I decided to home educate my then six year old son, Finn. He was such an unhappy child, it was difficult to witness. It took me a long time to make the decision (I had wondered about it even before he started school. He is August-born and quite “young” for his age, and looking back on it now, it’s clear he really should not have started school aged just 4). The annoying thing is, I wasn’t new to HE. My oldest child, now 21, spent time in and out (mostly out!) of school and in many ways I was an “old hand”.
But I didn’t feel like that. I always worried; how can I teach all the subjects? How will Finn get his qualifications when the time comes? How will I find the time to work? That last, if I’m honest, was (and remains) my main concern. However, I know enough about HE nowadays to understand that not a lot of “teaching”, in the school-sense of the word, is needed.
Finn learns organically, using all the means available to him: books, internet, museums, field trips, libraries, pens and paper, paints, Lego, cinema, theatre, home ed groups… anything and everything, essentially. And we actually spend no more than a couple of hours a week doing anything that resembles “school learning”. We have literacy and numeracy workbooks. They are incredibly boring. Really, they are for my benefit… I have something to “show” for their learning when the Local Authority makes its annual request for info regarding my educational provision.
I’m a writer, but have little time for that. The big advantage is I am my own boss. I don’t watch much TV and try to work for an hour in the evenings (not always possible). I also occasionally negotiate writing time during the day with the boys (Oh, did I mention I later took Finn’s brother out of school too?! Home educating can’t be that bad, can it?) Negotiations go like this: “Boys, you do these two pages in your maths workbook…” Grumble, grumble… “Then you can play with Lego/watch DanTDM/colour/dress up/split the atom for an hour and I will write.”
The truth is I love writing and I love home educating (most of the time), so it’s up to me to make it work. I have days when I fervently wish they were back in school, even if it was for just a couple of days a week. That would be perfect, and perhaps when they are a little older, that’s a route we’ll explore. In the meantime, I know I’m doing the right thing, and the boys are learning with such little effort. My youngest just started to read as if over night. I hadn’t been actively teaching him to read. So there seems little point in bringing all this to an end. (They do spend Saturday mornings in  a school, attending lessons at a music school that hires school premises. So they get a nostril full of that school smell once a week. And I get a couple of hours alone in the house. Bliss!)
I haven’t mentioned socialisation, mainly because it’s not an issue. It amuses me that people who have not encountered HE before often ask, “But what about socialisation?” first… kind of a compliment, really, when you stop and think about it. Socalisation is one of the easiest aspects of the whole thing: I don’t keep the kids locked up all day. We are out and about, meeting all kinds of people, of all ages. Finn is less shy now than he was in school. His little brother has never been shy, full stop.
I’ve ran out of time to write. We are off to a home ed play rehearsal. It will be noisy, chaotic and fun. I wonder if I could sneak in my laptop…?
Louise is the author of ‘Mrs Sinclair’s Suitcase’, published by Hodder in 2014. better-uk-paperback-pic-2
albu-web-ready Her second novel, ‘A Life Between Us’ will be out in March 2017 from Troubadour Publishing. She is working on a third novel, which is about a struggling single mother who decides to home educate her autistic son.
Find her site here; http://www.louisewaltersbooks.co.uk/

All for a pound!

When I decided to stop teaching in schools (way back in the dark ages) I planned ahead how I was going to manage without income and a mortgage to pay. Of course, that’s a lot easier as a single person without family.

But I got a job waitressing on weekend evenings and gave riding lessons in the day. I worked every day in order to save.

I remember thinking as I served suppers in a posh restaurant that, even with the stress of getting hot meals out on time, even with customers who treated waitresses like dirt, it was amazing to earn money doing a job that seemed so easy compared to the same hours in a classroom!

There was an occasional embarrassing moment like when I served the parents of the kids who were in my class. But dad just laughed it off saying ‘Blimey – I didn’t realise teachers were so badly paid’.

‘Well, now you know,’ I said plonking his plate down and scurrying off.

How we have any teachers at all putting themselves through they crap they endure for the pittance they’re paid is what amazes me now. According to the news, they increasingly leave.

But I miss the teaching and the children. So am hoping to involve myself in some tutoring soon, maybe helping those who struggle through a system which neglects their learning differences, or those who don’t fit into schools’ narrow little targets.

However, it’s also because writers, like teachers, are so poorly paid. You wouldn’t think so because it’s only ever the high-earning writers that you get to hear about like Dan Brown or Stephen King for example, who earn thousands. For lesser writers like me, every book I sell makes me less than a pound. And with the pirating of e-books, I don’t get paid at all.

Back to the bookshop!

Obviously books get passed around. And I’m very happy that they do. But when you next stand in a book shop and think you’ll get the book in ‘other ways’ perhaps you’d spare a thought that if you’re not paying for it, the writer won’t get paid for their hours of hard work either! And it is hard work. Hard as teaching – I should know – I’ve done both full time.

Hence I find myself back working in the book shop for Christmas, mostly so I can treat the girls, turn the heating up (I’m writing this with mitts on!) and maybe have something a little sumptuous for us all too.

I admit it also does me good in other ways; it can be very reclusive writing all the time. And although I revel in your delightful appreciative messages (thank you – do keep them coming, it keeps me going), real human connection is also needed and I get to see what people are reading and chat about books.

So, if you didn’t know that ordinary writers like me were so poorly paid, now you do!

And now you also know why we are so grateful when you buy our books rather than getting them in ‘other ways’.

THANK YOU!

Five tips for worriers!

I was a bit overwhelmed really, said she understating it!

Overwhelmed by all the kind people at the Home Education Fair in London recently who came up and told me how they’d enjoyed the books, found them helpful.

One lovely parent said how my latest book (A Home Education Notebook) was like a hand to hold and she gave me a hug. Created a big lump in my throat that did. And is certainly succour to my writer’s soul; reward for the days spent here alone writing it. Another said that whenever worries became too all-consuming, she dipped into it and read something that helped them settle again.

Delighted to hear that.

Coping with worry is a question that always comes up at these dos. As if home educating is more worrysome than being in school. We didn’t find it so!

And it’s also reassuring to look at it this way; worry isn’t exclusive to home education.

Potential worry lurks in all aspects of parenting – in all aspects of life really. It’s not because of home education, and home education isn’t going to be the only thing you’ll worry about as a parent. So if the thought that home education is going to make you worry more is stopping you from doing it, you might as well do it anyway, as you’d worry just as much about your kids in school! It’s part and parcel of the education scene.

Actually – scrub that last remark – for it doesn’t have to be. And finding ways to overcome worry and not let it get the better of us is a valuable skill to have for life, to pass onto your kids, and a healthy mental attitude to cultivate.

Each of us has different responses to worrying scenarios and stresses depending on our natural personalities. But whoever we are the most effective way to deal with worry is to understand something important about it; worry is simply the way we are thinking about stuff. Worry is just thinking or imagining things ahead in a negative unproductive way. Worry is not the real event. Stop the roller-coaster thinking and you stop the worry.

Easier said than done – I know! How do you stop thinking?

You get a grip on yourself and try out some of these tactics:

  1. Replace negative imaginings with positive ones. For example, if you must imagine up front imagine the best possible scenario and how you’d like things to work out perfectly and what that looks like.
  2. Keep your focus in the present. You can’t predict what will happen – you don’t know how your kids are going to grow anyway. Focus on creating a good day now. Take care of the present and the future takes care of itself, I found!
  3. Distract yourself with joy; with music, magazines, films, books, Instagram, whatever engages your mind. Although beware – social media and constantly flicking through stuff can become more frenetic than calming sometimes. Spot what calms you and turn to it when you need to.
  4. Take some time every day to devote to mental time and space – plan some unwind moments. Even a simple
    I took several deep breaths by the peaceful river after the buzz of the HomeEd Fair!

    I took several deep breaths by the peaceful river after the buzz of the HomeEd Fair!

    second alone to focus on something calming, (for example; tea in hand, staring out window, breathing deep three times), works wonders.

  5. Get tough with yourself so that you can pass on these important lessons to your children. Worry is just a mental habit you’ve practiced, so practice something else and you can change it. Catch yourself doing it, engage one of your tactics, change your habit. Free yourself and your kids from this destructive trait.

Overcoming worry and stress is a life enhancing skill that’s important whether we home educate or not. Home schooling doesn’t necessarily add to worry – sometimes it even takes it away.

Let me know what works for you. And if you’ve got any tips then please do leave them here.

And check out ‘A Home Education Notebook’ for further support – and possibly even a ‘hand to hold’!

Public gaffes and private writes!

Just made a complete fool of myself!

My daughter and I often have a phone date in the morning. I ‘walk’ her to work with a chat. It’s not every day but our close connection is something I treasure. Doubly so after you worry at the early stages of parenting and home educating whether they’ll still speak to you when they’re grown ups.

Anyway when the phone rang at the pre-scheduled time, I picked it up and sang a really musical “Hellooooeee” down the line.

Silent pause.

Then; ‘Is that Ross Mountney? This is Katie from Channel Five’ asked a complete stranger. It was a researcher looking for information about home ed and people to contribute to their programme. I felt such an idiot.

You’d think I’d learnt my lesson as this has happened before. Pestered by continual sales calls I could feel irritation mounting every time the phone rang. So when another call came and a strange voice asked ‘Is that Ross Mountney?’ I answered with ‘It depends what you’re selling’.

“I’m not selling anything,’ came a very formal reply. ‘This is your mother’s solicitor’. Cringe!

Why is it I always seem to mess up when I need to look a little bit more intelligent and like I know what I’m about?

Anyway, these gaffes aside Channel Five want to make a programme about home education and wondered if I’d contribute. A serious programme offering information instead of derision and myths would be great, wouldn’t it! I said I might, if this was the case. They’re going to get back in touch – it remains to be seen whether my singing has put them off.

It also remains to be seen if my courage holds out. I find all this public stuff excruciating really. This is after all why I write; I choose the medium that offers the most invisibility (not something publishers want to hear, I know). And it’s enough for me to emerge from my cave and meet others like at the Home Education Fair this Sunday.

Click on the picture for details of The Home Education Fair

Don’t get me wrong; I truly love meeting people and welcome the opportunity to chat to others. That’s what my work is all about; offering encouragement and support. But I also need encouragement to get out of my reclusive habit.

So if you come along on Sunday and think you’re too scared to come up and say hello to me, take courage too; you won’t be as scared as me. We’ll muddle along through together and I’ll try and answer your questions intelligently and as if I know what I’m about! 🙂

Hope to see you there.

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.

DSC06122

How did that happen and where did the time go?

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