Tag Archive | young people

How the education system dishonours our young people

Click the picture for a link to a discount copy

My latest book; ‘A Home Education Notebook’ is not just about home education! It has important messages for all educators – and parents – shows another side to educating.

Here’s one of them in this extract:

It is when we become parents that we perhaps truly realise an important purpose.

I would never have said that before I was a parent. But the further into parenting I got the further I understood the human purpose to procreate, to perpetuate the species and to educate.

It truly is an honour to have a child. And I am truly lucky to have had this honour bestowed upon me, to have experienced the magical event of bringing a tiny being into the world and to have the chance to raise it. And thereafter celebrating every birthday, commemorating that honour.

When I say honour I do not mean that we indulge every whim or fancy, or ply them with material gifts, buy their love and affection, answer every indulgent demand or craving. That is not honouring them.

When I say honour, I mean honour the very spirit of having them. Honour the responsibility of looking after this new custodian of our planet and our race. For that’s what our children are, valuable custodians, as we all are, although many fail to see that or act as if they were.

This new being is an important part of a whole; a whole planet, a whole race, as well as being an individual. And we honour this new being by helping him to learn to integrate into the world, to learn about that world and the humanity he is part of, the environment he is responsible for. How he can join others to perpetuate this honour for himself. How to recognise what gifts and strengths he can contribute to that responsibility, contributions he can make to the world and others.

This is what honouring the child is. Seeing him not only as your child, but also as a valuable part of a race and a planet. A human race – a humane race. And a human who can make a difference.

Everyone makes a difference.

That is why we need to honour all that is human about our child to help him learn how his humanness can in turn be passed onto others. Learn that he is not the egocentric little animal in a tiny egocentric little world of ‘me’ that he thought he was, but part of a much bigger human race that he can contribute to.

And education fits into this. And is often where it seems to go so dreadfully wrong.

Education must honour that human being too and be a means to facilitate the development of both that individual human being, what he can offer, and his position in relation to other human beings.

Education surely must therefore be about being human.

Looking at our education system it seems to be as detached as possible from being about humans. And at times removed even from being humane.

Our education system seems to me to be concerned with honouring the system, and obsessing about a set of outcomes that have little relevance to being human or enhancing humane qualities at all. This is clear in the way the system focuses more on ‘taking over’ a child and making them fit into it, than on developing an individual in ways that will help them discover their unique potential, individual attributes, gifts, skills, and personal strengths that could make a humane contribution. Attributes which are not of the academic kind are generally disregarded

In disregarding these individualities I believe it also disregards the spirit, leaving these lovely young people unfulfilled and believing that their personal strengths are irrelevant and don’t actually matter. To me this is the same as saying that the people themselves don’t matter. I sense this feeling in some of the children I see in schools.

But in some of the home educated children I know, I see the opposite.

These are children who’ve been listened to, conversed with, had their preferences, interests, strengths and individualities incorporated into the process of them becoming educated. They have been respected for what they bring to the process. This in turn makes them respect others, respect those who support them and facilitate opportunities. Others they are united with rather than distanced from.

Respect has been part of the way they’ve been honoured and educated. And I believe this is what encourages them to develop a positive attitude to themselves, to education, to what they could achieve, and to others. Some young people I see come away from schooling with a negative attitude because they have not been honoured in this way.

I believe children in school need something more akin to what the home educated kids get.

There is much to be learned from observing other home educating families, the way they facilitate their children’s learning and the way they respect what the individuals bring to it. How they integrate that learning into everyday life experiences and how they learn from those everyday life experiences. You only have to browse round the many home educators’ blogs to see this illustrated first hand.

These records can teach us much. It’s clear that being out of school educating around daily life teaches the children much about human interaction, what the real world’s like as opposed to a school world, what they need to live in it, as well as building the skills to study academic subjects.

I believe this is just the type of education all children need and thankfully many home educators are providing proof. Proof that something less prescriptive and more humane, which honours an individual rather than squashes an individual, works just as well as school – if not better for some.

In our progressed world, as we’ve progressed so far into replacing mankind with machines and technology, it is almost as if we’ve forgotten what mankind is.

In chasing prescriptive curricular outcomes there’s a danger of forgetting that we need to encourage the intelligence to be human, not simply the intelligence required to perform academic tricks. We need to develop human skills, not only academic and technological skills – they came after being human.

We need to know how to live fully alongside other human beings, not only alongside a computer or a system.

The education system is in danger of creating mere androids. Filled up with qualifications; empty of human souls. And in doing so dishonours our young people.

Home education is an example of how to redress the balance.

 

Budget, bunny bottoms and an occasional shop

I’ve just been on a trip. It wasn’t planned. My foot got caught in a bramble and catapulted me down a bank side. Not enjoyable, although I did have a nice view of a bunny’s bottom as it bundled for cover in terror.

It’s my own fault. I go about gawping at all the natural delights without watching where I’m putting my feet. Rabbit holes have caught me out before now, and trails of ivy across the wooded path where I sometimes walk.

But I still love being out there. Now the weather’s improving it’s all the nicer and I get out often, looking for both inspiration and soul refreshment. Over winter there’s been times I’ve often resorted to coffee shops and city centres for this purpose. But the snag with that is the expenditure and the hoards of people all shopping. cafe books 002

When did shopping become a pastime, rather than a necessity? Probably when corporate politics saw the potential to fleece people without them even needing anything!

We used to shop out of need. Now we shop out of greed. For, let’s be honest, much of what we shop for is non-essential. We could do without much of it.

I’m not against shopping as a pastime if it’s what you like. I like charity treasure seeking with the girls! But as long as it is what you like and not something you’re doing as a slave to commercial trends and con merchants.

We can be so conned and from so many sources. Conned into believing we need much more than we do, or we’re not as good as others if we don’t have stuff, or if we haven’t got that kind of ‘disposable income’ we’re somehow inferior.

I’ve decided to resist this. I’ve decided to look seriously at anything I’m tempted to buy and ask; do I really want this or am I conned into believing I do with clever marketing? (Supermarkets are masters at this). What can I use/do/create as a solution rather than buy as a solution?

The beauty of this approach is that it lessens my dependency on the expensive antidote to doldrums that shopping can become making me a slave to big income when moderate income will do, it makes me far more resourceful and stretches my mental skills, it’s a good example to my young people and shows them how to be thrifty and I also find I’m not as poor as I thought because not only am I keeping money in my purse, I’ve changed my attitude as well.

For once basic needs are met; food, shelter, warmth, etc, feeling poor can be as much a state of attitude as a state of finance. We can be rich in love even without money, for example. Rich in what we already have, without needing anything else. And if life feels flat and we’re thinking about buying a solution, creating a solution or seeking an experience instead of shopping can change that feeling by giving a sense of achievement far more fulfilling that a quick shopping fix. I think so many young people are dissatisfied because of slavery to shopping fixes that soon wear off.

And of course, the less we buy, the less we pollute the earth. So not only does it make us more resourceful, it pays greater respect to the resources the earth already has given, and lessens the impact on what’s left of it.

So, I’m on a drive to minimise spending and maximise resourcefulness.

Although I’m not sure how many brambles and bunny bottoms will be involved! I’ll keep you posted.

The educational finishing line

We’re never finished!

That might seem to be an odd thing to say but the way some people talk you’d think failing GCSEs or other qualifications, or having none at all, is going to finish you off for life.

Yet here’s me later on in life launching down avenues new, exactly the same as my twenty-somethings are doing. Which is what prompts me to remind folks that we’re never finished. Learning and opportunities go on as long as life goes on and it’s not a race to achieve everything by eighteen.

Most people’s perception of learning and education is rather warped. They’ve been conned and pressured into believing that it can only happen between the ages of four and eighteen and you’re doomed if you don’t achieve what you’re expected to achieve in that time.

Yet, in reality, some of the most fundamentally valuable learning you do in life takes place before you are four when essential learning connections are made. And post eighteen when you get beyond the schooling institution which in many ways inhibits learning because it’s so busy priming youngsters for exam passing it neglects to build the skills needed to lead a real life.

When you get beyond the institution of school – and Uni if it’s even worth going these days – you begin to educate yourself in the ways of the real world and how to function in it. That’s the real valuable stuff.

The trouble with institutionalised education is that it institutionalises minds – both children and parents. And it does a great job of preventing folks understanding that learning is not dependent on an institution. And qualification is not a measure of education – or intelligence either.

The young manager of the cafe was chatting to me about it as he made my coffee. He felt that he’d been let down by college, had been disenchanted by school and was certainly not going to get another stomach full of ‘education’ at Uni. He’d got the measure of it. He also knew that he was not finished by a long way and despite that raw educational deal he wasn’t going to believe that it was the measure of him. He thought quite like a home schooler, even though I hadn’t mentioned it. It was great to hear.

None of us are ever finished – not until we’re finished off that is! You’re no more finished at eighteen or twenty one or thirty odd or over fifty. And school age is not the only chance you have at learning.

Learning and education are about a constantly developing state of mind, not a state of institution.

Although with the state of the politics you wouldn’t know that! So try to look beyond institutionalised propaganda and maybe even have the courage to believe in your kids, allow them to learn when and as they need to and don’t worry about them getting to an educational finishing line:

There isn’t one!

You can never predict how it all turns out

Funny how things turn out!

After leaving conventional teaching in disgust, after having my own children in school and removing them to home educate, after them graduating to college and Uni and finishing with rather a distasteful view of institutional education, my youngest had an interview for a job in a nursery.

There’s no way she’d consider working in a school environment, but this is one with a difference. It’s one where children are mostly playing – unstructured play at that. There are few toys because the managers want the children to be imaginative and inventive. And they wanted a candidate that wasn’t necessarily qualified in childcare (they’d had those before and weren’t impressed as they didn’t know how to be around children), but one that knew how to play with and inspire children, work on their own initiative and be prepared to be outside in all weathers and get muddy. Charley fitted those criteria perfectly – it almost described her home educated childhood. It certainly described some of her education.

She and I talked about that education on the way to the interview in the hope that she’d remember some of it; what the really important aspects of it were like choice, respect, diversity, experience, relevance and building confidence, all of which are so important, many of which were missing from her Uni experience! But she was really too nervous to take it in so I stopped all that and told her she should just be the honest, intelligent, articulate person she is.

It’s all we ever can be really – be ourselves. No good pretending to be something different. No good trying to fit other people’s agenda – parent’s, schools’, social media. No good avoiding truth about ourselves, our skills, our strengths and weaknesses; best to work with them. Best to be true to yourself, however much you know or don’t know. Just be strong, face up, be who we are best at and let others be as they will be. And be brave.

On the way home I tried not to grill her about the questions. Inevitably her home education was discussed.

“They had the impression that home education meant sitting at home on your own with a workbook in front of you” she told me. “But I told them it’s not like that at all. I told them a little bit about what we did and they said it was nice to meet a home educated person.”

“Well, you’ve changed their mind about Home Ed, broken through the same old myths,” I said. “Whatever the outcome, you’ve made a difference today!”

We travelled quiet. She was hoping. I was thinking how ironic it would be for things to come full circle and she to end up working with children. It’s never what she intended. But you never know how things are going to work out. You have to be flexible and adaptable, think for yourself and create your own life plan rather than staying in conventional tramlines and home education certainly prepares you well for that.

Youngsters today are facing enormous challenges in a time of too many employees for far too few jobs. They’ll certainly have to be adaptable, resourceful and resistant to the rejections they face until their turn comes along, try and keep their personal self esteem intact, confront disappointments and be persistent and courageous. However they’re educated, those are the qualities we need to nurture.

Luckily it was Charley’s turn this time and she is thrilled. They are thrilled to have her they said.

Ironically, we’d discussed previously whether it was even worth applying since she didn’t hold those relevant qualifications. Good job we didn’t stay within those tramlines of thinking for you never know how things are going to turn out!

Growing flowers – parenting young people

2013-07-24 12.22.07 Here are two flowers standing by a cluster of poppies!!

It’s the first time we’ve all managed to be together at the same time since Christmas when I snapped them among the decorations. This time, instead of cosying up round the fire, we were picnicking in warm fields.

And seeing them here made me think that parenting is like growing flowers.

You set the seeds in a nurturing climate, feed them with encouragement and care whilst they grow strong. They need the right kind of base and the right kind of atmosphere. Over feeding doesn’t help, nor does hot housing – you’ll end up with something too forced and weak without any strength or depth to their experience and character to help them withstand and understand the rigours of the outside. They need a temperate balance in everything.

And of course they need love.

Love means respect, care, attention. All living things need that to flourish from plants to pets to people.

Give them all this, protect them whilst they’re young and tender, then acclimatise them to the outer world and you can expect to see your own kind of blooms!

Wonderful lives

How lucky am I! I just spent a few days with my gorgeous girls last week. And I feel so blessed.roses and 1 in Brighton 007

We are so lucky to have children to love and who love us…although mine are not children now but wonderful young people building wonderful young lives.

Parenting is such a gamble! There are always so many decisions involved. One or two might have the clarity of good wine; most are a minefield of sludge you have no hope of seeing through until it settles. There are periods where it feels like you have to make difficult decisions every second and although these decisions might come with the best of intentions the leap is akin to skydiving. Who knows what will happen and how things turn out.

Yet as you leap and our young people grow there are things you can do to minimise risk. You can remain respectful. Remain honest. Remain intuitive. Remain open and communicative. Remain committed.

And that means committed without control. Because as parents of young people it is not our role to coerce and control – if ever it was. Control does not contain respect.

Instead, offer guidance and support, but then step back and give young people the space to develop their own wisdom, take charge of their own lives and make their own decisions. And mistakes; for just like us, they will make mistakes and in doing so learn how to put them right – a type of wisdom that gives you a valuable tool right through life.

Our commitment and support, without control, will give them this. Our honesty, even when hard things have to be discussed, will teach them to be brave and honest. Our strength in confronting challenges and overcoming them will give them strength. And our confidence in stepping back, even when we are wavering ourselves over these decisions and wanting to keep control, will give them confidence.

Those are the best things you can give them. And are part of that which will help them create wonderful lives!