Tag Archive | young people

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!