Sunday, 9 April 2017

Home Education; stuck at home with Mum all day?

How can your kids learn to be confident if they are stuck at home all day? They need to be in school mixing to grow up normal... This is what I was told, what I heard so many times when my kids were little. This is a real fear of people who hear of home education but haven't tried it.  I felt looked down on by my friends who were school mum's, they just assumed that being at home all day was bad for my kids, that they would grow up with out friends or an ability to function without Mum. Often a real fear of relatives of home educated kids is that they will be deprived as they are stuck at home and educated by their mother, how can that be good?

I am going to explain why the above fears are unfounded, using an analogy (yes this is a boot in a sink).

Take a look at this photo above. Let's assume you have never seen a boot before and all you had seen was the sole like this one. What can you tell, as far as you know is this item is limited and it's hard to see how it could be of any use to anyone. If you were then told it was for wearing on the feet, it's hard to tell how it would be that useful except the sole seems like it would protect the bottom of your feet, but how can this sole support your feet or how can the sole possibly be attached to your feet, it seems very limited and if you were asked if you wanted this boot to climb a mountain in you, you would probably say no. This is because you are only seeing it from one dimension, to really know how it works and whether it was for you, you would need to experience it in all its dimensions and try it on to see if it's a good fit. This is why people have so many fears of home education before they have actually experienced it. They just see the one dimension, they see a kid at home with its mother and this looks dull, limited and how can it be a good thing?

I want to try give you a glimpse of the other dimensions of HE. Firstly yes kids are at home some of the time, but the biggest difference new home educators discover is that being at home to study can have big advantages. All the stress of rushing out of the door to school on time suddenly vanishes, pack lunches, trying to find clean clothes, sudden panics when home work is incomplete or a permission slip needs filling in and you are already late! An HE morning in our house when my lads were young consisted of a cooked breakfast every morning, whilst cooking the boys might watch a bit of TV with Dad before he went to work. We discussed what we had planned for the day, which usually involved discussions about which day of the week it was, what the weather was like, and were we meeting up with friends that day. Over breakfast we talked of politics, philosophy, adventure, the latest news or which games were the best. The point is we were never in a hurry, we had time to talk, share, discuss, all before we did any formal study or any activities. I personally believe these sort of meal time discussions have as much power to inspire and teach as the formal learning later. This blog post is an example of one such morning. Another big advantage of not 
rushing out to school in the morning is you can wear what you like! My eldest gave a talk recently to new and potential home educators, his opening line was "We always wore a uniform for school every day, we wore the same every day, it was a handy uniform you can sleep and work in it, it was practical and comfy, pyjamas" This is a almost true, as my youngest was more likely to be wearing fancy dress costume, from Thunderbirds, policeman, army uniform, what ever he decided to be that day! 

I feel the impression of quiet dull study sat around a table with Mum, who's educational qualifications may be questionable, is really such a one dimension view of what really happens in HE homes. Here is a blog of a HE friend, this shows a snap shot of fun packed days of learning in an HE home, have a dig through her blog of a real insight in to HE possibilities. The question of the qualifications of Mum to teach the kids seems a valid concern, but again is such a one dimensional view. Learning whilst young happens through more than just formal learning, which alone can be achieved with workbooks from Poundland, but learning truely happens in every moment in many ways. A friend of mine always had a calendar in her toilet, when her kids were at that stage when they were still needed help in the toilet, she would talk to them about the days, months and years on the calendar, her kids learnt the months of the year not in a class room, but on the toilet. People have asked me, but how can you teach things like maths if you are no good at it? Well there is so many online programs that teach maths in a fun way, with testing that shows progress, using these you actually don't need an amazing grasp of maths, but you will be surprised how you actually learn along side your kids and your own ability grows with them.

I think the biggest fallcy about HE is the 'stuck at home' image. This is so incorrect its funny. The main issue when you are home educating is spending enough time at home. We went from one fun group activity to the next, from art classes, sports groups, drama, nature walks, pond dipping, sciences classes, swimming lessons, archery lessons etc etc etc. The main limit is time, money, your own sanity and possibly the need to get some housework done!

Looking back on my lads younger years I see a rich colourful fabric of activity, discussions, fun, study and laughter, that has supported their growing up years, which has seen my lads grow in to confident adventurous young men with a self belief that they can climb what ever mountain they choose to tackle.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Let your kids get bored...

Recently my husband and I have been reminiscing. We are at a turning point in our lives. Over Christmas my Dad died and my Mum had a heart attack, followed by my Husband having triple bypass heart surgery. Also with my eldest son gone off to University and my youngest son applying for the army, it is the beginning of a new season. This has made us all sentimental remember the early days of parenting and home educating life. We have been watching old videos and laughing.

I came across a video that my youngest son made, when he was 8 years old. He videoed a conversation I had with him, you can watch it here. It shows my son declaring he wants to watch TV and me telling him to go be creative with out TV.  I did laugh as I pulled out all the cliched parenting lines, but the point of sharing this with you, is that I sincerely believe boredom breeds creativity. Following this video my son went off with his video camera and made some very creative videos. This is one here.

I want to say loudly and clearly to home educating parents, don't fear boredom, don't worry if your child repeatedly says "I am bored". Let them be bored, let them have time to think for themselves about what interests them.

I went through my school years and probably part of my adult years with no real clue about what interests me and where my passions lie. I was a compliant kid, towed the line and just got on with what I was told to do. You could say this was a good thing, and in some ways it was, but it took me until being a parent when I became fully responsible for my own choices that I discovered what interests me, where my passions are,  I went from being a qualified engineer working in the pharmaceutical industry, to a home educating mother, with a driving interest in how people learn, nutrition and dog psychology.  When you are stuck at home with a your kids every day you might get bored, but you start to find interests and get creative.

I like this university study that was done to determine the effects of boredom on the minds of kids. They found following a very boring task the kids were significantly more creative.

So if your kid is complaining that home education is boring, then don't be fearful and think you have failed, trust that it is a sign that your kids are about to get creative.

 Photo: My Mum, me, Baby eldest, my Dad

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Surely Home Education will produce Mummy's boys?

When I started home education, it seemed such a huge task ahead. I felt like an explorer ready to sail off around the world to explore territories no one had been to before, places where we had only heard tales of adventure and off grid living.

 Before I had kids, like probably most parents, I had this picture in my head, of finding nurseries, looking around schools, to make the best pick for my kids future, preparing my kids for school by toughening them up so they would be ready at 3-4 years old for independent school life, but then I found out about home education and it just cried out of adventure and freedom to be individuals.

 This brought up the new fear in me that if my kids didn't go to school, how would they learn to be strong independent men? I had friends around me hint that they would definitely become Mummy's boys, shy and not able to mix with other kids and stand up for themselves. I even heard it suggested that they need to know how to cope with bullies, and learn to stick up for themselves with out Mum. Another time I was told, that my son's couldn't learn to be adults if they were with me all the time.

I am now at the end of my home education journey, my son's have been taught by me, plus a few tutors and group classes. They have spent a huge amount of time with me. I even went to many activities with them, like running cub scouts when my son was there. I sent them to scouting activities and Air Cadets, as they got older. Together we did bus trips, train journey's, bike rides, mountain adventures. We moved house, made new friends and went to many activities where we didn't know anyone.

I have never deliberately pushed my boys away from me, to make sure they grow up strong and independent. As my youngest at 4 years old was a permanently on my lap, having a cuddle. I remember saying to my husband, if he was in school, he wouldn't be able to do that. 

I found I knew instinctively when my son's were ready to do things by themselves and I let them. Not every one develops at the same rate. I remember the first time my youngest went on a train journey on his own, he got in a bit of a muddle and got on a train going the opposite direction, but he learned from that and now at 15, he is constantly on trains and buses visiting friends on his own. I also remember sending him to a  Beaver Scout camp at 6 years old, and he loved it and it didn't occur to him to miss home, whereas he friend who was a school kid and had followed the tradition route of nurseries and childcare, really didn't enjoy it, cried and missed his Mum. Its was simply a matter of when they are ready, and not how much time they spent with their Mum!

As they have got older, they have both shown exceptional confidence in social situations. My youngest had to move air cadet squadrons when we moved house and he instantly mixed and made friends in his new squadron with out any difficulty. My eldest has exceptional self confidence and he didn't even start outside clubs like cubs until he was 9 years old, everything had been with me before that time. An example of his confidence, a few days ago he popped down to his Sixth Form College, where he studied his A levels, to pick up his exam certificates, and got chatting to his teachers, and ended up giving a talk to the 2nd year A level law students, with no preparation. This is the son that didn't attend school until 16, did all his learning from home, was with me every day, pretty much all his life, but this doesn't appear to have produced a shy, quiet, Mummy's boy, on the contrary, it seems to have turned him in to a young man who isn't scared of public speaking, training others,  or any social situation. One time a few years ago he went on a trip to the Houses of Parliament and got chatting to his MP, and ended up being invited to the MP's lounge and the MP brought him dinner, and ended up chatting to the speaker of the house, so yes he is not shy. 

My youngest is currently doing his last GCSE's this year, and has an interview at the local College today, and also has applied for Army College, as his dream is to be a Paratrooper, which he has wanted since he was little. He is fitness training and preparing very seriously, and doesn't lack any confidence that he can go for his dreams.

So if anyone tells you, if you don't put your sons in school they will become Mummy's boys. It is not true!