Sunday, 14 May 2017

The "Right" Way

The "Right Way.

At 15 all of my year was lead into the huge sports hall of our school and we were told, for about an hour, that if we failed* at our exams our lives were effectively over.
This talk was repeated at almost every level of education in one form or another.
"If you don't have G.C.S.E.'s you will fail. If you don't have further qualifications you will fail. If you don't have a degree you will fail. If you don't get a "proper" job you will fail."
Well, the people I knew who failed at school are still people, and some of them went onto amazing things.
In fact the most miserable people I know are the ones who didn't fail. They succeeded every time. Then when they finally hit something they couldn't do, had a breakdown.

*Failing is seen as some poisonous toxic thing to be avoided at all costs. This mentality messes you up. It squashes your desire to explore or try things you are not good at. This fear they put inside is us of failure never quit goes away. Failure is the only way to really learn anything.
It's not just okay to suck at something, it shows us how we can be better.

This awful idea this "if you fail" mantra is one of the most damaging lies you can tell anyone and now we are routinely telling it to 6 year olds. More over it actually stops people from doing the very thing that would make them better, failing.

Three goals.

I am a study nerd. Today I decided to replace my "to do" list with three goals.

Try something new.
Do something you're good at.
Do something you suck at.

I asked my daughter to do the same. This fear of failure, this fear of the imperfect is really hard to shake. It freezes us, it makes us afraid to try.  That is the aim of this mentality. To stop you from trying again.
In this way it shuts out people who don't do well "in the system" policing the kind of success that is "acceptable".
If I fail today I will ask "what did that teach me?" Then I will try again tomorrow.

Home education is far too important to take seriously.

Sunday, 7 May 2017



It breaks my heart when I see all the posts in HE groups from smart, resourceful women breaking their backs to try and get their husbands and even ex-husbands on the same home educational page.
I don't understand. By choice and design my darling and I decided on home education together. We talked extensively before, it was not only my responsibility, but a family team effort. 
It's not all roses and sunshine (we have our moments) but in general we trust and respect each other.
We did come to home education lightly, we came as parents who had been fighting against the school to end or even acknowledge the terrible bullying our wee one was enduring. 
My hubby has always been "hands on"even when he was working split shifts. He could change a nappy pretty much in his sleep. Was the "burp miracle" when all else failed, spit up be damned. 
Yet he always trusted me if I made a decision. From when to bottle feed (she was allergic to my breast milk) to when to let her nap, or wean. If he was unsure, we talked, I'd show him the book or article, he'd read it and once he knew, once he was in the loop he was good.
He wasn't "in the dark" to the hell she was going through. Many a school gate drama happened while he was there.
We set our our rules, together. We had family meetings, and even when things between us struggled we were united in our friendship, respect and educational drives.
It is true that I am often the referee between he and my daughter (peas in a pod) but I tend to be the ideas and organiser while he ends up helping with the "doing" of the activity or project. 
The coolest thing is when he "gets" it. He is a shy man, and going out and doing stuff used to be a struggle but as I have been less able he has really stepped up. He has really gotten into the spirit of "try something new".  He has fallen in love with our local Asian supermarket, especially the Korean noodles.  
He really feels has learned how to talk with his daughter, not just to her. To really hear her as a person. They hangout a lot and enjoy many of the same things.
It is part of the "yes..and.." mentality. It is an improv idea that you always build on and build up together.

I try and give advice to some of those women, struggling. To acknowledge the fear, and shame and blame happening in the brief sound bites. While I know that I could home educate as a lone parent, I know that we are a team. We made a choice to become parents together. We made vows to honour and cherish, in sickness and in health, and honouring and valuing each other is the foundation of it all. I am so grateful and it is something we work on together.

Home education is too important to take seriously.


Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Sample de-registration letter

Sample De-registration Letter

This letter is for those living within the England and is legally correct as of the date published. Things are different in other parts of the UK and will require more than the letter below. That said it is not impossible.
After you have sent them this letter (an in paper hard copy that has to be signed for is best) the school can send you a receipt but they can not legally harness, call for meetings (you don't have to go) or refuse to de-register. If they do, they are breaking the law.

Your address
At home education house
Freedom Rd
City of Rock and Roll.
Headteachers name.
Name of school.
Address of school.

Re Child/children's names  d.o.b date of birth/s

Dear Headteacher's name,

I am writing to inform you that my child/ren are receiving an education at home, otherwise than at school, accordance with Section 7 of the 1996 Education Act.

As of this date, (date) remove their names from your school register; in accordance with the Education (Pupil Registration) Regulation 2016 Section 8 (1) (d) for mainstream schools.

Please confirm in writing you have removed my child/ren from the schools registers as of the date above stated.

Your Sincerely

(your signature)

(your name in print)

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Home Ed kids are different

Home Ed kids are Different

Before you leave "the system" (and sometimes even after) you heard this said as a criticism. They are "weird" and "not normal".

This is of course a great generalisation. School is about conformity. It isn't so much that school "makes kids normal" as it punishes and shames those who are different. This in turn, makes children shame and punish those who are different.
I am of the opinion that HE children are different. I have sat and watched bunches of HE kids play together.
There is no age clumping or gender clumping. They do not organise themselves into the kinds of groups you might expect. They tend to be focused on imaginative play, cooperative even when confrontational (super heroes require a villain after all). They talk more, and scream less often. The risks they take are calculated ones and not generally to "show off".
Their play is immersive, narrative and revolves around identity or character. If this was a bunch of adults we would call this role play, or LARP.
There are on-going studies being done about the therapeutic effects of this kind of role play for adults.
We know it helps educate, motive and foster empathy as well as expand the kids knowledge of the different parts of the self. It is hard to see yourself as a hero or heroic if you have never played as the hero.

When schooled children enter a park mostly filled with HE kids two things usually happen. No matter how big or small the group or what age their play is very different.
Firstly their play is usually competitive and "high risk" if they are boys and "quiet" and seated if a girl. The genders do not mix, with the exception to "show off" or confront each other. Their play is usually brief bursts of physical competition followed loud vocalisation without much meaning except "being loud".
The HE kids acknowledge and may try to engage but the "schooled" kids simply seem to lack the language and ability to play narratively. The HE kids soon lose interest and play their game around or away from them.
School seems to have deprived at least some of these children of the universal language of play or warped it into a narrow band of "acceptable play". It side-lines girls entirely and put the focus of physical prowess and domination.

Learning to play is a hugely important part of childhood. All social animals learn through play. It crosses gender, race, age and even species. Mixing with other children who HE in social groups is so important. Not because of the support and educational value of play in general but because it is the doorway to a deeper and valuable kind of play, and way of being.

Home education is far too important to be taken seriously.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Special Needs

Special Needs

Lets first address that all kids are special. I have yet to meet a "normal" child.They are all very different and grow in their own unique way.
Yet there are kids that struggle particularly within the confines of the regular school system. "Special" in the school system is often short hand for "difficult" and sometimes just "thick".
Those who have extra educational needs and those who are ill often struggle through no fault of their own. Schools seem to care about the numbers of "attendance" ahead of the well being of the child.

Home education has the benefit of being able to be tailored exactly to your child. This also means the often ritual humiliation of those with educational/social/mental health needs from dyslexia to depression, autism and ADD is totally absent from their lives.
If no-one makes you feel ashamed or stupid you are more free to explore what you can do and less afraid to try what you can't.

Folks leaving the school system often worry that their "extra" support with the school system will go with the school (and it might) and feel fear that they couldn't possibly be able to cope with their "special" child. After all it takes three teams and 4 meetings a week to keep them in school! Here is the truth. Your child is not difficult, no more so than anyone else's. They are different in a system that can not make them into the "desired" shape. Sure they are more complicated, like a piano. Lots of moving parts, hard work to move places perhaps and when treated harshly makes a quite awful sound. Yet one person or even a community that know and understand how to keep it in tune, how to make it sing like a hundred voices.

My mother worked with disabled adults for a while and I meet and knew quite a few of them. They were people (some lovely, some not so) but I remember a lady called Sally. Sally had Down's syndrome as well as some other health problems. She was quite limited in what she could do physically and mentally. Yet Sally had a super power. She could make anyone smile. Any room she was in was brightened, and conversation she was at lifted. She made people happy.
Sally taught me that everyone, and I do mean everyone has a gift. No matter the physical or mental constraints you can have a positive effect on the world around you. That you are not your limitations, no matter how severe they might be.

School and it's system focuses on the things you can't do and punishes when you can't as a sort of spiritual failing. Yet a loving supportive environment where compassion and common sense rule can really bring out the best in a "special" child. It can give time and space to explore the gifts and joys of a special child. You only get one childhood. It is the foundation of who we can become as an adult. Rather than it be a "difficult disaster"  leaving the school system can be the best experience a special child can have.

Home education is far too important to take seriously.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Sample Letters (humour)

Sample Letters (humour)

Feel free to use at your own discretion.

Dear Sir/Madam,
Thank you for your threatening letter. It is such a comfort that in these difficult times you found the time to make wild judgments, serious accusations and fear-mongering remarks with a small spattering of legal comments to hide your fathoms of ignorance to my child/ren's education. I especially enjoy these because this is our first contact proving that you would much rather fear, bully and pressure someone back into a class room who shouldn't be there than actually care about the educational welfare of said child.
The education I provide does not require a certain number of hours. There is no curriculum for home education. The law states only that it be full time, and appropriate. I, me, the parent decide that.
In the spirit of kindness let me educate you for a moment.
Home education is a wildly eclectic term for a vast array of different educational techniques and ideologies.
They might be un-schooling, forest schooling, wild schooling, project learning, using the Charlotte Mason method, or Montessori, or any mix of these. None of these are wrong, or illegal. All of them are educational.
Most families coming out of the school system require de-school, a healing process for the trauma of school and it's systems. It can take months or even years. Don't worry the kids are still learning in this time, it just doesn't look like mainstream education.
Guess what? It doesn't have to!
Had you any knowledge of home education, or alternative learning you would know that these exist and valid and healthy alternatives to school.
So let me reassure you my child is receiving full time education in a variety of learning methods. If you wanted more details all you had to do was ask, politely.
You have set the tone with which you would like to communicate. Your schooling is showing. We as a family do not respond well to bullying and you might want to look at your behaviour. No gold stars for you this week! When you decide to be civil we will respond like-wise,
Your sincerely

free-range parent

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Do I have to follow the curriculum?

Do I have to follow the curriculum?

Short answer. No. 

In school circles "the curriculum" is both revered and loathed in equal measure. A curriculum is (like say the national curriculum) where someone outlines what they think your child (or children in general) should know. In certain educational systems like the Charlotte Mason method, or Trivium you can buy different interpretations of what they think would currently make a curriculum. The issue with this is that it might be wildly inappropriate for your child. National curriculum in particular are not written by educators at all but by political people in Government who have vested interests (sometimes financial ones) in what children learn (or don't learn). One of the greatest freedoms of HE is that you don't have to follow someone else's idea of what your child "should" know. They can learn what they find interesting, what you think is important to know and what they might need in their lives. LA's tend to prefer national curriculum because they tend to come from a school background, but they don't have to be "appeased". As long as you are educating, from unschooling to Montessori to your own unique HE master piece the curriculum is not important.

You can of course borrow and use parts of sections of curriculum should you wish too (we recently had a look at the English G.C.S.E texts and my daughter is reading them (some she has read before). Some Charlotte Mason curriculum can be bought as well as other alternatives and again they can be useful, up to a point.

The issue comes down to standardisation. What a child should know, and how deep that knowledge can be is often determined by age. Age is an unreliable marker, as children do not tend to grow in neat little bits constantly but in slow-sluggish bits and sudden bursts. The physical development and mental ability are not the same thing and the emotional capacity are another thing entirely. 
By eight years old and off her own bat, my daughter had read 67 books out of a 100 Classic books in literature. It was on her Nintendo D.S. Yet while some she adored a lot she "didn't get it".  Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice seemed weird and pointless stories concerned with marriage and status. Though able to read these books she didn't yet have the emotional intelligence to connect to the text. I wonder if the reason I loathed Charles Dickens was because I was forced to read it at 11 years old and I had no context or understanding of Victorian Britain. 
Had I had some context, some knowledge around what we were reading, or just read it a year or so later I might have had a different reaction. 

The other thing is curriculum tend to get bogged down in not only what is taught, and when but HOW they are supposed to learn. This means a vast majority of learners never discover how they learn. Or feel "thick" because they simply are not wired to do it a certain way. This is the greatest failing of curriculum. It fails to allow children to discover and learn in their own way. It fails to place value on the natural ability of children to learn. In some circumstances getting a wrong answer, the way they taught you, will give you a better mark/grade than getting the right answer a different way. 

Some curriculum remove the child out of the equation entirely. They are written for ease of testing and marking, not learning or child development. The industry behind this is worth a lot of money and is based more on agriculture than child development. It is also about control. What someone is "allowed" to learn means that their are subjects that they are not "allowed" to learn. From human rights, taxes, the laws of their own country or state, health and well being, histories that they would rather keep hidden, a curriculum is as much what it excludes as what it includes. 

Home education is far too important to take seriously.