Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Food Blog Soy milk

Soy Milk 

Adventures in Alchemy! 

I was lactose intolerant as a child. So we ended up getting goats and switching to goat milk. I "grew out of it" until I got a head injury at uni and all my childhood allergies went nuts, so to speak.
I had been vegi on and off most of my childhood and as I was so sick (like really) and way before it became a thing I went vegan. I switched to soy milk about 1999.
While I wasn't vegan for long (both pregnancies I craved meat, steak and chicken respectively) I never went back to regular milk. After my daughter was lactose intolerant too it seem a sensible idea. In that time soya milk has become better tasting and better quality. It has become easier to get too.
It was a thing I had to have. It was not a luxury, nor a pleasure.

Well I am food mad. I love to eat, cook, read and now watch youtube. My current "find" is Mike Chen (who has a squillion channels and it is just enough) especially Strictly Dumpling.
On one of his many food adventures he gets soy milk in a way I had never seen it and it looked GOOD!
I did some research and tried to find my own version. The first time worked well, too well! I was so focused on making (and then eating) I took no videos or photos at all!

I had been a bit worried that it might be "beany" or bitter so I rinsed the beans far more than was instructed.
I set up two sieves so I could keep my straining cloth (a super clean tea-towel) and measure out a single cup measure at a time of beans (so I didn't over fill the bowl and get my ratio wrong).

I threw away the soaking water and measured out (those are my darling daughter's hands) one cup of soaked beans.

We then added two cups of fresh water.
Now my stand mixer broke yesterday (just I was set up to blend in case you were wondering)!
The stick mixer to the rescue. I don't have very heavy bowls so I blended while darling daughter held the bowl! 

It got a bit messy but we made it. It got all foamy and cool looking.
The next bit required some prep.

This is another bowl a heavy sieve and the clean cloth. You can use cheesecloth, muslin but fabric is sort of essential for the next bit.

Carefully pour the mix into the cloth/sieve and let it drain a moment. Then gather the corners carefully and begin to twist. If you don't start high enough it will squish up instead of down and makes even more mess. Ring it out twisting the top and bottom in opposite directions. I then twisted the other way, just to be thorough. Next carefully unwrap the cloth and pick out the weird snowball of stuff. Apparently you can eat this too, but I have no recipes as of yet!

Instead I threw it onto the garden for the plants and birds (it composts well). I then repeated the whole thing with the remaining beans. Then I got my nice big pan added a tsp of salt and a 1/4 cup of brown sugar. I poured the soy milk into the big pan.

You have to stir constantly (I used a non-stick whisk) and simmer until "sweet". Mine was fine about a minute or so after I took it from the hob when it reached a boil.

It foams out a lot but I just kept mixing the hell out of it!
After a minute of stirring in the still hot pan my taste tester (aka darling daughter) said it was ready.
I added a pinch of pulverised vanilla powder and serve it hot and foamy!

You will need:
1 cup of dried soy beans
cold water to rinse and soak.

2 cups of water for every 1 cup of swollen beans (mine doubled and a bit.)
1 tsp of sea salt
1/4 cup sugar (sugar substitute to taste)

I hope this is helpful to you. It was a lot of fun to make and is so tasty. We even have beans soaking for tomorrow!

Home education is too important to takes seriously.

Friday, 25 November 2016

"Doing well at School"

A word to the wise.

If your child is in physical danger then they are not 

"doing well at school".

If they are anxious, depressed or harming themselves they are not 

"doing well at school".

If they are tortured, harassed or belittled they are not 

"doing well at school".

If they are screaming, crying and not wanting to leave your care, they are not 

"doing well at school".

That a child is still achieving, striving, learning despite the torturous space then that says far more about the child, then it does the school.
It is not school they are doing well at. It is learning. Now imagine that the terror, fear and pain, the shame and self-loathing is removed and try and imagine what they could learn.

"Doing well at school" has come to mean a child's academic ability. Yet the ability to learn is not rooted in pens and paper. The lessons they are learning stretch far beyond the subjects and tests.
If they are learning they are unworthy, hated, and undeserving, does that matter less? If they are told they are thick, difficult or "naughty", does that matter less? If they are learning that their safety and well being is not important, does that matter less?

To be truly "doing well at school" their safety, health and happiness has to be part of that equation.

If we were talking about adults in these situations and it was a job you would leave, and probably sue the company. Yet school is seen as a corner stone, "the norm" and everything that happens there is normalized. No matter how terrible it is.

It is not okay.
It is not "normal".

There is something you can do about it and when you are on the other side of it it will blow your mind you ever were the hand that helped enforce the system. You took them there, day after day. You had meetings and discussions and nothing changed, or it did for the worse.

If you have a park or a garden, a library and google, some charity shops and a sense of adventure you and your children can learn almost anything.

Home education is far too important to take seriously.  

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Beating Bullying:

Getting out

There is a big flux of folks reaching the end of their tether when it comes to bullying right now.
I've been there.
It's heartbreaking. It makes you feel helpless and angry and frustrated because they seem to care far more about protecting their reputation and the bullies rather than the victims. The school and the LA can make you feel crazy, as though there is something wrong with you or your child. They can be bullies in their own right.
My heart goes out to you and I will say do not wait another day.
Not one more moment.
The first thing you need to do (in England and Wales, it's more complicated other places) is send a formal letter of de-registration to the school. A sample you can find HERE 
After you de-register (and do make sure you get a dated receipt) my advice would be to join some local Home Education facebook groups. You might hear from the LA (Local education Authority) quickly or you might not hear a peep. Your local groups will be able to tell you far better than I can what to expect from the LA. After de-registration the school can not call, email, send letters, threaten or harass you but on occasion schools do. You do not have to answer them. You have not and are not breaking the law.
You never have to have the LA come visit you if you don't want to, and if someone doorsteps you (ie just turns up one day) you can politely tell them to make an appointment in writing to discuss things with you. In fact you can keep everything in writing should you desire, which is often a good idea. Some LA's are amazing but some are terrible and are not above bullying or lying. Do bear in mind that the LA only get funding from the government for each child AT school and they may have targets or external pressure to push for your child to be in school.

If your child has been bullied, it's going to take a while to heal, for your child, for you and as a family. You are going to need some time together to talk about things that might be difficult to hear, but you are going to need to hear it to know where your child is at. You can set aside time, one on one, to do this. Maybe once a week for an afternoon, or a little bit every day. It's not an easy thing but you have already done the hardest part.

The next bit is to de-school which I have written about HERE
While your child is focused on having some fun and healing this is a good time to research what kind of HE you will want to do together. Do want a bit of Classical Trivium or a Charlotte Mason curriculum? More on that HERE

The next part is a bit weird. You have to imagine what you want this journey together to look like (it might not ever look as you imagine). I would recommend learning something together (not you teaching) even if you suck at it. It helps to heal and repair trust in adults which have failed them at school so badly. It's also a lot of fun.You have to figure out what your goals are together and as individuals. At the end of the day a happy healthy and whole child with no qualifications at 16 is far better than someone who was miserable, hurting and hating with papers out the wazoo.

Home education brought us as a family a joy, a peace and healing I never ever imagined. My daughter may never sing the way she did before school (much to my heartbreak) but she not fearful, bruised or afraid any more.

Home education is far too important to take seriously.

Monday, 7 November 2016

A Control Freaks Guide to Unschooling.

A Control Freaks Guide to Unschooling

Unschooling is child-led or directed education. The level of depth or how "radical" you are is dependant on many things.
I am not radical. I am not a natural unschooler at all really. One of the ways I control my shame/blame/pain is to be busy, to organise and to control. Even talking about it makes me feel a bit icky. I like timetables and structure and plans because even though school was terrible at times for me, it was safer than home. It was predictable. In fact one of the few ways my Mum who was a teacher would engage with me was with a teacher/pupil mode.
I read a lot and when I became a parent I was young and without the support of my family (I was 22) because they viewed marriage as "slavery" and having children as "a waste".
Still despite or maybe because of this I found a fierce devotion and affection to my children and this became even stronger when my youngest child died.
I understood the importance of play and that it was key to learning. 
Yet school rolled around and she looked so cute in her little Doc Martins and dress. 
I won't go into the fresh hell that was school from day one because I feel I have talked about it a lot.

1) Trust your child.

I don't mean with white board markers or super glue (but you might). I mean that children have an innate curiosity until it is forced out of them. Until they have to learn stuff to "pass a test". I believe that you use a different part of your brain or memory when you are studying intently to pass a test. When you turn in that paper your brain removes the files because it knows it no longer needs them. That is why most folks don't remember what they learned at school, because it simply wasn't needed after the test. When kids learn organically for themselves (the Why stage) they retain it as useful information. If it is inspiring, playful and fun the brain seems to hold onto it in more than one place. So you have to chill. You have to understand that your fears and anxieties are that YOUR fears and anxieties. If you stop your child from "messing around" on Youtube "pointlessly" watching Japanimation they might never surprise you by speaking Japanese from reading subtitles. If you want them to "be clean" or "not play with bugs" they might never tell you all about the structure of bumble bee wings. Your job is to be their supporter, their cheerleader, to facilitate and to inspire.
You might not like it.
It might feel anxious and uncomfortable. Yet if you can take a moment and let go of the scary "what if's" it works. 

2) Inspire and Support 

While it is not strictly "unschool" chic to do trips or go to educational places I have always liked galleries and museums. I like hiking too when I am well enough but museums and galleries give me a sense of peace in a busy city. I am a curious person. I am rather Hermione Granger, and I enjoy learning and exploring. I feel this is the biggest influence not in so much of what I study but my curiosity and genuine excitement about the world. 
From Anglo-Saxon living history exhibits to Spanish painters I feel like there is something special about museums and galleries. If you have never been up close to  Rembrandt sketches, or a huge Dali painting, it's hard to put into words. Being inspired and curious allows you to be an inspiration. It doesn't really matter what your passions are, so long as you educate your self and support your children's passions. 

3) Be Present

If you imagine your attention is like light, being open and present is one of the most valuable things you can ever give your child. It means putting down the phone, getting off facebook and understanding that housework and cleaning is a job that never ends.
Sitting down and connecting, talking and even just being with no distractions is more valuable than any toy, any book, and holiday you can give. This is it. This is their childhood memory of you. It will last their lifetime. They will remember. That doesn't mean you can't have rules (some unschoolers don't) or discipline (actions do have consequences). It means you have to shine your light of attention. Really listen. Be vulnerable and honest.
So many parents I know (especially ones who have kids later) seem to care more about "occupying" their child so they can "get stuff done" rather than being with their child. They fill their lives with business rather than read a book, sing a song, sit for a cuddle, join in the tea party. I can't remember where I heard it but I remember this from when my daughter was a baby.
"You invite your child into your life, be a good host."
No-one enjoys the dinner party where the host is frazzled and more worried about the "impressive" dish rather than spending time with their guests. In fact take-out and laughter is far more fun to be around.
That being said no-one wants someone to order for them, cut up their food and feed them. You have to balance distraction against the urge to do thing FOR your child. It may be irritating, slow, or "wrong" but failing is how we truly learn. Sitting on our hands and being present can be uncomfortable yet it is also the greatest joy.
A gentle "Have you thought of trying it this way?" Is much nicer than "your're doing it wrong!"

4) Research and Development

 Doing your research and developing good strategies for your "wobbles" can help you manage your control freak urges so they don't get in the way of your child's learning. Websites, books, TED talks and even home education groups online and irl can be a gold mine.
These things can be challenging and uncomfortable as well as inspiring and uplifting. It is a process and it is full of failure and emotional struggle and that is how you know you are learning. So instead of trying to plan things, write timetables or freak out write a blog, journal, meditate or research. If you do have a full blown freak out, understand that it is okay.
That it was a moment and it will pass. That the joys, benefits and learning you are doing out weight the anxiety. That it will be okay. 
Remember too that home education is far too important to be taken seriously.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Numbing and Home Education


In my facebook feed of all the various groups I am part of I see two themes and they almost always refer to boys. Some start at 8. Some in their teens.There is violence, aggression or they "disappear" into video games.
It is interesting because that is the age that boys are often told to "stop crying" and are often becoming aware of the "gender box" of masculinity. In blunt terms this is the time they are told culturally that "being a man" means not showing feelings (except anger or violence). The harder the push culturally, socially and within a family for them to "man up" the stronger the reaction tends to be.
This is not to say that girls do not have the "gender box". Their's is to be quieter, thinner and "nice" (shudder). This means their reactions are different. 
Numbing is a way to distract ourselves at the shame/pain/discomfort we feel. The stronger the feeling, the more we numb. Culturally Britain numbs with alcohol, even from a very young age but it isn't just about substances. 


If we stay busy enough the truth of our lives won't catch up with us. This was/is a great socially acceptable numbing. Look how hard we work! Look at all the hours we put in! If I keep at it until I am so exhausted I can't actually think I might sleep.
Gaming (especially OLMMO's) can part of this. Not content with being busy in this life (which is messy and lonely and painful and awkward) they are buried in quests, and where the rules make sense. Where they can interact as their best self (or even their coolest). In short where they don't have to feel. You can play games for pleasure, but if you/child as not meeting basic physical needs it is numbing behaviour.
In the same way as the kitchen will never be clean enough for the neat/cleaning number, so too, the dungeon/chase/quest will never quite be enough. As someone who used to get up at 6am on a Sunday to clean, this is about avoiding feelings.

Addictive behaviour

From coffee, energy drinks, smoking, sleeping pills, food and alcohol, we are a culture comfortable with numbing. 
It is how we "unwind". It's "social". It's in "moderation". If in order to tell "how bad your day was" you need a glass of wine, beer or tub of ice-cream, then you are numbing.
The trouble is numbing is not selective. When we limit our feelings we limit all of them. The stronger the cultural oppression of feelings are, the greater the numbing. The trouble with this is it makes us sick and miserable. Addictive behaviour starts at that moment when you feel uncomfortable/awful/icky and reach for something to make it go away. That's all addiction is. You can "not give in" but until you learn how to be uncomfortable you will have to fight with that feeling, forever.
We learn our numbing behaviour from the people around us. Our peers, parents, families and culture. If one numbing becomes unavailable we transfer to something else. 

Learning to Feel

Talking about our feelings and being vulnerable is so excruciating for most Brits we would do almost anything not to. Even avoiding eye-contact on the bus/train.
Culturally we avoid talking about anything important until we are forced to, or drunk. The narrow band of "acceptable" emotions is growing. Therapy and counselling is not unheard of or shameful to most folk under 35.
It's a process. Trying badly is better than numbing amazingly. The thing is if we want our children to be okay with their feelings, we have to be better at ours. We can restrict their access to things they are using to numb but without an outlet for their feelings they will find something else to numb with.
Children tend to "do what we do, not what we say". This means if you want to address their behaviour that is bothering you, you have to address your own first.  

Leaning into the discomfort

Being present and honest is uncomfortable. It is also necessary. It walks us back from the addiction line towards something else. It is imperfect. It's sometimes painful but it is also filled with joy and beauty. Some people have never felt joy.
Or it was so long ago under so much "stuff" they can not remember that feeling. Feelings are the colour palette of life. They add shade and meaning. Tone and context. It is human and important to feel.
As parents we are still learning and we can change through changing our own numbing behaviours, and being present to how we are really feeling. This affect our children. If we see their behaviour as one about making uncomfortable, difficult and painful feelings bearable it is not so easily dismissed. It gives us more tools and more compassion towards each other and hopefully ourselves. 

Being mindful of the pleasure/numbing edge.

Looking at ourselves is not about policing ourselves into "good" parent behaviour. It catching yourselves thinking, saying or doing something and stopping. Understanding why you do it. It is not numbing. Not running away from our most horrible inner self and feelings. It is being braver and more courageous than we ever thought we could be. 
It is in giving ourselves permission to be whole. In enjoying the moments and being truly present when they are there.

Home education is far too important to take seriously.

Monday, 17 October 2016


Home Education but not at home

One of the best things about HE is that we get to travel to places, try new things, and meet interesting people. 

We meet children and adults of all ages and the only "issue" my daughter has is when men or boys try and mansplain at her. She is actually a great judge of character, loves to look after little kids and has manners that get praise where ever we go.
We didn't used to do much with other folks that HE. After getting called a "troubled family" and literally getting the "socialisation question" from my super fun and helpful LA bod* I decided to started a D&D group. It has since fizzled out, BUT we meet other HE friends and families on the way. Some stuck, some didn't.
We have a couple of events and meets we go to now. One is swimming on a Monday, and one is the park every other week.
It's cool and non pressure. It's fun to watch her like the a mother goose with all these goslings peeping and following her. She never gets mad and is kind and encouraging with them all. Last week a little girl was "stuck" up a large rope climbing frame and she carefully but firmly talked her down.
But HE kids are awful at people?
Our girl is a quiet bookish sort by nature but when she takes out the dog other walkers talk to her (some she will speak to, some she won't). When she goes shopping the clerks often chat to her too.

* This is sarcasm 

Our daughter has different levels of interaction with people all the time from many walks of life. She has good instincts of who and when she wants to talk to people, because I have never forced her to. 

I love museums and galleries. I love travelling though my health and budget don't always give me the miles I would want. There is something about being the the presence of great art and interesting objects that is inspiring. There have been so many interesting side paths, odd thought directions and fun from visiting and interacting with amazing things.
They take us and help us learn things I would never have imagined.

Of course I would love to go to Paris or Barcelona (outside the budget) but we are planning a London trip. Nation and Portrait Galleries and then China towns markets. Looking at all the great and good, the weird and wonderful. It's an adventure and one she will remember always. It isn't about me taking her to a place. It is about us discovering, interacting with this new stuff together.
HE is not about being shut away from the world it is about exploring it, getting messy, probably lost, and finding things about yourself and world you had never expected. 

Home education is far too important to take seriously. 

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Eight Things I don't get about School

Eight Things I Don't Get as a Home Educator...about school

1) Pen Licenses.

Say what?I truly had not heard of this until it was mentioned by a parent asking about it in a Home Education group. Apparently you have to "earn" a pen license and it can be revoked and you go back to a pencil. Not only is this shame culture at it highest but some kids are never taught how to use a pen properly. I also do not understand why the pressure to write is more important than having something interesting to say. In the world where everyone types, cursive and writing is a pleasure for journals and notebooks but it isn't something most kids will ever need when they leave school.
Learning is about mistakes. I learned how to write cursive and I wrote with pens at a young age. The big leap when I was in school was from ball-points to fountain pens (that always leaked). How we write cursive is a direct result of how ink pens work. I got ink all over my fingers, on my shirt sometimes but it was part of "school". Unless you write with ink many parts of cursive just seem odd.

2) Behaviour Charts- Punishments for not sitting still.

Kids fidget. Good kids, difficult kids, young and older. Stillness is something that children and even some adults are not designed for. Of course mindfulness and meditation help kids enormously, but we are not talking about that. We are talking about punishing kids, sometimes very young ones, for not being able to sit still. When a child gets restless, they as displaying their hard-wired physical NEED to play. This need is shamed and punished publicly which then leads to the shame defence called disengagement. You are send the message that THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH YOU to kids all day every day, for their biological need to play.
Gillian Lynne also struggled at school with fidgeting and was taken to see a doctor. He and her mother left the room leaving the radio on. On seeing her dancing, the doctor told her mother to send her to a dance school. That there was nothing wrong with her, she was a dancer. She went on to have a long and amazing career in even being awarded a DBE (Dame Commander of the British Empire).
Imagine how Gillian would fare today? 

3) Uniforms

There is a running joke about the unofficial uniform of Home Educator is pj's. There is some truth in that. The dress codes for school seem to get weirder and weirder and are seemingly used to make small teachers feel very important. Uniforms are often expensive and even change over the time a kid is at school. (I think my mum had to buy three different sets of uniforms).Uniform is "supposed" to be an equaliser, but often it isn't. The colour of someone's socks is not an indicator of their ability to learn. Let's talk about P.E kit here also. Girls and boys PE uniforms are often completely inappropriate for the sports they are doing and the weather they are doing it in. This is not okay! Uniform over the well-being of children is idiotic. Tiny skirts and thin t-shirts while running around in the cold and wet is not fortifying it's awful.

4) Sitting for hours

If someone asked me to sit in a chair for two hours now without moving or fidgeting I think I would struggle. Especially in uncomfortable and often sweaty plastic chairs. I think most adults would. We'd want to get a drink, stretch our legs and shuffle to get circulation back into our backsides. It is not a normal situation even if you are used to sitting all day to do so without break or movement.
There are loads of studies that show sitting for protracted amounts of time is pretty awful for your health. Yet siting for hours is still standard school practice.

5) Not being allowed to pee

When I was at school I would deliberately drink less so I wouldn't have to use the toilets. The toilets were terrifying places that stank. Many toilets were locked and while girls tended to have less of a hard time leaving in classtime we still got quizzed and scolded. As someone with a kidney disease I look back in horror. The damage this does to your body is horrific. You need to pee between six and ten times a day. NEED. Breaks get smaller and smaller, you can't be late for classes, and get punished for your biology. In this regard it is more like prison than somewhere you learn.

6) Bans on strange foods/toys/slang

From sweets and crisps, to outside food at all; to toys, and slang and even noises schools ban some weird things. Prohibition doesn't work.

7) Electronic tagging

I'm not sure I even need to comment on this. I was a model student but had someone monitored me they would have seen I used the visitors loos (which were out of bounds) and sat in a "locked" drama hall to meditate most lunch times. I wasn't naughty I just like a clean safe loo and a quiet place to be. Prisons tag and monitor. The ONLY way this would be cool to me is they went off ONLY when someone left the school during the school time. (That said I often went to a my best friends house for lunch during our exams).

8) Touching (physical contact with other kids at all).

Touch is important. It helps us find our boundaries, bond and connect. It can also be used to harm, but in general physical contact is good and necessary. 
Threatening or aggressive behaviour is threatening and aggressive with or without touch. Sexual behaviour, is sexual with or without touch.
This is monstrously de-humanising and stops kids finding their own boundaries and learning where other people's are. It makes no sense to me.

I am sure there are many more things that I "don't get" and you probably have some of your own. Feel free to add your own!

Home education is too important to take seriously.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Post Traumatic School Disorder

Post Traumatic School Disorder

I think I am "thick at maths" which is odd considering when I was at school I could have told every formula for G.C.S.E physics. Odder still that I worked with long addition and money from the age of 13. I was a bright kid, clearly good at many things (and not afraid to show it). Maths and spelling were my Achilles heel.
We were organised into "sets" by age 12 and what I learned was if you are "bad at maths" they just don't bother. My teacher couldn't hold the attention or stop the class from erupting into violence.
I learned practically nothing for years. Well that isn't true I learned that you just have to "deal with it" if you are slapped, spat at, walloped with a ruler, and I didn't even think of this time in my school life as the time I was bullied.
"Maths" teaches me still. I wonder now if the rage (and oh there was so much rage) came from the kids being given up on and shamed, all, day, long.
This is from a time in my life when I would have told you I was enjoying school. I was House Captain, Head Prefect, had friends.
Yet between my maths teacher, chemistry teacher and English teacher school was still a traumatic place. My maths teacher couldn't and didn't teach, my chemistry teacher bullied me horribly and made my life difficult as she detested me, and my English teacher who would make us do spelling tests every and shamed me every single time (I am also sure she stole a poem I wrote as my coursework and passed it off as she own) I got humiliated and shamed and sure I was rubbish at things.
There are times now I still feel ashamed, and horrified at my "lack ". Yet I am dyslexic. Especially with numbers. I have to work three times as hard as everyone else, and I did.
Simple screen test at college allowed me to know that fact I was dyslexic and I escaped having to get a G.C.S.E in maths to allow me to continue my further education.
My younger sister had the same maths teacher as me and had to re-take maths G.C.S.E three times at college because she simply wasn't taught at school the stuff to pass it.
My mum was a teacher. She had a sort of "teacher-mode". It was weird because I could see that teachers were people, but they were never allowed to be "real".
I was the first person to get a degree in my family.
You'd think that it was a success story.
It wasn't until quite recently I began to realise how much "stuff" I carry around from then.
I wonder what I could have achieved if I hadn't been told "oh you are this kind of person", sorted in a box and told over and over again I was the problem.
"You suck at this thing."

We started our Home Education journey out of desperation. The bullying started as soon as she got there. Foot print bruises where she had been stamped on. She was kicked, punched and pushed off toys. From the age of 4.
We asked to move schools but that was "impossible".
So we started to Home Educate "until we can get her into school".
Then we sort of fell in love with it.I would do it all so very differently now. More relaxed, more fun. More groups and support.
This has it's own kind of trauma.

Yet my daughter has never been told by us she "can't do this thing".
There is not "subject" (not that we learn that way) my daughter "can't" do.
Imagine if we stopped tell our kids that THEY were the problem. That THEY need to fit into this box what they might be good at.
The layers of Post School Trauma are many and complex. I believe some of it stems from how the system treats the kids (and teachers). I believe some of it is the culture of acceptable violence, shame and fear.
If we stopped being ashamed, and afraid imagine what we as a world could do?

Home education is far too important to take seriously.

Friday, 30 September 2016

What do you need to Home Educate?

What do you need to Home Educate?

There are many things that would be amazing, that I would love to have. A large house, access to nature, a pool, unlimited craft and art supplies... but in truth you only need a few things to home educate your kids.

Passion, curiosity, engagement and being able to let go of what you think things  "should" look like and embrace how things are. It is grand to have some stillness, some gratitude and a sense of humor too.
If you want your kids to care about the world, and education is usually story-telling (all teachers are story-tellers reciting the same stories in different ways) then the passion you have drives that engine. Home education has a more raw and visceral nature because often it in nature. It is not restricted to stories of living but in living it's self.

"If Jane has three pounds and want to pay for four apples, how many oranges can she also buy?"

Well with money in hand the context seems to have a point. It also allow far more variables and allows a hundred more interesting questions at the same time.

"If Jane has three pounds and wants to pay for four apples, how many oranges can she buy, and what does Fairtrade mean? What does organic mean? What does profit margin mean?"

The narrative of the education story, the depth and breath that is possible with almost nothing but curiosity is Home Educations biggest joy.

While having internet help (from Google to Khan Academy) public libraries and thrift store books are  treasure troves. Parks, gardens, wild green space are a boon too. So are warm coats and walking boots or wellies. Yet it is being able to be flexible, and curious and passionate that allows you to see the benefit and opportunities all around you. It takes a special kind of courage to walk away from something society says you "should" be. It takes something stronger and more fierce to refuse to allow the system to hurt your child, love.

The fear and guilt and shame poured on us from a great height to "make your child conform" to standardised shapes and ways of being make you question your bravery, sanity and self.
Yet if you were to drag your child, crying, screaming to a community of strangers; where you left them knowing that violence, verbal abuse, sexual assault were common place (if not a expected and a "normal" part of life) and you left them there, day after day, week after week, year after year and it wasn't called "school" would you be being a "good" parent? A place where what you wear is more important that what you think? A place where you can't pee when you need to? Drink when you need to? Eat when you need to?

School seems so strange to me now, from the other side. It was guilt in the end that won over shame (you must be a difficult parent, maybe she is bullied because you are weird). In truth maybe I am still de-schooling. Still healing.

To home educate you don't need to be rich, or have a teaching degree, or a degree at all. You need to have a sense of wonder, curiosity and fun. You have to give yourself permission to step away from shame and blame and move towards connection with your child and to the world.

Home education is a process that can teach you amazing things. It can shape and re-shape how you see the world, one experience at a time. One book. It can be profound and uplifting, messy and unexpected. It allows from stillness and play. It embraces courage and excellence, failure and mistakes into a learning process that transforms and grows more quickly than almost anything else. It's pretty good for the kids too!

Home education is far too important to take seriously!

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Research, Resources and Links

In our home education journey the adult should be learning as much as the kids!
I like to study, read and play. In no particular order here are somethings you might find interesting.

Back in the day I didn't even know facebook home education groups existed. Instead I joined a sort of home education "union". Education Otherwise was my first introduction to the HE community and while they didn't have much round this way the legal side of stuff was super useful. We are not members any more (it seemed like money I could spend on books) but as a newbie I really did appreciate it.

Dr Stuart Brown:

Stuart Brown's research shows play is not just joyful and energizing — it's deeply involved with human development and intelligence.
I will get round to reading his books at some point but if nothing else if you needed permission to play and have fun with your kids, here it is.
We are social animals and all social animals learn through play. So imaginary play, dress up, play music and board games.

If all that silliness sounds a bit too vulnerable for you

Brene Brown: 
Yes more TED but well worth the watch in my opinion. If you get embarrassed, or anxious a lot, maybe you are too "busy" to play? Too worried what the neighbours might think, you might have a vulnerability issue.

T.A or Transitional Analysis

While not strictly about home education if you are looking to change the dynamic or improve your relationships. I learned about T.A. from my mother when she went back to college while I was in my late teens. It was about that age (16) I started reading psychology/counselling books. From my basic understanding it has a lot to do with our own internal authority (you know that moment when suddenly you hear your mother's voice come right out of your mouth?) that we collect wholesale as a child. This become Parent. Our feelings (good bad and indifferent) become Child. Our thought, inner voice is Adult. It also is about power and control in any conversation. It is perfectly normal for a parent to Parent their child, or for a child to Child at their parent. Sometimes these two aspects become a power struggle leading to conflict.

"Do as I say because I say so"
"I feel too emotional/desire it too strongly to comply."

This struggle stops the adults and children working together. It breaks down communication and it becomes a battle of wills. (We haven't even touched on parent who Child to get their own way...)

Nation Geographic have some great shorts (like TED) too.

Home Education Methods

 I briefly wrote about some (and there are a great many more than I wrote about) home education methods. Doing your research on new (or new to you) home education methods helps you hon in what you do and don't want, allows you to add new ideas and "play" with education.


I wrote the piece in the link after I did a stint of researching motivation. My hubby is on the spectrum (Aspie) and motivation to do is something he struggles with. I want new way to motivate and help and I discovered I need to look at my own first!

Khan Academy

Khan Academy  changed our lives forever!

Hear me out!
In terms of craft stuff, art, ideas and randomly strewing (spewing is placing possible inspiration in your child's way and seeing what they pick up) for yourself I find it really great. From clay sculptures, to dog training or decoupaging her room (yes we did that) Pintest is a great parental motivational tool!
Inspire yourself, and it will be infectious!

I have read more books than I can remember and some of it sticks. The first book about children I read was called Wonder child.
It is quite hippy-dippy (but that's me) and it is also gloriously beautiful.
Speaking of is a wonder for book nerds like me (and children/teens who are also bookish). It has loads of reviews book clubs, forums and the like. You can easily fall down the bookish black-hole of interesting debates and ridiculous arguments (of course Elizabeth loved Darcy that was the whole point of the book!) find, re-discover and connect with folks that love reading.

Local libraries and book sales are great places to research and of course read. I tend to be wary because if I see the words "book sale" (our library was selling off books for 10p once) I know I am going to buy books and look at my groaning bookshelves when I get home. (I don't have too many books I don't have enough bookshelves, it's a thing).

Publisher's outlets

There are two that I know of but always explore! From new books, crafting supplies, and generally interesting weird stuff I'd rather be shopping here than almost anywhere...except...

Charity shops Thrift store.

 From old books, fabric, crafting stuff (you can buy bags of broken jewellery round our way) and the random factor you can find real treasure in these places (even bookshelves sometimes!)

Okay my brain has run out of tea. Hope some of this helps!

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Home Education Methods

There are as many methods of Home Education as there are Home Educated children!

School at Home

You might set up a class room. Follow the curriculum from your area or even buy one and follow it on line. You have work books and text book. The kids sit and read and write. You may even have a "school" room in the house.

This was what I did when I first started Home Educating, it isn't however what we do now!

The Trivium

Sometimes called Classical it starts with The Grammar Stage (6-10 years) where they learn the rules of language, memorise things, spelling, grammar, history, maths.
Then comes Dialectic (9-12 years) with discussion, debate and algebra, determining the why behind things.
The Rhetoric Stage (13-18) does "the systematic rigorous studies" and focusing on persuasive rhetorical arguments and ideas. 


Un-schooling has it's own levels and depths but it is child-led. It is most often not sat at a table and un-schooled children tend to find education outside. They can do project based work, or no written work at all. The children set the pace and depth of the learning so it may be much deeper and at a higher (or lower) "grade". From physics to history and different cultures in an afternoon. This doesn't mean a parent won't organise a trip to a historic place or museum, or come up with ideas, it's that some the child will take what they find interesting and follow that. It can be truly terrifying to give that level of trust to a child but it works well for some people.

 The Charlotte Mason Method

This British educator from the 1800-1900's method is about inspiring with great art and books. It has it's own curriculum but isn't forced on the child as it is presented as a buffet. It involves a lot of nature study, art and classical music.

Project based or Unit Studies

You take an idea (like Vikings) and everything is loosely based around that. There might be tablet weaving, or looking at why Viking boats were so good (by looking at the physics); the history, songs, foods (you can even eat those). You might write a poem like that of a Saga. You might look at their politics and the context of what was happening around the world at the time.

In some ways I do (and have done) all of these at different levels. When we first started I did school at home. Sat at a table and everything. We drifted more into units and projects which became more and more child-led. We would read very advanced (for her age) books and then discuss them and I took her to see art all over the country. We went on lots of nature walks and she studied the names (including the Latin) of the plants around us. We would watch documentaries and fall down interesting Youtube holes. We paint together. Make music together and the strangest thing can spark an interest.
We started learning an easy guitar song we randomly picked from Chordie. My daughter want to know more about the meaning of the song (The Cranberries Zombie) and she did a short burst of learning about the 1916 Irish Rising in Dublin.The whole thing lasted about 3 days but she learned to play the song well and has some context. She might dip back into it at some point, she might be done. We debate and question things we see together and have deep conversations about all kinds of things.
Sometimes I wobble and "make her do maths" because I suck at it and I worry about her not being able to do it. She is doing this well above my level (thank you Khan Academy). She has learned to "give it a go" and has tried all kinds of things from oysters to tae-kwan-do, to bush-craft, to cooking, to dog training, to painting, to Japanese, and blacksmithing, We have even looked at getting her an apprenticeship in blacksmithing.
When asked what she wants to be when she "grows up" she simply says "happy" which for some odd reason really confuses grown-ups!
She often spell checks and helps edit my work and writing, and has a manuscript or two of her own. I have no idea what she will do with her life, but I know she will an interesting and pleasant person to be around!

Home education is too important to be taken seriously.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Education Manifesto

Education Manifesto

I had been looking in my files for the original I had written and could not find it for the life of me. Then while fixing my visualisation wall today I found a copy of the print out!
A manifesto will change over time but I think they are a great tool to focus on what you believe as a family is important. They help clarify your ideas and your feelings. It feels an uplifting and defiant act somehow.
So here is our family's manifesto.

Our Manifesto

We believe in curiosity based, child-led learning. We believe in messy projects, inspired moments and self discovery. 
We believe in books that are too complicated, in visiting places, eating strange foods from different times in history and parts of the world. 
We believe we can make mistakes and learn from them (jelly sweets inside jelly sounds great but is gross).
We believe that happiness, being interested in the world and learning skills to live within it are more important than job titles or exams.
We believe we might not always be right, good, or perfect but we are better than school not in spite of this but because of it.
We believe our understanding and knowledge of the world changes faster than curriculum's allow for in a system written by people with political motivations not the desire for inspired learning.
We believe children are people who have the capacity to learn almost anything if they find it joyful and understand how they themselves learn.
We believe one-size schooling fits no-one.
We believe everyone needs and deserves an education; yet as it stands there is little consensus in the current model for what education is actually for. Schools have had to simplify to the point of pointlessness, or even to the point of being plain wrong; leading to years of teaching that are wasted and have to be corrected at a higher educational levels.
The responsibility has been placed on the teacher (test culture makes this much worse)  rather than the student.
ie "I have taught you this thing,this way, you must know it."
instead of
"I am learning this thing, please make it clearer."
Our goal as a family is happiness, healthiness and expansion of knowledge for all of us.
We believe there are few careers for life, but many passionate callings.
We believe the world is changing faster and faster and that creative thinking, flexibility and inspiration can not be taught, only allowed to grow.

Home education is far too important to take seriously

Monday, 25 July 2016

Recipe: Pork and Beans

Recipe: Pork and Beans

This is not a difficult recipe. It isn't expensive and is easily adaptable. I am primarily writing this down because my hubby are going away and my daughter is being kept an eye on by her Uncle for a few days. She asked for this recipe to cook while we are away.

Pork sausage chopped small (a little good sauage is better than lots of cheap wet sausage)
Beans 3 tins drained but not washed
Sicks of celery 2-3
Bell peppers (3 cups full or 4 peppers) chopped and de-seeded
Garlic cloves 4-6 (size dependant) minced/crushed
Onion chopped finely (or 2 shallots)
Tomato puree 1 heaped tablespoon
Stock cube 1 (I prefer chicken for this but you can use pork or vegetable)
Soy sauce 1-2 tablespoons
Vinegar (balsamic or beet vinegar) 1 tablespoon
Tony's Creole seasoning 1 tsp
Brittany's Cajun seasoning 2-3 tsp
Smoked Paprika 1 tablespoon.
A little water.

In a large pan on a medium heat cook your chopped sausage. You can use a mix but a firmer sausage will release it's oils (like Kabanos or Chorizo) when you have coloured the sausage and released some of the oils remove from pan and set aside.

Sweat your onion, bellpeppers and celery for 10 minutes (longer if using frozen peppers) until the onion starts to become pale and glassy. Then add the garlic (adding it too early can make it burn and taste bitter) and cook for a further 5 to 10 minutes.

Add Brittany's seasoning and stir well.

Add the Tony's and smoked paprika and add the beans. If one of the cans has a lot of bean "gunk" in it, add the tomato puree to that empty can and add a little water to it. Stir the can and add the bean and tomato stuff to the pot. This gunk is almost pure bean starch and will thicken the mix.

Stir the pot well and add the pork back into the mix. If it is a little dry add more water.

Add the stock cube, soy sauce and vinegar.

Turn the heat right down and cook on a low heat stirring occasionally. It should take at least an hour but better more like 2-3. If it is too wet leave the lid off, too dry add more water. Taste for seasoning and add some salt or pepper to taste.

Serve with crusty bread, cornbread, rice or extra bacon or left over pork (like chops).

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

What is Deschooling?

What is Deschooling?

Deschooling is the idea and process of taking school, and all it's rules, ideals and structures and letting it go. Even if the you are thinking of doing structured education, this time is vital to adjust, and release the stress and mentality of school.
It can take a few weeks, but equally it can take much longer, because it is not just the kids that need to adjust, but it is primarily the parents.
You would hardly expect someone who has been in a traumatic relationship to just leave it and be fine. More over you would find that if you recreated that sort of relationship soon after that the familiarity would make it something your child accepts, but it damages the parent-child bond and adds to, rather than heal the child from the trauma.

School as trauma.

Most Home Educating families who have been in the school system leave because of trauma, from bullying to the school trying to force a child into a different shape than they are. The mental, physical and emotional damage from school can be deep. Ask any adult who has been bullied.
Psychologically school is a building where education is given to them. Learning is something done to them, not something they do. Failure to understand or comply leads to punishment and how good you are at test often determines whether a teacher will even bother trying. Children are told time and time again what they can and can't do, what they are and are not good at, when they can pee, when they can eat, when they can speak. It makes for a adult v's child mentality.

Deschooling is the learning to be, without bells, and standing in lines, or sitting in rows. It is about the child finding out who they are under the uniform, under who they have been told they are.
What if they are not "thick" or "lazy"? What if they are not a "freak"? What if they are not "difficult"? What if they just needed the opportunity to learn to do something themselves (the only way something truly sticks)?
Deschooling is about the parent letting go (some of us need waaay more time at this than others). It is about the parent learning that education looks very different than school. That all that six hours a day from 9 until 3 is about schooling, not education. It doesn't just happen while sat at a table writing, or you standing over them telling them to "do it like this". That they are far more likely to copy you than you realise. If you want manners, be polite. If you want them to read, read and have books around. You want them curious and keen? Be curious.

But how long?

Well that depends on many factors. Some say a week for every year in school, some say a month. In reality healing and letting go of school will in the long run fix more problems, and in fact most Home Educating families who have issues about getting their kids to "knuckle down" or has kids "refusing the work" will be asked "did you deschool?"
Taking a week off, or a holiday simply isn't enough time for the parent to really let go or for the child to heal.

I can see I made the mistake myself. I didn't deschool at all. I pushed hard and had 6 hours a day at home sat at a table, when I started. (Yes I am an idiot.)
It was only when I got too sick I had to let go. A process that took about 2 years. It fundamentally healed my relationship with my daughter, and allowed her to learn things about herself and the world I never imagined. When we take a break from the idea that learning and school are the same and are very different, that education happens everywhere, all the time we can feel better that we are doing "enough". That play is powerful, important and necessary for healthy children then you are ready to begin. Children heal quickly it is only when we give them the space and time to do so, we can also heal ourselves.

Home education is far too important to take seriously.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Oranges growing on apple trees

Oranges growing on apple trees

Growing kids who are different

Even the best of us sometimes slip into the ideas of what our children "should" be. Yet the greatest gift a parent can give is let the child be what they are. Whether they are a scientist, or a poet, a dancer perhaps or a builder.
Maybe they don't know what they are yet. That's fine too.
Sometimes we resist how the child is because we know that different is hard and difficult. We want to make our orange an apple, or an apple an orange.
We want our children to be better than us and in so doing we make a gap between what is and what we want and it creates a distance. A divide. It terrifies me how often I see parents plan their children's whole lives, even after University.
These are the subjects you will study. These are the qualifications you will have. This is where you will go to University. This is the career you will have.

It normally goes one of two ways either the child is constant disappointment, totally unable to achieve the level or skill they want them to have, feeling they are less and less worthy. The second is that they constantly achieve yet never feel truly happy where they are. There is a distance, a shadow in the self, the person they are covered in the person they have to be in order to be "right" and "good".
The child loses all right to be themselves. All right to express their needs and desires. It erases them from their own life, making them apathetic (why they couldn't possibly get it right on their own) or angry (everything is pointless).
It is a version of the "stage-mom". The one who primps and pimps, one who pushes and pushes.

The more I explore my Home Education journey the more I feel it is an exercise in lovingly letting go. Hug, cuddle, cwtch, talk, laugh but let go of the out come. Trust the process. Any time I try and "make" something work, or push too hard it gets all snagged up.
The best moments come when I relax and just be. Be there, listen, don't take over and don't give up.

If it isn't fun, don't do it.

Or if it isn't fun, make it. It is easy to get bogged down with the "stuff" of life and not appreciate how wonderful it all is. It is important that you as an adult do things that you enjoy and that make you happy. You can do it alone or with your children. All that matters is that you do. Having fun and enjoying your life is important. That doesn't mean you don't have to scrub the loo's, it mean you might sing or promise yourself some "you time" afterwards. Allow yourself your failures and your bad days, and let it go.

Allow yourself that child-like wonder and let your kids grow.

Home education is far too important to be taken seriously.

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Feminism at Fault?

The Betrayal of Boys?

The article (follow the link in the title) suggests it is "feminism's fault" boys are failing at school because girls are doing better than them. In modern times it seems everyone and their dog is to blame for the school system failing, except, of course, the system.

I think it is a complicated mixture of issues as to why it looks like boys do far worse from the current system than girls often do.

Firstly play. Play in school (especially in British schools) is at a record low with children as young as four being expected to be able to "sit down and do as they are told". Wild play, dirty play, messy play is often seen as "male" and is not usually acceptable. Feminine or "girl play" is far for acceptable in the school environment. When you think that some of these four year olds can be at pre-school clubs and then after-school clubs (all still run with school rules) for their whole day, they simply do not get the time to embrace the wilder play at all.

Girls are also expected to behave "better" than boys from a much younger age. They are used to have to obey and do as they are told. The cultural expectation often means boys get a rude awakening at school and have difficulty adjusting. This is also the age that schools begin to label children as being "difficult" "unruly" or having "issues". Most of these come back to their very young age and play deprivation. 
If a boy does have special needs he is likely to behave differently than a girl with the same condition. If they are ignored, bored or frustrated the way they emotionally react will be different. Girls will cry and boys robbed of this outlet often lash out at a system that has no air for them. Dyslexia test are still not standard in most schools even though we have know they could be (and are at higher education like colleges). Children get labelled (very young) as "thick" or "difficult" and by the time they reach high school at the age of 11 they believe it. At 14 they are in the bottom sets for everything and no-one even bothers to teach them what will be in the exam. School becomes pointless and they know it. Girls are also cast aside but opportunities and expectations are different for "difficult" girls. They tend to assume caring roles either in their families or in the work place.

When the big tests are G.C.S.E's at 14-16 this means most girls have gone through their big hormone spike of puberty and have mostly come out the other side by the time exams and such come around. We are now asking boys going through a huge testosterone spikes to "sit still and be good" and they are chemically not designed to do so.

The current school system was designed (bells and all) to train clerks and factory workers to "obey the bells". The system isn't "failing" it is doing exactly what it was designed to do. It has always failed working class and special need boys. My step-brother couldn't read (20 years my senior) but as a farmer's son no-one cared.
It was designed to make a work-force, a labour force, except in the UK the industries that were designed to soak up and make use of these young men no longer exist.
There is no mining industry, no steel, no factories, no farming. Even the military is firing not hiring. The jobs school was designed to fill no longer need them. 

It is society, the system it's self, not feminism at fault.
Women are not "stealing" their jobs. Under qualified women (and qualified) join different industries. From cleaning, caring, hospitality and beauty, women go on to work and have families, but the men often don't.

We know that how we educate isn't working. We know and have known the environments that produce happy healthy and successful people and yet we still continue to do the opposite. It is difficult to believe this is accidental. It is difficult to believe that Governments and right-wing papers blame immigrants, teachers and even women when the blame squarely lies with the system it's self; yet those who have been told they are "thick" long enough will swallow anything that absolves them of the guilt and shame they feel about being "stupid".