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". 

Thursday, 26 May 2016

What is "enough"?

Enough: Holding Space for Childhood

What is "enough"?

I read a lot of posts and pleas from mother's in Home Ed group and they all come back to this idea. The Wobbles it's commonly called in HE circles. Yet under the bad days, the nasty comments from folks, underneath all the outer stuff is that somewhere along the line you were told (often repeatedly) they are too stupid, too unqualified, too emotional, too sick, too selfish, too religious, not religious enough, too rich, too poor, too much, and not enough.
It is the interest of the mainstream industries from the media to the corporate who fund them what you think that you need the "right" shoes, hair products, diet shakes and anti-depressants to be enough.
Home educating varies wildly with some doing set timetables and schooling at home to wild parenting without any rules at all. Most of us struggle somewhere in the middle, at least some of the time.
So how much "educating" is enough where is that line, that sticker next to your name to make you feel like a "good Mum"?

Holding Space

For me it is "enough" if I have held the space and attention of my daughter. Somewhere in the day we have been talking, maybe doing one thing and talking about something else (like cooking or gardening) where something happens. It is play, in one sense (but not how we normally view it). An intellectual play. A question, a theory or funny idea. A sort of mental hopscotch, where were we start and where we end up are very different. It is not the "usual" sort of thinking, it is a different head space, like "pre-play" but not quite daydreaming. In this space I am not worried about if I am enough. In this I feel I am holding open the sacred space. It has infinite learning.  It has little to no boundaries. It needs no resources but imagination.
It is full of questions.
"What if the..."
"How do they..."
"Wouldn't it be cool if..."
Once within this space and allowed to grow it manifests in the "normal" learning. It can be the beginning of a project, a stint or research or an art or science project, or play in a more traditional sense.


So this fabled "enough" is a myth that distracts us from really "being" with our kids. It is a forced anxiety that robs us of our curiosity and wonder. It makes us dread and nit-pick, or take over completely, or fuss over things that are important at all.

At the end of the day if your child turns 18 or 21 and is healthy, happy and whole they are still better off than if they had the best qualifications in the world. If they want them as adults (and don't get them as kids) they can get them. What they won't have are horrific scars, nightmares or mountains of doubt. We forget that happy, healthy, whole is not "normal" and that self-harm, eating disorders and sexualization (as well as assault, bullying, and hate crimes) are so rampant in schools it has become "normal". So normal suicide is the biggest killer in people under 35 in the UK. in 2014 alone. 597 took their own lives were aged between 10 and 24.

Enough is a happy healthy kid who loves life (mostly). Is curious and playful. 
I am doing enough. So are you.

Now if you will excuse me I have to finish a pillow fort.

Home education is far too important to be taken seriously.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Sausage and Onion bake

Sausage and Onion Bake


4 onions
7 worst sausages
Stuffing (one pack)
3 cups mashed potato
25 grams (ish) salted Welsh butter
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
2 heaped and 1 level tbs of plain flour.
1-2 tbs Worcestershire sauce
1-2 tbs Dark Soy sauce.
1 Pork Stock cube
1 pint (ish) of cold water.

The first thing was something my hubby did not me. He peeling, chopped and put on to boil about five pounds of potatoes, most of which is now sat in the fridge for left-overs (like colcanon, champ, or potato cakes, or scones.)

Next he sliced me 4 onions. Which I popped into the pan on a medium/low heat with the melted butter and oil.You can substitute all kids of fats or oils but you do need a mix of a liquid ad a solid fat. You also need it to make the gravy proper.

After making sure the onions and coated in oil and butter, let them soften slowly. It will take a while. Put on some music and the kettle. In a bit it will look like this.

Now don't be tempted to rush it. These are a good starting place but they are not done yet!
Have a cup of tea.

The onions have now softened enough to be a third of the size they were to start with. They might just be starting to colour.

Heaped plain flour.

Goes straight into the hot pan. How this is the vigorous bit. You need to beat the hell out of it. Stir it a lot. It will mix with the oniony oil and butter and coat the onions and begin to clump up.
This is good! Now quickly add a good dash of

Again after each sauce beat the Beelzebub out of it. This is always the point when it looks like you have made a horrible mistake and will need to eat take-out crying, but stick with it!

Adding a little (half a cup) at a time from a jug add the cold water and stir like crazy. Break up the lumps and keep stirring. Then suddenly!

Keep stirring and crumble in a stock cube.
Now make your stuffing and mash your potatoes.

You can let the gravy thicken slowly stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn't catch or get lumpy. When at your preferred luscious thickness, set aside.
Now the sausage.

I do like sausage from the butchers, but this are already cooked through (saving time) and have a wonderful herby flavour to go with the stuffing. Cook in batches in a skillet and add to you dish for the bake.

Now it begins! Cover the sausages with your amazing gravy. We have been known to just eat this gravy over mountains of mash!

Then add in rough blobs the stuffing and the mash.

Don't smooth it down. Let there be crispy knobbly bits!
Bake in a moderate oven (180isg C) for about 20 minutes.


Saturday, 21 May 2016

Dealing with Conflict

Conflict: resolving by evolving.

Now I feel it is fair to disclose I am a red-head. I am full on Irish/Welsh ginger and I grew up around people who yelled  and screamed and threw things.
My wonderful family are not good at conflict. (Hubby's family was sulking, brooding and mean comments).
We still have conflict (because it happens). However I had an attitude shift a few years ago and now I am the peace-maker...I know right?!
So how did I do it/do I do it?

 Apologise (yes even to a child) when I mess up.

Kids do what you do. If you were tired/grumpy/angry at someone else or uncaffinated  you might react differently or not your best self. We mess up. We are people and showing your child how to gracefully, wholeheartedly apologise is important for both of you.

Did you really have a bad day or a bad five minutes you nursed all day?

My family sucks at mornings. Like really sucks and if there is going to be words it happens before 10am. Now this used to "ruin" my day. I like to set up my day with calm and light and peace. My daughter is terrible at mornings. She is just so groggy and falls back asleep very easily. This conflict while my eyes are still adjusting made me feel justified in my "grump" for the rest of the day.
It's just a thing. She doesn't do it deliberately. It is not malicious. It is out of her control. What is in my control is how I react to that. It is something she struggles with and I try my best to approach it kindly, gently and with love. That the first thing she sees or hears from me is something good. If there is conflict that makes me feel out of balance I take the time to find my centre. It was a bad five minutes, not a ruined day.


My mother was a therapist/counsellor and I learned about transactional analysis (TA) when I was about 16. It is a big and complicated idea but the general gist is about how you speak to people will tend to determine how they respond. Or how you respond will change the dynamic of the power in the conversation. There are times as a parent you need to impose your power on a child to make sure they are safe and within the boundaries of expected behaviour. Equally there are times when the child demands need to come before your own. Then there is balance. Speaking to your child as a person, an equal, someone you like and respect. 
When you see conflict it is usually because both parties want to be "in power". The child wants or needs something the parent isn't giving. The parent wants or needs something the child isn't giving. This leads to a fierce battles of wills. It escalates and builds until it explodes.
This is when stepping back or down from the power and treating the child as an adult/equal really helps. You step back into a conversation, rather than a fight. It also encourages the child to calm down too because they are not competing any more. 
When a child wants "things" from chocolate to toys, what they really want is most often your undivided attention. If you calmly give that and talk about it, the thing is always secondary.
Sometimes the child needs to test the boundaries and find out who has the power and that you as a parent are still "the boss". This is normal behaviour as difficult as it can sometimes be. Being comfortable when you have the power, when it is equal and when you don't makes conflict happen much less often and much easier to resolve.

Change direction.

If you are banging your head into a brick wall, stop.
A change is as good as a rest. If nagging, fighting, talking and tears haven't worked, odds are pushing harder isn't going to fix it. I think I suck at maths (I am however amazing with money) so no amount of working at it is going to fix it for me because I am dyscalculic (dyslexic with numbers). I can do basic maths and I understand many of the mathematics concepts I just can't DO them. My daughter is way ahead of me in maths.If I had spent all my time just on maths I would have believed I was the thickest person who lived. Instead I was able to focus on music, dance, painting, singing. I learned a lot about maths from music, weird as that sounds because of the rhythm and tempos. I could feel it in my body.
When we stop pushing so hard in the wrong direction a better direction happens. If it is a struggle change direction. Let it go, if only for a while. I have watch friends who haven't really "deschooledd" fight with their kid all day long. They don't see that in a very real way the child has PTSD. That pushing and pushing for the kid to be x then they are y just damages the kid even more.
Yes sometimes we have to shove them from the nest so they can fly. Yes sometimes we have to show them risk is important, or doing things we might find uncomfortable. Or that hard work has a pay off.
It is the adaptable who survive. Not the strongest, or the smartest, but those who can accept change. 
If the situation isn't changing, change your perspective, try something else.


In ten years time would this fight seem important? How about five years? A year from now? This is it. This is your life and your kid/s childhood. This is what they will remember (in their bones if not their minds) when they wonder if they should call you as an adult. What happens now, today in all the petty conflict, would it matter if they were sick, or dying? Or if you were sick?
As a parent you can't always be a "nice" person (comes with the job) but this childhood is fleeting. It is such a short dream. Do you really want to spend it yelling and fussing? We remember all the bad things said to us and remember only a few of the good things. How many words will be remembered? How much time are you going to invest in conflict, and how much in joy and happiness?
You choose.

Have a laugh

This is the reason I am still married and have not murdered my husband (15 years). Maybe I am sat with candles and incense listening to peaceful music in meditation position and he just comes and starts talking at me (clearly I am doing "nothing") and I get mad enough at him to rip his dumb face off. Then he says something, sometimes even in a silly voice and I am laughing instead of yelling. All that rage gone! Poof! 
If I am struggling I might watch some comedy on Youtube or something. Something to make me laugh. Doing fun and silly stuff is important for adults. A sense of humor can lift you from the depths of self pity and despair. 

Home education is too important to take too seriously.

Friday, 20 May 2016

What I love about Home Educating

What I love about HE

There are a great many things about home education that are simply awesome. Some were expected, somewhere a surprise to me.

No school run!
I don't have to drag my screaming crying child to school in
the cold, wet or dark for five days a week! In fact lie in's and our timing of
the day are all set later than most people's. The earliest I even try and wake
folks up around here is about 8 am. Because the school run is “normal” I don’t think I ever thought of it in it’s self as stressful, yet it is. The grind in cold wet weather before it is properly light and then spending all day inside to come home in the dark seems totally alien to me now. It is so unnatural and odd when you think about it! If we treated animals that way we would be charged with animal cruelty! Our uniforms can be wellies or PJ's or fairy costumes too!

A school everything was rushed. Now, now, now. More, more,
more. There was always a pressure not only to do it, then do it better but
faster too. This literally kills creativity. This is happening form the tender
age of 4. Even though we get up later we have so much more time. If she
"doesn't get it" today, there is always tomorrow, or this evening or (shock horror) the weekend. 

If she does she can take that thread and run with it for as long as it inspires her. She can learn her way, at the depth and pace that suit her on a daily basis. Cold? Reading in bed. Period cramps? Drawing or music practice, or even a long hot bath. She doesn't have to wait for 30 other people to catch up, or feel stupid have that moment of realisation at everyone’s pace. Some days are intense and other just aren't.

I learn so much!
I had no idea when I started this I would learn as much if
not more than my daughter. As much of what she does now is independent of me when we sit down to lunch and she starts telling me things about bumble bees that I had no idea about, or mushrooms, or Japanese grammar! She also learns how she does maths, or how she learns a language. She asks great questions and we research and figure it out together. It makes me more curious and I see the world anew all the time. We just talk about things. Discuss things and ideas from slug-sex to time travel. (We started making videos but haven’t done one in a while).

Family Time
It is actually fun and enjoyable to hangout as much as we do and still love it. I enjoy my daughter's company. I have this smart funny young woman in my home I LIKE spending time with! From board games to cooking and eating together, to making artwork or music together it's great fun! We have our moments (she is still a teenager) but it is rare we fall out and if we do, not for long. Even if we are just jamming together we have this bond, a friendship based on respect and common interests. 

Duvet days and holiday's!
Everything is an education but everyday can be a holiday. If we have cold's or feel rough we can sit and marathon old Jackie Chan movies snuggled under blankets with the dog. We can do on day trips, or road trips, or to visit friends all over the country! From Scotland to Hastings we have been all over staying with friends and because we like museums and galleries we have seen all kinds of amazing things. 

My daughter is aware how much work is required to keep a house clean and tidy. How shopping works. How the washing machine and dryer work. She understands we are a team as a family. That you clean up your own mess. She can cook and clean up after herself better than some 35 year old men I have known. (This is not because she is a girl, if I had a son he would have an even stricter schooling in how to run a home/look after yourself). Mess doesn’t magically vanish when she sleeps. She still needs a prod for some things but from laundry to the dishes she doesn’t complain because she knows if she wants it doing, someone has to do it.


On a piece of paper in her room my daughter has three things.
Change the world.
Learn about money

Be healthy, happy and whole.

A woman we see weekly asked her what she wants to be when she “grows up” the other day.

The woman was mystified, staring at her blankly.
“Why do I have to decide now? I’m only 14.” She countered. The woman had no answer and looked away. The fact that “happy” wasn’t enough of an answer is a saddening commentary on the world perhaps.

These are her current goals! My "job" is to help her achieve that, from suggesting who to write emails to (she believes mushrooms will change the world and quite a few people agree) to stepping in when she is looking peeky or under the weather, to the occasional prodding to get moving some days.

Intern ships and Jobs

From our butcher to a guy who builds computers to a
professional artist we are lucky they have been blessed by people who are
willing to help her learn real skills in the real world. When she makes
something and it sells on Etsy, she gets the money! I can't think of better
real world experience than that.

While social she is smarter than most kids her age and she
found it hard to build lasting friendships with people who just didn't
"get" her. I started a Home Ed roleplayer group and from gaming she
has teenage friends. Mostly older than her, of both genders. She also hopes to run a teen book club soon too. My daughter is an amazing smart and talented teenager, who is a kind and funny human being. I am so glad I didn't keep forcing her into a system that didn't give a crap about her. So privileged to spent this time with her, so should she be off saving the world I know she can and that she won't dread me calling her.

Home education is too important to take seriously.

A woman we see weekly asked her what she wants to be when she “grows up” the other day.
The woman was mystified, staring at her blankly.
“Why do I have to decide now? I’m only 14.” She countered. The woman had no answer and looked away. The fact that “happy” wasn’t enough of an answer is a saddening commentary on the world perhaps.
These are her current goals! My "job" is to help her achieve that, from suggesting who to write emails to (she believes mushrooms will change the world and quite a few people agree) to stepping in when she is looking peeky or under the weather, to the occasional prodding to get moving some days.

Home education is too important to take seriously.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

The Wobbles

The Wobbles

A case of the Home Ed wobbles can come from many things. Someone screaming, or worse quietly telling you that you are wrong/rubbish/dumb/breaking the law. A bad day or a bad week with your kids. Being sick yourself and just feeling overwhelmed. A partner who isn't pulling their weight.
Or just sometime a paralysing moment of "I'm just not enough".

Being told you are a bad parent (in however they word it) is going to be offensive and upsetting. You are allowed to be upset. You do not have to "fake" smiley happy Mum/Dad all the time.
Remember that most criticisms is not about you at all.

That everyone is allowed to have bad days, even you. 

Even your kids.

If you are trying to "do" too much cut back or make time for quieter less intense learning.

If people who are supposed to help are not, call a family meeting or have a heartfelt but calm chat with them.

Make time for yourself and make sure you take it guilt free.

Meditate everyday if you can (or pray) and allow yourself that connection to that peace (even if it is in the bathroom).

Remember to laugh. Have fun with home education as often as you can.

If you are new at it, it is going to be tough because you've never done this before! (I have some tips here) and even veterans have bad days. Confidence and a sense of humor are the way forward.

Home education is far too important to be taken seriously.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Around the Kitchen Table

Around the Kitchen Table.

Home education happens everywhere. In markets and museums and in woods and near rivers. It happens when you work at it and it happens when you don't.

In our house (a tiny early 20th century terrace) we don't have the luxury of a play room, a den or a "school" room (though I am not sure we would use it as that if we did. A workshop/craft room perhaps?
No in our house it is the kitchen where science experiments, and project builds (crowns and boats), write, discuss, paint, sculpt and a hundreds of other things happen. (We even eat at it at least twice a day.)
We have made "human" cells out of jelly and sweets (sounds awesome but it tasted gross). Tried making Viking and Anglo-Saxon foods.Washed, chopped and eaten food we grew ourselves. Discussed history, geography, chemistry, botany, world events, life, death, slug-sex, and played many games. 

Made our own seasonal decorations. Sushi. Bread from scratch. Chinese dumplings. In fact from Day of the Dead to  St Davids day after we finish exploring the the world it is to the kitchen we all settle.
Even my daughter's height is marked on the door frame between the kitchen and the living room.
It's were we have most of our family meetings and where we catch up on what we have been doing separately.
Sometimes we eat fancy stuff, but mostly we just make it to please ourselves.
Letting things cool enough to eat them is still a work in progress. Still it is my favourite spot. It could be cleaner and flashier and all sorts of other things. Yet I love our kitchen, especially around our table.

Home education is far too important to be taken seriously.

Where to start.

Home Education: Where to start.

Beginnings are a very delicate time, or so they say. However you want to home educate from the Charlotte Mason Method to Montessori or whatever you call your eclectic home ed mater piece, some things certainly helped us.

We have been at it some ten years now. I feel something of a veteran in some ways. Yet I don’t know many other HE families, especially in my area as when my daughter was little we were quite clueless. This meant we had to find our own way rather trying to replicate someone else's. Here are some things that really helped us.


Having a short list of goals that are totally personal for each person in the home really helps. One of my daughter’s goals is “Change the world”. One of mine is to help her get closer to those goals. Also to remember to drink more water. Big goals and small, written or printed where you can see them everyday. It is inspiring and helps if you wander down a project rabbit hole to focus back to what is important. It is important that kids set their own goals and feel invested in their education. If it seems silly, or pointless to you, let them have their goal. Let them dream too big and too small, you will be the happier for it.



As a family (and as a team) come together and write out your education manifesto. It will change over time and that is normal and healthy too. Declare in ink what “We believe in…” and keep it in the positive. Writing out that things that are most important to you and your family is a unifying and can be a joyous experience. It is life affirming to have a set of ideals to aspire to. If you don’t make it every day (and you won’t) know that having it at all allows for a clearer idea of what you want to achieve. When I am sent silly boxes and forms to fill in I send out manifesto to them instead. (I hate little box forms).

Family Meetings

You are on Team Awesome (or whatever your school/family name is. (We are Team Awesome). We understand that we all have different strengths and weaknesses but we have to work together. If someone cooks, they don’t have to do dishes, if you didn't cook, odds are you do! Family meetings allow a calm platform in which everyone can speak freely. It is a great educational tool in and of it’s self, allowing all voices to be heard, helps nip problems in bud, and give flexibility.

Make what you don’t have.

Whenever there is something we want but don’t have (things like a D&D group and book club) rather than lament what wasn't there we made our own. It is hard work and it doesn't always work out but that too is educational. If you want something you might have to be inventive, creative and braver than you usually are.

Universal or House rules

Having a set of rules, created by everyone that everyone adheres to (parents too). Even if you aren't big on rules being able to set boundaries everyone follows is empowering and children to copy. Children mimic what you do, not what you say. So allow yourself to learn, to play and have fun, as well as set boundaries for what is positive and team behaviour. It also breaks from the adult vs child mentality that happens in mainstream schooling.

All of these come from a team focused, family lead mentality allowing us all a voice and opportunities for us to grow. Home education is not about a child or children learning what you think they should learn. It is not you as supreme know-it-all squeezing knowledge into your child. Everyone learns and keeps learning. All the time. My daughter teaches me just as often as I teach her and from trying and exploring together we all keep growing. Children do as you do. If you are curious, and excited by the world, they will copy, and you can't "fake" it because they will know. If you want to teach a child to read, read, alone, with them to them. They will want to read. If you want your kids to engage with something, you have to engage too.

Home education is too important to be taken seriously.

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivation

Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivation

Do you wonder where your "get up and go" got up and went? Well there are two kinds of motivation, extrinsic and intrinsic.

Extrinsic Motivation

This is where any action is based on an external reward or punishment. From cleaning your room to doing a sport to win an award, this external view point is based around pain and pleasure; punishment is based on pain and shame, and pleasure is based on praise or a reward.
The world of laws and religion is very good at this kind of motivation. Schools and even other education providers can use this heavily.

Intrinsic Motivation

This is personally motivated act. It often comes from a place of curiosity, joy or fascination. It is a deeper level of pleasure than a prize or gift. It is the satisfaction of the act it's self. From love of playing a game, or solving a puzzle or the enjoyment of finding out something new.

While both kinds of motivation have a place, intrinsic motivation is often sidelined, repressed or damaged by extrinsic motivation. This is a problem as it is the current model of motivation in most cultures.

When we look at how most people numb difficult or painful feeling (like pain and shame) it would explain why that might remove or damage the intrinsic motivation. Yet it would be surprising that praise and bribery has the same effect.


When we understand motivation it explains the de-schooling process. It is one of shedding the extrinsic and discovering our intrinsic motivation. It is dealing the feelings attached to that motivation (shame, guilt, blame) as well the trauma of being in school. The captivity of our children can be really damaging.

Authentic Self

This maybe why some people seem to have no motivation. (Although some near the autistic end of the spectrum struggle with this). It is that your innate authentic curiosity and joy in the world has been threatened, shamed and punished out of you.
Reclaiming the authentic self and cultivating personal joy and pleasure is a rebellious act but a necessary one.
How can we cultivate the authentic self if we have no idea what makes us happy? What our passions are? 

When is come to how I live my life it is the authentic self, this passion for life, the intrinsic I seek to reclaim in myself and others and to preserve in my daughter. She commented recently that she "doesn't need to reclaim her wild, because I never allow the world to crush it in the first place".

More callings and less jobs. More dancing however "bad". More art and music. We have a responsibility to ourselves be cultivate happiness. In so doing we silently give permission for others to do the same. This idea that we need extrinsic boundaries and rules to be good people is based on the idea that if we could do anything we would do terrible things. I would argue that people who are going to do terrible things will do so, regardless of the rules. That the bureaucracy of being a human in this modern age has to change.

This has an impact from school and work places, from community groups and spiritual collectives. Especially when we internalise these extrinsic models of punishment and praise. It robs of something beautiful (and I would argue sacred) out the self.
It is the "should". I know I "should" do X because I would be punished or not praised if I don't. It is the parents "should's" consciously or unconsciously handed down. Yes sometimes it is a useful crutch in doing things that are needed but used too often it robs us of all motivation even the extrinsic one.

Home education is far too important to be taken seriously!

Thursday, 12 May 2016

What critics mean

What Critics really mean.

It’s really easy to feel overwhelmed with “helpful” friends’, family, strangers and busy-bodies raining on your Home Education party. In my experience there are two kinds of critics. Those who are afraid for you, and those who afraid of you. Some of it is cognitive dissonance. School for many is not just a way of life but a process that was fundamentally so important to them (how it is important doesn't matter) that they can’t imagine anything else. If you know teachers (as I do) I have seen some people never leave a school environment. It is literally all they know. It skews their world view so strongly they can not, and are terrified of looking outside of it. In an uncertain world there is a comfort to the predictability (even if it is predictably awful). I have seen teachers so physically and emotionally broken they end up in hospital, but “have to be there when the bell rings”.

What about the real world?”
 If the “afraid for you and your kids” critic believes they need to “save” you from being over protecting (being bullied gives you character) or from “being weird”. This normally comes from having seen first hand how people who are different are socially punished, especially in school.They believe that being made to conform to what they think of as “normal” is necessary.
So do the other kind. The “afraid of” critics. Bucking a social norm as a teen is seen as “normal” as a parent it makes you weird, difficult or a bad parent. The idea that you don’t have to follow the rules is just so “out there” for them it can make them foam at the mouth in outrage or stare at you blankly as they get an Error 404 signal in their brain. It is important to understand that most criticism comes from fear. Being different is a virtue not a failing. That examining the world from a different perspective is a gift. The people who changed the world the most are people who were different.  Yes your children will be different and have different experiences. That is one of the benefits of home education not one of it’s failings.

And lo, the cry went out: what about socialization?!
The “afraid for” bunch are either overly romanticising their own childhood or fear that if a child is not forced to sit staring at a teacher unable to talk for hours at a time your kid won’t have friends. This isn't Mallory Towers. Or Hogwarts. Or Grange Hill. Also the idea that being home educated mean you never leave the house or speak to another human soul is frankly ridiculous. Much like prison, in school the friendships you make (and enemies) can be very intense at the time. However once that forced association is ended, the relationships often fade quickly. The “afraid of” bunch just do not believe that anyone could learn about how to deal with people in a non-school context. There is a seditious idea that without school the child will be “broken” somehow. If the child is allowed to express themselves, their gender identity, sexuality, personality and tastes freely we are tearing down society. Or worse trying to turn our children into what we want to make them. “Maybe they’d____ if they were at school”. Forced association is not that same as socialization. Say it with me! Home educated kids meet people of all ages, and backgrounds all the time. From clubs and groups to hanging out at the comic book shop or park. The friendships they make are just as valid and important as those of children at school. They are often based on similar hobbies and outlooks rather than being shut in a room for three hours at a time needing permission to pee.

“How could you spend all that time with your kids, you’ll be overwhelmed?”
Being overwhelmed by your kids can happen. However in you only spend time with your kids after they have been shut up in a stuffy box being talked at all day, they are not going to be the same as they are de-schooled. The “afraid for” tend to feel overwhelmed and frustrated and transfer their relationship or what they imagine it would be like onto your family. They don’t know that ending the school run and the rush to “cram” everything in being gone allows for a peace rarely known. The “afraid of” tend to think that you won’t be able to cope. In fact only trained professional, like teachers can cope with children all day every day. The thing is between groups and the slower pace it is much less overwhelming than having a miserable child at school.

Structure and Tests.
Although not many parents would say it there is an idea that if there isn't a school (or a school like structure) then there would be no structure and life for a home educating family is day-time television and lazily lounging around. No I won’t lie there are plenty of home educating parents and kids who don’t get out of the jammies if they don’t have to (why would you) but that doesn't mean we are lazy. It speaks to what they imagine or fear they would do if they could rather than anything to do with your life. Some home education is very structured and even if the education isn't they might still have set days out or groups as well as a set house routine. It may look unstructured from the outside but things like the times libraries close or events happening don’t wait for home educators. We too have weekly calendars and we have to be able to juggle quite well too.
A written test only really shows what a person knows on that day, at that time, under that stress. That is all a test shows. It doesn't take into account the person or the individual. It doesn't show the sum of their knowledge. It is a snap shot, not a film. Test culture and the corporatization of education went hand in hand. Tests and marking of them is big business. In fact the test business has more in common with Big Agro than nurturing the next generation. It is part of a business model that takes the human out of the equation. Yet that fear. The fear of failing a test will ruin your life is so pervasive in our society some people and even home educators can't see past it.
While certain fields require you do an examine or meet a certain standard a lot of university will allow to apply without any GCSE's or A-levels. In fact they care more about if you can pay your tuition fees than if you have any formal qualifications.
That fear that without that piece of paper (and all that by default comes with it) your future will be nothing, is a hard one to shake.

By coming away from that fear and looking at your child excels in, what sets their passions aflame and encouraging them you give them something far more than if they passed a test at school. It makes your child stand out and gives your child space and time to explore and think. When faced with 40 or 100 people applying for a job someone who is talented, driven, adaptable and self motivated stands out. You can always pick them up as an adult later should you find you need them for something.

Home education is far too important to take seriously!

Tuesday, 10 May 2016


Well Hi there!
So I'm Lucy. I'm 37 and I am a home educator. I have a degree in Creative Arts and write, sing, make music, paint and all that jazz. I am a qualified aromatherapist with a love of holistic therapies. I am married to a lovely man called K. I have a teenage daughter call M. We love to eat and cook, play games (of all kinds) and health permitting go camping. We fall happily into the weird hippy alt section.

Our home education journey started out of desperation. I look back at that time in horror and wonder. Horror at how bad it was (but seemed “normal”) and wonder at how helpless I thought I was. Not being Christian I fought really hard for my daughter to get into a non-faith school in my area. It had a brand new building at the time and I was pleased as punch at my parenting. There she stood in her first Doctor Martins and uniform and I was proud as punch.
The problems were instant. Everyday there was a new bruise, a new issue and within a week I was dragging her up the hill us both crying our eyes out. No-one, especially the teachers would do anything but stare at me blankly. Their phrase was the same over and over. “There is no problem we are aware of.”
I told them “Well I am making you aware.”
My mum was a teacher. I “speak” teacher well. They just didn't care. I was labelled “difficult”. It was impossible to see the headteacher and her husband oversaw the LE. She was running three schools at the time.
It was horrific . I was made out to be neurotic or an idiot. After she came home with a graze on half her face I went to LE. They told me they knew there were issues but because of her age all of the classes in the schools in our area were full. There was “nothing to be done”. I came home and I researched home education and while things improved slightly (her bully was a boy called Benji) I knew it would get worse once she left the new teacher’s class (he did one year and left).
My husband and I began to research and research. The last day of school was amazing. It was a victory, not only for me, but for all the other “difficult” mums.

At first we did school at home. (Mum was a teacher, remember). The LE guy was amazing, kind and supportive (he retired and we got someone not so helpful…) In one year academically my daughter did three school years worth of work. We sat at the kitchen table and did stuff in projects and did crafts and cooking and experiments. However I stood over her, supporting and chiding if she was being slow.

I remember fainting in a martial arts class. Now I am not a fainter. Well I wasn't. My doctor told me it was stress and I rolled my eyes. I knew there was more to it that and then I started struggling to get out of bed. Then I kept getting sick all the time. Every old, every bug. Then I couldn't get out of bed. I collapsed quite a few times. School took a back seat to hospital test and hospital stays.
This lasted on and off for years and I felt horrible. I was the worst parent and home educator ever. What was happening was de-schooling, late but it happened and something amazing happened. My daughter was learning. I mean all kinds of things from all kinds of places. Japanese. English. Biology. Mycology. Maths. History. Once I lost the ability to “force learning” education proper began. After a big mental shift that changed our lives I began to see and allowed my daughter to take the lead, to ask her what she needed from me.  It was nothing short of magic.

We still do trips and now I run a home ed D&D group out of a local comic book shop. We even made some videos.
A lot of our learning is based in the kitchen, from history to geography, even some of our maths (thank you Khan Academy) as well reading (M will just sit and read old cooks books).

So this blog will be about our HE (home education) journey but it will also have lots of food in it.

 I will answer questions I see often on boards and so on because I prefer to blog rather than post huge long comments on facebook and such places.

Remember home education is too important to be taken seriously!