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.