Sunday, 23 April 2017

Home Ed kids are different

Home Ed kids are Different

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

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

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

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

Home education is far too important to be taken seriously.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Special Needs

Special Needs

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

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

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

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

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

Home education is far too important to take seriously.