Monthly Archives: September 2010

Home Education “I wish I could do that.”

Back in the dark days of starting out home educating my children the main reaction I got was “Are you a teacher?” and “You wont be able to teach them science,” and of course the good old canard “They wont be socialised.”

I think things have changed over the last 6 years or so. When I meet parents now and admit that I am home educating I often get a really wistful expression of “Oh yes, I wish I could do that.” I realise of course that some people wouldn’t dream of taking on their own children’s education in any way at all; notwithstanding the duty they have to ensure their children actually receive a suitable education. But I am sure many of those mothers who say “I wish I could do that,” really do wish it. They have looked into it and thought about it, but for whatever reason – and it’s usually she has to work- they decide they can’t do it.

But among those wistful mums, I bet the fact they have now met a mother who is doing what they would like to do, might just add a little fuel to the fire of that deep longing and just maybe one or two will make the leap and begin to home educate. Something as countercultural as home education takes a great deal of courage and I think it can only happen when you meet and get to know at least one person who is already doing it.

I am not sure what on earth I would have done if I hadn’t been blessed enough to have met and talked with a couple of home educating families before I pulled my son out of school. My initial experience in the whole thing was a bit of a baptism of fire in some ways, but I met other families and more children and gradually it all came together.

There are still changes and shifting tides in how we do things but I am glad I had that chance to talk of home educators who were willing to answer my questions on what to do and how to do it back in those early days. A lot of the really good advice came from internet friends  many of whom had been in the homeschooling lark over in America or Canada for many years.

The internet has meant that many home educators scattered around the country and around the world can talk and share ideas and support one another.

Last year the British media had lots of articles and news items about home education. There were newspapers, radio interviews and comment boxes full of information. It didn’t matter how silly, inaccurate or negative the news piece might be, the way the internet works now, home educators could put their side of it and answer (over and over) those questions, which were more often statements about how we couldn’t be doing it right; not socialising our children+and even abusing our children.

Those answers were often apparently ignored by those who were bitterly opposed to us, but other people read them and I think more and more people are getting to know they do have a choice and that school isn’t the only option for their children.

There is a growing awareness among people who can think for themselves that the mainstream media isn’t reliable. I laughed out loud when I read Jeremy Paxman’s concern that the upcoming BBC strikes to co-inside with the Conservative Party Conference might compromise the BBC balance and make it seem there’s a bias! Perhaps he is unaware there are whole blogs and blog entries all over the place dedicated to correcting the misinformation put out by the BBC. If they go on strike will anyone notice?

The lack of balance in reporting on home education and the deliberate attempt to portray it as something rather odd, posh people do looks to have backfired as more and more people are looking at their children’s education and realising it isn ‘t right.

The mother who so wistfully said “I wish I could do that” so recently had bought study books for her daughter to do after school. You see after spending 6 hours a day in school she still wasn’t learning enough.

Of course the other great obstacle to many mothers taking on home education is the money. While poorer families can make it work and do, it takes a lot of sacrifices and giving up on much that today’s culture seems to think you “need”. I think it’s the same for those who want to have their children privately educated. They might have more money up front, but I have met a couple of dads who work a lot of extra hours and have given up quite a high standard of living to find the thousands of pounds each year to put two children through private school.

In some ways I think we are back to the Neanderthal parent thing. At what point do adult “wants” give way to what children need? And how, in a culture that says we need all sorts of stuff and more stuff that frankly we don’t need at all, do we discern what is the right thing to do?

Many home educating mothers and a few fathers I bet, are tired of answering the same old questions, of fielding the disapproval and banal remarks. But I think we have to face through all that, because among the defensive ones who really don’t like the fact we have done it, is surely a sense that they should too. If we are gentle and polite in answering questions then maybe we can look back later and see we gave the “permission” that parent needed to break out of the tick box and embark on home education.

I’m trying to be that neanderthal parent.

Carlotta posted THIS LINK about the three studies done by Professor Darcia Narvaez of Notre Dame Uni into how young children develop a sense of morality and compassion for others.  The Studies show that children who are breastfed on demand, cuddled and played with, who have plenty of adult attention and spend time with children of different ages, develop better morally and happily.

Three new studies led by Narvaez show a relationship between child rearing practices common in foraging hunter-gatherer societies (how we humans have spent about 99 percent of our history) and better mental health, greater empathy and conscience development, and higher intelligence in children.

Fascinating in a kind of ‘well duh’ kind of way. It is something that I have been discussing with a friend for some months now. She is training with the NCT and has three very young children. It’s tough going. She has a lot of very good family support from her MIL and others, but even so, she still spends an inordinate amount of time alone with the kids. When she is at my house, I am sure that is a more natural environment for children to flourish there’s a lot of children of all ages, two adult mothers and another adult young lady around. We share the tasks and food and all the rest of it while our men are out hunting (or being Youth workers and Nurse Therapists as the case may be).  it s much nearer the mutuak extended family and community suppert seen in hunter gatherer societies. My friend is a confident woman and excellent mother, but even she has had wobbly days when stuck in the house all day with three sick kids. (ages 3, 2 and 4 months so you get the picture). I am convinced that isn’t a natural way to have to parent.

It’s something that has been playing on my mind for years. I remember watching Ray Mears among the bush people of Africa and seeing the way they lived. It struck me how gentle and generous they came across as a people, not just one or two in the tribe, but the whole lot of them. Children were everywhere and obviously loved and respected. These people obviously had something that is far too often missing in our “modern” life.

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Gwen’s universal good sense with a custard cream to dunk.

 Sipping Tea Dearest Gwen takes a moment away from her studies of nutrition and what she has told me has “more than a necessary amount of chemistry in it” to advise us all against unbecoming behaviour with a tea cup. DO PERUSE HER ADVICE.

Start Autumn Learning with a smile

That Resource Team mum has produced some lovely colourful learning materials for Autumn.

Dives and Lazarus

We had the story of Dives (Latin for ‘Rich Man’) and Lazerus as the Gospel today after the warning from Amos that Israel was about to be sent into exile because her people were rich and self important and took no care of the “state of Joseph”. Amos was of course correct and soon Israel was scattered among the Syrians.

I once heard a minister preach on the parable of Dives and Lazarus and say that shows that Jesus came for the poor, that the Gospel is only for the poor and not the rich. I was taken aback, especially as we were sitting in a church packed with fairly well off, confortable people. Should they all have left there an then? Obviously what this very young lady preached (not a Catholic church before anyone pops a blood vessel) was a load of old guff. Jesus calls all, rich and poor and the rich aren’t all doomed like Dives any more the poor are all graced like Lazerus. Anyway, as it happens Jesus’ close friend Lazerus was apparently a fairly rich man. It is not being rich that was Dives’ problem, it was how he lived with his wealth.

Dives was rich and there was no evidence that he was particularly nasty about it or that he had gained his wealth dubiously. But his very comfortable lifestyle had blinded him to the beggar at his very gate. He was too removed from the world Lazerus lived in to even notice his need. He may even have been a generous man with those who could do him favours in return.

Lazerus dies and makes it to the bosom of Abraham – heaven, where his suffering is ended. Dives dies and finds himself in the flames of the underworld. It doesn’t appear to be hell, nor purgatory; more like Sheol. Remember Jesus is making a point with the story. If he was in hell Dives wouldn’t get to speak to Abraham at all and wouldn’t care what happened to his kin and if he was in purgatory there wouldn’t be the chasm between them. Dives does care about the future for his five brothers (I’m sure that five is significant but I can’t remember how). Jesus reminds him that we all have Moses (the Law) and the Prophets to teach us how to live and if people are too proud and foolish to listen to them then they will not listen even if someone should rise from the dead. Well, aint that the truth?

This parable is not to encourage the politics of envy. Lazarus may have hoped Dives might give him some food and clothing, but he never tried to steal them, nor get others to steal on his behalf.  If Dives had taken note of Moses and the Prophets he would have been open to God’s providential push, and Lazarus would not have suffered so much and Dives would have had the joy of giving and the reward of heaven.

We are all asked to give something to someone. We all have something, even if we are completely skint. Sometimes it might be the listening ear, or the time to send an email. It might be handing on clothes, books and resources to others who need them, or if you actually do have money, it might very well be to ensure those who don’t have enough to pay their bills. Ask God, He’ll let you know soon enough.

The Triumph of Gareth Malone.

It did occur to me after posting the last review about Gareth Malone’s Extraordinary school for boys that if the final episode showed that he had not achieved much, if anything, then Home Education might look a bit dodgy too. After all that waxing lyrical about how Gareth’s approach was so much like so many of us home educating parents, well then, I was hugely relieved it worked.

Whether there is a truly empirical base for how home education works is one of those debatable points. The lack of full empirical data is a lovely excuse in driving the fact-twisters like the comedy duo Badman and Balls to come up with their “stats” on home educated young people.  There is one oft spoken of problem with the school approach to education that those of us who educate our own children mutter about over cups of tea – the appallingly naff and girly National Curriculum, and the institutionalised approach to education which barely allows children to learn and be interested in anything for themselves. In fact many of us would say it is a definite handicap to learning.

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Around the net for home education

Here are some of the websites we have been using this term.

We are back to Starfall for the girls and using their little songs as reminders of basic rules, such as “the silent e at the end of the word, makes the short sound. long.” It’s been a help with Yummy Spelling and other spelling times.

I’ve just started using Progessive Phonics with the girls. I am pretty impressed so far especially as, like Starfall, the whole thing is free.

We are working our way through Kids Greek and with the Getting Started With Latin Book we have the online pronounciation for Linney’s Latin.

We’ve just started using the Classic Science course of Mr Q which suits both Roni and Avila really well so far. The first book of units is all free so you can get a very good sense of whether this will suit your children. We like it so far and I am tempted, once we can afford it, to buy the next unit downloads.

We have watched a few Youtube videos such as skipcounting, lunar eclipse etc. Youtube can be quite useful as back-up info for all sorts of things.

For stories there’a Baldwin Classics which are pretty good on the whole, but need reading ahead sometimes, unless you know the author. Just becuase these are old books doesn’t automatically mean they are good. Remember Miss Mason was writing about avoiding twaddle back in the 1900’s soit did exist even then. Twaddle is not a post 1960 invention. Old twaddle just had better grammar.

Update I’ve removed Sparklebox from this post and my sidebar. A friend gave me a heads up about the site owner that is very concerning. I am very surprised that Probation Services have allowed this in the circumstances. Obviously this man needs to make a living while out of prison, but something completely removed from his crime would have been more sensible.