Monday, 11 November 2013

Just because it's hard, doesn't mean it's wrong...

Standing listening to the trumpet play 'The Last Post' at Remembrance Day parade yesterday was very moving. As I watched my eldest solemnly carry the flag for his ATC squadron it made me think of all the grieving mothers who's sons have given their lives for us over the years in wars. I really felt respect for these men and women, recognising their sacrifice and honouring it.

I am personally grateful that Hitler was defeated by the allies,  as his views on parents having influence on their kids education are polar opposite to mine.  His fear that parents would teach their children something other than the Nazi party line was massive, forcing him to ban home education.  So yeah!  War is horrid, but when it comes to defending your nation and freedom I don't believe its wrong.

I have thought about this conundrum a fair amount over the last few years.   It took me a few years of growing up before I realised that just because some thing is hard, doesn't mean it's wrong. 

I think back on hard things I have done, child birth was one. I think the first weeks after my eldest was born were such a massive change of lifestyle it was really hard, suddenly this tiny person was your complete responsibility and I remember staring down at him wondering what to do next. I have never for a moment regretted having kids though, even if it has cost every ounce of energy and thought trying to muddle through this parenting thing.

Anyone who reads my blog would know I love mountains, that's another hard thing.  Climbing a mountains is hard work.

  I remember climbing snowdon for my silver Duke of Edinburgh award many years ago,  with my big racksac on my back we were half way up the mountain, it was a windy day,  and suddenly a massive gust of wind knocked me off me feet and sent me rolling down a steep slope over the side of a huge rock. My rucksack broke the fall fortunately. I still love climbing mountains though,  standing on the top of a mountain gives that sense of freedom and feeling of 'I can do anything'. As you breath in the pure mountain air and look around you, the world and its daily grind seem so far away and insignificant.

Home Education is another hard thing.  I know many people have observed me home educating over the years and said, may be only with a look, surely thats too much for you. Yes, it is hard it possibly the hardest thing I have ever done. At some points I have felt the full weight of responsibility on me,  with family and friends looking on with disapproval. Why on earth would you choose to wreak your kids opportunities in life and home educate, when there are so many perfectly good schools and qualified teachers down the road.

My husband and I chose this route not because of issues with our children in school or even for religious reasons,  as our church ran a church school. I just knew it made sense. A one on one tailored education in the world with life and friends around us. I knew in my heart that my eldest son could be different because of it, he could chose to think in a completely different way to a child that is instructed how to think and what to learn all day. I love the critical and abstract thought patterns of my unconventional boys.

At first the hardest thing about Home Educating is learning self discipline and patience,  especially if like me you went from school to polytechnic to work, so you always had to get up in the morning to be some where on time and work for someone else, to suddenly everything is totally your choice. Also being patient with your kids when you are with them all day is definitely a skill that takes practice. 

A few years down the road,  the hard bits are others expectations of your kids, suddenly you feel everyone is watching your kids to see if they are progressing fast enough.  Are they reading when their cousin two years younger is on to big boy books? Are they learning to behave in a sociable manner being shut at home with Mum all day? There is incredible pressure to present perfectly behaved high performing kids from an early age, else obviously home education is failing as predicted.

I am now onto a different stage,  getting to ready to send eldest on to further education. Exam nerves have attacked at regular intervals and lots of praying to try remain calm, well kind of calm (sorry Hubby :-P).

Do I regret this journey... NOT FOR A SECOND... the times of kids crying under the table over maths, times of struggling to understand what my kids need at different stages,  balancing home and outside life. All worth it. I love that it has been hard, it is worth so much more to me. Like that climbed mountain, the view from here is wonderful, the understanding I have gained of how people learn,  what motivates and what makes people tick.  I love that my hubby and I can look back on this time and say, it was tough at times but so rewarding.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Working with, not on your kids...

I am sitting waiting for my eldest to finish his iGCSE English literature exam. He was pretty nervous going in, mainly about how long the exam was going to be, two and a quarter hours sounds like ages. 

I have time to fill and I am feeling particularly philosophical,  thinking about my last fifteen years of home educating and what I understand now and wish I had known and believed when I first started this journey.

I can see so clearly now that the key to home education is believing in your kids and allowing them to be who they are and working with them to let that unique awesomeness blossom in them.

This week I signed my two Border Collies up for sheepdog training. I have learned a lot from my extremely clever dogs over the last 5 years. When my oldest dog was one year old, he is five now, I started sheepdog training and visited a true shepherd,  he has had international champion sheepdogs, brought up with farming, sheep and dogs. Was seen on 'One Man and his Dog' at a young age, many years ago. 

The first time I visited him we went out in to a field with sheep and he said absolutely nothing. He took my dog off the lead and let go. We stood and watched as my dog, having never seen sheep in his life, take off he flanked around the sheep went behind them and brought them back to us. It was so exhilarating and thrilling to watch. Here is the You Tube video of him doing this if you are interested.
  This pattern of saying nothing and releasing the dog was how this shepherd teaches. The lessons continued in this way with only the additional of myself and the shepherd walking backwards with the sheep in front of us and the dog behind the sheep. As we turned slightly the dog would shift so he remained behind the sheep at 12 o'clock to us, this gentle leading is called finding balance. 

I have also taken this same dog gun dog training.  This involves lots of retrieving and guns. I knew that my dog wasn't a natural gun dog but I was curious and thought it might be fun. It was fun, but I can declare official my sheep dog is the world's worst gun dog. His idea of retrieval is chasing the ball then possibly bringing it back, if it seems worth it. Also he really hates guns. We had a giggle, well I did, mainly at his complete ineptitude compared with the 'super duper' Spaniels who were definitely showing off, all stuck up with their long shiny ears and perfect retrieves. We left feeling slightly inadequate,  but 'hey' what did I expect!

All this got me thinking, recently been chatting with many new home educators,  that have chosen this path because their kids weren't flourishing in school.  It seems to be quite common that it is the very creative kids who love to dream and imagine that haven't fitted in to our traditional schooling models that are quite academic and rigid. These children seem to come out of school and really don't want to be squeezed back into structured learning.

I can see it so easily now, looking back, it seems so obvious.  Why do we try and make 'gun dogs' out of our 'sheepdogs'? We need to step on to this new field of learning and release these creative kids to dream and create,  work with their strengths,  believe in them , see their true potential,  not in terms of 'number of ball retrievals' (exam marks) or their ability to be tough when someone shoots a gun (strict timetables), but look on with excitement as they take off and be what they were created for and finding a gentle balance with them.