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.