The start of a learning adventure

The start of a learning adventure

Guest Blog Post by Fabienne Vailes

On 17th January 2022, we started our journey and adventure into home education and officially de-registered our son from secondary school.  He is 14. We initially described it as jumping out of the plane! 10 weeks into this new approach to learning, we feel like we’re slowly settling into our new life and routines. I’ll be honest – it was harder for me than it was for Thomas. He took to it like ‘duck to water’. I initially spent a lot of time crying and letting go. We both said that it felt like breaking up with school.

Here are our four take-aways so far:

FOLLOW YOUR HEART

As I said in the intro, it took us several months to finally make the decision to de-register Tom and it wasn’t an easy one for us to make. That said, my heart knew long before I allowed my head to ‘catch up’. My challenge is I am an overthinker. A pure product of the academic system in France and in the UK, I used to believe that I had to use my logic and to ‘think about things’. My final decision was made when I watched my son’s face as we were heading home after having a chat with another home ed Mum and her son in early January; Thomas asked me: ‘do you think it’s possible for me to leave school? Do you think there is truly another way?’ Sometimes as parents we know in our ‘heart’ what the right answer or the next move is. We just need to give ourselves permission to follow our hearts. Taking this step for Thomas and starting the journey has enabled my ‘head’ to catch up.

AGENCY

Our decision to home educate coincided with my own year-long sabbatical and stepping off the ‘hamster wheel’.  Combined with Thomas becoming self-directed in his learning, this means that we are both discovering the power of agency – that feeling of freedom and choice. We can decide how we schedule our day and what we explore. We can be open and flexible and that feels good. And the exciting thing is that as we develop our sense of agency and we explore new skills, we build a sense of competence too.

BELONGING

We were very lucky that we connected with a local group of home educating families. We join their regular gatherings two days a week. With a range of ages from 10 – 15, all the young people have been so welcoming.

With Thomas’s help, I started sharing my French and Spanish skills one day a week offering an immersive languages day.  The young people have embraced this learning opportunity and every week I feel so energised. I feel so lucky to be able to spend time with these young people. They are all so different, so friendly and always willing to share. What I love the most about this group of adults and young people is that they are so life-giving and life-affirming. They have created a real safe space for us all to learn, grow and evolve.

I feel like I am also getting to know my own child. I am discovering who he is, what he likes and doesn’t like and what he stands for. Last week, Thomas and I commented on how we both feel that ‘we have found our tribe’ and how lucky we both feel to have access to this amazing community and self-directed learning hub. Everything in life is relational and interconnected and we can feel the real benefits of the sense of belonging and the positive relationships we are establishing with every single individual in the group.

PURPOSE

Over the last ten weeks, it feels like we have ‘freed’ Thomas. We have opened the cage and most importantly unclipped his wings. We are allowing him to explore new areas of interests. We are allowing him to stretch his wings and to see what they are for. He is discovering who he is and what he stands for. He currently thinks he might want to become an architect and so every week he attends a local architecture course, and he is loving it. He also takes part in a weekly woodwork workshop. These things wouldn’t have happened if he had stayed in school. It’s so wonderful as parents to watch our child flourish. His passion-led learning is enabling him to soar.

And it’s not just Thomas who is becoming a self-directed learner. I am also allowing myself to explore my own interests and to become in charge of my learning – this is a truly liberating experience.

It feels like we are both discovering what inspires us – our sense of purpose and passion: architecture, design and technology for Thomas, educational reform and the link between being self-directed and wellbeing for me.

Together we are discovering our preferences, through experience and we are taking action. Empowered to do so.

And of course, it’s still early days – we are only just starting on this new adventure, but I feel that we have the right ingredients to move forward. My professional research has shown me that it all starts with ‘flourishing’. We have the five wellbeing essentials in place: intrinsic motivation (purpose), sense of belonging, positive relationships, agency, and sense of competence.

I am sure the rest will follow…

 

Fabienne is an educator, author of The Flourishing Student and co-author of How to Grow a Grown up, wellbeing expert and parent of 2 boys aged 14.5 and 12. She will share her learning from 7 years of action research and hours of conversations on her Flourishing Education Podcast in order to empower all to become flourishing lifelong learners.

You can follow Fabienne’s journey as she connects with educational thought leaders in her weekly blog: https://flourishingeducation.co.uk/podcasts/

You can find her book here:

https://flourishingeducation.co.uk/book/ 

The Alice – inspirational weekly newsletter

The Alice – inspirational weekly newsletter

The Alice

Refreshing to read. Everytime.

Want to know what a day in the life of unschooling looks like? Then check out Stacey Piercey’s, The Alice. The Alice is like peering into the mind of an unschooler on any given day that their interest is piqued. It’s written like an unschooling journey. What I mean by that, is that it’s not laid out with standard steps to follow, or things to purchase in order to be a “better” homeschooler. It’s a wonderful rabbit-hole of curiosity. In unschooling, a person can wake up and watch a video or see a word or have a conversation that leads to a spark of interest. From there a deep dive begins. We can find ourselves down the “rabbit hole” of learning that can go in many different directions but is all connected from that beginning thread.

“Something to watch”. “Something to strew”. “Something to try”.

It’s not prescriptive. It’s a spark of interest.

I am really enjoying “The Alice” as something to keep checking my email for.

Cost: $4 USD/month – a fantastic resource for home educating parents.

Written by:

Robyn Robertson

Creator and Host of the podcast, Honey! I’m Homeschooling The Kids

https://imhomeschooling.com/

Submitted by Streams.

Journeying in Freedom

Journeying in Freedom

Guest Blog Post by Stacey Piercey

I can remember the moment we decided to homeschool our three boys. It was late June 2009. I had returned home from picking up my oldest attending kindergarten at his art-centered charter school. I relayed the scene to my husband.

“He was a little over-excited about it being the last day of school. So I asked him if he was going to miss it over the summer – hoping to hear he was looking forward to returning. He thought maybe he’d miss his friends. But when I explained come September he could spend all day with them because grade one was ALL DAY, he threw himself down on the parking lot pavement and sobbed, “Nooo! I can’t do it all day! That’s too much!”.”

This was after a challenging spring of feeling finished and yet enduring through tears and pleas for days at home.

He had a lovely and nurturing Waldorf trained teacher whom he adored. The other children were lovely for the most part, he got along with everyone, he participated…they did Brain Gym every morning! The walls were painted in mosaics, the halls lined with beanbag chairs, they had an artist-in-residence that the kids could visit and see what they were working on without needing permission. Completely free and open. It was, by every standard, the perfect school. And yet he didn’t like being there so much. It seemed to be just too much.

I still had two little ones at home, and by April, the daily dance I had to go through to get him to go was becoming tiresome. He wanted to be at home with us. But he had to go to school. Right?

My husband noted at the end of my story that he didn’t like school either and I offhandedly said, “maybe we should homeschool”. He shrugged and said, “why not”?

The next month was spent flirting with the idea. He bought Blake Boles’ book “College Without High School” because that’s where parents’ thoughts go first. What about university? This wasn’t the first time I heard the term “unschooling” and thoughts of a previous encounter made me wonder if this wasn’t exactly what we needed. Why not homeschool? Better yet, why not unschool?! With the charter school set to start August 15th, surprised ourselves by we making the decision right then to keep him home.

I didn’t drag my feet – I did my research, found out what we was needed to legally homeschool in our province (Alberta, Canada), registered with a schoolboard and called to withdraw him from grade one all in one day. Done. The emotional work of our decision would take years to unpack, then question, then justify. We had a great support person (all homeschoolers in Alberta are assigned a facilitator who is a certified teacher and works for the board in this role only. Usually, they also homeschool their own children). That first year, she helped us understand how varied and family-specific home education is. She provided us with the tools to determine our own pace and rhythm. She was a source for everything and a gentle hand in guiding us towards the realization that we are the ones making all the decisions and no decision is a bad one; just a path we are on that can be changed on a whim as needed. Thank you, Cindy!

In the ensuing years we moved boards, and subsequently facilitators. But every facilitator for every school board we’ve had has been outstanding. Unschooling stayed our gold standard because we discovered that the more we interfered, the less they did. When we got out of the way and schooled “from behind”, waiting for them to tell us in one way or another what they needed to grow and learn, they flourished. From the beginning, we have not used curriculum in any form. Admittedly I did buy some, but they were still in the wrappers when I sold them years later. We have tried many things, but in the end, they have learned most of what they know on their own with no help or interference from us. If they wanted to take a formal course, we would get them access – whether that meant driving them to and from or buying the materials they needed. We found that they bring us answers to things they discover, more than they come to us looking for the answer.

Over the years our oldest went to public school for grades 9 through 11 for access to a unique sports program. The pandemic brought him home to finish grade 12 and graduate in April 2021. He found a tutor for Japanese and will be leaving, when borders open, to spend a year in Japan immersed in the language and culture he loves.

Our second child jumped a grade (because they don’t follow grades) and tried grade 10 for only a semester of public school at 14 years old. Despite straight A’s he deemed school was for people not interested in learning, but only there because they were compelled to go, and thus a waste of his time. As of February 2022, he is also a high school graduate. He’s adding higher math and chemistry to his skills over the next few months and looking at a STEM degree that will “get him to space”. Both completed the government diploma requirements.

Our youngest, and most unschooled, is bright, and full of hope and wonder. Not at all interested in being in school but looking forward to following his own dreams and passions. There is no doubt in our minds he will be successful at whatever he pursues.

It has almost been 13 years since the decision to home educate was made. There have been countless moments of genuine concern and intense doubt. But mostly it has been a joyous ride and an amazing journey of discovery. We love spending time with our boys – they are funny, smart and a pleasure to be around. We look back on that summer and are so thankful for every moment of freedom we’ve had since.

 

Stacey Piercey left the corporate world to teach her three boys at home in 2009 and is an active member of the home learning community in Canada. She has run various home-school co-ops and was chair of her home-school board’s parent council. In 2014 she started a home-school program supporting children ages 6 to 17 in starting their own business, ending in a Children’s Business Fair. It was so popular, Stacey began presenting it to students in community clubs and eventually to schools that heard about the program’s success. In 2019 she scripted her curriculum for on-demand delivery and eventually sold her online course to Galileo XP, an online school for at-home learners. Stacey continues to teach her program at Galileo and to local home-school co-ops in Canada.

Find out more about Stacey: 

 

Keeping the Big Picture in Mind: Part 2

Keeping the Big Picture in Mind: Part 2

In Part 1, I explored the importance of priorities and motivators in our home education approach, and cannot stress enough what a hugely positive impact it can have on you and your family if you take the time to work through these together.

Now we will look at other factors which are worth considering as part of your home education approach.

1. Emotional, physical, mental development
Every parent knows that children develop at different paces physically, emotionally and mentally. This is one of the main reasons why the “one-size-fits-all” approach of school will not work for many children. Physical size does not always relate to emotional age, or mental ability, and expecting all children of the same age to perform all tasks at the same level is unrealistic. I think it goes without too much explanation that we should take our own children’s unique individual needs and development into account in respect of our expectations of their abilities.
2. Readiness
Learning occurs most efficiently when a child is physically, emotionally and mentally “ready”. There is no magic age at which all children learn to read, or master specific skills. The wise parent waits until the child indicates that they have everything they need to want to move forward with learning a new thing (much like potty training). When the child is ready, learning happens naturally and without much fanfare. The child is given the tools they need, and off they go!
3. Learning Styles
While not everyone agrees on learning styles and whether they are a “thing” or not, in my experience some children learn more by doing, others by watching, or by reading, etc. As a parent it is useful to take time to observe what gets your child excited, or how they process new information, and factor this into how you facilitate their engagement in learning.
4. Motivation
As obvious as it might sound, it is pointless trying to force an unmotivated child to learn something they have no interest in, or no need to learn. Either you, or you and the child will invariably end up frustrated which tends to have the opposite effect to the one you were going for. On the other hand, a child who is excited and motivated to learn needs hardly any encouragement. Teachable moments can be grabbed and made much of while they last.
5. Positive experiences
Engaging with the world together, discovering and exploring in a happy and joyful way, creates many positive memories, which make the child eager to repeat the experience. The opposite of that is when outings and activities are associated with stress and unhappiness, which is counter-productive to learning.
6. Respectful relationships
Charlotte Mason famously said “Children are born persons”, challenging the idea that children are things to be controlled, possessions to own, or subservient, lesser beings. Maintaining an environment of respect encourages meaningful discussion between parent and child, and supports the child as they seek, within a climate of safety and security, to understand the world, nature, and society.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

As with most theoretical models, not all are in agreement as to the validity of the hierarchy of needs proposed by Abraham Maslow in 1943. However, I think we can all agree that a child’s ability to learn and engage in learning will be negatively impacted if their urgent physical needs are not being met, or if they are experiencing extreme anxiety, worry or fear.

The Wardrobe

This is a metaphor I like to use for understanding how children gather and retain information. Imagine your child’s brain as a wardrobe. If you simply throw information at the child, it is likely that much of it will end up in a muddle, much like a wardrobe where clothing has not been hung up properly. In order to find items in a wardrobe, we need a clothing rail, with hangers that the clothing can be hung onto so we can see everything. Your child’s brain is much the same. Their questions are like hangers, with their own frame of reference providing the rail for the hanger which holds the answers to their questions. If the child isn’t seeking the information for themselves, and is not curious about the subject matter, it is often unlikely that they will retain the knowledge at all!

PLAY! PLAY! PLAY!

Maria Montessori said: “Play is the work of the child.”

In this video Randa Grob-Zakhary, former CEO of the Lego Foundation, explains the benefits of play for children.
The importance of play for a child cannot be underestimated, and in the primary years, play is to be encouraged and facilitated as much as possible. Play is essential for:
1. Cognitive development: how children think, explore and figure things out. It is the development of knowledge, skills, problem-solving and dispositions, which help children to think about and understand the world around them
2. Socio-emotional development: the child’s experience, expression, and management of emotions and the ability to establish positive and rewarding relationships with others
3. Content knowledge and skills: The child’s play may involve gaining new knowledge, and practicing new skills, imitating adult interactions and conversation. For example, building with Lego blocks teaches the child basic engineering skills.
4. Physical Development: through play, a child improves both gross and fine motor skills
5. Whole-child development: A child who is completely immersed in games and play is having all their needs met, and will be 100% engaged physically, socially, emotionally, and mentally
6. Productivity: Children love play where they are able to make and create and be productive. This encourages feelings of success which builds up confidence.
7. Understanding cause and effect: Many games help children make the connection between action and reaction, consequences, and overcoming failure
8. Critical and creative thinking

Play and learning are not separate things.

Learning happens best when we:
• Do it for ourselves
• Involve the whole personality
• WANT to learn
• meet some personal need
• want to make sense of a subject
• build or make things
• think things
• want to survive and thrive

Checklist for parents:

 Know your child’s character/temperament/ability/gifting
 Know your own strengths and weaknesses
 Know your priorities
 Understand what influences you and why
 Understand how learning happens and the role of productivity in learning
 Understand how learning happens best for your child
 Live life, and let your children live it with you, witness your learning, and be released to learn for themselves.
 Expose children to the world they live in through dialogue, where they can engage in discussion in a safe environment
 Be ready to support and facilitate when needed
 Create an environment that is supportive of learning, and stimulates it
 Practice faith/beliefs in a meaningful way with children
 Don’t be afraid of the hard questions, but seek to find the answers together

Flourishing Grandchildren!

Flourishing Grandchildren!

“What are you doing to enable your children to flourish?” asked the school inspector of me – a newly appointed and very young headteacher. Since that wonderful and significant day I have spent a privileged lifetime with, and alongside, children and teachers from whom I have learned and honed my thinking and ideas: eighteen years as a headteacher, seventeen years as a school improvement adviser, an inspector, a trainer of headteachers and school Governors.

His question rocked me back on my heels as I stuttered to impress him with my best educational philosophy. I somehow succeeded but his question raised in me some of the profoundest inner searchings as to my vocation to teach yet asked of me; questions that had never been asked in my training nor in my former years as a classroom teacher.

Many other questions had been asked of me but here was the key question that began the release the core beliefs in me that had been latent yet had inspired me to become a teacher. My own education had been a disaster! I had grown up in a system of  weekly tests and bells, of regurgitating facts and information, of competitive routines and meaningless exercise  all punctuated by the barking of instructions and the cruelty of punishments that combined to drive the desires to learn and grow, to discover the world and life were all but beaten out of me.

All the while, my poverty of experience as a child briefing my inner soul to long for better for my life as an adult. Ideas, beliefs, vision and drive that had never fully surfaced or been expressed until that moment with the inspector now sprung into my thinking and became the driver for the next forty years in education.

I began to articulate and express my heart for children, my hopes and aspirations for my own two daughters and those I had the privilege and responsibility to teach and encourage in their learning. As I would say then, and believe even more fully now, I had the privilege and responsibility to increasingly release into reality a pattern of learning where these children were nurtured and cherished to demonstrate all the potential and gifts in them and so to flourish as human beings developing and enquiring new skills, attitudes and opinions.

Ever since that moment, way back in the early seventies, I have been on a learning journey about the nature of education, passionate about the purposes of education and discovering the best ways of expressing these hopes and aspirations in the opportunities we give to our children. As human beings we are not bottles to be filled from birth and then emptied out at the end of life but beautiful people with minds, souls, spirits and bodies that are so full of potential as creative, imaginative, thoughtful, inspirational individuals where each one is unique, different and gifted.

Education is lifelong but the early years of our lives are the time of significant equipping and developing, nurturing and encouraging the personal and social skills and attitudes, inspiring and refining the inner being of our children so that each one can flourish and find joy and fulfilment in their lives through relationships and through the fulfilment of a life well lived – a daily experience and not one in retrospect as life ends!

Each child will respond and relate to the circumstances and character of the family, the home, the society in which he or she lives. This can either be for the positive or the negative development of the child as like sponges there is an absorption of thoughts, feelings, attitudes, values and self-image that are birthed in us from the earliest of our days.

Young children learn through experience: we don’t learn by being told or exposed to other people’s experiences, and, when we provide different experiences to our children, they will learn. When we think of children as individuals who are learning and growing through their experiences then we can see them learn as they grow and grow as they learn.

Each child is full of potential and our task is both the release this potential and nurture it further. These children learn best through experiencing and exploring the world around them and our task as parents and teachers is to widen their experience of life with and through the people they will meet.

As children move from home to school, the learning experiences they will receive are as important to their learning as when in their early years. Every child is unique, every child learns differently but central to this learning are the personal qualities – the unmeasurable qualities, the spiritual development of each child, seen in her personal creativity, of her awareness of others, her qualities of feeling.

Few children will flourish in a competitive environment but one that nurtures the human spirit, that values the creative soul and is inspired by the beauty of the natural world, of the arts and of good literature while learning in an environment – the natural and the created, where the quality of relationships and the value of learning and personal discovery is at the heart.

Each one of us is born with creative abilities: the artist and the craftsman, be it in language or music. It is in the giving of dignity to the person and his or her gifts and skills when nourished and nurtured that the fullness of the learning we desire as parents will flourish. We will see children’s lives enriched, their personalities flourish, their judgement and self-awareness maturing as a rhythm develops in their lives through the security and safety of the environment that the home can give.

Our task as parents is to encourage learning in an environment that is welcoming and filled with wonder with a discipline that is self-motivated through a developing freedom of expression with responsibility.

Schools are the place the state provides for the education of the young but these are increasingly subject to pressures and conditions, both political and social, which home educators are not constrained nor controlled by. The scramble for results through testing is not an issue for parents. However, rigour and vigour in learning, the satisfaction and achievement from a learning activity well done are even more possible in the home educating environment.

The result of a quality learning environment will be a well-developed and well-rounded child, teenager and adult who lives in the vibrant fullness of personal creativity, of deep personal joy in discovery and learning, where given opportunity and encouragement, will have a lifetime of learning and maturing because their education is led and directed by their needs rather than the convenience of the state.

Character and personality; self-discipline, self-expression and self-motivation; commitment to tasks and a desire to achieve a personal best are qualities we wish for ourselves and for our children. Home education encourages and nurtures these human qualities through quality relationships, exciting experiences, interest-led learning and the opportunity for rich self-expression in a learning environment right for each individual person.

So, for my five grandchildren I rejoice! I never thought I would hold this view. After a lifetime in education, was I betraying everything I had worked for, every institution I had worked at, and every penny I’d been paid in salary? Now, as I have watched the children and even had the privilege of helping them, I am convinced that home education has the potential to deliver everything I hold to be of value in the education of our children.

In our society today, aims and ideas, times and circumstances have and are rapidly changing. For those who can home educate, these are exciting times! The pace of change is ever increasing and the best ‘equipped’ children will be those best able to live their lives to the full as flourishing human beings, both in their communities, and for themselves, able to adapt and use all their skills and attitudes, and therefore able to live together to the best advantage of themselves and their fellow citizens.

In this I am secure, my grandchildren will develop to the full as people and as learners in each phase of their growth and find fulfilment, not only as a preparation for the future, but for the NOW, and be fully able to meet the demands of what lies ahead because of the people they have become, are today, and are becoming, in their lives while giving and receiving the richest of experiences to both their parents and themselves …… hooray for children flourishing in Home Education!