Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Don't Be Shy of Structure Just Because You Are Unschooling

In my online support groups (see below) I often come across comments such as, "I often lean toward unschooling and am really interested in how it works but then find myself feeling the need for structure".

I don't know why people think unschooling means a lack of structure. Perhaps they define structure differently to me, perhaps in the more narrow sense that a school teacher might. I prefer a much wider definition, one that makes sense to me in my life and works for me, rather than boxing me into something I don't want to do, or feel that I have to do to please others...
Structure works for unschooling too. It's just a different kind of structure - more akin to natural routines and learning styles that work for each person in the family and the family as a whole.


For example, we were owner builders. You can't build a house without some kind of order and structure. But we weren't doing it on someone else's timetable or structure - we worked to our own rhythms and to meet our needs. And our structure allowed for spontaneity and creativity - that's the beauty of doing something yourself and not relying on others. Same with our children's education. I had an idea of what I wanted, how I wanted to get there and what resources I wanted to use and a vague idea of when things might happen - but everything was flexible and adaptable, so it could be responsive to whatever came up each day. Goals were achieved and I relied on my structure - it helped to keep my confidence high.

Unschooling happens anyway. Homeschoolers have plenty of unschooling moments in every day. We don't school our children continuously as home educators! Although every moment is a learning moment, we're not on task capitalising on them in a schooly way! When your children are playing, watching telly, kicking a ball around, helping prepare the dinner they are learning, they are unschooling. When they are arguing and fighting they learning - natural learning. Living is learning, naturally!

To become a conscious unschooler rather than a homeschooler means moving further away from the need to coerce our children to do or learn things that don't make sense to them or for which they don't have a need to do or learn right now. It means consciously stepping back and acknowledging the learning taking place as our children simply get on with living. It means enjoying life with them, doing things with them, being a learning partner rather than teacher. It means relaxing and recognising that education isn't something that is done to children but something that simply happens.


See also Organising your Natural Learning Day and The Hidden Structure in Natural Learning.  


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Monday, April 22, 2013

Giving Up Controlling Behaviour

I see examples of controlling behaviour all around me - definitely learning more about my own controlling behaviour as a result. At the heart of controlling behaviour is insecurity and fear. Most of us don't even realise we are behaving in controlling manner. Sure we recognise it when we raise our voices, tense our muscles, experience frustration and anger and start making demands of others, but because we've been trained to see those emotions as negative we often fail to recognise the controlling behaviour we display when we're calm, confident, content, even happy. Controlling behaviour is a habit and like most habits we don't notice we're doing it at all!

An antidote to controlling behaviour is creating TIME for ourselves and others. Pause, reflect on our feelings and motivations. Create little spaces to simply stop, breathe, reflect. We're in such a hurry all the time. Do we need to be? Sometimes it feels like rushing towards old age: we're in such a hurry for our children to grow up, be 'mature', master this or that. Creating little pockets of time throughout our busy days might seem hard but it is isn't, it's just a conscious decision to pause, still our minds, resist the temptation to control the moment and experience fully through our senses what is happening. This tiny pause creates a space. This space makes room for us to be creative. And that's the space in which we solve problems. And it is the space in which we slowly but surely recognise our controlling behaviour and what motivates it and how we can meet our needs in other ways.

You don't have to be a radical unschooler to focus on giving up the habit of controlling behaviour. I've met parents of homeschooled and school children who practice attachment parenting and trust and respect children and regard themselves as learning partners working hard to give up the habit of controlling behaviour. However, it's definitely harder to help our children understand why it is important to guard against developing this habit when they are immersed in a culture that values it so highly. 

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Monday, April 08, 2013

Won't Back Down - another school reform feel-good movie

Yet another inspirational movie telling us what we already know about schools and encouraging us to personally get involved and fix the ailing education system. 

Won't Back Down is a movie about two determined mothers­, one a teacher, who risk everything to transform their children's failing inner city school. Naturally they encounter numerous problems including an overbearing and entrenched bureaucracy that fight their every move to to make a difference in the educational life and future of their children. Watch the trailer on YouTube.

BUT if we really COULD fix schools we WOULD have by now. We've had a hundred years of school reform: generation after generation of dedicated parents and teachers busting their guts to make schools work and to improve the life of school students.

Obviously some schools do for some students some of the time. Maybe even most of the time for 60% of children, however sadly that number is steadily falling. I've personally been in schools where parents and teachers and staff with a shared vision and common goals work together to try and create the kind of school we all want for our children, one that meets the educational, social and developmental needs of individual students. And I wish they are sustainable, but they're not. If such schools - if such efforts - were sustainable, wouldn't they be abundant by now? And wouldn't we have heard the end of all those complaints about how schools are failing children? Education would no longer be a hot political topic.

Sadly the efforts of the teachers, parents and staff last only as long as THOSE people are working diligently and hard at sustaining the results. They burn out, retire or move on. The stress of continually fighting a system of education which naturally works against providing attention and care for individuals wears them down. Schools are not and never were designed to educate individuals. Perhaps Sudbury and similar community schools come close, but without constant and active and willing participation by the parent population, the burn-out rate is still too high. Children don't belong in schools, they belong in communities - with their parents and siblings, relatives and friends, interacting with a range of different people for different reasons every day, living life, learning naturally and simply.    

Feel good school movies, even ones that are based on true stories, are just that, feel good movies. They tell a story. And we all love stories. Stories inspire us, move us, motivate us.

Maybe the next movie Walden Media invest in will be about home education. Fingers crossed.


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Sunday, April 07, 2013

Protect Home Education Diversity

On my Homeschool Australia group today a mum mentioned being given templates for recording and planning by the home education registration authority. My take on this is that if using their paper work makes it easy for you and you really want to, do so, but I'd much rather we all sent them what we plan to do and a summary of how we've done in in our own words and in our own way. Why? Because it means they can't claim that 'most' home educators are 'happy' with their templates and how they structure our application and change them from guidelines into policy and then regulation. It's a sneaky roundabout way of claiming we were 'consulted'...

Write your own learning programs - remember these are plans and it's okay to deviate from them if something better comes along or the plan doesn't meet your needs as you travel along. A plan is a general idea of the route you intend to travel, reminds you of the important points to note and hopefully achieve along the way, as well as why you're on that road in the first place.

Write your own applications, in you own words. The benefits of this are two-fold: firstly, to support and protect diversity of home education practice (which, I believe is essential to the survival of this option); and secondly, because together with writing your own learning program (personalised curriculum) you will clarify your needs as well as your child's educational needs and will get a better sense of what home education is and means to your family.

Developing our individual ways of recording is essential too. It sends a message to the authorities that education doesn't have to be a one-size-fits-all affair to be effective and successful. Variety is okay. Sure it makes work for them and they have to think a little harder than they might like, but they are getting paid to do that work. And we're helping them expand their understanding of a subject that they are passionately interested in: education and learning. Once they get over the nine-to-five hassle of having to look at something different they'll enjoy the challenge and learning working with home educating families bring.

I'm happy as a home educating mum to have a look at how and what schools are doing and incorporate elements of the curriculum/syllabus (if I am legally required by legislation to do so) into our home education activities. I'm not a school teacher though, I am not teaching dozens of (usually same aged) children at the same time. My environment is considerably different and it is inappropriate (and inefficient) to impose classroom methods of education into the home education environment.

It is taking decades for home educating families to gradually educate the bureaucrats that make the regulations, policies and guidelines, but we're getting there. Our strength lies in our diversity: the fact that we're not a homogenous bunch of people all doing the same thing in the same way. We need to protect this strength and be assertive when it comes to working with the home education regulative authorities in our states/territories.

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Friday, April 05, 2013

Confused by all the Aussie Home Ed sites?

by Beverley Paine

Confused by all the Australian home education or homeschool sites and groups? I've listed a few that I regularly come across - if you know of any others PM me and I'll add them to this list.

Home Education Association is a non-profit member organisation (national) for home educators. Started in 2001 it operates by members to help families find out about home education. Produces newsletter, magazine, has a website, offers insurance cover to members who organise events and activities.

Australian Home Education Advisory Service is owned and operated by Glenda Jackson, an experienced home educating mum (with older kids), who is also a researcher. She provides advice and counselling to families, including preparing home education programs for children. 


Australian Homeschool Network is owned and run by Jenni Domanski, a home ed volunteer support person who organises excursions, camps and a secure online chat room for parents and children.

Homeschool Australia (me) is simply a website and a few online support groups (FB and Yahoo) where I share my insights and knowledge. Lots to read, happy to answer questions! Sometimes I attend camps and do talks... mostly I write.

AussieHomeschool is a community forum that started out as a buy/sell/swap and grew into an active support group. Mainly Christian, great resource for Charlotte Mason information.

Australian Homeschool Supplies is a business run by the home ed veterans, the Marretts. They supply mainly Australian curriculum materials to home educators and provide a testing service.

There are state and some regional home ed associations too - HBLN WA, HENCAST, SHEN, etc. Most are listed on the support/contacts page of the HEA site http://hea.edu.au. These offer local information and expertise, contacts with other local regional groups, etc. Some have newsletters. Most advertise local activities and events.

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Thursday, April 04, 2013

Don't waste time worrying! Have a go!

Don't waste time worrying about something. Make a decision and act. If it doesn't work out the way you want, if the results aren't what you desired, have another go. That's how our children learn. That's what we can learn from them: that it's okay to jump in and have a go, and another go, and another one! 

Little by little we teach them how to worry and lose that wonderful 'have a go' confidence of their early years. You won't get it wrong or waste time or energy or anything else - you'll simply get a result. And you can build on that result. Go on, have a go!

 
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