Unschooling our children and ourselves

Sir Ken Robinson changed our lives.

Listening to Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk was the beginning of the next stage of our lives. A mum from our children’s school happened to share it. We weren’t friends in fact we never even spoke but she’d requested me as a friend and out of politeness I’d accepted. Little does she know, as I never got any closer to her, that she helped change our lives for the better in so many ways.

he is the most-viewed speaker on TED.com. His three talks have been viewed an astounding 21.5 million times

It was also around this time Radio 4 did a programme called the Educators. My husband I tuned into every single episode and began talking non-stop about what we were putting our children into and whether we had the courage to go against the grain. Sir Ken Robinson’s speech will stay with me for the rest of my life. I am so grateful to him and all the other professionals who spoke out against the system on this incredible series. Each one backed up the fact that the majority of school was a complete waste of time.

Teaching our children compassion for those younger than them is essential if we are wanting a kinder, brighter society.

Our children’s time is so precious. When ours started telling us they were bored at school I knew we couldn’t carry on. l wanted them to come out of school feeling invigorated, alive, excited and above all happy. They were definitely happy to be leaving for the day but whenever I asked what they’d done they couldn’t tell me. Nothing had stayed in their heads. Sometimes they’d say it was ‘boring’ or the teacher shouted at them, or someone got them in trouble. There was rarely tales of excitement – in fact I can’t remember one time when they came out and told me they’d learnt the most mind-blowing stuff.

Tapping into local resources and networks.

When they came out I had a huge job on my hands – to educate them (I thought) and to create a vibrant social life for them. It took hours of connecting but the social side of things was fine – it was all there in the local area. It may not have been with people I felt at ease with, as I was changing and growing as a person too, but my children were mixing with lots of others their age. There was so many families already doing what we were starting on – socialising was never and has never been an issue for us.

They also kept in close touch with their school friends and met up regularly – either at home or at after school clubs where they had all the energy to do these extra-curriculum activities. I never had to worry about getting them up early in the morning – it was so heavenly when we were all able to have relaxed mornings instead of the hellish rush the school-run brings.

“But I can’t home educate!”

So many mums say this to me but each of us have given our power to others for years. It’s going to take a while to realise you have all the skills you need. You love & care for them with a depth no-one else has because you’re their mum. Together you can learn new things whether it’s maths, english, chemistry, foraging, getting connected with nature, dancing or carpentry. Your child will love learning with you.

Your child is your equal

Just because we’re older than our children it doesn’t mean we’re wiser. My children have a sixth sense about people that is so much more in tune than mine – they are never wrong. That’s because they’ve been taught to follow their gut whereas we had our intuition driven out of ours. School is very good at teaching children not to follow their gut and knuckle down and get on with things.

Trust our children with everything?

If you’re bringing your children up in kind and caring, teaching them compassion and how to treat people then there’s no reason you can’t trust your child to make important family decisions. I’m not saying go and get a big bank loan because they want the latest gadget – but you can ask them questions that require tapping into their gut.

If you want to find out if you’ve got the right partner, made a good friend or are going into business with someone you’re unsure about just ask your children. They will know intuitively what is right or wrong and they’ll rarely be wrong.

Every business or life decision I make I run by our children now and I trust them. It’s taken me many years to realise this – in fact it only dawned on me a few months ago. I trust them over myself because I’ve been so programmed I don’t know when to trust my gut. I am learning to though – but it does take a while for me to vocalise things – whereas the children are much quicker to vocalise their feelings.

Listen to your gut and follow your heart

The big change began when I started listening to my gut when I dropped our children off at school. It knew something wasn’t right and was trying to tell me something. I didn’t even really know I was following my gut when we took them out – I’d done plenty of research and it felt like a good decision. Looking back I know that deep down my body knew this was not right – short music lessons, art being at the bottom of the heap in terms of importance, watching movies at the end of term instead of playing out in the sunshine or snow. Everything was starting to feel wrong and every cell in my body was screaming at me to do something about it.

You won’t look back

School will always be there – your opportunity to home educate may not. That’s how I persuaded my husband to see it. I knew I’d fill my time with a job if I didn’t pull them out now. Eight years on our daughter is now at college so our lives change once again. She got offered unconditional places at two local colleges – both of which said she’d need at least five to get in. Both interviewed her and wanted her on their course. She then interviewed both teachers to find out which was going to be the most suitable for her.

You don’t need GCSEs to get into college.

Remember this when friends and family ask you how your child will get into college. No college wants 10 or 11 GCSEs. Cambridge and Oxford prefer children with a passion for one subject – not a bit of knowledge about lots of different ones. The same goes for every college in the UK. They want to see that you excel at your chosen subject and that you’re confident and easy to get on with. Those pieces of paper with numbers or letters on (which ever the government decides to use at that time) aren’t worthy of all the hours required of them

Be free and enjoy life and your children.

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The mSir Ken Robinson makes an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity.

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