My new book is here!

Here is my book for home educated and unschooled children, entitled ‘All in a Day’. Selling pages coming soon, but for now if you’d like one I can accept payment by PayPal to sezmichelle@hotmail.com for £6.49 which includes postage.

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But what do you DO all day?

There was a day, a few weeks ago, where you decided you wanted to stay at home. I have learned (sometimes the hard way!) to follow your lead with your days, suggesting options for staying in/going out when you are stuck. But on this day you were adamant that you wanted to stay at home. So we stayed at home. This is not to say we stay at home every day, becoming the hermits that sadly some people think we are becoming just because you’re not at school. Every day is different – that’s the beauty of being in control of your own days. Some days you play with friends, some days you meet new friends, some days you attend scheduled activities, and other days you choose a play centre, museum or park. And some days you stay at home. You love home – which personally, I could never see as a bad thing. Home is happy.

So here it is. Here is the answer to that question that all home educators get asked when they mention that some days, they are at home all day: ‘But what do you do all day?’

I have written in short bursts for ease of reading, and missed out things like meals and drinks – obviously there were breaks!

• Shortly after waking, we discussed the term ‘underdog’ (you had watched a film with this title the previous day) and the contexts in which it could be used.

• You played with Lego, firstly playing a game that was ‘good vs. evil’, and then making imaginary Lego sets that could be sold in your pretend Lego shop. This involved sorting all the Lego into different colours, building something, then taking it apart again to put it into the set. We discussed pricing, and compared prices with various other items such as toys or food.

• From this, you decided to make the shop into a costume shop, more specifically the costume shop in ‘Mr Benn’. You then acted out various new roles that Mr Benn could take on. These included: housekeeper, doctor, dog sitter and balloon artist. For each job role you made a costume and found suitable tools around the house.

• The Playdoh was out and you decided to sit at the table and make ‘pancakes’. You wanted to cut them up before pretending to eat them, so we discussed various ways in which shapes could be divided, which led to some discussion and drawings about basic fractions.

• You wanted to write different letters in Playdoh and you practiced carving out the letters of your name, copying the ones that I had done first.

• This led to looking in some letter/reading workbooks, practicing holding a pen and writing basic letters, trying to work out some basic words and the sounds of the vowels in each word. We matched some words to pictures.

• This led to labelling some household items with post-it notes. I wrote the notes while you pointed out which items you wanted to label. We leave the labels up for several weeks, generally until they fall off or get lost!

• We played a very energetic game of hide and seek in the house. You counted up to 20 and sometimes 30.

• Granny and Granddad had given you a miniature greenhouse set that we hadn’t opened yet. You decided you wanted to open it and plant the seeds. We followed the instructions to build the greenhouse, planted the seeds, looked up on the internet how each plant would look in its various stages of growing, tasted sunflower seeds (this was one of the plants), discussed life spans and stages of growth in plants compared to humans, talked about which plants are able to grow in which climates, thought of examples of plants/fruits/vegetables from various countries depending on their weather. We discussed the four seasons and what happens in each season.

• You found a box of porridge oats in the cupboard, which had a recipe on the side. We talked about what a recipe was, and you asked if we could make the biscuits in this particular recipe. I had the ingredients (or similar) in the house so we decided to make them. We discussed hygiene when cooking/baking – why hand washing is important, then you helped me to measure out the ingredients using the weighing scales and the glass jug. We discussed why the measurements had different names for liquids and solids.

• This led (all while we were stirring and measuring out ingredients) to discussing the differences between liquids and solids. We found examples of each in our ingredients and talked about the differences. We investigated melting while we watched and stirred the margarine and syrup in the pan – this lead to a short discussion about fire safety in the kitchen and also the different power sources for kitchen appliances.

• While we waited for the biscuits to cook, you played with the flour and other ingredients, and we talked about where various ingredients came from – plant based, animal based etc. We looked and felt the different textures of the ingredients. We talked about food ingredients vs. food products, and healthy vs. unhealthy foods.

• I told you about the five senses, which we repeated and you tried to memorise. We thought of examples and put them into sentences to help you remember. I was surprised, when discussing hearing, when you said, ‘Oh, Beethoven was deaf, Mummy! And Professor Calculus in “TinTin”, he’s hard of hearing.’

• For the first time ever, you then cleaned up the kitchen floor. I have always mentioned that you could do it, but you haven’t ever wanted to. I watched as you meticulously wiped up all the flour and bits. I laughed when you said ‘this isn’t that interesting, but it’s not that bad either.’

• You found a leaflet on the kitchen worktop that had a picture of a guide dog on. We talked about guide dogs and where we stood morally on using animals in this way. This led to a discussion about pets and why I only ever keep recused animals, we talked about the pet industry and why I feel it is wrong. You weighed up the various thoughts you had on this subject, talked about society and their view of pets and farm animals, and tried to think of solutions that could help everybody.

• Daddy had come in from work, and you wanted us to sing songs from ‘The Lion King’, so we did, and Daddy played them on the piano for us. I didn’t realise that you knew most of the words and tune to ‘I Just Can’t Wait to be King’. Then we listened to the story and songs on CD.

• We walked around the room pretending to be lions, trying to think about how they move and how their bodies are so different from ours. We discussed their size, speed, fur/skin, and diet.

• You then went to the piano and played all the white notes from the bottom C. You sang along with most of the notes and sang their letter names while you were playing.

• We sat down to read a book. I read you all of ‘Cudweed’s Birthday’, and then we did all the activities/discussion points at the back of the book.

• You wanted me to make some videos of you, so I filmed you on my phone. You were talking about lots of things and running around very fast!

• We acted out a film about a lost dog. It was quite long, and had a very complex story. You played some of the characters, we used teddy bears for the dogs and I did some of the dogs’ voices too.

• We all watched a film together before you went to bed.

I haven’t lied, enhanced, or added to this day. And it wasn’t a special day for any other reason except that I decided to write down all the things we were doing, just out of interest. I haven’t tried to make it sound like we did more than we actually did, or that you learned and retained every single thing we covered. You take what you need, when you need it, when you want it. You know what? I had a great day.

Important Week!

This week is your ‘not starting school’ week. On Monday, it was your first day officially NOT at school. Of course, your Dad and I were super excited. You, however, didn’t really care either way as it was just a normal day for you. And how amazing that is. The whole reason we have made our lives the way they are right now, today, is so that every day can be just the way it is supposed to be. You, directing your own learning in whatever way you wish, and us being there to support you whenever you need us. 
This week you have made new friends, played with friends, played with us, visited museums, parks, a water park and a canal. You’ve watched films, we’ve read books, we’ve had amazing adventures that came entirely from our own imaginations. We’ve made snow caves, jumped inside a pirate ship and raced around a golf course all just while at home!
I couldn’t possibly say exactly what you’ve learned this week – we learn all the time – but does that mean you haven’t learned it? Of course not. 

You are a sociable, energetic, opinionated, loud, funny, giggly four year old boy with a huge sense of adventure. You see the world in your own way and I for one don’t wish to change that for a second. We face many challenges, and our patience occasionally runs out. But you are YOU. And I wouldn’t change a thing. 

Reminder

I felt the need to create this blog entry as a reminder. A reminder of a boy who I didn’t know, but a boy who recently took his own life.

This reminder is set in my mind for the days when I’m tired and scarred by the belittling of my ability to educate my child away from the school system, when the assumptions that any obstacles that may arise are because he isn’t in school. A reminder to myself to breathe in, to lift my head, throw back my shoulders and say what I actually want to say. I won’t argue, but I will say what needs to be said – just like they do – and thank them for strengthening my own beliefs that little bit more. 

From this day I will not hold my tongue. I will no longer smile and nod, go along with the ridiculous charade that finances and qualifications are more important in life than actually living. No. They’re not. How many children will need to suffer with mental illness, spend years in therapy or even take their own lives before we wake up and see that we are killing our children? 
This boy will not be forgotten. Yes, he was one of many. But he was still one. Someone’s one. And statistically, one is too many. 
Wake up, kids, look what has happened to this one and don’t let it happen to you. Look up, open your eyes and see what’s out there. The whole world is at your fingertips, there for the taking. Take it! Immerse yourself in as many cultures as you can. Work as little as possible for the most money you can convince someone to pay you. Start your own business, build your own house, defy the societal norms of previous generations. Be the change. Make the future brighter. Give the future hope. Keep your freedom, your love of life, and learn. Learn your way, at your own pace, and whatever the hell you like.

Hungry for Change

The fear leads us to dumb down our children; it leads us to believe that those letters on that piece of paper are the most important things. In that action, we miss what is really important. 

When we think of William Shakespeare, do we immediately consult the introductory pages of his play to check the grade he achieved for English? Do we look on the back of a Monet painting for the mark it was given by the teacher, because then and only then can we say it’s ‘good’?

Take a minute to watch the expert golfer. Observe the actor. Listen to the musician. Look at the painting. Really look at it. Read the book, get lost it in. Use all of your senses and take in the creative talents of these people. Are they skilled? Or are they talented? Are these terms different? We can gain skills, we can learn skills. Can we learn talent? 

‘I’m cleverer than my brother, so when he gets a good grade in something my parents praise him a lot. They don’t praise me as much because I usually get good grades.’

The ‘brother’ here writes amazing stories but his spelling isn’t the best. He loves to draw, paint and create something from nothing. He is the family’s technology expert. He doesn’t get the highest grades at school in academic subjects. He also suffers from ill health a lot for which he has to stay at home. He is constantly reminded that he is ‘not as clever’ as his brother or sister. That he won’t be able to achieve the things that they will, he may not be able to go to university and get a good job. He tries hard. Really hard, to be something he’s not. To squash himself into the ‘one size fits all’ box where if he doesn’t achieve the ‘standard’ in academia then he’s just not good enough. 

Society has become awash with qualifications. Letters, grades, reports and statistics form the basis of parental opinion of a child. When did children stop being believed in? Why do we need so much proof of our skills and knowledge? Why must we constantly compare children in such a way that they become homogenous? 

We have created a nation of praise-hungry children, endlessly memorising lists of facts to pass tests, to achieve the next level. Then the next, and the next. Years of school to ‘educate’ ready for the ‘real world’. It is no longer acceptable to learn a skill or develop a talent, then go out and use those skills and talents. We have forgotten that somewhere, underneath it all, is a billions-strong collection of individual personalities. We are born thirsty for knowledge, and we leave this world wishing we had more. Life doesn’t come with a guarantee – no amount of letters on shiny, embossed-edged paper will grant you your wishes. And still we plod along, believing that as long as our child can get 20 out of 20 on the maths test next week, or an A in Science, he will be ok in the ‘real world’. 

We are taking away our children’s need to be hungry. Children are born hungry, in all senses of the word. We need to embrace that hunger! Let them explore, let them discover the world around them, and let them be. Let them be anything they want to be. ‘Learning is not the product of teaching. Learning is the product of the activity of learners.’ John Holt 
A child is not half an adult. We have no right to tell a child that they cannot achieve. Stop dumbing down your children. Start celebrating them.

We don’t need to school the world. We need the whole world to unschool itself. 

Worlds inside worlds

You live in a hundred different worlds. Worlds without boundaries, days without walls. Worlds where anything is possible and anyone can exist.
One minute, you are in the here and now existing amongst the realists, seeing things like everyone else. Admiring the height of the Queen Victoria Tower housing the giant ringing Big Ben. The next minute you have risen to the height of Big Ben, you are a giant monster machine driving on the bed of the river Thames. We take the tube train. You revel at the speed of the trains and the cleverness and coordination of the doors. Once at the station and on the escalator you are Paddington Bear. You have a suitcase full of marmalade sandwiches, you wear wellington boots and a special hat that belonged to your uncle Pastuzo. Stepping outside into the rain you point at the homeless man on the ground. We leave him some money in his plastic cup as he sleeps. Then you are Paddington Bear again, recreating the famous scene from ‘Singing in the Rain’. You dance, sing, and splash about before we walk back to our hotel for the night. 
You live in the right now, in whichever world suits at that moment. I see them as a hundred different worlds, but you see it as one.

Today, you have spent most of your time living in ‘Blaze World’ – your own name for it. We have built all the characters from one of your favourite shows – Blaze and the Monster Machines – and made emergencies and adventures for them. You have watched a few episodes, then created your own. You’ve learned about springs and what they do, and we have discussed dams and how they work, and how the water is held back. All with the help of your favourite characters. I’ve been a laser cutter, a green monster machine and a submarine. I’ve sung about force, speed, power, and transformation. We’ve discussed the difference between surfaces that are transparent, and surfaces that are reflective. All in a day’s ‘work’, and all in your world. 

Happy every day

Every day, we spoil you with our love. We spoil you with our presence, our playtime and our moments. In return, you spoil us with your beautiful developing personality, your patience, your understanding and your reciprocal love.

Your father doesn’t need to be told, on a particular day, that he is your father. That he is blessed, because you have bought him a card or a toy dog or a new wallet. Your father can see each day through the time you spend together that your relationship is worth far more than any card or shop-bought gift can say. Money cannot be, and never shall be a replacement for precious moments of life.

I don’t need a day to have to tell my Dad how thankful I am for the way he and my Mum raised me. I couldn’t fit it all in one day. Society tells me I need to buy him a card, a gift, something to show him that he means a lot to me. But how about I just tell him? And how about I show him, with my love and with my time? My Dad has given me everything, always. Six months ago he was nearly taken from our lives. But in those moments, I didn’t want to buy him things; I wanted to make him better again. I wanted to be six years old again and be able to make him feel better with a big hug and a badly made cup of tea. Now, he has rebuilt the blocks of his life that fell down and every day I couldn’t be prouder, and I couldn’t love him more. I love him and appreciate him every single day. Not just when I’m told.

Being generous with money is a privilege, one that we are blessed with and thank our lucky stars every day that we can give you everything you need through the hours we work, and buy you the things you want. But money can never take the place of any kind of love. Carefully thought-out and selected gifts are lovely, and the thought of the gift is always worth a thousand times more than the gift itself. But if the message that comes with that gift is one of distance, or replacement, the gift becomes a sad representation of a relationship.

We are lucky to have so many people in our lives that want to buy lovely things for our son. And so to all of the people who insist on spoiling my child with gifts – we are grateful. Grateful for the thought, grateful for the choice, and grateful that my child has everything he could ever want and more. In fact he has far beyond everything he could ever need. In the Western world we do not know how incredibly lucky we are, and we never take our easy existence for granted. But consider the impact of your gift. An hour spent in the park, playing catch or football or hide and seek is worth a million Chinese-produced shop-bought toys that he will play with for approximately five minutes.

Consumerism is not a lasting relationship. It is a quick fix. We live in a world filled with products we do not need. Products that are destroying the earth with their production, and filling up our houses, when there are people across the world fighting for their lives without clean water or food. Imagine if the gift you could actually give to our child was generosity – the power to share with those who have nothing. Filling up his life with masses of mass-produced plastic is pushing him further into a bubble that we constantly fight to get him out of. It is not the real world. Not really.

Things are not worth anything, in the end. I love that he has his own, precious things that he plays with everyday. But unsurprising to me, those things are not the biggest toy he has been bought from the toyshop, or the most expensive thing you could find for his Christmas ‘treat’. His favourites, even at three years old, are the ones that have sentimental value – the tiny squashy London bus from when we visited Tower Bridge and he lay down on the glass floor to look at the buses crossing the bridge below. The scruffy, rusty, old-fashioned cars that belong to his Dad when he was a child, the now-tatty Paddington bear who has been with us on every holiday, the two stones he found in the park one day and called them ‘his treasure’. The photos covering his bedroom wall and in his albums of the amazing adventures we have taken as a family – holidays, days out, time together, memories. Because in our hearts, in the end, we don’t think about the things we have bought in life, we think of the memories we have made and people we have loved.

So spoil my child, if you want to. Give him presents, because you can afford them and because they make him smile. But don’t get stuck believing that these will make him happy. This media-driven society leads us to believe that the only way our children can be happy is if we buy them consumer products – from toys right through to education. Life has become a factory. I don’t want my son to live on that conveyor belt. So go ahead, spoil him every now and then. But then sometimes, just be you. Be the people that he loves, the ones he holds in his heart. Not because of what they have given him in products, but what they have given him in love – in a solid, stable, life-long relationship providing building blocks on which to build his future.

Money matters. Money is a privilege, a hard-earned product and something that isn’t shared out equally in the world. But love? That’s free. And just imagine, for a second, if it was everywhere. Perhaps it is. Perhaps we all just need to go out there and find it.