Category Archives: Business

I’d do it the same way again – and I am

My older three children are all grown up now, in their early twenties. They grew up with similar values to me, making similar lifestyle choices to my own, which surprised me. I think this is something I can pass on to other parents with confidence, because I wish someone had warned me about the extent to which we subconsciously influence our children.

Having said that, I’m very happy with my life and my choices – and they seem to be very happy with theirs too! So, having given it some deep thought I can say for sure that even if I’d have known how much of an influence I was going to be, I’d have done much the same thing anyway. This plan is still underway for me, and the others are as free to stay or go as they ever were.

There were other things I could have done, like trying to create artificial challenges for them when they were children, to spur them on to this, that or the other artificial goal. If they’d have seemed to need this, I’d have done it. But they didn’t. They seemed to need consistency, stability, access to things that interested them and space to figure out things for themselves.

I answered questions, every time – but as older children and teenagers they increasingly found their own answers, to their own satisfaction. I became increasingly a housekeeper, someone to bounce ideas off and process thinking with, and a taxi driver. It felt good at the time, and it feels good now. The best role model we can give our children is, I think, just to be our own authentic selves – the best version of that we can be! Anything else would seem false, and children do know the difference.

They’re all creative to some degree: the oldest has a business which no longer needs marketing and carries on by recommendations alone – something to be quite proud of, I think. The younger ones help with that and have their own plans underway. The actual, current children have up to four adults on hand most of the time, so it’s really good for them.

As a family, we are happy, productive, mostly amiable – and solvent. On balance, it seems like a successful outcome to me. And most crucially, the adult offspring agree. They want their younger siblings to enjoy the same autonomous education they had, and say they will educate their own children the same way.

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Filed under Business, Co-operating, Natural learning - how it works

Home ed in bed

Plus work. And now blog.

How many boxes have I ticked there?

(Four. Five if you include: feet on hot water bottle 😀 )

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Filed under Business, Co-operating, Curiosity - a delicate flower, Planning - or not, Writing

On GCSEs

My sons (aged 20 and 21) have no GCSEs: they decided several years ago not to take them, because they wanted to carry on with their self-directed learning and the GCSE curriculum didn’t encompass the skills they has chosen to develop. I supported them in this, because I had a theory that I’d been developing since I was a teenager myself:

That there are saleable skills in all of us, which – left to our own devices and without coercion – we want to work on developing.

My sons always knew that they’d have to pay their way as adults. I trusted them to develop the skills to enable themselves to do so, and they didn’t let me down. They’re both still working from home, doing the same kind of activities they’ve always done according to their own schedule – and making enough money to pay for their share of the bills, the mortgage and the food. And they’re debt free.

Their absence of official qualifications has never been a problem, because they don’t need full-time jobs, and they don’t need full-time jobs because I’m not asking them to move out. Why would I? They pay their way now, so I’m not out of pocket, and it’s nice to have them around. I give them lifts in the car: they do bits of babysitting their younger sisters for me. They cook their own food, and even fill and empty the dishwasher (I must admit, life was a bit less easy going here before we got the dishwasher.)

The thing about autonomous learning is that unless the child is self-motivated at some point to do GCSEs, then if they’re going to be done there has to be some coercion on the part of the parents. So at some point the parent has to say: “That’s enough of doing exclusively your own thing now. It’s time to do some GCSE work, because I’ve decided you should,” or if not explicitly that, there is some element of persuasion on the part of the parents.

So in making the decision to home educate a child – and in how to home educate the child – I think these things need to be taken into account: Autonomous home education doesn’t always naturally, automatically lead to the procuring of official qualifications. In fact, from what I can gather if carried on indefinitely in its purest form, it rarely does.

If a parent has assumptions about people needing at least five GCSEs, grades A* – C to earn money, they’re probably in for a few years of stress and conflict when their child is a teenager. Young people probably do need either five GCSEs, grades A* – C or the equivalent to get most jobs and to get on most post-GCSE college courses and I think it’s folly to try to pretend otherwise – I’m just pointing out that being employed by somebody else on a full-time contracted basis isn’t necessarily the only, or even the best way to live and earn money.

Yes, it provides a sure and relatively safe regular income, but sometimes the cost of that is happiness, contentment and/or freedom.

Yes, if the young person wants or needs [or their parent wants or needs them] to move out of the family home and start paying rent or a mortgage in their own right, then obtaining a safe and regular income is probably necessary despite the cost in human terms. But if staying in the family home as adults is also an option, then self-employment becomes more feasible, and autonomous home education is great training for that.

I like the idea – and now the experience – of extended family living. It has a lot of benefits in terms of work sharing and co-operation, and not many disadvantages for all concerned. People yearn for communities, for more company and shared support and there’s no reason why the natural bond between parents, children and siblings shouldn’t supply some of that. At least, in most cases, it’s a bond that can be trusted.

I certainly like the idea of people being free of the tyranny of public examinations and jobs that they don’t want to do. Obviously a life on benefits isn’t feasible – my sons have never claimed a penny from the state and intend to never do so – but using one’s teenage years to develop a skill of choice, then marketing it on a self-employed basis as and when you want to work or need the income, is.

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Filed under Business, Co-operating, Innate, Natural learning - how it works

Learning last year

In and amongst the new year celebrations here, I’ve been thinking and chatting with the children about what we all learned last year. It’s probably quite easy for me to list some of the skills that some of us mastered:

Swimming
Driving
Reading
Russian
Keeping accounts
Holding conversations
Getting dressed
Playing guitar
Playing piano accordion
Dismantling, fixing and rebuilding piano accordion
Resolving certain laptop malfunctions
Multiplication
Division
Map reading
Drawing faces, with BIG smiles (but no noses)
Building Lego ships
Driving a computer mouse

I’ll let those of you who know us work out (or remember) who learned which of those skills in 2009!

And I think most of us have garnered quite a lot of information, in response to our own curiosity. Some of the areas that some of us have been learning about last year have included:

Wildlife
Space
Where other countries are on the globe in relation to the UK
Other cultures, beliefs and customs
Trees
Letter sounds
Politics, economics and the history of these
The development of technology
Balance

But it’s a lot less easy to list what we learned in terms of thinking, ideas or principles. I’m struggling to do that for myself, let alone for the children.

I think I learned that it’s ok to apply a certain amount of teaching to completely unschooled children, as long as they’re happy about it and interested in what’s being taught. This was difficult for me to grasp at first because the older three, having been in school for a few years as younger children, had so much resistance to the idea of actively being taught something that they just learned more, better and easier under their own steam.

I assumed all children would be like that in non-coercive situations, but I now know from the younger two that they’re not, if they haven’t been damaged by the violent coercion of schooling.

I don’t think I worked that out in its entirety just in 2009 though. It’s been an evolving train of thought and experiment for the past three years or so. But last year probably provided enough clarification for me to accept it as being ‘true’.

I also learned that it’s ok if I don’t say ‘yes’ to every request that’s made of me, although after a childhood of violent training to the contrary, this is a hard realisation for me to put into practice all the time, even 30-40 years later. Those childhood lessons really do run so deeply, which is why our relationship with our children is so fundamentally important. But that’s nothing new, is it? Just yet more verification of something very old.

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Filed under Business, Co-operating, Driving, ICT, Innate, Numbers, Reading, Russian

This week, we’ve been mostly…

Learning how to drive:

07-apr-2009-023

This is going really well, mainly because Zara so passionately wants to learn. She isn’t quite 17 yet, so we’re still learning off-road but luckily there are plenty such areas around here in which to practice. I’m just glad to be able to give her the chance to get familiar with driving a car before she goes for her first on-road lesson ( – planned for her 17th birthday! She’s had her provisional licence ready for weeks!) It’s bound to make a big difference.

The baby spent a happy hour sorting nuts on top of the washing machine (as you do..!)

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– which obviously addressed whatever stage of brain-development she’s currently at, because she was completely absorbed in the task, which was all self set-up and organised. I had no idea what she was doing, until she started doing it!

Ali has been learning more Russian, courtesy of a home-educating friend who supplied him with a great stack of resources last week, and Tom’s learning resource, unsurprisingly, seems to be mainly coming from his new business at the moment. I’m loving watching this take shape. He’s succeeding, and he can hardly believe his own success. He’s amazed that other people can’t do what he can with computers, when learning it seemed so natural at the time, but that’s the beauty of autonomous learning. It doesn’t feel difficult, and it invariably turns out to be eminently applicable.

Lyddie’s taking a natural break from the workbooks and folders that she loves so much and wants to be read to a lot of the time, which suits me down to the ground, because I love reading to her. We spend at least an hour, morning and evening, doing this and her understanding of quite complex narrative is growing every day, as is her enjoyment of the process of being swept up in a great story. Otherwise, she’s outside experimenting and exploring, or inside experimenting and exploring, or on her computer.

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Filed under Business, Driving, ICT, Innate, Russian