Home Education

Freedom Not License

Freedom Not License – Rewilding Education #6

Joker

There is a misconception that unschooling equates to a ‘passive parenting’ style. This could not be further from the truth since it actually demands a higher level of interaction and connection with children, but in a supportive rather than controlling role.

Unschooling is not freedom to do whatever you want. Instead it asks you to respect the personal boundaries of those around you, guides you to listen to your gut instinct and find inner order rather than being outwardly controlled by any random authority. Family principles and values take the place of arbitrary rules, and love and caring are central aims. It’s about spending time with people you love most in the world and supporting them to be the best humans they can be by facing the challenges of modern society, together.

As a family, we have our own philosophy around boundaries and limits in place of ‘rules’. The central theme is one of ‘Do No Harm: to ourselves or each other’. Limits are mostly around personal safety – physical, mental and emotional. Children like to have some boundaries and limits to push up against, they might push right to the edges of your family limits at times to check the limits are in place. This actually makes them feel safe and cared for, BUT this is not the same as setting lots of random rules.

Apart from concerns of personal safety, everything else is up for discussion. This might sound very time consuming, but once you start living like this, moving ‘power over’ to a place of ‘power with’ you find you just get into a very natural and relaxed way of being together. When challenges do arise, where possible we look for solutions that are ‘win, win’, where we all feel happy with the outcome. Occasionally we can’t find a solution that is satisfactory to all, but this is rare and we all take the view that we do our best in our particular circumstances and we continue to work on finding a way forward.

How does risk taking fit into a ‘Do No Harm’ philosophy?

Part of living a healthy life will include some calculated risks! Risks are how children discover their own limits. When we see or knowingly encounter a risky situation with our child, it is sensible to do a quick internal ‘risk assessment’. I think we do this very naturally as parents, but we also tend to have a habit of verbalising – ‘that looks tricky’, ‘be careful’, ‘don’t fall’. Our parent brain goes straight to worse case scenario.

What can we do to mitigate risk?

It will depend on the kinds of risk involved, but we might model ‘safe behaviours’. If we are climbing trees with our child, we might point out how we risk assess (discussions of dead wood or whether a branch will take your weight or how high to climb in the safe knowledge that you can also get down). In circumstances where we aren’t going to be able to physically model safe skills ourselves, we can be the ‘guide on the side’.

When my son was learning to ride BMX, we went to a track that included some big drops. As his ‘guide on the side’, my job was to encourage him to improve his skills gradually so that he could achieve the big drops and tricks he wanted to try. My job wasn’t to stop him doing the big drops, even though my ‘parent brain’ would prefer he partake in zero risky behaviour, but instead to keep going back with him each day that week so he could practise the small dips and eventually have both the confidence and skills to do the entire track.

I call this the ‘scaffolded approach’ to risk taking. It doesn’t always go 100% right; sometimes children (and adults) take impulsive risks and accidents do happen, but risk taking is healthy behaviour and we can lessen the possibility of things going wrong by:

  •  Doing internal ‘risk assessments’
  •  Modelling safe behaviours
  •  Being a ‘guide on the side’

If I have done an internal risk assessment (which might include bouncing thoughts off other trusted parents, friends, my husband) and I feel I am setting a limit for all the right reasons, then I go ahead and set the limit and hold it. This is the time to be kind but firm. This is also the time I would be looking for ‘win, win’ solutions and alternatives everyone felt happy with.

We can’t always get things right as a parent, we can only try to be as authentic as possible in the moment.

Here is another example which has come up for us recently:

River swimming – risks are catching weils disease, being hit by a boat, drowning. Pluses are – joy, the confidence gained from doing something adventurous, improved swimming ability, exercise. To mitigate risk we did the following: taught our children that it is important to cover cuts before entering the river; that you should *always* swim with at least one other person, in the case of my children that other person would be an adult; how to swim safely around boats (which part of the river to swim); where the safest river swimming spots are e.g. not to swim in fields where cows are or in urban areas or in quarries or reservoirs.

Instead of giving a big lecture on all this, we covered it all quite naturally whilst swimming with them in the river over the course of time, modelling safe behaviours and making it explicit and being their ‘guide on the side’.

Allowing for personal boundaries & why it’s a GOOD thing for your child to say ‘no’:

So as discussed above, we have agreed limits based around family values. We also have ‘personal boundaries’ which ensure that we live together peacefully and respectfully of each other. These ‘personal boundaries’ inform our limits and might include our personal physical boundaries (e.g. one of my children does not like close physical contact) or emotional boundaries (e.g. not insisting on talking about something that one of us doesn’t want to discuss at that time).

Personal boundaries are so important in our wider life – healthy relationships based on consent MUST have boundaries. In unschooling there is no consent if there are no boundaries. Just to be clear, when I talk about consent, I mean related to mind, body and soul.

If we as parents believe that our personal boundaries should be respected, then it follows that we should also allow our children to feel their personal boundaries are respected. This means that we have to accept that sometimes our children will say ‘no’ and that is okay. They might not even give an explanation for their ‘no’ and that is also fine. Personally, I have found that when either of my children have given me a firm ‘no’ and don’t want to or can’t explain, it will crop up in a quiet time later on where you can unpack what might be going on for them.

If we notice that our child finds advocating for themselves outside of the home challenging, we can support them by advocating for them. This is so important, but can feel really awkward, especially if you have a tendency to be a little passive yourself. We can also model how to set boundaries, so that they can learn from us.

I have been working on setting personal boundaries outside the home for myself for a few years, and I know this is something I need to keep working on. I have learnt that feeling resentful is a good indication that someone has crossed my personal boundaries. Brene Brown has some helpful thoughts on boundaries on you tube.

Instead of rewards and punishment:

Obviously there are times of conflict in families or times when a child may disrespect family limits. The mainstream parenting model generally uses a system of rewards and punishments to encourage children to ‘tow the line’. Mainstream schooling also uses a system of rewards and punishments, and this has become so normalised in society that often we don’t know or haven’t learnt any tools to do things in a kinder, more fair way.

We began our parenting journey attempting to be free of rewards and punishments, and opting more for encouraging a sense of personal responsibility in our children for their actions and allowing for what we know as ‘natural consequences’.

I really believed this was the right way to raise our children and still do, but the problem was I didn’t have all the skills in place to implement it. There were no rewards, but not much in it’s place. There are lots of ideas in Alfie Kohn’s book ‘Punished By Rewards’ to help with this, but generally the solution is to give specific feedback rather than judgement (praise is judgement) and focus on effort rather than an end result. I must admit, I still find this tricky ground as possibly all my years of teaching has ingrained a praise habit in me that will take continuous effort to shift.

In not having particularly advanced skills in peaceful conflict resolution in our earliest parenting days, we sometimes did resort to mainstream practices. We used ‘time out’ for example for a short period, but my gut instinct told me this wasn’t kind or helpful. We began to adapt to a ‘time in’ approach, because sometimes children do need space away from the source of conflict, not least to ensure that other children are also kept safe. ‘Nonviolent Communication’ By Marshall B. Rosenburg is a fantastic resource for how to hold space for big feelings and how to solve conflict without judgement or resorting to punishment. ‘Hand in Hand‘ parenting tools are also excellent for this.

Over the years, I have watched, listened, learnt and tried to adapt to new and different ways. I am still learning all the time! Communication is at the very heart of unschooling and also communication is at the heart of behaviour. One really important thing I have learnt recently via a wonderful course I took on communication was how to be an ‘active listener’. It is such an amazing thing to be heard without judgement and without the listener feeling a responsibility to solve all your problems. So this is something new I am trying to bring to my parenting practice (and my wider life) to encourage deeper connection. Active listening skills are also extremely important in conflict resolution.

As a family we have most of our supper times at the table as it is a great way for all four of us to connect at the end of the day. This is also a good time for anyone to raise an issue they want to discuss, to make plans, to challenge our family limits etc Some families hold official ‘family meetings’ for all of this, but we don’t seem to be that organised and instead we decide things together in a more organic way. In fact one of my children raised an issue at dinner just yesterday and declared we needed a family meeting because they weren’t happy with the timing of dinner. We all discussed it there and then, heard everyone’s feelings and thoughts and adjusted dinner time to suit all of us.

When you hear your child advocating for themselves confidently it is so rewarding! I always feel so proud when they do it, especially out of the home with people they don’t know (I also still feel a bit awkward, but that is my problem to get over, not theirs). That’s when I know for sure that this way of agreeing limits and holding boundaries is really worth the extra effort.

Last thought! Behind all ‘behaviour’ is a ‘need’. When we think of it like that, we are more able to be patient and compassionate. I really love Carl Rogers ‘unconditional positive regard’ approach which I only researched in the last few years, but had been practising for a long time without realising it was a theory. This is about accepting someone despite their faults and failings, and genuinely helps to build self-esteem and open communication pathways with children.

Respect works both ways.

Here are some great resources for dealing with behaviour without resorting to punishments and rewards:

Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn

Punished by Rewards by Alfie Kohn

Nonviolent Communication By Marshall B. Rosenburg (this book is great for dealing with conflict resolution)

Hand in Hand Parenting

Journeys In Parenting

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, and Listen So Kids Will Talk, Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

Playful Parenting, Lawrence J. Cohen

Elevating Child Care, Janet Lansbury (for babies and toddlers, meant to be good but can’t personally vouch for it)

On Become a Person, Carl Rogers

Raising Resilient Children, Robert B. Brooks

Also I can’t recommend Sophie Christophy’s ‘Consent Based Education’ course more highly. Whether you are new to unschooling or been doing it for years, her impeccable research will certainly add value to your own skill-set and knowledge.

If you have any great resource suggestions, please do share!

 

Home Education

Own Your Story

Own your story❤ Rewilding Education #4 .

Own your story

This…….all the time, everywhere you go😆 Except atm I just feel I’m constantly explaining that ‘lockdown homeschooling’ is not how home ed works normally.

As a home educator you need thick skin, as an unschooler you need the skin of an actual rhino😉 .

I like this quote, it seems apt but it’s also a universal message: ‘When people seek to undermine your dreams, predict your doom or criticize you, remember that they are telling you their story, not yours.’ – Cynthia Occelli
(p.s. Don’t zoom in on the checkout woman’s left hand😆 I cartoon scenarios for fun, not art)

 

Education in school · Home Education

Ban The Booths

Ban The Booths – Rewilding Education #5

Ban the Booths

Imagine using isolation booths in schools post lockdown? Now we have all experienced months of isolation perhaps we will finally understand that isolating children in booths, sometimes for a shocking 5 consecutive days is not only (proven to be) ineffective but is also cruel.

This might seem like an issue solely for the 500 UK schools who use them, but by turning a blind eye, we give this ‘zero tolerance’ approach a pathway to become normalised and its effects will seep like a poison through the veins of wider society.

#banthebooths campaign believes deep confinement isolation booths to be a breach of the UN charter on the rights of the child. It also believes these booths are disproportionately occupied by children with special needs, vulnerable children affected by trauma and BIPOC.

Having done supply teaching in some very tough schools in Crawley and Hastings over a 2 year period, I do understand the nature of the behaviour challenges schools face. But isolation booths are a deeply disturbing trend (and not to be confused with chill out areas for children with sensory processing difficulties).

How did we get to a point where we think this kind of treatment of children is OK?

For further information visit BanTheBooths website. For an exploration into alternatives to the mainstream reward/punishment model read anything by Alfie Kohn and/or Marshall B.Rosenberg

 

 

 

Home Education

Nature is our Teacher

*Nature is our teacher* – Notes on rewilding education #3 .

Animal tutors and tree mentors

‘Indigenous people have long extended their intellectual horizons by learning from the minds of other creatures. But the Western way of knowing, the Rationalist approach, demands superiority to, and separation from, nature and nature’s ways of knowing’ – Wild: An Elemental Journey, Jay Griffiths

I will never regret the unstructured time outdoors my children have had. Day after day, year after year. Freedom in nature was the building blocks of their childhood and they can revisit that wisdom whenever they choose, in ways that feel good to them.
Collectively, we have lost so much of our wild knowing and swapped it for text books and concrete. The effects of this are obvious and devastating.

And yet the benefits of time outdoors are well documented. From improved well-being and self- esteem to opportunities for development of physical, mental & sociological abilities. Nature is a great equalizer. Children who aren’t ‘successful’ in the academic realm often flourish outside. Nature doesn’t discriminate.

Resources: For animal wisdom @faunaspeak For writing/films on loss of wildness in education – Carol Black. For how to introduce self-directed time outdoors to children of all ages schooled or unschooled see the Forest School Association- they are well placed for dealing with government guidelines on COVID-19

If ever there was a time to give children freedom in wild spaces, now is surely it.

Home Education

The Self-Directed Network

The Self-Directed Network – Rewilding Education #2

The Self-Directed Network

Self-directed learning is essentially about being curious about the world around you and then utilising all the resources at your disposal to discover more (experimenting\playing, reading books, watching you tube, making notes/sketches, finding people who enjoy the same thing as you or who know more, asking questions, taking online or RL classes etc).

Children might need help figuring out how they learn most effectively or locating and accessing particular resources. Some will enjoy learning in their own company at home, others might enjoy the increased motivation of working in a group with people who have similar interests or goals.

Lockdown has definitely brought with it some unique challenges for SDL because only some of the things which stimulate our motivation have been available to us.

What I love most about SDL is that it organically feeds into our innate drive to learn. There is no *right* way to do it because everyone is different and learns in their own way and in their own time. It embraces and celebrates difference. .

Here are 2 of my favourite resources to discover more: Freed to Learn by Peter Gray and The Art of Self-Directed Learning by Blake Boles. I love Blake’s work because it is so accessible and doesn’t pose school as the enemy (it’s not, the system is).

Education in school · Home Education

Love vs Power

Earth Love

 

The dominant narrative in our culture is that we must use control to ensure our children grow up to be social and useful members of society. Our education system is a reflection of these social norms. .

I am interested in how we can change this narrative; how we re-wild our own hearts with love, not power.

I personally have my own children to thank for taking me down this path of inquiry for the past 14 years. They are both adamant protectors of social justice for which I am grateful.

This inner work is never ending though! If you have a great resource to share, please do! Here are 2 of mine: ‘Parenting for social change’ by Teresa Graham Brett – this book is not heavy going at all, a really nice read😊 If you’re not a book person then this Instagram account @letemgobarefoot might appeal, lots of words of wisdom over there.

Let’s change the world together!😃

conservation · Plastic Free Living

Plastic Free Camping

We’ve just come back from camping in Cornwall and it was awesome! I just love it, especially in this beautiful weather we’re having. I really need to move there; the call to the sea seems to get stronger in me each year.

InstagramCapture_1194b2b5-dfdc-4028-a8a8-3a537a3bed01
Have you ever seen a more beautiful view?!

We camp on the Camel Estuary every year and so far we’ve not had to replace any of our camping gear. Looking at it all with critical eyes I realised how much of it is plastic, although our actual tent is second-hand and our tables, most of the rest of it was bought new and much of it has plastic elements to it. It doesn’t make sense to chuck your plastic stuff out though. The key is to use it, fix it and use it again and when the time comes to re-buy the item, dispose of it properly and then research non-plastic alternatives and buy better next time around.

Tents:

Modern tents are made almost entirely from man-made fibres most typically nylon or polyester which are thermo plastic polymers. Modern carbon fibre tent poles are a composite of plastic, and guy ropes are nylon. Often the only non-plastic part of the tent is the metal tent pegs. If you still prefer a modern tent you can get some great modern tents made from 100% recycled materials or you could buy second-hand.

The other obvious eco-friendly answer if you’re buying a new tent is to purchase canvas. You can get all sorts, such as tipi’s or bell tents, which may be heavier than your plastic tent but I’m told they have loads of great advantages too. They are often pretty easy to put up, they keep cooler inside in hot weather than nylon or polyester and they have a ‘glamping’ feel; an added touch of luxury to your camping experience!

WP_20180707_04_39_06_Pro
Dawn view from Mum’s bell tent = tent and pitch envy!

Sleeping:

For mattresses we have airbeds, which are definitely plastic but they are perfect for my bad back. Sometimes if you feel you have no alternative but to buy plastic I would suggest buying the best you can afford because at least you will get years of use out of it. You can get cheap airbeds for a fiver but they don’t last long, whereas my Colemans air bed for 25 quid has lasted 5 years and counting. You can also purchase 75% recycled airbeds for a tenner here. As it happens 3 out of 4 of our airbeds finally bit the dust this year so I will be looking at what plastic free or longer lasting mattresses there are out there.  I do have one excellent self-inflating camping mat by Therm-a-rest that I’ve had since I went travelling over 20 years ago. I would struggle to sleep on that now, but I know lots of people who find them perfectly comfy. You can often get these for a few quid on ebay second hand and they literally last forever.

If money’s not an issue or you are prepared to save for an eco-friendly option, try the ‘naturalmat’ from Camping with Soul. You can use these brilliant roll up mattresses on their own or in combination with a metal framed camp bed.

As for sleeping bags, for a little bit more of an investment you can buy one made from up to 100% recycled materials.

Cooking:

Most camping stores will have a good range of stainless steel/aluminium cooking pots, bowls and cups and with a quick online search you can easily find bamboo/corn cutlery and kitchenware ideal for camping. I found this site useful for thinking about the options.

There are loads of great eco camp stoves out there giving you freedom from fossil fuels. Here’s the Biolite  which has the added bonus of also being able to charge up your phone if you like to stay connected while camping.

Personally I like being able to switch off completely so for something similar but a bit cheaper and without phone charging ability, you could go for the classic Kelly Kettle. Again Camping with Soul do lots more eco stove options giving a variety of outdoor eating options to suit all needs.

Bring your plastic free bathroom bits with you!

I’m going to write a bathroom post for home or away all of it’s own, but the basics to take camping with you might be your compostable or recycled toothbrush, some paper wrapped soap and a shampoo bar.

 Swimwear:

Here are two amazing companies using recycled plastic to make swimwear. Firstly Batoko who make swimwear from recycled plastic bottles, fishing nets and post consumer waste such as carpets and other fabrics. Their costumes are really fun and they also support the Marine Conservation Society by giving them a proportion of their profits every year. Finisterre also make recycled plastic swimwear as well as a range of outer clothing too, all using materials form sustainable sources. They give 10% of their profits to Surfers Against Sewage and I think their products are really well designed, if a tad expensive. If you wait for a shop sale you can snap up a really beautiful eco costume for a reasonable price.

finisterre-fabric-image-1-mobile
Some surfer dudes no-where near the sea!

Plan ahead!

Camp sites always have drinking water taps so make sure to pack your re-usable bottles, there is really no need to buy plastic bottles of water if you are organised. If you are a big tea drinker like me, you will also save lots of disposable cups out and about if you take your own travel mug. Most travel cafes on the coast are really used to people giving them their own cup and they even wash it out for you if you ask nicely!

We found on our camping trip last week that our biggest watch out is buying food on the go. If you’re not organised you can end up consuming a lot of single-use plastic in the shape of the dreaded meal deal. In ‘How To Live Plastic Free‘ written by The Marine Conservation Society ( highly recommended if you want an easy and practical guide to going plastic free) they say:

Three pounds. That’s all it takes to kill the sea. Forget for a moment everything you’re read about beauty products, pollution, climate change and so on. If you want to find the true source of plastic excess you must venture to the shiny temple of our times: the supermarket. This ‘meal deal’ might look a ‘deal’ to you, but it is a true environmental disaster. All for under 3 pounds.’

A better option would be to find a deli where you can create your own sandwich wrapped in paper or grab a delicious pasty from a bakery or if you must use the supermarket (we did, it was just too convenient) then be prepared with your own Tupperware and buy from the fresh counters. Worst case scenario just make the best decision you can in the moment and resolve to be more prepared next time. We all get caught out, and personally I think this is our family’s biggest area to improve on as we are not brilliant at being organised!

2 Minute Beach clean:

Lots of us camp near a beach or visit one whilst camping. Make a new habit of doing a 2 minute beach clean every time you go. In 2017 #2minutebeachclean launched an APP that will help you to record your beach clean finds easily and quickly. It will also enable you to post directly to Instagram or Twitter and will tell you where your nearest beach clean station is.

SDC12480
L skipping along a perfectly clean beach!

O’h and don’t forget your cloth bag for purchases and your bamboo straws! I don’t go anywhere without my bamboo straws, they are lovely to use and my daughter will not drink out without one. We get ours from The Pure Blue and we love them.

If you have any amazing plastic free camping tips please let me know in the comments.

Happy Plastic Free Camping!

conservation

3 Family Friendly Marine Conservation Projects

Marine Conservation Graphic

Here are 3 easy marine conservation projects to get involved in this summer, which require no previous training and are easy for children of any age to engage with:
1) Beach Babies Survey – Lots of animals are changing the time of year that they breed in response to warmer or cooler waters. ‘Capturing Our Coast’ are interested in how this varies around the UK. They have put together an activity pack that will help you spot a number of species and their signs of reproduction. You can find all the details here.
2) The Great Eggcase Hunt – With over 600 species of skate and ray worldwide, at least 16 species have been regularly recorded in UK coastal waters; most of these species reproduce by laying tough leathery eggcases on the seabed. Of more than 30 species of British sharks, only two species lay eggcases that are commonly found on our beaches; the Smallspotted Catshark and the Nursehound.
Each eggcase contains one embryo which will develop over several months into a miniature shark, skate or ray. Once empty, the eggcases often wash ashore and can be found among the strandline on beaches.
The Great Eggcase Hunt aims to get as many people as possible hunting for eggcases that have either been washed ashore, or are found by divers and snorkelers underwater. In recent decades, several species of shark, skate and ray around the British coast have dramatically declined in numbers. The empty eggcases (or mermaid’s purses) are an easily accessible source of information on the whereabouts of potential nursery grounds and will provide the Trust with a better understanding of species abundance and distribution.
3) Great British Beach Clean – The Great British Beach Clean is the Marine Conservation Society’s annual event on the 3rd weekend of September. It’s the biggest beach clean and survey in the UK and provides a valuable insight into the litter problems our seas and oceans are facing
MCSUK have been recording this information for over 25 years and lobbying governments to stop items getting there in the first place. With the publics help they’ve made great progress in helping to bring in a plastic bag charge, stopping microplastics in cosmetics being washed down the plug hole and getting the message out that wetwipes shouldn’t be flushed or contain plastic. Find out how to get involved in an existing beach clean, or how to organise your own, here.

Home Education

A World Class Education

The government has recently published new draft guidance for local authorities concerning Elective Home Education. Much of it is a total reinterpretation of current guidance and law regarding home education. Before I fill in the consultation at the end of June, I want to take the time to dissect and understand all of the issues properly.

The introductory paragraph of the draft guidance is as follows:

The government’s aim is to ensure all young people receive a world-class education which allows them to realise their full potential, regardless of background, in a safe environment.

Now to be honest I find this entire paragraph very troubling, almost every word bugs me. It starts by asserting the government’s aims for our children’s education. The law actually states that education is the responsibility of the parent, not the government.
Section 7 of the Education Act 1996 states that:
The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable—
(1) to his age, ability and aptitude, and
(2) to any special educational needs he may have,
either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.

It then goes on to say that the government wants to ensure all young people receive a world-class education (bit pushy I think…..provide access to a world-class education would be better wording). How they will do this with home educated children makes up the rest of the guidance, or at least sets the tone, which is why I think a careful scrutiny of the wording and the meaning behind it is important.

I wanted to find out exactly what they mean by ‘world-class‘ and in reading through the DfE’s Strategy 2015-2020 the picture became predictably clear.

Here are the headlines:

‘Supporting all children to reach their potential brings economic prosperity for individuals and the whole country. Those with five or more good GCSEs (including English and maths) or a Level 3 apprenticeship earn more than their counterparts with lower level qualifications. And, the better-educated a society, the more productive, dynamic and innovative it can be.’

‘As well as mastering the fundamentals – literacy and numeracy – and studying an academic core, all young people also need the skills and character to succeed academically, have a fulfilling career, and make a positive contribution to British society.’

‘There will always be core knowledge and skills our young people need to have mastered to get on in life. But the workplaces they are entering continue to change rapidly. Whilst globalisation offers vast opportunity for those positioned to grasp it, it’s threatening for those without the education to compete effectively in an ever-hungrier global market. Automation and consequent shifts in the labour market mean the number of routine, middle-skilled jobs is likely to decline. Every young Briton unable to compete with their international peers represents a huge waste of potential, on both a personal and national level.’

‘Education should prepare children for adult life, giving them the skills and character traits they need to succeed academically, have a fulfilling career, and make a positive contribution to British society. There is a strong correlation between character traits like self-control and social skills, and a wide range of positive life outcomes, including higher wages.’

Very clearly what the government means by ‘world-class education which allows (children) to reach their full potential’, is primarily education which is academic in nature and which considers the potential usefulness of the future adult in supporting British economic growth.

Of course I understand that money is what makes the world go round, and we all need a portion of it to live happy and free lives. I also passionately believe in making contributions to the communities in which we live. No man is an island after all and supporting our fellow humans to make all of our lives better is a positive way to live.

However I don’t subscribe to equating a child’s full potential with their academic success. If of course they want to strive for academic excellence then that should be possible, and their social-economic background should never preclude them from reaching their personal ambitions. But to me, full potential has to do with so much more than academia and a bunch of GCSE’s or even a degree. Reaching one’s full potential is about humanity itself. Reaching the heights of creativity. Striving for healthy emotional and mental health. And what about spiritual full potential? Very few of us ever reach a spiritual nirvana……….but of course, sitting around meditating isn’t going to support Britain’s economic growth; it’s not going to make you or your country rich.

I know exactly which children get left out of the governments ambitions for world-class education though. The neuro-diverse children. The one’s who most likely make up the percentage of every classroom who suffer with mental illness due to a system which does not accommodate their needs, nor play to their strengths.

Ironically it’s likely that these children will have the kind of creative problem solving skills that Britain will need in the future, so let’s not allow the government to tarnish home education with these narrow views of what a child’s full potential is.

Unschooling, which would be particularly threatened by this new government guidance, is the kind of education most suited to neuro-diverse children, who through delving deep into their interests can find their niche in the world and thus make the positive contribution that the DfE keeps talking about in its strategy.

Check out this website which looks at what a ‘suitable education’ is.