I have been asked a few times recently what books I’d recommend for someone interested in home education. After a few moments thought I had amassed a whole shelf’s worth of inspiration but these are some of the very best. Books that have both inspired and guided me over the last eight years of family life.
ONE TO ONE is a beautifully produced sourcebook for home educators. Former teacher, Gareth Lewis and his family have compiled their knowledge of subjects from maths to gardening, cookery to art. It is aimed at families with children aged up to eleven, covering the preschool years and the importance of play in the early chapters. I used this book a great deal when my children were younger but we have now graduated to the sequel, Unqualified Education, for those aged 11 to 18. In One to One, there’s plenty of ideas to spark a journey of discovery and also much to ressaure you in Lewis’ editorial throughout the book. The illustrations and projects contributed by Lewis’ illustrious children serve as further reassurance that home education works. Great for those looking for inspiration for projects and wondering how to go about it.
TEACH YOUR OWN: John Holt’s book of home schooling is a useful reference book which has recently been updated. It contains much information on Holt’s philosopy but for anyone who wants to delve into the why of home education a little deeper, I would recommend How Children Learn and How Children Fail. Holt subscribes to the belief that children are natural learners and do not need to be co-erced into education or have school recreated for them at home. In fact his understanding of children and how they think make any of his titles an interesting read for all parents, whether home educating or not. A good choice for those interested in the philosophy of unschooling.
AND THE SKYLARK SINGS WITH ME: Adventures in home and community based education is David Albert’s first biographical book about his experiences educating his daughters. Some friends of mine don’t get on with this book, finding it frustratingly unachievable. It is true that Albert seems to be raising two daughters who are clearly genius material, which could highlight shortcomings in one’s own experiences. But I find that it serves as an exciting, inspirational tale of hope and possibility. Yes, his eldest is composing sonatas and singing complicated works with the local choral society by the age of ten but that is recounted in such a way that it is joyful to read of his child’s talents. I thoroughly enjoy this and Albert’s sequel, Homeschooling and the Voyage of Self-Discovery and revisit both at least once a year. A good read for those looking for stories of hope and possibility.
DUMBING US DOWN: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling by John Taylor Gatto is the book that I unreservedly recommend to anyone who is home-ed curious. I have bought countless copies over the years and yet looking in my bookcase now I can’t find one copy so they must all be out there circulating. Taylor Gatto, himself a former headteacher, outlines everything that is wrong with the current school system and details what we can do to put it right. Incredibly inspiring stuff from someone on the inside. A brilliant page turning read for those who are considering home education but are still unsure.
FREE RANGE EDUCATION, edited by Terri Dowty is another oft-lent book to those families considering home education. An excellent introduction, it comprises a series of essays and experiences from home educating families. Editor, Teri has put together a valuable selection of stories from a wide range of educational backgrounds, covering different approaches. This seems to be a popular read for dads who are seeking more information about the actual practicalities of home education. Useful for those who want information from the front line; how does it actually work.
Do you have any favourite reads that have inspired you? It would be great to hear about them here.
The Out of the Ordinary Festival (OOtO) is a great small family friendly festival (which I hope to attend as it takes place between Brighton and Eastbourne near Green Parent HQ). It is held over three days days to celebrate the autumn equinox from 23-25 Sept.
Again, like many of the festivals I’ve been blogging about recently, there is a lovely focus on the family and the The Willowisp Family Area provides a safe and inspiring area for kids and their parents. There are areas for free play, workshops throughout the day and opportunities to make new friends and get involved in the parade or play new instruments.
The site is divided into elemental areas, each with a special focus. Fire has it’s own special arena where you can see explosive fire shows and cabaret performances as well as learning a trick or two with some circus skills and fire-poi lessons!
Water has its own dedicated project which aims to remind us that we are guardians of the planet and have the power to heal it. According to their gloriously colourful website outoftheordinaryfestival.com, “Avalon Rising will be presenting inspirational talks from spirituality, astronomy to astrology with some of the world’s leading authorities on Earth Grids, Egyptology, Dowsing, Earth Energies, Mayan Dreamtime, Shamanism, Superfoods, Cymatics, Earth Grids, Lawful Rebellion, Earth Mysteries, Consciousness, Sacred Geometry, Ancient Knowledge and so much more.”. Plenty to keep you busy then!!
The Earth Wisdom arena was founded by Susan Hall and this year she has put together a wide range of arts and crafts fun for the whole family in the Eco Area, including including Reiki, Bushcraft, Herbal Medicine, Munay-Ki, Tarot, Animal Communication and Ceremonial Practice workshops.
Air is all about the music. With bands such as System 7, Zubzub, Orchid-Star, Vital, Transformer and many, many more. The focus is not only on fabulously relaxing and euphoric music, but also making it, through the presence of Urban Sedated Records which is a UK based fair trade record label specializing in all forms of Reggae, Dub and Roots music from around the world. The Urban Sedated crew are bringing some of their own world class artists. As an emerging Community Interest Company (not for profit), all money raised goes back into the community to create more access to the Arts and have a positive impact on individuals accessing services.
So if you fancy celebrating the Autumn Equinox with something a little different, get your tickets here.
Waveform is a festival with an admirable green mission, to achieve carbon neutral status. From energy reduction measures to tree-planting, They are aiming to make this event, taking place in Taunton from 2-4th Sept, the greenest dance festival in the UK and possibly the world.
Eco-Rangers will be going around the site gathering carbon information from the punters, production crew and main stage artists this year. This information will form part of the Waveform Carbon Footprint Scheme; enabling the organisers to work out how much carbon the event is creating. This will ensure year on year improvements can be made to carbon reduction measures, showing areas for celebration and those that need further work.
Festival goers can expect the best in cutting edge dance music with green roots. You can enjoy a full programme of talks, workshops, saunas, showers, healing, therapies and organic food to feed the mind, body and soul in the Green Village. Waveform 2011 is all about keeping the same lovely vibe and cutting edge electronic music, whilst upping the conscious element.
I am super excited about the Psy Trance arena hosted by the legendary Tribe of Frog (check out the line up!), the WorldShift workshop space including solar cinema and collective consciousness experiment (yes!) and the wealth of organic food available; all traders have to commit to at least 75% of their food being organic. Tickets are still available up to 28th August – find out more at waveformfestival.com
If you like a bit of mystery in your life, then you might like to think about going to Shambala festival. I can tell you the date (25th – 28th August) and some basic info about it (4 days, 200 acts, 9 stages, 99% powered by the wind, sun and vegetable oil for starters), but other than that it’s a secret. I exaggerate a little – they keep the exact programme and location of the festival a secret, but from a bit of sneaky internet research it appears to be around the Northamptonshire area (on a country estate no less!).
Music is a big focus; and with nine different stages you will have plenty to choose from. There really is all sorts: dub step, drum n’ base, dub, acoustic, reggae, latin, jazz, folk and blues. They like to focus on new talent, mixing new acts with previous performers. Whatever your style, you’re sure to find something to groove to.
There is, of course, much much more available. I’ve heard many shambalaphiles giving excited about the famous Shambala Fancy Dress Carnival Procession on Saturday night. Plus there’s a “Lost Cinema”, live poetry, a woodland sculpture trail as well as comedy, workshops and even swimming in the lake.
The aim of the festival is all about discovery. Discovering fresh and cutting edge music, discovering new friends, discovering hidden talents through trying new things, discovering your inner peace and tranquillity in the secluded meadow. As far as I can see, pretty much everything you want from a festival – you can get here.
If this sounds like your cup of tea – you better get in quick as the early bird tickets have already sold out. Full priced tickets are still available however – children can go for £29 (under 5s are free), teenagers for £79 and adults for £119. If you fancy arriving in green style, there are guided cycle rides to the festival from £10 (see the website shambalafestival.org for more info)
I recently posted about our Buddhafield experience, and thought you may be interested to know about Sunrise Off-Grid, taking place from 18-21st August in the Mendip Hills, Somerset. This festival is family-focused and explores sustainable living within communities and it’s utterly brilliant.
We’ve been going to Off-Grid as a family for several years and has a really, really special community vibe. What is fab about this festival is that it’s such a grass roots event. Everyone who attends contributes to the festival in some way, large or small and it really feels like being part of something special.
If you check out the website, sunrise-offgrid.co.uk, you’ll discover some of the many enticing things happening this year from Forest School for kids to the brilliant Brigit Strawbridge talking about the importance of bees, Rob Hopkins on the Transition Movement to a full scale Off Grid college where participants can take part in a 12 module course. The festival is based around the idea of the ‘transition’ of the Earth: do we use initiative and step into a new world where we are active participants, or do we simply stand-back, submissively, and let others make the change? Off-Grid believes that we have a duty, as humans, to move forwards whilst creating new links with the planet.
There are opportunities at the festival to learn about generating our own power, eating from nature, and even moving beyond our own limits by walking on hot coals! I love the fact that Off Grid creates an intimate environment which focuses on sharing: skills, knowledge and wisdom. The focus on switching from our reliance on unsustainable resources is an issue close to my heart, and what’s on offer reflects this. It also looks at looking at changing our perception, not just habits, to create a better community consciousness.
If this year is anything like last year, there will be plenty of live music (think Seize the Day and The Correspondents), healing workshops, presentations on all sorts of natural and sustainable topics (How to build an off-grid energy system for under £100? Yes please!) and everything in between, including dance, yoga and practical workshops. Children’s tickets are £20 and adults vary from £65-85 (depending on your income), but see the website for more information on this. See you there?!
Welcome to the new blog from the Green Parent office. Here we'll talk about what's going on in the small and quite leafy headquarters of the UK's leading green lifestyle magazine. We'll share news that interests us and talk about green issues and natural parenting. We'll share advice and information from our own experiences of living a green lifestyle. And we'll even tell you what we are reading, eating, drinking and thinking. Hope you get plenty of food for thought here.