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Here is our weekly blog giving you an insight into who we are, how we think and what we're doing. In general this is intended for adults, parents, teachers.

If you click the archive button it will take you to our previous blogs, archived monthly.

Friday 21 June.
Richard writes

The summer solstice has gone, a time to reenergise and maybe regroup, and this will be the final blog now until the beginning of September. Hopefully, then, we will start our School of the Air and be able to provide some worthwhile learning material, in subjects not usually covered, for home educators.

Regardless of that, the material currently on the site, which I have developed over some eight years, will still be there and, any new material, while specifically there for home educators, can also be used by schools, in fact any learners anywhere.

Learning is a part of living but not a part of existing. If you just exist, you let things float over you, round you, even through you. To live, and hence to learn, you need to do something, be aware of everything, experience the good with the bad and learn from both.

We do not inhabit this world alone. You have to cope with the vagaries of others, try to read them, be perceptive and never be afraid to move on or away when things don't feel right. It is never a failure to have tried; it is a failure to stick with something, someone, when you know it would be better to go alone. Alone does not mean lonely. It means freedom. Don't be afraid to try it. The unknown is only scary if you are existing. If you live your life, the unknown is a challenge, a chance to reenergise and regroup.

See you, in some form, in September. Have a good summer. I will.

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Friday 14 June.
Richard writes

This week I had to write a letter to someone who knew nothing about our work or the passion that drives us. I managed it although to be honest it could have been a novella rather than a short letter. As always, I sent a draft of the letter to Molly for comments and a bit of proof-reading. In the email I wrote the following.
I know it's probably too long but it's only when I write something like this that I realise how passionate I am about it and how much it means to me. As I said yesterday I know about your passion and commitment, sometimes I forget about mine. It's at times like this I feel totally drained, emotionally. I have and will put everything into making it work. These days I find it worthwhile draining myself, pushing myself, when I know I have a colleague, a friend, who shares that passion.

Molly came back asking me how I could possibly forget my passion and commitment, adding every single thought and idea I have must remind me of my passion. It is clearly, she added, on my mind a lot.

The thing is that sometimes you spend too long in the woods, too closely engrossed in things, to be able to see the trees; a little forest- like analogy. Now who is on my mind a lot. There was so much I wanted to tell this person in this letter that I wanted to go on and on. I kept thinking of every reason why I do this, why it means so much and why I really am so passionate about it.

My much-quoted thinker, the late Sir Ken Robinson, once said that what you do for yourself dies with you when you leave this world, what you do for others lives on forever. I want to know that, after I've gone, there will be some people who have a better life because of what Molly and I are doing; better still that a child born now can learn and grow within a better education system. I don't need them to know my name just to benefit from the legacy I leave.

Luckily, I sincerely hope, some of that legacy will still be alive in the form of my amazing friend and colleague. We met on the day before St Swithin's Day two years ago. There is here a slight link to the folklore surrounding dear old Swithin, born about 800AD and one time Bishop of Winchester. When he died he asked to be buried, actually I'm assuming he asked this just before he died, in a simple tomb where the rain of heaven could fall on his grave. The legend says that after his remains were moved inside there was a great storm and it rained for many weeks.

For those that don't know the folklore says that if it rain on St Swithin's Day, July 15th, it will rain for forty days thereafter and if it is fair it will be good weather for the next forty days. According to records neither have ever happened.

However, in the 700 days since I met Molly we have been through every conceivable type of weather, metaphorically. But, we have persevered, dodged the tornado, waded through the flood, bathed in the sunshine, shivered in the cold, peered through the fog and survived the odd drought, all the time looking for the rainbow so we could follow our dream. The important thing has been to stay positive and to continue to strive for something we both believe in whatever the obstacles that appear in the way.

At eight this morning I text Molly and said I've just remembered I need to write the blog and I've no idea what about. She replied with a couple of ideas, thoughtful and helpful as ever. I said to her it would be a surprise for both of us what emerged. This then is the end result.

Also for both us music is an important factor in life. Listening to, or even writing, songs, gives great peace, calm and serenity. It is, or for me it is, very therapeutic. Maybe an example of mindfulness, see a previous blog. (Tuesday March 5). Well. here's another surprise. I'm finishing this piece with a song.

And if this blog is to have a legacy then it is that whatever your dream, go for it. Don't listen to those who say "you can't" or "you won't". Be positive, try to find someone of a like mind, trust each other, support each other, believe in each other and fight through everything life throws at you. I have often criticised our education system because it rewards winners, in fact it positively says that winning (passing exams) is the only success. In life we need to learn how we cope with problems and surmounting them, in any form, is far more of a success.

Surprise number2, you're going to get another song. I sent this to Molly about a year ago and she said it made her cry. Another legacy. Release your emotions, they are part of you. I don't know if Bruce Woodley of The Seekers, maybe before your time people, knows that he writes for me. He penned both these optimistic, never-give-up songs. What surprises will there be next week? Enjoy your weekend.

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Friday 7 June.
Richard writes

I have grandchildren, quite a few of them actually if you include step-grandchildren. They range, in age, from 33 to 1. The ones I see most are in their teens or very early twenties. Sadly I quite often hear them speak of "facts" which they have read on social media or even Wikipedia that are not actually facts. We all know anyone can type a Wikipedia page but to be fair to that site if something is unverified they will say so and so very little on that site comes in for my criticism.

However all social media sites do not come in that criticism-free category. Last year figures from Ofcom showed that TikTok was the most popular source of news for children aged 12-15. YouTube and Instagram came in second. For people aged 16-24 Instagram came top followed by Facebook. Most of these young people would consume the "news" on their mobile phones.

Unfortunately, in my opinion, but factually in nearly everyone's knowledge, these outlets rely on algorithms. These will show people what they have judged you want to see, thereby increasing the number of "clicks" and, correspondingly, advertising revenue. Vast profits if you want to be honest. They will also, I believe, show viewers a more slanted view on what they have judged you want to see.

All of this worries me. I have nothing against people who wish to "entertain" others with some short reel of them doing something stupid. I have nothing against others who wish to be "entertained" by such reels. I have always worried that many people seem to believe that some of the stunts shown were not actually deliberately staged, which leads me on to the massive amount of disinformation now on these social media outlets.

The BBC, a credible source of news, now has a disinformation and social media correspondent who could well be the disinformation on social media correspondent. It also has a BBC Verify unit which attempts to verify other news stories and not just those which appear on social media. Sadly, we seem to live in a world where lying, or at best misleading others, is considered standard.

Whichever political view you may have, as a total outsider you would have had no idea when listening to Rishi Sunak on Tuesday that his £2000 figure, which he quoted rather too many times in my opinion (see my opinion not fact) was spread over four years. Forget how they got the figure, the presentation by the PM gave as a fact that this would be an increase of £2,000 a year. If the leader of our country, as I type this, seeks to mislead what can we expect from others who now have unlimited access to a global, and mainly young, population.

As someone who studied statistics as an "A" level, I am only too aware how you can use them to show almost anything. Statement; the older you get the better sportsperson you become and statistics prove this. Last year I had a 0% winning record at Badminton. Fact. This year I have a 100% winning record. Fact. I played no sport last year, I walked a helluva lot when helping at Molly's Forest School, but this year I played and won a game of Badminton. Fact. Without fully explaining the facts on which you base your statistics you can easily give a distorted impression. Fact. People like the Prime Minister, in this instance and maybe on other occasions, are not using statistics they are quoting figures. There is a difference. Things on social media are not giving you news, information, they are quoting opinions. I, and Molly, always make it very clear on this website when we are giving an opinion and will always try to back that up with some background information.

When Lord Reith first took on the running of the BBC in 1922 he said it was there to inform, educate and entertain. I may dispute what is actually entertainment, my opinion, but I can see that these reels on social media could be entertaining. I do not believe they can be trusted to inform, some may, too many do not, and, as for education I am not sure that we really know any longer what education should be.

The problem, oh good he's finally got to the point, is that much of this social media entertainment comes through the mobile phone and it becomes addictive, that's what social media companies want. Lord Reith may have hoped that programmes on his new BBC could combine his three dicta. I am not, though, convinced that ordinary untrained members of the general public are able to, or indeed want to, differentiate between entertaining and informing. In any case, as Einstein said "information is not knowledge" so please don't think you are becoming more knowledgable by drowning in information that is true or otherwise.

Addiction, in nearly any form, is harmful. If children feel they cannot live without their mobile phones, for whatever purpose, we are moving into a very dangerous and worrying area. I was therefore delighted to read that a group of 17 London secondary schools have joined up to go smartphone-free. They hope, and so do I, that by banning the use of mobile phones in school they will, in some way, address the downside of their use outside of school. They will also try to stress the detrimental effects including mental health concerns, screen time addiction, the impact on sleep and attention spans, access to inappropriate and graphic content and increased risk of thefts and muggings.

If such an approach became national, even government policy, unlikely at present as I see some parties are actually using TikTok as a vote winner, then perhaps those mental health specialist I talked about last week would not be in quite so much demand and money could be spent on improving the way children learn. In these 17 schools, any phone used by a pupil during the school day will be confiscated. The schools have also differentiated between a traditional mobile phone, solely used to communicate with someone, and a smart wifi-accessible device. The former will be returned at the end of the school day, the latter kept for up to a week or until a parent comes to collect it.

As I know for a fact that some children as young as four are being given mobile phones then maybe this should be extended to primary schools as well. Such a move, nationally, would make a positive difference to the metal well-being of all young people and, in the same way as our School of the Air project is trying to do, persuade them that being outside, being in contact with the real world, is far more fun, far more positive and is a form of addiction that is actually positive not harmful.

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Monday 3 June.
Richard writes

A One-off Monday blog today as we want to ask for your help. Molly and I have done our June Education Podcast and asked the same question.

Basically, and I hope you won't get fed up with us asking, we need some funds. Up to this point all costs incurred in running Owlbut's World of Learning website have been covered by me. I don't, and never will, take a salary for any of the work I do. I have always tried to keep costs to the very minimum. For example, I code all pages that we add to the site and I do all the necessary marketing.

However, our new venture, School of the Air, has additional costs that I can't meet. Once we start in September we have negotiated a small amount of sponsorship which will, hopefully cover all our extra costs. But, we need some funds to cover our initial costs. We'll need to do a bit of locational filming and while I manage to do all this with no salary, surviving, as people of my age should, on my pension, Molly is nowhere near her pension and if recent practices keep being followed, she might never get there.

It would be impossible to do the School of the Air without her. She has superb specialist knowledge, is an invaluable extra pair of hands when we are filming and an incredible support to keep me going. She must have a salary although we have set it at no more than the current minimum wage.

There are two ways you can help us. Firstly, we have today launched a GoFundMe page to cover those initial costs between now and September. If you share our view on giving ALL young children the best possible start in life, in giving them a fun way of learning and encouraging them to get outside and explore, and learn from, nature, we would really appreciate any amount you felt able to contribute. Our GoFundMe page is here

Secondly we have also set up a Patreon page. This is different in that you would agree to make a monthly contribution to our work. The lowest amount is £5 per month. With this method though you actually get back some goodies, depending on your level of contribution, and some unique material from us. Our Patreon page is here

Molly and I are passionate about this project. We know what effect it will have. If you possibly can, please help us. As I've said before the government figures show that there are around 150,000 children presently not attending school, with obviously the corresponding number of parents having to cope with that. If we can help just 1% that would be 1,500; far larger than your average school.

Thank you.

P.S. We hope to help all of those parents and children. Why not?

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