Guest Post by Paula Cleary

Thanks to my guest author Paula Cleary for this beautiful post. You can read more from Paula at her blog FeetOnTheGroundandHeadintheClouds.

Wonderful world, beautiful people

When I stop and really think about what has gotten under my skin over the years, it has to be simply people. Whether it was their hobbies, actions, jobs, obsessions or recollections – when someone spoke or shared with me anything they really loved, I loved the light in their eyes. Their tone of voice would change. They’d become animated. Some magic would seem to be at hand.

At school I was always drawn to the mavericks, the slightly barmy teachers. The ones who lived and breathed their subjects. Children are wonderful BS detectors and as a youngster in school, I would know when a teacher was going through the motions, they would radiate fatigue and ennui for their subject and in their class I too, would switch off and also go through the motions, pretending to be bothered but instead doodling or dreaming something more interesting.

So how do we expose our home-educated children to people’s enthusiasms and passions in the absence of a team of school teachers? Does it matter who their replacements are? Must they be university trained to be any help to our children. As long as the role models in our children’s lives are positive forces for good, it doesn’t matter what they’re passionate about. Rock climbing, cake-baking, vintage cars, Japanese art, animal welfare, or the music of Mozart –it doesn’t matter. Enthusiasm is ten times more important than technical accuracy – mistakes can always be rectified or relearnt later, but capturing someones attention for a subject can have a certain window or time frame which can be difficult to get back to later.

Everyone you know is mad about something. Tap into and draw on people’s passions and let them teach your children with their sparkly eyes, enthusiastic tone and animated manner. Play a little game and try and see if every time you meet with people you can get them to talk about something they love. Do it with friends and family, do it with neighbours or even complete strangers. See if you can get them chatting about something they enjoy and if they are particularly skilled, get them to demonstrate too. If they are willing to actively teach, however informally, take them up on it. It would be a one-off five minute demonstration of shearing a sheep, it could be a regular series of sessions, over a period of time. Your children will be wide-eyed and spongy and other people’s enthusiasm will at the very least simply demonstrate how good it feels to have a passion – even if they don’t adopt it for themselves. They may already have a hobby they enjoy and seeing other people enjoying their hobbies might get them turned on to developing it further into a passion. A demonstration by a friendly and good-natured soul is worth a hundred dreary school lessons! And who knows what new hobbies the children might be inspired to take up? Origami, sign language, kite surfing, knitting, or studying the armory of the medieval period – any hobby as long as it is not hurting anyone will refine skills which will be transeferable in some way later on. A hobby may be a sneaky way of getting your children to do things they find a chore – for example, cookery often requires maths and reading and growing vegetables teaches patience and continued care…. It can be other children, it can be adults, all make good teachers – especially if they’re not trying to be “schooly” about it!

Who else can inspire our children in this way? One of the benefits of television, radio and other media are the teachers and presenters therein who ooze an infectious enthusiasm which make us want to learn more. Characters such as David Attenburgh, Carol Klein, Jamie Oliver, Ray Mears, Steve Backshall and Brian Cox all speak with a passion about their respective loves. They seem to live and breathe and be exactly where they want to be, following their dreams and living them fully. They are good role models for living 100%, with gusto. There are many such enthusiastic presenters to be found on the radio, in books and even on the internet – TV is not the only medium. On the radio there are characters such as Dr. Karl who can be heard by podcast – a more affable or enthusiastic scientific radio presenter would be hard to find.

There are inspiring people in all walks of life and many are well known and many are not. There are entrepreneurs, inventors, film-makers, poets, song writers, novelists. There are pioneers and revolutionaries, people who go beyond enthusiasm and do something remarkable or breathtaking, self-sacrificing or brave, showing true grit and determination to follow their hearts and their own truth.

Education is after all, about moral development not simply learning facts and skills. Helping our children develop a good moral compass is as much part of our jobs as parents and educators. When the going gets tough, we all need a little extra bit of help and motivation to give us strength. Learning about others acts can give children the morale boost that others have trodden difficult paths before them. In my own family history, I am lucky enough to have some amazing role models of outstanding temerity and perseverance. My grandfather was a polish POW for five years, and was instrumental in creating a war memorial which stands in pride of place in his home town. At his funeral there was a mile long walking procession consisiting of a marching band, members of the forestry commission and Scouting groups, besides many friends and family too. There are also stories such as that of my great great aunt who was captured by the Russians and taken to Siberia, where the winters were so harsh that she did such mind-boggling things as knitting a dress from nettles, using sticks for needles. Her husband had to stand for hours in a ditch full of freezing cold water up to his waist, for daring to teach his young son, also in captivity with them, to learn Polish from a smuggled book. He later died of pneumonia. There are many more stories like this from my own family and that of millions of others of that era. Our hardships and sufferings are really quite small when put into context and it does good to remind our children of this, when they are in the throes of self pity because they have to do some petty chore or task.

Mahatma Ghandi once said “Be the change you want to see in the world”. If you can live by this code, if you can be enthusiastic and follow your passions with integrity and dedication, your children will learn to do the same on their own paths.

Here is a mega list of people that your family could study or learn about. People who in their own way, were the change they wanted to see. There is a wealth of information out there so use whatever media work for you. You could study these people for an afternoon or a week, watch a movie about them, read their entire volume of works or simply read a few words about them and be inspired. Some are epic. Others simply show a path to a good life. You could categorise them with the children into different groups of heroes or inspirational characters. Each one is a little beacon of light to motivate and make a person think “If they can be exceptional, anyone can, even me”. You may find heroic acts in the everday, in the ordinary folks living near you. You may find acts of courage and heroism in your own family tree. Someone you know may be modelling a courageous life, facing many hardships. But here is a list of some famous folk who you can study too. I am sure I could never list them all but here are just some. And remember that people are never great in isolation. They become great when they love and exchange help with other people. That’s what makes people truly great!

Please let Julie know of any other names you think deserve to be added to the list.

Inspiring People

Aung Sang Suu Kyi William Shakespeare John Peel
Kelly Holmes St. Augustine Sir Alex Fergusun
Elizabeth Fry Galileo Gallilei Oscar Schindler
Sparticus Che Guevara Simon West Marie Curie
Rosa Parks Leonardo Da Vinci Maya Angelou
The Dalai Llama Jesus Christ Bob Marley
Joan of Arc Roald Dahl Buddha
Maria Montessori Yehudi Menuen Nelson Mandella
The tank man of Tiananmen Square   Albert Einstein
St. Francis of Assissi Edith Cavell Sheila Kitzinger
Anne Frank Frida Kahlo The six wives of Henry VIII
Mary Seacole Eddie Izzard Ellen MacArthur
Richard Branson Charles Darwin Jiddu Krishnamurti
Francis Powers Cobbe J R R Tolkien Thomas Edison
Joanna Lumley Mother Theresa Emeline Pankhurst
Boudicca Ella Fitzgerald Jamie Oliver
Irena Sendler Richard Sandbrook Sir Isaac Newton
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall Tim Burton Octavia Hill
Alice Herz Sommer Florence Nightingale W. A. Mozart
Pablo Picasso Glenda Jackson John Lennon
Captain Richard Phillips Alison Lapper Lisa Potts
Michael Eavis Charlie Chaplin Billy Bragg
Heroes of Telemark Levi Roots Donald Watson
William Wilberforce Baroness Bertha von Suttner Jesse Owens
Laura Jane Addams Barack Obama Robert Winston
Amelia Earhart Confuscius Christopher Columbus
Members of Shackleton trans-antarctic expedition Lucy Pearce Liu Xiaobo
Montgolfier brothers Miss Florence Alice Allen Kofi Annan
Marie Paradis Woody Guthrie Steve Backshall
John Holt Bob Harris Ray Mears
Friedl Dicker Brandeis Anti-Slavery Society Liz McCartney
Founders of Greenpeace Aristotle Bob Geldof
MichaelRosen Recha Sternbuch Philip Pullman
Helen Keller Dr. Thomas Barnardo Alfred the Great
Camelia Batmangheligjh Dick Strawbridge Joseph Rotblat
Joseph Brotherton Tom Davis (warchild) Shirin Ebadi
John Taylor Gatto Isembard Kingdom Brunel Isabelle Eberhart
Wing. Commander Rees Betty Williams Isaac Pitman
Feral children Eddie the eagle Edwards Noam Chomsky
Watt Tyler Ken Robinson Queen Elizabeth I
Colonel Stuart Archer Mahatma Gandhi Scott Silverman
Martin Luther King Virginia Woolf Valentina Tereshkova
Hu- Yaobang Rudolf Steiner A.S.Neill
Wangari Muta Maathai Emily Green Balch Mary Kingsley
Miss Doreen Ashburnham Michel Odent Muhammed
Abraham Lincoln Mairead Corrigan Catherine Booth
Henry Dunan Stevie Wonder Humanity Dick
Titanic crew/engineers/passengers Firemen Tony Hart
Kim Dae-Jung Bob Flowerdew Henry Dunant
Sam Wannamaker Captain Cook Martin Luther King
Katie Magic-Wood Ina May Gaskin Rev W. A Awdry
Jackie Berry Blind Lemon Jefferson Marla Runyan
Ann Bancroft Luiz Mott Jane Tomlinson
Ludwig Van Beethoven Michel Phelps Oscar Pistorius
Xue Xinran Rick Allen Christy Brown Tom Whittaker
Stephen Hawking Terry Fox Vincent Van Gogh
Charles Dickens Oliver Heaviside Lewis Carrol
Bethany Hamilton Ferdinand Berthier Pythagoras
Whoopi Goldberg Jordan Rice Luis Marden
Evo Morales Jessica Cox Harriet Tubman
Sarah Bernhardt Jean Moulin Aimee Mullins
William Morris Louis Braille Herman Hesse
Muhammad Ali Nestor Carlos Kirchner John Nash
Sir Ian Botham Alexander Graham Bell Claude Monet
Jean Paula Sartre Brian Mc Keever Esref Delius
Sue Townsend Ann Adams Wilma Rudolph
Thomas Armitage Members of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising Neil Young
1943 Rob Cockerham Search + Rescue teams
Children in wartorn countries Orphans Miners
Ambulance drivers Lady Jane Grey Twin towers survivors


Wonderful world, beautiful people — 4 Comments

  1. What a great list of people to read about -I’m going to print it out to use when I need some inspiration. The stories of what people do when desperate is amazing; it sure does put my small problems in perspective. Thank you.

  2. Thanks for directing me to your blog. Love this post and the way you have developed your ideas on being around people who love what they do.

  3. Thanks radio free school but it’s not my blog. I’m just a guest writer! I’m really happy it has inspired you and Natalie, and the folks who have ‘liked’ this article on Facebook.