Wednesday, 20 April 2016

You know, I look back in disbelief

In about 2004, we were seriously considering home educating our girls.

I happened to know someone who was already home educating her girls so I asked her loads of
questions about home education.

I already knew it was legal.

She told me about Education Otherwise which I thought was an institution. At first, I didn't understand that it was 'staffed' by volunteers, by those who had gone ahead on the challenging road that is less travelled.

It took me a while of asking questions on lists.  I think my yahoo list was my best friend during that
time.

Someone always answered my questions for which I am very grateful.  Sometimes it took people a
few hours or even days to get back to me, but they always did.

A lot of those people no longer home educate:  their children are grown.  Unfortunately, some of those incredibly patient souls have passed on.

To every one of you I extend a hearty thank you.  You taught me more than you know.  You taught
me the true meaning of giving someone time.  You taught me how to think like a free person.  You taught me about the law as it applies to home education (and other things, now and then).  You taught me patience.  You taught me to trust my children and my gut instinct.  You taught me the real deep meaning of community.  You taught me that no style of education fits every child.  You taught me the value of talking to my youngsters and REALLY LISTENING.

I have no doubt that you taught me so much more than what I've just listed.

Thank you.  With all my heart, I thank you.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

New threat to home education - or a whole load of extreme bunkum?

Hello, it's a New Year.  I hope it's a good one for you.

What will it hold for home educators?

What it often holds for home educators - threats and confusion or so it seems at first glance.

Home educators could be filling their children's minds with poison.  They could be 'radicalizing' their children.

They could be making them do the dishes.  OK, I threw that in because we know that 'making' your children do the dishes (wash the dishes, for our American friends) could be a very dangerous thing.  Or no it couldn't.

"A senior government source said: “There has always been the freedom in this country for people to educate their children at home. Many people do it very well. But we need to know about where the children are and just to be certain that they are safe.

“For every parent doing a brilliant job, there may be someone filling the children’s mind with poison. We just don’t know, we don’t have reliable figures.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/12060355/Home-schooling-crackdown-over-extremism-fears.html

Home educators 'could be' letting their children get over the dreadful time they've had at school, or they could be touring the country learning about regions and districts and flooding and overworked water courses and environmentalism...  You see how one subject naturally leads to another.
People home educate for different reasons, not one of them appears to be turning those children into radicals.  For a start, what is a radical?  Maybe they mean someone who doesn't like fracking or Nicky Morgan, Education Secretary, the current incumbent in a long line of people seemingly unaware of anything that home education actually is (in the UK, home education is not generally referred to as homeschooling, although various families 'home school' as in they have 'school at home').
Indeed one wonders immediately just who this unnamed source is?  'A senior government source?  Care to guess? Perhaps Heather Brooke, the amazing reporter who brought us all information about the expenses claimed by Members of Parliament might tell us, but this spokesperson is sheathed in mystery.  Perhaps it is the government tea lady in the Houses of Parliament.  One can only guess..
Many people home educate very well apparently.  How nice, how soothing, that remark just sets you up for the fall, does it not?  'But we need to know about where the children are and just to be certain that they are safe'.
Strange that, when many children who are in care (that is cared for by governmental appointed agents) go missing. These children are not in their parents' care but are LOOKED AFTER children, in the 'care' of the state.
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/thousands-of-children-in-care-go-missing-every-year-8585289.html
The information was obtained from police forces in England and Wales by the NSPCC, and those figures can presumably be checked by looking at the FOI responses.
So, obviously, children who are in the care of their parents (home educating) are not safe enough in the care of their parents but must be overseen by a state that loses children that it DOES have a duty of care for.
What can one even say to that?
Just to be certain that the children are safe, says the senior government source.  Why would they not be safe?  They are with their parents or in other company like grandparents, friends, home educating groups, or doing what every child does like ballet or gymnastics classes or some such thing.
Of course, when one starts to deconstruct the argument, one sighs deeply with complete and utter tiredness because it's the same old squawking.
1)  We don't know where they are.  So, when school breaks up for the summer, do you know where THOSE children are?  No, of course you don't because you feel no need to. Or you know that to track every child in the country would be ludicrous or impossible or so time wasting and resource wasting that even the most patient taxpayer would shout 'ENOUGH IS ENOUGH' and 'LEAVE FAMILIES ALONE' and 'STOP SPENDING MY HARD-EARNED MONEY ON RUBBISH' or some such thing.   
2) You do know where they are.  They are in the care of parents who make a far better job of caring for their children than the state does.  Remember a few lines back? Thousands of children go missing from state supplied care every year.  It does not engender any particular belief that it would be better for every child if he or she was followed by the state at any or every moment of the day, does it?  As a society, we can have no trust in the ability of the state to prevent harm to children since they lose them quite frequently and no one knows what is happening to those lost ones.  
3) You could know where they are.  It isn't difficult to read a few deregistration letters which say that a child is no longer to be considered a pupil at a school but is now to be home educated. The schools really cannot have thousands of children deregistering every day, can they?  Or the good people in the media would been letting us know about that. So the local authorities must know that children are being home educated because it is a school head teacher's duty to let them know.  Equally, the perusal of a registrar's office in every area would give the birth information of every child in the area, and those who are not registered on a school roll might possibly be home educated.

But why would you do that?  Unless, of course, you are gripped by paranoia for which you should really seek medical help.  The children who have been in the news often for tragic reasons were known by social services and, apparently, many other services who failed to intervene.  So even knowing about children who were in real danger and at real risk the state could not keep them safe.

Actually, I do find the idea of extremism quite terrifying.  It's more the idea that it is one of those concepts that can morph from one thing to another.  Anything can seem like extremism to a conformist mind and a conformist mind is one that expects and even, demands, that children GO TO SCHOOL even if schooling is detrimental to a particular child.  
As to Islamic terrorism, how much terrorism can one pack into young minds?  How would that translate into extremism or terrorism in the future because it is most unlikely that small children would be able to carry out terrorist activities? So you are speaking about children who, within a few years, will be able to be functioning as terrorists.  But, surely, even if a young mind is poisoned - and what does that mean in actuality and how does one define poison in that sense - surely the poison is not necessarily something that will make you act.    A loose analogy (very loose because, naturally, a Convent School education would not be suspected of poisoning a child's mind) would be my friend, M, who went to a Catholic School, despite being Anglican, because the school was situated on her road.  She remains quite fond of the smell of incense and the beauty of Catholic churches, but follows no particular religion, and will often say that her conscience is her guide (which teaching could have come from many other religions).
So what is this all about?
I don't know.  I have a few vague ideas.  Possibly it's all smoke and mirrors. 
Since OFSTED was mentioned in the article about home educating, it might be that OFSTED inspectors want a few more inspections to make.  Of course, their remit is schools because schools are a service provided by the state and have to be inspected to allay parents' fears that their money is not being well spent. And, naturally, to inspect every home educating family they would have to receive more money.  No vested interest there then. But, of course, OFSTED should not be inspecting or suspecting families. Families are not providing a service for money, far from it. Home education is done for love.
So is that an extremist view of a) OFSTED or b) the state schools?
Or not an extremist view at all.
It depends on your definition, doesn't it?









  ..
i





Monday, 21 December 2015

Education of the oppressed

"The radical, committed to human liberation, does not become the prisoner of 'a circle of certainty' within which reality is also imprisoned. On the contrary, the more radical the person is, the more fully he or she enters into reality so that, knowing it better, he or she can transform it. This individual is not afraid to confront, to listen, to see the world unveiled. This person is not afraid to meet the people or enter into dialogue with them. "


That's from the introduction to 'The Pedagogy of the Oppressed' by Paolo Freire. If you've been reading other threedegreesoffreedom.blogspot entries you may, just may have noticed his name being mentioned once or twice.


We should all be humanised (or humanized) says Paolo, and, when you think about it, isn't that the best way to live? To be fully human is to recognise, respect and even cherish the humanity of other people. Once you respect others (you don't have to like them) you grow as a person yourself and you flinch from doing anything that negates their humanity.


I think a lot about schools. I've had quite a lot to do with them throughout my years. I've attended one school or another for primary, secondary and, perhaps you could even say. tertiary education. I've gone back to school for evening classes. My children went to nursery, first and secondary schools. When I think of the schools, I flinch because all I can remember is the dehumanising qualities that stand out in them. The raising of hands to ask permission to perform a natural function like go to the toilet. The inability to be yourself, the real you, and not just the rough-tough social you who doesn't care that no one hands you a Christmas present, in the schoolyard where everyone is watching, and what that lack says to all the young people around you: it says that you're dispensible, unnoticeable, uncared for...invisible. Unpopular. You don't see, say or do 'the right things.' You don't sound the same as everyone, walk the same, like the same music, actors, films, books... You constantly measure yourself by the yardstick of another or others and cannot match up. You are not accepted. You do not exist, but the simulacrum who interacts with peers and teachers and assistants has to be you - yet not you.


For the most part of the day, you do not exist. You are not verified. You are not validated. You are not loved.


Then there's the passing of knowledge to one group from other knowledge sources and this is what Paolo calls 'the banking system of education.' A teacher deposits knowledge in his or her students.


The teacher narrates, the student listens. There is no room for problem-solving, no room for 'we' (the teacher and student as problem resolvers). There is no space for dialogue. The teacher deposits the fossil of his or her knowledge into the pupil, and the pupil must receive it in silence and without enquiry and without testing. It seems to me mendacious that although we report and aver that we cherish scientific enquiry and the mind that challenges everything we actually encourage the opposite. Schools never request different, thoughtful, challenging answers from their pupils; they want the 'right' answer and they will discard the thinkers' responses as 'wrong' answers. Alan Thomas and Harriet Pattison in their book, 'How Children Learn at Home' tell us that one home educated student went to school and was thoroughly astounded that the teachers, not the pupils, asked the questions in class.


"Narration (with the teacher as narrator) leads the students to memorise mechanically the narrated content. Worse yet, it turns them into 'containers,' into 'receptacles' to be 'filled' by the teacher. The more completely she fills the receptacles, the better a teacher she is. The more meekly the receptacles permit themselves to be filled, the better students they are.

Education thus becomes an act of depositing, in which the students are the depositories and the teacher is the depositor. Instead of communicating, the teacher issues communiques and makes deposits which the students patiently receive, memorize and repeat."


Paolo Freire details the 'banking' system of education, and we all know what a mess the banking system itself is in at the moment, don't we?


I'll give him the last word here: "In the banking concept of education, knowledge is a gift bestowed by those who consider themselves knowledgeable upon those whom they consider to know nothing. Projecting an absolute ignorance upon others, a characteristic of the ideology of oppression, negates education and knowledge as processes of inquiry. The teacher presents himself to his students as their necessary opposite; by considering their ignorance absolute, he justifies his own existence."






Wednesday, 18 November 2015

The unsinkable hatred for home education and the Titanic

The Unsinkable Titanic



In 1912 there was a myth


The Titanic proud and tall on sea


Was unique, constructed specially


Would she sink? That could not be!



There was a firm belief


Too strong for minds to down


That powerful and proud vessel


Could never ever drown



Watertight her hull was


Designed it was with care


Safe as your own house


Furnished with grace and flair



Yet no match was she


The big ship laden


The last unhappy cruise


Voyage of the Iron Maiden



Take care what you believe


Trust neither government nor knaves


Think of the unsinkable Titanic


Large and rusting beneath the waves

by Diane Varty


Myths are powerful. Myths can make us believe anything we secretly wish to believe. Myths can be dangerous. Myths can obscure the truth. Myths can bind us together in hating any group we choose to hate.


From Psychology we know that prejudice about a family of another colour can be dispelled by knowledge of that family, by seeing people as individuals, as human beings with needs, as sentient beings with their own paths, as just Joe and Mary Ellen.


We can look past the myths that chattering government can jeer at us about home education. We who home educate are the experts and the bearers of knowledge.

But it gets very tiring to do it over and over and over.

Leave home education alone.  It has never done you any harm.















Thursday, 29 October 2015

They don't get it at all

I have just been looking at the survey about home education in Ireland.

It makes me thoroughly sick, and I'm afraid I filled in some of their spaces with rather snarling comments.

They don't get it at all.

They are not responsible for children's education, these authorities. Parents are.  PARENTS or guardians.

Not the average, deficient box-ticker.

They do not understand at all.

So I'll try to explain.

It's this:  You cannot, but cannot, stop a child or a young person or, even, an adult from learning.  The human brain is set up to learn, and does it without stinting or taking one moment off.  In other words, it is always learning, always taking in, always processing. It's a form of computer.  One normally without an off switch.

You can try not to learn.  Go on.  Have a day not learning.  Don't assimilate any fact.  Don't think.  Don't sing, dance or twitch because you might learn from your singing, dancing or twitching.

You can't do it, can you?  Well, try not learning for three hours?

Manage that?  No, I thought not.

With two seconds of consideration, you will know that humans cannot NOT learn.

After two seconds of consideration, you will think why on earth do authorities want to force learning down children's throats?

What do they get out of it?

What can they possibly do by forcing children, or TRYING to force them, to learn?  The only reasonable answer is that they want children to learn to hate learning.

Unlearned people - even though that is an impossibility, being unlearned - er, let's call them people who aren't learning what they want to - are more rootless, less settled, unhappy, often tempted into doing things they shouldn't.

Easily led.

Ready to do things they might regret.

Getting into trouble.

Maybe that's the key.  A totally actualised society where everyone learned everything freely would be impossible to rule.  People would just reject being ruled because they would be quite able to rule themselves without being treated like children at school.  

So maybe that's the reason that authorities don't like home educators.  What do you think?



http://www.newb.ie/parent_guardian/education_outside_school.asp
If you want to home educate, you must register your child.

Why?

Again, the state, butting in: http://www.newb.ie/downloads/pdf/guidelines_assessment_education_outside_schools.pdf


Wednesday, 23 September 2015

New Vistas

Do you know that thing you were dreading?

That thing you tried to put out of your mind because it would hurt and chafe?

The thing that someone you love was going to do and really, deep deep down, you didn't want them to do it?

That thing.

The going to Japan for a year thing.  The going to Japan for a year and not being home FOR A WHOLE YEAR.

Until next September.

E has gone.  She went to Manchester to meet another student who was also going to Japan, and the other student was going to the same university in Japan.  Then they both got on a plane to Amsterdam, then another to Japan Tokyo, and then another to the city near the university that they are going to.  For a year.

I cannot imagine not hugging E for a whole year.  I cannot imagine not seeing her other than on Skype.  For a year.

But it's what she wants.  She has wanted this for years.

It is her dream.

So I'm happy for her.  But kinda sad for me.

But happier for her.

And what a year of discovery and change it will be for us all.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Ten years ago today

Ten year ago today.  Ten years ago. Today.

We began home educating.

We thought we had to use school books.  But we didn't have to. Unless our children found them interesting.

We thought we would get into trouble for stepping into the unknown.  But we didn't.  We found we could breathe.  Really breathe.  And be fascinated.  By everything.

We thought we 'should' study certain things.  But we didn't.  Unless my young ladies wanted to.

We thought that we were alone.  But we weren't.  They were there.  All over.  All educating.

We thought home educators would be different.  They were.  They were lit up with joy.  They moved how and when they wished. They were interested in so many areas.  They taught us that children are born learning and love to learn, when they are not forced to.

We thought perhaps that you just learned from workbooks.  You can.  But you can learn from everything, everywhere.

We thought it would be brilliant to be different.  It was. But only when we stopped thinking like one of the schooling families that we once were.

We knew we would never, ever regret home educating.  We haven't.  Not once.  Never.  And we NEVER will.