Thursday, 24 September 2009

Some mothers...

An excerpt from a newspaper article:

"...I'd agreed to do a (radio) interview from home. (My husband) was away, and it was just me and my eldest, who was two. I'd asked a friend to stay over to look after her while I was on air, but (I'd) had got the time of the interview slightly wrong, and I was still getting up when I heard the package before me begin. So I was frantically looking for the number of the studio, and I got through just in time. Then I heard a thump. It was my daughter, who had fallen out of bed, and was coming howling down the corridor. I had to leap up and slam the door in her face (yes, this would be my reaction too, NOT), and then put the duvet over my head so the listeners couldn't hear her (they might have called the police). I couldn't even say, this has happened, could you call me back, because I was coming off the back of a feature about children's hospices, and I would have sounded flippant (once again, that really matters compared with a child in pain). But I couldn't actually take in any of (the radio presenter's) questions. I knew she wasn't hurt (how did you know? You didn't even check to see if she was all right), but I just felt a terrible sense of guilt, about doing everything badly (You felt a sense of guilt about what? Not being perfect? You don't feel a sense of guilt about neglecting your toddler's needs?)"

What would you think about this parent?

a) She has her ideas right. The child comes second to a radio interview.
b) She should have postponed the interview because her child matters more than some stupid show.
c) I'd prosecute her for child neglect and take her kid away.

Questions I might ask myself on reading the piece in the newspaper:

Which priorities does she have?
Was her child neglected in this situation?

If the child's needs were neglected, wouldn't that be a sign that she 'could' be an unfit mother?
Would I think of calling Social Services to her family because of the child's accident?
Would I call someone in because I think children need comforting when they fall and a mother who doesn't provide that care has something missing in her?

If someone told you that the mother was Yvette Cooper, wife of the DCSF supremo Ed Balls, and a politician herself would that excuse this mother of neglecting her child (if you believe her child was neglected on this occasion)?

What does Danae think of a mother like this?
Not much.

Personally, I'd bury that incident under several tonnes of concrete and never mention it again, even to my spiritual confessor. Then I'd swear to put my child's health and welfare first forever after.

Oh, and, by the way, Yvette – it's not an amusing incident that we can all laugh at. It doesn't show you in a clever, cutsey role. Not funny, not clever. At all.

(Thanks to Dare to Know - Carlotta - for linking to this newspaper article from her blog)

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

The force of a dragon - a few words of encouragement

'Seven times down, eight times up'.

'In order to be walked on you have to be lying down'.

'Arouse a bee and it will come at you with the force of a dragon'.

'But the bigger they are, the harder your enemy will fall'.

'The mind, once freed, is more powerful than you can ever imagine'.

A few words from Young Samurai: The Way of the Warrior by Chris Bradford.

We can learn a lot from the East. We can learn to master ourselves, and then master our enemies. We can aim to trust in the power of our minds. We can adopt a practice, and practice and practice again over and over until something becomes part of us.

We can rise above anything with the power within us.

Anything is possible if we truly believe it.

We have all power within us, if we seek it ourselves and take control over it to direct it as we will.

From the film, Mortal Kombat:

"A handful of people on a leaky boat are gonna to save the world?" says Sonya Blade.

"Exactly", replies Lord Raiden.

The world is worth saving.

Our children's future is worth investing our time, effort and values in. Our young people deserve to have us by their sides fighting those enemies who would destroy their future, bind them up with words and take away their right to choose their own way.

It is not so much to ask - to be free.

But it is everything to have - freedom.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Spinning, bumping and grinding

So Mr. Badman has noted the serious interest taken in his pseudo-intellectual recommendations and the furious pace of home educators who have brilliantly and effectively dismantled the edifice on which they stand (or totter).

He has had to shout for his pals in the LAs to come and help him as he sinks further into the mire upon which he set out his stall.

If you take a report so poorly written that becomes a platform upon which a government builds changes in the (already perfectly good) law, and in the report you use dodgy statistics, irrational proposals, hopeless illogic, and seek reckless destruction of laws that serve us well by providing a balance between the power of the state (local authorities) and the power of the people (parents), then you can expect to be questioned, have your work eyed up like a stripper's g-string, and thoroughly and roundly criticised.

That we allow a man who is so blatantly and obviously prejudiced to write such damning and completely inane and dangerous drivel is a strike against the heart of this country.

That he has the nerve (I nearly said balls!) to flail about like a drowning weasel to ask for more evidence to back up his insanity is another strike against the living tissue of this land.

That he is allowed more time to receive this help, to regroup his forces of darkness to continue this disgusting and evil power-play against law-abiding, caring parents is a thrust of the dagger down into the very soul of Britain.

So let's see how deep the rabbit hole goes. How many consultations? How many ultra vires LAs? How many happy children who home educate? How many home educators on the review panel?
How much money has been drained out of the coffers for this utter vile travesty? How many children are better off for this DCSF and its spin meisters?

Consultations? Four or five. Others that concern home educators. Too damn many. We actually have lives, you know.

Ultra vires LAs? Dozens? I have been a member of a few lists for four years and can recall agonised parents shouting for help so many times. My own LA representative lied to me about having the right to come into my house (but, cunningly, I had checked with a member of a national home education group so I knew that she had no right). She lied to me. A public servant, whose rations I help to pay for, brass-faced and staring me in the eyes, LIED to me.

Happy home educating children? I don't know an unhappy one, and have never heard of a child who doesn't unfold like a pinched plant leaving the darkness and reviving in the sun as they grow into home education.

Home educators on the review panel? None. Eh? Yes, none. The true experts. The non-school, home educating as I live and breath experts. Representation in Badman's group of bad advisors? Not one.

Tax payers' money? Well, my 88 year old mother probably contributed her share. The bill will add to about £275,000. Of course, this is a guess; informed by Tanya Byron's equally stupid review of computer games. We, who pay for these things, don't know the true total because the DCSF won't tell us. Telling us how much we've coughed up is a form of harassing and vilifying Badman apparently.

How many children are better off? None. In fact, they are worse off. Quite a few concerned mothers have told me that their children are terrified to see officials alone, don't want to be showing their work, don't want to perform for schooly agents like performing fleas, and are scared of the Badman.

They've cried themselves to sleep.

Cried. Children. Shed tears.

Some of them are petrified that they will be forced - frog-marched - back to school from which safe and glorious hell hole they had previously been removed because they were in danger.


Yeah, right.

Pull the other one.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

The blaming nation

Part of the problem with Badman reports and issues with anything is

a) problematising and
b) blaming

I'd like to take b) first. When I was emigrated to Canada - I say it that way because I had no choice - one of the first things I did was ask my Dad if he would buy me a bike. I had given my bike from home to a friend who could make good use of it. After our move to Canada, we were living in a fairly rural area; a few dirt tracks and some houses, near my Dad's cousin.

I got my bike. I went out on it. Confession: my biking skills were not that great. We had lived in a terrible place for the care and exercising of bikes. Lots of killer cars and a wobbly me who hadn't biked for long. Anyway, it was the summer so I forged up and down on my new shiny bike.

Then I hit a stone and went over, down on one knee. That hurt, but the humiliation hurt more than the bloody long graze.

What happened then?

Did I sit there and condemn the bike? No. I was not a good cyclist, but that wasn't the bike's fault.

Did I pulverise the stone into a million pieces for causing my fall? No, it wasn't the fault of the stone; it was just doing what stones will do and have done for centuries.

I didn't blame anyone or anything.

It was an accident.

They happen. They happen a lot. They happen to everyone.

So why do we blame the LA personnel for educational problems? Why do we run to the legal system to squeeze out money after someone has done something to us? It's because we blame other people. There is a strong tradition of blaming people or groups in this society.

Often seen headlines: "Politicians slammed for failure to..." or "The government was criticised for..."

I don't think the blame game is healthy and, often, it doesn't help at all. Blaming parents for educating their children when the alternative is an inadequate education - even in an inadequate place to be (have you seen some school buildings?) - at the hands of a state-sponsored system is not a sensible response. If your youngster were suffering from asbestos poisoning in a room, wouldn't you take him out of the room? It's the same principle. After all, unless you are completely turned around mentally, you do actually want the best for your offspring.

a) Problematising.

Problematising is making something a problem when it hasn't been a problem and it isn't a problem. Home education is not a problem. Schooling is. Home education is natural and unproblematic, has been happening since the dawning of recorded time and before that or we wouldn't have survived as a species. Schooling isn't natural and unproblematic and hasn't been around since the dawn of time. Problematising happens when a group of people - like politicians - haven't got enough to do and cannot do much about what they are supposed to do something about so they create a problem, and then they create another problem when they problematise what wasn't a problem in the first place. A politician creates problems because he wants to have solutions that he can measure to say to people "Look how well I'm doing my job. The problem (that I created) has been solved so I'm clever and creative at solving problems.' That's a vote winner. Or has been.

And you know what they say "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem." Definitely you'll be part of the problem if you generated the problem in the first place.

Home education? No problem!

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Evolution, not a building

Where people mislead themselves about the process going on in someone - a magical, mystical process of learning - is that they think learning is akin to a building. With a building you make plans, obviously, or you'd forget the wiring in the basement or forget the basement altogether. You might place the front door too close to the garage or lay the garden path in the wrong area. You need plans to construct a building.

Education, though, isn't a building. It isn't predicated on plans. Those poor souls who lay down thousands of plans, as if they were piloting aircraft, can get very frustrated because people do not actually learn that way. They twist and turn, and check and regress, and find out and digress and skip steps and intuit and leap forward and have a bad day or bad years, and then have gestalts where they 'get' it. People evolve in their learning.

Learning is an evolution. When I was a little girl my father thought he could help me with my Maths homework. I was always quite excited by this because Mathematics was pretty well incomprehensible to me. He showed me what to do on two or three problems from one night of homework. Then I had to go and try to puzzle out the rest.

I confided solemnly that I didn't like Maths, but ran to my French lessons. He explained that he had squirmed through French lessons but whizzed happily down the corridor to Maths. We laughed gently together.

My Dad had a plan. His plan was simple. To lay the foundations of my learning how to do the mathematical questions he explained the first one or two. He thoroughly informed me how to do those sums. Unfortunately, I scuppered his careful ideas by going back to say I couldn't fly solo. I had failed to solve number three, four, five and six and, by the way, could he show me one and two again because I just couldn't really remember how they went again.

My father yelled at me. For a while.

As a result of such humiliation I decided to take my fate in my own hands, stumble through each set of problems according to my level of comprehension and decided bravely to pass or fail by my own efforts.

I failed.


For years, Maths was my worst, and most heartily loathed, subject. It let me down and I let me down by being very poor in Maths.

A few years later, after the ignominy died away a little, and I only changed colour slightly at the mention of a fraction, I went back to the scene of my battle.

I tried a Mathematics course in University.

Oh, what a mad girl. What a silly chicklet. What a complete...

I called myself all sorts of names, stumbled to the Maths lab between classes, worked through various sets of lovely juicy problems.... and GOT them. Understood. Comprehended. Completed. Loved the course. Passed with an 'A'.

So, although I thought I was as good at Mathematics as a hamster is at chess, I was wrong. I had matured in my abilities. My father's natural mathematical bent had not jumped a generation and lurked waiting for my offspring to make him proud. I had some maths savvy buried somewhere just lingering until the right moment appeared. Waiting patiently to reveal itself when I had evolved to a point where I could host it properly.

Such a shock to find what you believe about yourself is not true. Never too late to learn, springs to my lips, when people tell me that they cannot do basket-weaving, Geometry or Haiku poetry.

Give it time, petal, I tell them, it will happen, you will evolve into someone you never gave yourself credit for being. You'll change and morph into that basket-weaver or look at an angle and know it immediately or produce poem after poem of hot Haiku.

I believe it will happen. Holy differentials, I've seen it up close and happening.

Funny thing, though, my Dad never did learn French.