Friday, 31 December 2010

End of year thoughts

E received her law course results and she got a good pass. The personal feedback about her essay was somewhat disappointing to her until I pointed out that the law students had been set up to fail. Why else would the course demand a rigid word count? My daughter could have (and did) write an essay twice as long as that required then pruned it ruthlessly.

We said, "You have passed a difficult course with a good grade. You were seventeen when you decided to take the course - a University level course - and you passed. This is a magnificent accomplishment so please, please be proud of yourself."

E has great difficulty in being proud of her accomplishments - they are never quite good enough, even though she does exceptionally well. I shall carry the pride for her. I am proud of her huge efforts, her diligence, her determination, her persistence even when she is feeling unwell, her questioning heart and her sense of justice.

She deserves every success. I know it has been hard for her to stand outside the coddling, infantilising cocoon of school and still make her way. No one submits your work for you. No one arranges your exams. It is a lonely road in many respects, but, when you have reached your goals, you can tell yourself that "I did it my way." To do it despite society's pressures must develop your character. To succeed despite the constant chant that 'School is best' is a massive accomplishment.

I salute all home educating young people in their homes, in their friends' and neighbours' and acquaintances' houses as they go about building a real community. I salute them in their places of interest and anywhere they go. They are all magnificent. They are all such examples to us of what people should be. I salute them.

And to their parents: teach your young to recognise, understand and give love. Teach them to listen and watch. Teach them logic. Teach them to respect themselves and other people, and you will have taught them everything of worth that one human can pass to another.

May you all succeed in whatever you choose to succeed in this New Year, and on into the future.

I wish you all happiness and good health, and an exceptionally good 2011.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Happy Holidays

If you celebrate Christmas, please enjoy yourselves on December 25th. If you do not celebrate Christmas, please enjoy yourselves anyway.

Give a thought to those who are huddled in the snow in this deep wintertime. Whatever they have done or not done, do they deserve to freeze?

Spare a moment to think how to enlighten the cosmos, and shine your candle - no matter how small - into the dark regions of this most beautiful world.

Be peaceful. There is nothing worth fighting about; not land, not money, not possessions.

Remember that we are all one. We were born in the Big Bang that generated the Universe, and we are miraculous mosaics of stardust.

No one is other. No one is not you. You are everyone and everyone is you.

Be kind. If you cannot love someone, try to understand him. If someone hurts you, forgive him because you damage only yourself in hating him.

Cherish your children. They are your most tender gifts to yourself.

Have a lovely, peaceful, caring Christmas.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Thick, thick snow and World War II

Six days to go before the day. Christmas which I perennially misspell as Christams.

Our heating has been belting along, bless its tiny boots.

My mother's heating went off at 10:00 o'clock last night. She put the electric heater on, and surrounded herself with hot water bottles. Surprisingly, she slept and this morning she rang me.

She's lucky we live within a two minute walk. Elderly, bent over, unable to hear or understand a lot of what she hears, my mother is now tiny and very frail. She was young during the years of World War II, recalls it all with horror, says it should never happen again, deplores the fact that many, many regions of the world are torn apart by war in these modern days.

My mother is a survivor. She is a heroine: she and other young women chopped tree after tree down during the years 1942 to 1946 to send them to be made into pit props, telegraph poles, ladders, newsprint, and other such necessary items. Timber Corps women were part of the Women's Land Army.

"By July 1943 there were 87,000 Land Girls and they were joining at the rate of 4,000 a month. Despite this, in 1944 the government, led by Ernest Bevin, declared that Land Girls would be excluded from post-war education and training schemes. This led to protests and strikes, and Lady Denman resigned. However, Her Majesty the Queen made the people aware of her support for the WLA and eventually the government was forced to compromise. A Land Army Benevolent Fund was promised £150,000 and resettlement grants of £150 were agreed, but Land Girls received no medals for their services. The much prized uniform was taken back. One was only allowed to keep greatcoats and shoes, but only if the greatcoat was dyed blue· "

My mother loved her greatcoat. She said it had style and suited her. You would think they could've given those young women their coats as a small thank you, wouldn't you?

In 2000, for the first time since the World War II ended, the Land Army women were invited to the cenotaph to remember their fallen friends, brothers, fathers, uncles, cousins and sweethearts.

They were honoured in 2008 by the Labour government issuing a badge for the Land Army and Timber Corps girls. Gordon Brown said:

"We have been slow to thank you. We could have done this years ago but I'm pleased that we can do it now. We owe you a huge debt of gratitude."

Scotland went one better, erecting a life-size bronze statue of a Timber Corps girl in the forest near Aberfoyle in 2007.

I was pleased to be able write an article for Ancestors magazine about my mother's experiences in the Timber Corps. In the inimitable way that some mothers have, she read it and commented: "Well, that was better than I expected."

Here and now, for my little mother, for all the women who undertook heavy manual labour, left their families, lived in huts, trudged through snow, laughed at adversity and saved thousands of tons of space in British ships for food and necessary supplies, I dedicate this blog entry.

To you wonderful women - God bless you, wherever you are.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Tuition fee fight

I salute the students.

I thought the power to revolt was dead in the water. I thought it had disappeared beneath the oceans of Brittania. Drowned and dead.

Apparently not. The students are out in this filthy weather shouting their slogans, resisting being kettled by the arms of the state (police).

Using the right they have to say 'no' in a peaceful demonstration.

I think they are marvellous.

From the sublime to the ridiculous. From fifty percent of this country's young people being encouraged to go to University now we have anyone whose parents aren't loaded struggling a) to get in and b) not to be encumbered with debt for twenty five years.

Punish the poor and the middle class when they never benefitted from the good years, but, oh yeah, make them pay in the bad years.

I believe that the bankers etc. organised the terrible chaos we're in. How else were they to stop paying savers the rates the savers were owed?

Protest on, my young friends.

"They (the youngsters), like many others from across the country, had just spent the day protesting or lobbying or saying a speech, all in the hope the government would listen."

They don't listen, darlings. They only listen when you agree with them, when you're one of them. They aren't there for you, my children. We, home educators, could tell you how deaf they can be, how frustrated you all would be.

Protest on, even though you think you may have lost. You will carry the day.

Life is stirring in all of us. The knowledge of fairness is raising its head. The sense of something wrong is dawning.

"There were shouts of 'I can't breathe' and calls for medics for those with bleeding heads who had been hit by baton-wielding police. Ian Dillets, a student from SOAS said:

"Everyone is cold and hungry and would like to go home, but we're not allowed to go home. There are a lot of people now standing around saying if they're not going to let us out we might as well go and get angry.""

Are our children to be treated like criminals? Who are the police protecting? The rights of the state to do whatever it damn well pleases. We are more than the state. We are greater than any Parliament.

Times are indeed a'changin'.

"Tim Mortimer, Leeds University Union Activities Officer, said he had great trouble seeing Simon Burns, his local MP for Chemsford yesterday:

"I rang and emailed him several times but he managed to wrangle his way out of it saying as he was a minister he didn't have time to meet with his constituent. It's a bit upsetting. MPs are condemning any kind of violent action but were not allowing people legitimate means to get their point across.""

Maybe he doesn't represent you, Tim. Who does he represent then? Who are these people? What is this system? These are questions that Tim might be asking himself tonight. The questions we all should be asking. Don't we deserve better than this? Don't our children deserve better than this?

Quotes from

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Music to my ears

Last week, I was in the same room where E was playing some new piano music. She struggled with it.

After thirty minutes, she came away from the piano and eventually, after a chat, she went off to do something else.

Yesterday, E sat at the piano and played the new music. Beautifully. Perfectly. Effortlessly. I was quite transfixed.

After her practice she said that she had found that, most times when she struggled to understand a topic or produce work, if she left and went back to it, she could do it. It was as if her subconscious had been beavering away on the topic.

I have a theory too that, now and then, you just aren't ready - mature enough - to do something. It just isn't the right time. I know that happened with me and Maths. I couldn't do it - always had trouble and grief. Following bucket loads of frustration, I left it alone. But, a few years later, I could solve the Maths problems and wondered what had been wrong before.

Well, there was nothing wrong. I just didn't hit the right time. I was not yet mature enough to cope with the questions.

Recently, E passed her Grade 5 Theory test with a mark of 83% and received a merit. She has her new shiny certificate. E is now determined to bring her piano playing up to the same level, and she will because she wants to.

I am, once again, so proud.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Police abuse children

Yes, I meant to say that because I'm angry. Are police allowed to abuse children? Only if those children are protesting which - I really thought, I really did think - that any citizens of this damned country could do. March peacefully. Carry banners. Protest. Disagree. You know that kind of thing.

But I should have remembered the miners. I should have recalled that square in China where the tanks rolled in. We thought we had the right to say no to something that affected us.

Well, we were sadly mistaken, weren't we?

"It's the coldest day of the year, and I've just spent seven hours being kettled in Westminster. That sounds jolly, doesn't it? It sounds a bit like I went and had a lovely cup of tea with the Queen, rather than being trapped into a freezing pen of frightened teenagers and watching baton-wielding police kidney-punching children, six months into a government that ran an election campaign on a platform of fairness. So before we go any further, let's remind ourselves precisely what kettling is, and what it's for."

That is from here:

My children weren't there, but they might have been because they think that you can protest, you can carry banners here and that the police just stay on the sidelines making sure that everything is OK.

They'll know different when they read Laurie Penny's feature.

They'll know that abuse only happens when social workers say that your parents are abusing you. They'll know it's one big CON that government cares for you. Any government. They care only for corporations. The little guy can go get kettled.

I hate this country. I've never said that to you, my dearly once-loved, beautiful country. I hate you.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1

We went yesterday. The buses had changed their routes so we were forced to trek up and down in the freezing cold and driving rain to arrive at the cinema.

The cinema was graced by eight people other than ourselves, not one a giggling adolescent phoning her boyfriend or chatting behind her hand to her friend. We had the latter pleasure during the last Harry Potter film.

I enjoyed Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, and had a short snicker at the line: "You have nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide".

"Introducing 'educational reform' and a programme of 'evaluation' -- the motto being "You have nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide" -- he {Voldemort) uses murder and oppression to set about creating the perfect pure blood society."

I think Joanne Rowling has captured the social engineering/education/ media entrainment to the Labour message perfectly with her Potter series, whether or not she affects to support the Labour government with her gifts of money. I recall sitting watching the situation at Hogwarts, under the tender unmercies of kitten-loving, bow-wearing gargoyle Dolores Umbridge in her triumphant and terrible march through the school and seeing almost the same situation that we, home educators, were facing in the UK.

I was uncomfortable, even as I chuckled because it was too close. Really too close for comfort.

"The Muggle-Born Registration Commission was set up by the Ministry of Magic following Lord Voldemort's takeover on 1 August 1997. The public goal of the Commission was to force all Muggle-born wizards and witches to register with the Ministry, then undergo interrogation as to how they "stole" their magical power from "real" wizards and witches. The true purpose of the Muggle-Born Registration Commission was to imprison and degrade Muggle-borns. Dolores Umbridge was the head of the commission. "

The scene where Filch was standing on a long ladder hanging up the new edicts banning this, that or the other will stay with me forever. The apparently pleasant but deeply vile character, Umbridge, reminded me of certain people who wished to deprive others - home educators, for example - of liberties they were accustomed to. She was convinced of her own rightness, and never swerved from what she saw as her duty to repress and punish.

I am a Harry Potter fan. I see that the series is rich with allusions to the recent plight of home educators. I know that much of the Harry Potter series is clever, entertaining and funny; however, it will always make me shiver just a little.

Monday, 22 November 2010


I like the way that I don't usually have to plan anything.

Sometimes, of course, I do. Outings, dental visits, walks, talks, dish-washing, when to pop the heating on... Those kinds of things. And this year I'm thinking about Christmas shopping in two doses because, although they are sisters, my daughters are different and enjoy different things.

But, mostly, I have freedom to decide what it is I wish to spend my time on. My time is my own. It is a commodity owned by me. Not so in schools where your time is micro-managed down to seconds and you have to do all kinds of things that you can't be bothered with, find irritating or just plain hate. But no-one's giving you the option to refuse or offer palatable alternatives.

E. is just finishing her piano practice and is off to study some Japanese, and then, she says, she'll wash her hair. She has the freedom on the whole NOT to be at someone else's beck and call; not to have to do things she finds annoying or boring or that eat up her time to do other things that she finds interesting and enlightening or fun.

She is free to determine her own schedule. Her own life.

What a tremendous gift for Christmas. Or any time at all.

Home educating is a gift I say thanks for all year round.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Nothing to fear, nothing to hide

As you know, if you have followed my blog posts, an ex-friend tried to tell me that 'If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.'

It's what is called a false dichotomy. Either you have something to hide and therefore you fear discovery or it's OK because you aren't doing anything that anyone could possibly disapprove of and you don't care who knows what.

Of course, there's another possibility and that is that you just want your doings, whatever they are, to be private.

I'm quite a private person. I don't like to have people watch me eat, laugh or frown. Sorry, that's just the way I am. Private, shy and quiet. At least, that's the old me. The old me is being constantly upgraded and superceded.

(That is the real me, not the assumed me for public consumption who will leap upon people who threaten my children's freedom and 'engage' them if necessary. The people, not my children. My youngsters are usually engaged, thanks).

So nothing to fear, nothing to hide (deliberate reversal). We have lots to fear. The ceaseless trampling of freedom in the name of other stuff like safeguarding. The unholy rush to protect civil servants' jobs by 'making work' by vilifying parents and telling parents that they suck and they must do better. They can attend courses which makes everything all right then. The make-work principle reaches up into all areas in politics, I believe, because I don't think politicians really know what they are supposed to do.

Just a thought: Do we even need them? Politicians. Would we miss them if they weren't there?

Wouldn't it be nice to try a year without Whitehall? No cuts, no policy writers, no Hansard.

Would we want it all back?

If you've nothing to hide, you've nothing to fear.

Yeah, right.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Some stray thoughts after reading Kelly's blog post

Kelly's blog, in case you haven't discovered it before, is here:

She is talking about notification which is a scary concept for me, and I wondered why. Then I thought if I am a sovereign being why do I have to notify anyone when I make a move?

It's simple. If I and I alone am in control of my child's education, why do I have to allow a school to let the local authority know that I am removing my child from their register?

Doesn't letting the LA know imply that the LA is in charge of my child's education?

Yet the law makes clear that it is me who will be sued if my child believes she has not been offered an adequate education for her needs. So what has the LA to do with my child's education?

If we visit a doctor, that doctor may prescribe and advise, but that doctor is not in charge of my child's health. I am. I can choose to procure the prescription for my child and listen to his advice, then again I could leave that doctor's list to find someone else. Or I can opt to employ a homeopath to help with a health problem. I could do many different things to ensure that my child becomes and stays healthy.

That an LA can look into the provision of education, and has the power to deny me the right to home educate seems, to me, to make a mockery of the fact that I am controller of my child's education.

Completely contradictory, isn't it?

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Understanding LA officials' thinking: Single-loop learning

I have to credit H. for finding this information while he was looking for something else. Thanks, H.

This is an important blogpost to me because the ideas I will mention to you go a long way to explaining what I don't understand.

I don't understand LA officials' thinking. Basically, I have questioned whether or not LA officials and lots of other institution-based people think at all. Perhaps I am a little relieved that, according to Chris Argyrus and Donald Schon, inhabitants of that strange grey world actually do think, but they may not think as we think.

"Where something goes wrong, it is suggested, an initial port of call for many people is to look for another strategy that will address and work within the governing variables. In other words, given or chosen goals, values, plans and rules are operationalized rather than questioned."

That, in a small package, is single-loop thinking. When something is a problem, the urge is to 'fix' it not to examine what is wrong with it. "An alternative response is to question to governing variables themselves, to subject them to critical scrutiny." That is double-loop thinking.

We often mention it ourselves. Why do LAs keep trying to 'fix' schools when the very assumptions underlying those heaving chambers of sheer torture DO NOT WORK as a place where children learn and question and grow? Why do LAs not leave home educators alone to continue our double-loop thinking? Why do institutions like schools and their overlords LAs never question why they do what it is that they do? Why do they never look at the outcomes which appear in the children themselves? Why does no one stop and say enough is enough - we were and are wrong, we need to change?

One answer is that single-loop learning is easier for institutions.

"When the error detected and corrected permits the organization to carry on its present policies or achieve its presents objectives, then that error-and-correction process is single-loop learning. Single-loop learning is like a thermostat that learns when it is too hot or too cold and turns the heat on or off. The thermostat can perform this task because it can receive information (the temperature of the room) and take corrective action. Double-loop learning occurs when error is detected and corrected in ways that involve the modification of an organization’s underlying norms, policies and objectives."

"Single-loop learning seems to be present when goals, values, frameworks and, to a significant extent, strategies are taken for granted. The emphasis is on ‘techniques and making techniques more efficient’ (Usher and Bryant: 1989: 87) Any reflection is directed toward making the strategy more effective."

No one questions whether or not children should go to school. Officials just benchmark schooling as THE education, no matter whether or not schooling actually produces rounded individuals who can function in any situation relatively effectively or analyse new data to effect changes. The techniques are to get bums on seats. The point that the bums don't wish to be there is ignored in favour of bums on seats regardless of what the bums see as fitting for themselves so the bums use their legs and walk out. Again, no reflection takes place. The single-loop kicks in. We should have bums on seats therefore make the parents of the bums pay when the bums leave.

Argyris and Schon compare and contrast single- and double-loop learning:

"The former involves following routines and some sort of preset plan – and is both less risky for the individual and the organization, and affords greater control. The latter is more creative and reflexive, and involves consideration notions of the good. Reflection here is more fundamental: the basic assumptions behind ideas or policies are confronted… hypotheses are publicly tested… processes are disconfirmable not self-seeking. "

So organisations tend to be single loop because - well - it's easier. They aren't required to account for how much money they spend in - what from the outside seem like - ridiculous or misguided projects. Their people aren't navel-gazing to study the necessity of following policies that a cat would find objectionable. They self-seek. They conform. They obey. And then they are promoted.

"The focus of much of Chris Argyris’ intervention research has been to explore how organizations may increase their capacity for double-loop learning. He argues that double-loop learning is necessary if practitioners and organizations are to make informed decisions in rapidly changing and often uncertain contexts (Argyris 1974; 1982; 1990). As Edmondson and Moingeon (1999:160) put it:

The underlying theory, supported by years of empirical research, is that the reasoning processes employed by individuals in organizations inhibit the exchange of relevant information in ways that make double-loop learning difficult – and all but impossible in situations in which much is at stake. This creates a dilemma as these are the very organizational situations in which double-loop learning is most needed."

Nissan may go for a suggestion box where the lowliest worker can deposit his interesting ideas and be noticed. Institutions like LA would no doubt think the suggestion box beyond the pale. You get the best thoughts from workers who have incentives to think. You don't encourage thought from individuals who are cogs in the machine.

"The next step that Argyris and Schön take is to set up two models that describe features of theories-in-use that either inhibit or enhance double-loop learning. The belief is that all people utilize a common theory-in-use in problematic situations. This they describe as Model I – and it can be said to inhibit double-loop learning. Model II is where the governing values associated with theories-in-use enhance double-loop learning."

It's not a surprise that Argyris and Schon find that most institutions use thinking from Model I.

"It involves ‘making inferences about another person’s behaviour without checking whether they are valid and advocating one’s own views abstractly without explaining or illustrating one’s reasoning’ (Edmondson and Moingeon 1999:161). The theories-in-use are shaped by an implicit disposition to winning (and to avoid embarrassment). The primary action strategy looks to the unilateral control of the environment and task plus the unilateral protection of self and others. As such Model I leads to often deeply entrenched defensive routines (Argyris 1990; 1993) – and these can operate at individual, group and organizational levels. Exposing actions, thoughts and feelings can make people vulnerable to the reaction of others. However, the assertion that Model I is predominantly defensive has a further consequence:

Acting defensively can be viewed as moving away from something, usually some truth about ourselves. If our actions are driven by moving away from something then our actions are controlled and defined by whatever it is we are moving away from, not by us and what we would like to be moving towards. Therefore our potential for growth and learning is seriously impaired. If my behaviour is driven by my not wanting to be seen as incompetent, this may lead me to hide things from myself and others, in order to avoid feelings of incompetence. For example, if my behaviour is driven by wanting to be competent, honest evaluation of my behaviour by myself and others would be welcome and useful. (Anderson 1997)"

Don't be embarassed by your environment. Control it.
Protect yourself and your co-workers.
Win at all costs, regardless of hurt to others 'outside'.
Never expose your feelings or thoughts. Stay safe by siding with the organisation, whatever it does.

I think we, home educators, would vastly prefer Model II.

"The significant features of Model II include the ability to call upon good quality data and to make inferences. It looks to include the views and experiences of participants rather than seeking to impose a view upon the situation. Theories should be made explicit and tested, positions should be reasoned and open to exploration by others. In other words, Model II can be seen as dialogical – and more likely to be found in settings and organizations that look to shared leadership. It looks to:

Emphasize common goals and mutual influence.
Encourage open communication, and to publicly test assumptions and beliefs.
Combine advocacy with inquiry (Argyris and Schön 1996; Bolman and Deal 1997: 147-8)."

"Exhibit 2: Model II characteristics

The governing values of Model II include:

Valid information
Free and informed choice
Internal commitment

Strategies include:
Sharing control
Participation in design and implementation of action

Operationalized by:

Attribution and evaluation illustrated with relatively directly observable data
Surfacing conflicting view
Encouraging public testing of evaluations

Consequences should include:

Minimally defensive relationships
High freedom of choice
Increased likelihood of double-loop learning
(Taken from Anderson 1997)"

It strikes me as I'm typing this how far schools stray from the rosy path of Model II or double- loop learning. In fact, taking a gander at the consequences again, I can see that schools:

maximise defensive relationships
inhibit freedom of choice and
decrease the likelihood of double-loop learning.

It seems unlikely that LAs would opt for double-loop learning when the institutions they watch over do anything but.

Argyrus and Schon go on. I'll cover their thoughts on individuals and their organisations next time.

Everything you see here that isn't mine has been taken from

Have a peek at it. Just to keep yourselves in the loop

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Dancing pigeons and tv programmes

I'm starting this blog entry without knowing what to write about.

I'm reading the above sentence.

Now I'm thinking isn't that what home education is all about?

A lot of finding out and muddling along until you look back and say that everything turned out all right?

That's how I do home education.

I'm not organised into 'Well, let's all learn how to teach a pigeon to dance today' because I wouldn't know where to start, and my young people (after laughing) wouldn't wish to spend their time teaching a pigeon to dance.

Would yours?

But my young people learn their own things, teach their own version of pigeons to dance, and check in with me to chat about it.

And now I've got to go watch 'Have I Got News for You' to keep E. company. There's nothing like sharing jokes with another human being to make you feel like you're bonding with them.

Which you are.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Free education?

At dinner last night, I had an image of free education (as you do).

It was rather like those wild-eyed and enthused people who stand on soap boxes and talk at the tips of their voices about something that is meaningful to them.

I think my vision involved Socrates; although it could have been Plato or another of the philosophers who spent their time down the Forum spilling out their wisdom, without pay. Doubtless, they were wealthy because your average slave wouldn't have survived the trip down to the Forum without being carted off by his master and because, other than lifetime-taught knowledge, they were kept ignorant.

Post-image I did what I often do. I went surfing. Not the kind with big waves. The kind with radio waves or microwaves or whatever the net uses.

"The word 'education' is derived from the root word 'educare'. Education refers to acquiring information from outside while 'educare' means to bring out or to elicit that which is inside. Man should bring out the sacred qualities latent in his heart and put them into practice. The worldly education that you pursue and the jobs that you undertake are related to the head. They are subject to change. But the human values like compassion, forbearance, truth, which originate from the heart, are changeless."

I am always thinking about this, but seldom organising the words to say it. If you do not have a moral and spiritual base on which to stand, you are an animal. A sentient animal, maybe. A clever animal, perhaps. But still an animal. Inhuman and inhumane.

From home educated roots grow values like compassion, forbearance, truth, vision, enthusiasm and empathy as well as spirituality. That is, I believe that home education is the one sure place where young people can grow into themselves and grow into their humanity.

" Education should transform man into one of compassion. It should not make him stone-hearted. Once a Britisher found Mahatma Gandhi in a very dejected mood and asked him for the reason. Gandhi replied, "The hard-heartedness of the educated makes me feel sad." He was worried about the current education system, which was making man stone-hearted. True education is that which fosters compassion and love and ultimately leads man to divinity. Such education is the need of the hour.

Can one be called educated just because one knows how to read and write?
Does mere acquisition of college degrees make one truly educated?
Can that which has no moral and spiritual values be called education at all?
If education is meant only for a living, don't we find the birds and the beasts living without any education ?
(Telugu Poem)"

Looking at our world, we can see why Gandhi might be depressed with the hard-heartedness of the educated. We know he wasn't speaking about home educated people - he spoke of the products of 'free' schools.

"When, on seeing someone in pain, you feel the urge to relieve it, when your heart melts at the misery of your fellow beings, then you are a true human being."

Are we now true humans? Are we? There is a government in power now seeking to reduce the deficit, and reducing so many people to despair and illness for which they (the people) alone will be blamed because, if you are poor, it is your fault in the view of our leaders. If you are poor, you must be punished. If you are poor, you must suffer for your poverty, as if poverty were itself a religion.

"Modern education has become artificial. True education is that which inculcates in the students the noble qualities like truth, devotion, discipline, compassion and sense of duty. What is the use of possessing high intelligence if one lacks virtues? Mere intelligence is not enough. Is not a fox also intelligent? Intelligence should be coupled with virtues."

What is the use of being human if we treat our fellow humankind like secondary citizens? What is the point of having a brain and thinking if we label our co-travellers on this earth as losers or scroungers? There is so much plenty to go around everyone yet most people struggle and strain to live a reasonable life, not even a good life.

Why do we elevate the pursuit and conquest of money to the status of a god while abasing and debasing mankind?

All quotations from
True Education Leads to Divinity

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Girl guidance?

As a lot of you know, the hush-hush department of home education has recruited two? people to write guidance on home education for the poor struggling local authorities who apparently cannot understand a little case law and a few sentences of law.

Think of the consternation in Whitehall. Think of the look on Penny Jones's face.

I think I'll think of Penny Jones a bit longer.

Penny Jones, ardent supporter of children's rights and what they say (as long as they kow-tow to government edicts, of course).

How dare home edders squat on Penny's turf? She's the one who will be cheerfully toiling away in the high-status cupboard she has earned from many years of government service. She's been done out of her job. What should she do now?

Since a lot of my friends are being made redundant... No, scratch that, since a lot of friends are being kicked out of their jobs without being made redundant and getting compensation for losing their jobs, I don't really care if this concludes Penny's no doubt stellar performance as chief bottle-washer to Sir Graham Badman (approaching journalist or government marketing minion be aware that Graham Badman has not actually been knighted except by mistake by his master Ed Balls) and she ends up in the washed-up end searching for another post.

I would just like to link again to the post which shows Penny Jones being trounced by a bunch of non-schoolchildren:

I look at it now and again to remind me that there might just be a God.

"JASPER GOLD: I’d just like to say, that, it may be a small number of cases, within home education, are maybe ending in abuse, or whatever you’re trying to suggest, but if you look at the number of cases in private, and independent, and state schools which end in abuse, it’s over twice as much.
GARETT ROSS: I have the statistics here.
JASPER GOLD: We have less things to worry about. We have less than half the national average for abuse. So by mixing up saying that we’ll need to register a curriculum, in the same report as saying something about right of access to the child’s home, is completely inappropriate. You’re mixing the educational aspects, which are not [inaudible] in any way by the governments [door slams] with the rights of the child and the protection of the child, when it’s actually not home education that’s responsible. Do you really think someone who had abused their child cares enough to take them out of school and educate them on their own?"

Brilliant logic. And no, an abuser probably wouldn't take a child out of school because any abuser would realise that that would draw attention to his (or in a tiny minority her) family situation.

You may as well put a neon-coated board up next to your front path with "THIS WAY TO THE ABUSER'S HOUSEHOLD" in flashing lights on it.

Anyway, if you're feeling a little blue about the whole guidance being written behind your back situation, then take a read or two of that magnificent day when Chloe Watson ably supported by the lovely boys and girls at Home Educating Youth Council left poor old Penny flat on the floor.

Come to think of it, we should've asked the HEYC to write some guidance for LAs? Wouldn't that be more in the spirit of home education. Let the children lead...

Friday, 8 October 2010

Great Balls of fire

"...Morley and Outwood MP Ed Balls, who along with his wife was tipped as possible shadow chancellor, becomes shadow home secretary."

Labour's new leader, Ed. Miliband, selects his shadow cabinet by picking from Labour's old line of favoured MPs.

Mr. Ed. Balls (remember him?) has been made home secretary of the shadowy kind.

"Mr Balls said he was "surprised but pleased" to have been given the home affairs brief.
He said: "Obviously the economic argument has been very important to me - that is why I stood for leader of the Labour Party. But to me it's never been about the job you are doing and the particular personality, it is about winning the argument. For me, this home affairs brief is very important."

If my crystal 'balls' are performing correctly, then home educators can expect to be picked up by truancy sweeps and grilled about their terrorist leanings as Balls takes charge. We home edders shouldn't expect to travel abroad on holiday any more (no passports) and Mrs. Balls aka Yvette Cooper is now matron at the Foreign Office so she'll turn the other countries against us.

"Home Office:- immigration - passports- policing- crime prevention- drugs- counter-terrorism- ID cards "

Oh, yes, look for ID cards to be promoted for home educators and their children too. Just in case you were relaxing when Balls got the chop along with his socialist party in the last election.

A final word from the commenter, failed law student, on

"The thought that fascistic Balls could ever be home secretary scares the crap out of me. He scares the crap out of me, full stop. He is everything that is wrong with the way Labour operated when in power."

There's no shadow of doubt in my mind that you are right, failed law student.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Quick, intervene

We may as well not have an economic crisis on.

Everyone is desirous of taking lots of money to intervene in families.

I mean, families!

Once upon a time, you might say a cheery hello to the bobby on the beat, you might give the bin men a pound or two at Christmas, you might thank your lucky stars that the street lights were shining through the darkness of winter.

Now it looks like the latest buzzthought is that, by INTERVENING in families, the world's evils will be swiftly brushed away.

Expensive? Yes.

Involving armies of box-tickers? Yes.

Legions of social workers, school nurses, doctors, police? Likely.

What was once corrected or encouraged by your Ma and Pa will now be surveilled and standardised by your lovely local authority worker. What a parent did will be done by the ever-knowledgeable non-expert inexpert expert with possibly a day's training in what a child (or indeed a family) should not be and should be doing.

Parents will be defunct. Useful only to support the length and breadth of the increasing rotten structure with more and more of the money they should be employing to live on and enjoying generally.

Mothers and Fathers will be stakeholders (hopefully) in children who are to be reduced to a pennyworth of commodity. Trimmed and revisioned, little ones can step out into the world in the safe and wondrous knowledge that they have passed muster with council officials and the world in general before they take their exalted places as batteries for the masters to drain.

Does your child need intervention?

She needs it like she needs a hole in the head.

Does your son have to endure bossy-boots professionals crawling all over his personal life?

No way.

Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner said in Freakonomics that parenthood has changed from an art into a science.

We are now the subjects in a gigantic experiment.

It's said that those whom the gods would destroy they first make mad.

They must hate 21st century Britain then.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Freakonomics and Frank Field

Frank Field again (soliciting early intervention):

"One conclusion has stood out from all the academic readings in which I have been engrossed over the past three months. Using one of our cohort studies, Leon Feinstein measured children's abilities at age two, three and five years and then went on to look at what happens to these children in school.

The gob-smacking findings (to use that gentle phrase of Chris Patten) was that, as children turn up for their first day at school, they possess a wide range of abilities and that children from families on the lowest incomes were more likely to be towards the bottom end of the range of these abilities. And there they remained when a second set of tests were taken at ten.

Even worse was that those children from the least privileged homes who did score well in the early years- and way above some children from much richer homes - were found at aged 10 to have lost ground at school and to have been overtaken as a group by what were poorer achieving children from richer homes.The Review's attention has therefore, unsurprisingly, been centred on what happens during those first five years that so impacts on a child's life-time opportunities. As the Review will be written advocating action, we are considering whether it is possible to marshal a range of intelligent interventions that radically alter what would otherwise be the current fate of poorer children."


Well, Frank, did you read Freakonomics? A book by Steven Levitt (a 'rogue' economist) and Stephen Dubner? They found that adopted children have lower school test scores than other children. Why? Because lots of mothers (and fathers) who gave away their babies were actually of lower intelligence than those who adopted the children. IQ *(as measured by school tests) is largely genetically determined. The adoptive parents, however, did make a difference because adopted children went on to have good jobs, take further education and postpone marriage and child-bearing until they were out of their teens - outcomes that could be attributed to the influence of their adopting families.The whole thing could be sorted by getting rid of school (and other) tests. Everything that is measured has winners and losers, and most things that are measured are possibly not correlated with 'success' in life. As far as I can see, often schools are measuring memory. If a child has a good memory, s/he gets good scores. If not, well, tough luck, kid.

Freakonomics - it's a good read. I recommend it.

Addendum: Frank has uncovered a good reason for ditching the whole school system too. From the quotation above:

"...those children from the least privileged homes who did score well in the early years- and way above some children from much richer homes - were found at aged 10 to have lost ground at school..." which would suggest that school not only did not enhance some children's test-taking ability but also made it worse.

Thanks, Frank, if school tests are the be all end all, you've just proved from your own writing that school doesn't matter for some children and, in fact, it can do them damage.

Well done, Frank. Go to the top of the class.

Saturday, 25 September 2010


I just thought I'd write a few lines (sounds like school, doesn't it?) on progress.

A few people's blogs have mentioned the concept this month. It appears to be related to children going or going back to school and it can be a bit of a tin of worms. Home educators panic a bit when they see coevals of their own children 'progressing' in school. They question what they are doing. They think about exams and measurement of what cannot be measured which is knowledge and wisdom.

Anyway, what is it? What is progress?

What does it mean?

Does it lead anywhere?

In my teens I decided I would take up the guitar. Not a modern screeching impressive electric one. I bought a cheap cheerful ordinary-looking guitar and was sold a plectrum to go with it which I never actually used. The local music shop offered lessons with a pleasant enough young man called J.

For two years I went on the bus, accompanied by my guitar in a large black case, to the middle of our local town to see if I'd 'cracked' the guitar. I suppose, on one level, I progressed because I went through the simple starting-to-learn book and graduated to the next-to-simple-starting-to-learn book.

But I never felt right. The guitar did not sing under my fingers. My hands did not itch to play the guitar. I confessed my feelings to J and he advised me to practice more. I did.

However much I strummed away, I grew increasingly aware that the guitar and I were not destined for a career or even a heavenly time of hobbying together.

I - I suppose you might say - progressed through whatever set me off on this hunt to become a guitar player to the realisation that I would never be a 'real' guitar player (whatever that might be). Meanwhile my friend - another J - told me that, at the age of 30, his big brother had picked up a guitar and began to play and play well.

After gnashing my teeth I had a moment of truth and I gave the guitar away to an eager friend who was desperate to learn.

I have not since regretted my time struggling to progress with the guitar. Maybe I needed that space with a musical instrument to inform me that my interest in music will probably remain that of a close admirer.

Outsiders would think I failed at guitar. I think I learned a lot from guitar. I learned that I have to really adore something to dedicate the time to it to become competent if not good at it. I learned that I cannot magically be good at something that I have little or no aptitude for.

I have made progress.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Fresh Fields II

David Cameron has decided to 'bury' the Poverty Tzar's guide to - er - under 5s.

Mr Field has apparently clashed with Mr. Cameron. Mr. Field has a habit of clashing with other MPs. He did it with Labour when he was Poverty Tzar before.

But he was singing the old song with the group that we, home edders, pointed out was vulnerable to state abuse and that is under 5s.

There's no money to access and assess. There's no money for anyone but corporations whose greed and corruption has caused the disastrous state of the economy.

Mum6kids, bless her, has pointed out the icky comments on the reply from the government to a petition home educators put forward some time ago. She says in the comments section of my previous post Fresh Fields:

"Have you seen the Govt response to one of the petitions? the final line says:"As you will appreciate, we have not yet been able to consider in detail our approach to home education and whether or not any changes to the existing arrangements are required"That is jolly concerning."

That very response was delivered to my email address and I agree, Mum6kids, it is of concern. It'll be the local authorities pushing for more powers than they already have and which they have amply demonstrated that they cannot use with sense and sensitivity. Or at all, sometimes.

I think that the government is being harried by the opposition and, while the government appear to be open to complaints against home education, Labour will think that they are in with a chance to reanimate the dreadful crimes against us - a minority group - that they almost succeeded in committing earlier this year.

I doubt very much whether we are of sufficient numbers or pose any real threat to the Con-dems at the moment. When/if the economy gets back on her feet and money is again available to counter freedoms of thought and conscience (nod to Kelly's book), then we will have a rumble on our hands.

But we will be better prepared. We know more. We know who to trust and who to reject when they pretend to friendship. We know what to do. We react more and we react faster. We are much fitter and fleet on our toes. Home educators will never again be the trusting little band of marginalised 'weirdos' that we were once perceived to be.

Our savvy and now-politicised children will see to that.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Fresh Fields

Frank Field. Labour MP. Fell out with the big bosses. Now is IN with the Coalition government.

From the Evening Post, a report states that "Former welfare minister Frank Field said that attainment by the age of five matters as much - if not more than - what happens in school, with children with poor development at that age more than six times as likely to end up with no worthwhile qualifications."

So we can guess what's coming next. Oh, yes, interference in the family of children under school age from the lingering remnants of social engineering idiots like Field.

Before I get to the ins and outs of monitoring of every little tot in the UK I will say Frank, mate, haven't you noticed that you Labour lot allowed the banks to make a scandalous amount of money in dodgy circumstances and now the Coalition lot are making us pay for it. In other words, Mr. Field. THERE IS NO MONEY TO INTERVENE IN YOUNG CHILDREN'S LIVES and, hallelujah, thanks to the universe that there is no money to intervene in young children's lives. Zippo, nada, niente.

"In a progress report on his Poverty and Life Chances review, handed to the Prime Minister this week, Mr Field called for the establishment of an "Index of Life Opportunities" to identify children in need of support in their earliest years.

And he said the pre-school period - from conception to age five - should be renamed the Foundation Years and be viewed as part of every child's educational life."

Why should you stop there, Frankie? Surely the pre-birth time is the one we should all be monitoring and intervening in? Stop pregnant mothers doing dumb things, eh? You should be ashamed of yourself, Mrs. or Miss Enceinte, for eating that dangerous brie cheese. DON'T GO into that bar - someone was smoking in there last week!

Of course, pregnancy is just too darn late. Better analyse the thrashing tail of the sperm of the potential baby's father and give it a rating on the poverty level of its energy.

"Excuse me," says agent of the state standing at the top of Lover's Lane in Anytoon, "I'll just get a vial of your um-er baby seed, Mr. Babyfather."

To what ludicrous lengths will these 'people' go?

How long before our patience snaps and we tell them where to go?

"What happens to children in the first five years of life matters as much, if not more than, what happens in schools, yet around seven times as much public money is spent on educating children in schools than on helping parents during critical pre-school years," he said."

Who says this? Where's your research? What's the status of the research? Who authored it Stephen Heppell, Graham Badman and Maggie Atkinson, signed off by the great Balls himself? And you can help parents by sharing out the massive amounts of money in this country. That's how you ameliorate the effects of poverty, you noodle.

"The proposed Index would measure children's social and emotional development, cognitive and language skills, communication skills and well-being - the indicators which make the most difference to long-term development - he (Field) said."

Meanwhile, pregnant ladies, women with small children, families in whatever shape everywhere in this pestilential would-be eugenically-controlled United Kingdom beware. The education expert Field is about with his possible legion of clip-board carrying cretins ready to save your babies from the joy of childhood. Run while you still can.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Castles in the sand

Hmmm, I am in one of those liminal moods when I don't know exactly what I'm wanting to write about. I know I want to write but what should I say?

I'm back on the silvery sand of yesterday, braving the cold wind, watching two children of six and five build a castle with walls and turrets, a moat, outer buildings, and part of a town. They dug furiously, and concentrated with fierce intent, and I thought how amazing children are. What magnificent beings and how we short-change them by trying to impose our views of the world on them and make them conform to whatever passes for reality with us.

We should be led by them, not leading them. They are fresh and joyous. They have yet to discover cynicism and discontent.

Of course, I love being with small/young children. I find them totally fascinating: I adore the way their minds cope with new things and weave stories about the world.

I was asked, as I built up the walls under my captain's directions, what the objects were on top of the walls which my other captain was carefully hefting into place. "I don't know," I said, rather torn between saying a sand castle and trying to recall the word I thought she might be meaning. The little captain said, "It's a turret," and her older brother said, "I can't believe anyone wouldn't know that was a turret."

But, because I helped with the sandy constructions I was thanked by the captain saying, "This is the best castle ever. That's what we need. Team-work. This is excellent."

I felt I was forgiven by letting them down about the turrets.

It took me back to my own dear ones at that age. Priceless and precious though they are in their teens (and I do like teenagers), they are so interesting when they are close to babyhood, although every age and stage brings its enjoyments.

I remind myself never to forget what miracles they are. How much I love them. How I would do anything I could do for them. How I want them to unfold and grow into the best people they can be.

I remember what it is to really savour being a mum. And someone who watches a dear young great niece and nephew on the beach and is taught by their little faces which are lit up by the thrill of achievement as they create forts and castles and half a town before the tide comes in.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

A clever man said

A clever man said: "Now consider the nature of American education. The primary goal of high school and colleges is to get students to understand and integrate ideas and facts from a variety of disciplines in order to enrich their lives and prepare them for the real world. Like all teachers, I secretly hope that each of my eager students will assimilate what I tell them and, when I meet them later in life, profusely thank me for changing their world views. Why does this so rarely happen? The answer may lie, in part, in the distinction between confronting and being confronted by events. As a teacher, for example, I lecture, or psychologically confront, a large group of students with a bewildering number of facts, theories and stories. The role of the students is to be passive recipients of information. I confront them with information; they are confronted by it. In a twisted sort of way, a lecture is like a trauma for the audience. People are passively confronted by a bewildering amount of information over which they have very little control."

Yes, I often felt battered and beaten by teachers and lecturers. Leaving class, I just wanted to recuperate from the blows.

Dr. James Pennebaker is right. It's because you're done to. You have no control. You can't jump up in the midst of the lesson and shout "Please, please, be quiet for ten minutes until my brain starts feeling more normal."

Dr. Pennebaker's experiments have demonstrated that we like to be in control, that things will be seem to us to be less traumatic if we can control them. Or, if they are traumatic, we can talk about them and thereby reduce the shocks after the events.

We had a bit of a struggle to get Pennebaker's book called 'Opening Up'. It's full of delights and goodies. It's in demand by the distant library we borrowed it from. I don't wish to let it go.

"The primary goal of high school and colleges is to get students to understand and integrate ideas and facts from a variety of disciplines in order to enrich their lives and prepare them for the real world."

I'm guessing that Dr. Pennebaker has not encountered John Taylor Gatto who would disagree that schools and colleges do any such thing. He might, however, agree with the 'preparing them for real life' bit. It always amuses me that anyone would think that you can be prepared for real life by being locked away from real life.

But, there you are, a quotation from Dr. James Pennebaker, a very clever man indeed.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

We are all heroes

Logically speaking, I've always been a fan of Mr. Spock. You SciFi fans will know who I mean, of course - the pointy-eared, green-blooded Vulcan of Star Trek's starship Enterprise fame.

I was a fan of logic before I really knew what logic was. Now, it strikes me that logic could be the answer to many of the world's woes.

Think of all the trouble caused by Mr. Badman and his ever-changing round of statistics last year. Think of the - sigh - late, late nights and strained eyeballs as you pondered his nifty use of the median because it gave a better and more damning result than the usual measure the mean. His choices of rotten-looking half-quoted comments. His pushing of the glories of schools. His telling us that we over-ride our children's rights of decision-making by forcing them into home education (a stupendous case of the pot calling the kettle black since no one I've ever heard of has given a child a choice about going to school).

Yes, statistics can be mean and they often don't mean what they say but can be employed to say what you mean and support your position in a meaningless way.

"I'm just being honest about the fact that few of us have the time, energy, need, or capacity to carry out to carry out Socratic missions. This is not to say we don't need more people like Socrates (or the child who declared the emperor naked). As the last six chapters have illustrated, the world is rife with charlatans, cheats, flim-flam artists, incompetents, unscrupulous careerists, and fools in high places (often with big egos). In addition, the intellectual world is not immune to politics or fashion. At times, it stampedes and at times it circles the wagons. As a result, bad things happen. We've seen plenty of examples."

Other people stampeded and circled by the enemies of your personal state would have cracked, broken, bowed down, cried and given up, said it was inevitable, muttered that you can't fight city hall, drunk some bottles of wine and whinged or otherwise ignored what seemed to be an unstoppable charge of unscrupulous careerists and fools in high place (with their big egos).

Home educators did not. They rose magnificently to the challenge. They will never be fooled again; they'll always be alert, on the scent, on the mosey down often sweet-looking paths snuffling out the bad, the threats to their children's intellectual rights of self-ownership, the springing colonies of mould that tarnish liberty.

We are, indeed, then a lazy motley lot who don't care about their children. Don't alert them to the arrows piercing freedom. Don't bother with their minds' development. What a bunch of people doing nothing at all to ensure that their children get the best of the best of everything available of what their children desire!

"So we need our skeptics and iconoclasts, our unmaskers and our sticklers for the truth. We should build monuments to these whistle-blowers in the fields of knowledge and create an annual holiday in their honour. Above all, we should listen to what they say (without losing sight of how often our trusted sources also get things right)."

I'd like a statue in our honour. I would. Perhaps a replica of Rodin's The Thinker, and a whole bunch of thinkers all thinking in different poses. One group would be doing statistical analyses, another would be blogging truth, another would be researching and writing, another would be organising events...

It would be a big statue.

We're not likely to get one, though.

"But most of us are ill-equipped to walk in Socrates' sandals, and most of the rest don't want to.
As we learned from Socrates, unmasking false experts can be hazardous to one's health. It usually involves speaking truth to (or about) power, and power didn't become power by turning the other cheek. What happened to Socrates is extreme by today's Western democratic standards, but, with the exception of stand-up comics, serious iconoclasts and unmaskers have a harder life than the rest of us (unless they are extraordinarily gifted like Richard Feynman). As the old saw says you have to go along to get along, and they don't."

Socrates died, of course. He was done to death, but he had the last laugh because he was true to himself. He didn't go along to get along. He went on his own terms. As we did. Not that we went, but we lost a lot, we suffered a lot, we surrendered so many hours of time we could have spent more agreeably with our dear ones. We gave up our time and energy to fight and pitch battle against unscrupulous careerists and fools in high places who would rob our young of their rights to form their own opinions and be their own people.

"The fact that our unmaskers and debunkers risk all that is precisely what makes them heroes."

All quotations above were taken from 'The Undercover Philosopher: A guide to detecting, shams, lies and delusions' by Michael Philips.

"In fact, Socrates once said, "I know you won't believe me, but the highest form of Human Excellence is to question oneself and others."

"No government has the right to decide on the truth of scientific principles, nor to prescribe in any way the character of the questions investigated. Neither may a government determine the aesthetic value of artistic creations, nor limit the forms of literacy or artistic expression. Nor should it pronounce on the validity of economic, historic, religious, or philosophical doctrines. Instead it has a duty to its citizens to maintain the freedom, to let those citizens contribute to the further adventure and the development of the human race. "

Friday, 13 August 2010

What have I forgotten today?

Darn, I've forgotten to lock the front door and now the dog's lying in front of the inner door in front of the front door and I just can't move him because he's fast and twitching in his lovely doggy dream.

What else have I forgotten?

Well, I haven't forgotten to spend time with my youngsters. I went in to see them sleeping this morning before I uttered those awful words, time to get up, and I saw them as I saw them years ago when they were tiny. Funny how in sleep they are tiny again. I bent over them and gently kissed their beloved, blessed little heads. At least I didn't forget to do that.

I hugged H. That was something important, not forgotten, and I thanked him to go along with the hug too because he does stuff for me, and sometimes, just sometimes, I do forget to say 'thank you.' My manners, they're slipping. 'Please' was the first to go. Do you notice? No one says it anymore. A few foreign folk and elders and that's more or less it...

I think I nearly forgot to do some research, but no I did it, and read all of my favourite blog entries to catch up on what everyone is doing and admire their zest for home education and their energy doing things and thinking about things that sound so interesting.

I remembered to cradle my dear demented old darling mother's head, and tell her that everything would be all right as she looked up at me; she looks to me to fetch her shopping and pay her bills and generally take care of her. I remember to send thoughts of love to her, even when I'm not with her, and hope that, on some level, she is content and even happy.

I recall the need to stay positive, and how we all struggled last year and what a difference a few months make, but I remember how it felt to struggle and strain and stress and feel like the bottom and top were knocked off my personal egg space and how invaded and looted my life felt and how afraid I was for all the home edders starting out, and those going along and the other ones finishing, and I wondered if the finishing ones would be the last to know a precious and wondrous freedom of thought.

It is so precious, and so precarious. I hope I remember what it was like to face colonisation of our rights forever. I hope I always remember the frantic phone calls of a home ed. friend who was terrified by the unyielding and unrelenting power of the state. I remember the faith and hope and constant belief of home educators when faced with this terrible time. I recall their words, their sacrifices, their unceasing flow of doing and being in the face of a juggernaut intent on destruction.

I hope I never forget important things like those.

Now, where did I put that key?

Sunday, 8 August 2010

We treat children like objects

Newspapers are all out for sensational stories.

A mother, driven to distraction, wanting to keep her children safe and seeing the only way is to kill them for instance (the Riggi family). It makes a strange sort of sense for, if you're dead, as far as we know, you can't be hurt any more.

Here we have it from the mother's own lips: "Yesterday, it emerged she had previously told friends her children would ‘always come first."

They were her joy. She could see the unfolding of them, like precious, amazing flowers like the miracles they were. And they were under threat.


I can surmise only, of course. I think they died because their father proposed to send them to school. A prison. A place where they couldn't and wouldn't unfold. A place where their spirits would wither and shrink.


Perhaps he saw them as a way to punish her - someone he'd loved, someone he'd wanted to live with forever, made vows to, had babies with. When love turns to hatred the casualties are worse than your own pain sometimes. Often, the casualties are the happiness of the children.


Because we see children as objects. We talk about them as if they are not there. We decide to do things with them that they cannot change or object to.

Our society treats children like objects. It demands that we stick them into school. Even babies have to be schooled at nursery. Even children who are ill have to be tutored in hospital.

All for their own good of course.

Mrs. Riggi knew this, I suspect. She knew that her babies were become pawns in the fight between herself and her husband. She knew that he would hurt her through them, as so many men choose to do when they are animated by lust for revenge and emotional pain themselves. She knew that their lives would be hurt through the rending and clawing that she and her husband were going through.

So she took them away from all of it. She kept them safe.

It's not what other people would seek to do, but it is a solution. They will never be damaged by the hell that adults would plunge them into. They will never see the day when their parents are so scoured and embittered by each other's human reactions that the children find themselves unable to trust a living soul.

You can push people too far. You can degrade, humiliate, impoverish, ridicule, isolate, annihiliate, void, damage, hurt, claw, extinguish, break and crucify a human being one step too far.

And I think that is what happened to Mrs. Riggi.

Friday, 30 July 2010

Khyra Ishaq and Ed Balls

Hmmm, I have tried to avoid commenting on poor Khyra Ishaq. So many people have commented on the case and so much better than I could.

Of course, I say case because it's easier and more comfortable for me to say than to acknowledge that a young child died in dreadful circumstances at the hands of her mother and stepfather.

I think we're all guilty. Us, all of us, as human beings we are a community. We are all guilt-bearers. So many of us could have acted. Some few did, but their fault was to leave it to others to sort out. We should all be sorting these things out. We are all responsible.

Every man's or child's death diminishes all of us.

A young child's demise is always a tragedy.

Even more obvious to me is the tragedy was preventable, and caused by fear. I think that the people who dealt with Angela Gordon were frightened of her. They were afraid that she would sue them for harassment.

We have to decide what kind of people we are. If we have social workers who can intervene in a situation where they have a strong belief and a definite reason to believe that a child's life is in danger, then that is what they must do. But they must not knock on doors and hassle ordinary people trying to do the best job they can do.

We should hang our heads in shame that Khyra's death and her siblings' torture is now a game to be played between factions in Parliament.

Ed Balls is off again: 'Ed Balls, the then education secretary, wanted to force home-educating families to accept annual visits from local authority inspectors, a move that led to home-educators demonstrating to parliament. Balls, now shadow education secretary, said he strongly urged Gove to re-introduce the legislation on home education as "an urgent priority". "He will have our full support," he said.'

Sure that would suit your sub rosa plans, wouldn't it, Mr. Balls?

It would, however, remove the scapegoat that Birmingham SS used to justify doing little or nothing to help Khyra.

All despicable.

And Balls should be told straight that for all the Khyras who may or - as is overwhelmingly likely - WILL NOT be helped by a visit by an overworked and clueless local government person, many more children who were driven to distraction or near suicide by unsafe practices in schools WILL be forced back to those institutions of torture.

And that man will be guilty of advocating that the only escape those children, children who are suffering torture and degradation and isolation every school day, shall be denied to them.

He has been told all this. He doesn't care. It's a hobby horse. It's a dead hobby horse, flogged to death and lying in splinters on the floorboards. But he doesn't care. So long as he gets his way. So long as the game is played on both sides of the House.

Vile people.

Whatever evil did we do to deserve them?

Monday, 26 July 2010

Children's Commissioners

The Children's Commissioner - frankly a terrifying combination of words and what would it mean to a child? - for Scotland is a chap called Tam Baillie. He was chosen by children.

"Since the Commissioner works for young people, he was chosen by them through a series of interviews. The interviews included questions about what he was going to do to help. There is also a website set up that enables young people to contact SCCYP."

(From Wikipedia)

Good idea since he was going to represent their views. Let the children choose.

Who chose Maggie Atkinson, the Children's Commissioner for England?

The ever-lovable Ed Balls.

"England's Children's Commissioner says she has had official confirmation that her £135,000-plus-a-year post will survive the Government-commissioned review into its value for money.
Maggie Atkinson is "extremely optimistic" about the way the independent inquiry is being carried out and says the Prime Minister's office "has already confirmed" that her post will not be abolished."

This is from

So Maggie Atkinson believes that her role will continue.

What does this mean?

Well, I analyse it this way. Either Maggie is a fantasist who thinks that telling people her job isn't going in the abolition of overt quangos is the route to securing her cushy number for a few more years.

If she is mentally disturbed I think she is not eligible for such a role.

If she is telling the truth; however, we have proof that this government is promising reviews, carrying them out and then doing what they wanted to do in the first place. Just like the last government.

In either case, it is bad news.

In the first instance, we have a possibly delusional woman confronting children.

In the second case, this government is behaving exactly like the last government with promises to engage people and listen to what they say but, in the end, lying.

Tech does a wonderful job revisiting the charming Maggie Atkinson here:

Can't we do better than these dreadful people?

Anyone could do better. Anyone with moral standards that is.

Sunday, 18 July 2010


Apologies. When I was young I made apologies for being young and being here.

Now I'm not so young I find that the world does not apologise to me for the times it stands on my toes.

I will not apologise for every problem or fault - mine or not - like I did when I was younger.

I will not creep around this earth seeking to have people agree that it is my right to live and be.

If they don't like it, tough.

I'm getting hard. I'm getting too old to not do things I want to do that won't hurt anyone. I am getting past apologising for my being and my dreams.

I am sorry but I don't do apologies anymore.

I do try to tell my children to be themselves and make no apologies for it. Don't live as if you are trying to please someone/anyone/everyone else.

Don't say you're sorry unless you have a genuine cause.

Don't take the weight of the rude world on your shoulders.

Live your own life. Do not live the life I might desire for you (although I try not to desire things for you and push you towards some goal that I desire). Do your own thing. The thing you have to do.

And don't apologise for doing it or being successful at doing it.

For the world is jealous and will be spiteful.

And it won't apologise because it doesn't care if it hurts you while attempting to remake you in the shape of everyone else.

My little ones, sing when you want.

Fly when you can.

Dance if it's in you.

And never apologise for your song, your flight or your dancing.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Thought you might like...

Some John Taylor Gatto.

From my friend's kindly lent book, 'Weapons of Mass Instruction'. Thank you, I, for parting with it, entrusting it to me and letting me read it.

'Weapons of Mass Instruction' will blow your mind while making you cry. It is such a relief to read John Taylor Gatto's complete and utter understanding of what school is and what it is meant to do and the damage it can cause.

"School is about learning to wait your turn, however long it takes to come, if ever. And how to submit with a show of enthusiasm to the judgment of strangers, even if they are wrong, even if your enthusiasm is phony." p. 62

We're so well-mannered, aren't we? Waiting, just waiting to have our ship come in, to hop on the show boat of life, bolstered up by the Cheryl Coles of this world who happen to hit big paydirt. Yet not everyone can hit the bigtime. There isn't enough big time to go around. It's a falseness like the enthusiasm with which you fooled your teachers that you felt for their classes (if you bothered).

School teaches you to wait in line for something you're told will happen if you're good, if you behave, if you toe the line. Something that doesn't happen for most people, can never happen because there is no something to drop into the palm of your hand, even if you've laboured all your life.

You wait because that's how you were taught. We are all Englishmen and women here. We don't push to the head of the queue. We don't grab opportunities or chances because we are silently standing waiting for the right time to be told to start. The opportune moment.

We'll always be waiting.

It's a farce.

Those who refuse to wait, who go and do, who dive in; the ones who get in are the ones who get on.

Entrepreneurial. Business-like. Positive. Thrusting. Puissant. Go-getters. High flyers.

School teaches you to wait.

Home education teaches you to carpe diem, seize the moment, grab the big fish with both your outstretched hands. It instructs you in doing because you do for yourself and, in doing for yourself, it causes you to verify that your enthusiasm is genuine.

At the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show 2010, fifteen year old James Callicott is the youngest designer to participate. He's already designed gardens for family and friends. James is home educated, and he is seizing the day.

James is a bright, young thing according to the Telegraph. An escapee from school, he has the time to concentrate on his designs and sees himself 'doing questioning gardens'. Severely dyslexic, he learned to read gardening magazines because he was interested, and otherwise he watered the strawberries in his own garden and, generally, pottered around.

I can't see James waiting in line for permission to start his life and no one is forcing him down a road he finds dusty, empty and barren.

Home education - seizing the day.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Maiden voyage

Today is going to be a blog full of pain.

Today is a blog of screaming anguish.

Today is a blog of anger. Real gut-churning rage.

Today, H met an old friend from council days.

O is a man who has conducted himself always with dignity and extended friendship and kindness to everyone. He is a good man, an ordinary man.

He was made redundant today.

He wasn't given much for so many years of service. He wasn't given anything actually. He was told to leave after a meeting, all of his work is in places he knows, but nobody has asked him where his files are.

We know from this that his projects - seeming so important at the time - are to be abandoned. So he cannot even congratulate himself that he left with a loincloth of dignity, that he left with the thought that something he had given to others will help them. He cannot think that what he ever did there mattered to anyone.

His manager has gone too, having been promised a new job in the new stream-lined council - a more monied post - in the poor new council. The hit squad of bullies who were managers of people who had worked for that council are chortling today because they are accomplishing their most cherished dreams. They are getting rid of the folk who had grafted there for years. Getting rid of the 'old'. The 'old' who worked, who knew the value of a day's work for a day's wage, who cared about the people in the borough that they served.

No golden handshakes for O. No ugly clock to stand on his mantel. No fond farewells from colleagues. Nothing but emptiness for him. Shock in his kind eyes. Bewilderment. Hurt. A deep, deep pain that won't be soothed any time soon.

The ex-manager has been trying to rid the department of the 'underlings' and now he's done it. Thanks to the Coalition government.

Thanks to them, the bullies have got their way; they are happy tonight, secure in the knowledge that they have hurt a decent man, decent men and ordinary women. Families. Folk.

In the days of work, the manager-bully would never have a meeting with his underlings. He'd email them. Even though he sat five yards away. He'd use technology to distance himself from the people he was supposed to guide. Why was he a manager? Someone so useless at managing.

Why was he a manager?

Why has he been promised a job after the re-structuring?

Why are the senior staff with the big salaries staying? Why are they allowed to stay on? Haven't they done enough? Isn't it time to let them go with shock in their eyes? With no handshake, no provision for the future, no hope of another job when you're half way through your fifties because there are millions of young ones to do what needs doing and you're scrappage.

Is it all starting again? Those who are privileged ridding themselves of others who are not. Those who have much starting to kick to death - and they will cause death - those who have little.

Do we have to endure this kind of world?

Do we have to put up with it?

Do our children?

Today in Parliament, all those new people who were elected recently have been giving their maiden speeches. What they said is largely irrelevant. For what will they do to stem the pain? Will they speak for the ordinary people? The ones in shock from being scythed away from something they have known for so long, that gave them an importance of a small type? Will they change anything? In that most indifferent of chambers.

'"On reducing the deficit, Mr Dromey, a former deputy general secretary of the Unite Union, declared: "I will resist any notion of asking those who are least able to bear the burden to pay the price of the misdeeds of the bankers."
He also warned that cuts to university funding would deprive "young working-class kids" from his constituency "of the chance to become the first in their family to go to university". '

How strange it is that Harriet Harmon's husband has to be the one to say what we little people are thinking, to care what we ordinary folk are feeling, the dread we are experiencing, the bleak, black pain...

The quote is from

A website called democracy live. Ironic.

'I will resist any notion of asking those who are least able to bear the burden to pay the price of the misdeeds of the bankers.'

We have to band together - we have to commune - we have to protect not just our children, but each other - we have to stop punishing the innocents for the guilty - we have to open our sleeping eyes WIDE - we have to think of money as serving US not US serving money - we have to ask if men who are staggeringly rich SHOULD have the job of 'rescuing' this silly country - we have to think, and grow, and know, and change and wake up and never ever ever be fooled again.

Are we awake yet?

Saturday, 26 June 2010

QUIET, PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

People have commented to me on my children. They usually don't say "What erudite youngsters you have given birth to, and how intelligent they are." Equally, they don't say "Oh, my, how attractive these young people are. Of course, they take after you, Danae."

Those comments would, of course, be true. Valid. Positive. Uplifting. Pleasant to listen to.

No, what has been said is this: "Your children are so quiet."

Being fond of analysis, my mind goes into overdrive when something like the above statement is uttered. I think, "Oh, sweet cauliflowers, my children are quiet. They are not noisy. They do not yell, swear, scream at earth-shattering levels of decibels, they do not feel the need to communicate with people five kilometres away by shouting full-out at them. They do not grab every opportunity to have every stranger stare malevolently at them because they are inappropriately LOUD and riotous. They take after me. I talk when I have something to say; although I have been known to rattle along or indulge in a hefty rant. I listen. I use inner and outer ears to listen.

My children have moments when they talk and it's when they want to talk. I applaud the fact that they aren't like our neighbours - thankfully, they're moving - whose (large) garden abuts onto ours and who have raised two children to scream unmercifully at the top of their capacious lungs at any and all stimuli, bang bin lids and any other intensely loud objects together, and act as the local drop-off point for what seems like thousands of other immoderate kids who are overpoweringly, head-thumpingly, gratuitously and achingly and consistently noisy.

We are generally quiet people. The world does not like quiet people. It respects listeners, but not much. It reveres shriekers and yellers and dinners (those who make a din). A favourite saying in my part of the world is 'Shy bairns get nowt' and, by the sound of it, there aren't many shy bairns around now.

When some woman says "Your children are so quiet" I know that she is making some kind of complaint. Why? What is to do with you if my children don't sound and act like yours, Mrs? I don't complain that your children are vying with the local busy airport to pollute the world with more racket so why comment on my children's peacefulness?

Really, we'd be better off living in another part of the world. Somewhere where thinking is respected and peace is encouraged. Where you yourself are valued, not for how much clamour and uproar you can funnel into other people's ringing ears.

I'll tell you a little secret. In school reports, my child was said to be quiet. I reacted with annoyance but I should have held my peace. I should have said, "Yes, I'm sure you are thankful for the thoughtful ones. They are models of good behaviour for your inconsiderate, annoying, abrasive other pupils, aren't they? Be glad that they are in your class."

Cherish the tranquil non-screamers for they will inherit the world because the government, sooner or later, will find a way to bring in a noise tax.

Until then, if you, Mrs, are tempted to criticise my children because they don't sound as cacophonous as a henyard, I say one thing to you and that is "BE QUIET!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Saturday, 19 June 2010


You'll have heard about the OFSTED report on how LAs deal with home edders. That was its supposed aim; however, it said very little about how LAs deal with home edders and some LAs are just dreadful.

They want you to let them know what your child is doing. They want you to know what your child has done. They want to know how you are implementing your educational philosophy. They want to see your child to catechize him or her as he or she takes a test in English, Trigonometry and Ancient Botswanan while writing an essay on the recent lessons learned by the three main political parties on the hung Parliament, and, at the same time, signing copies of his or her new book (one of a trilogy) for a fervent and grateful public.

They don't notice the flush of health on your child's glowing cheeks. They don't see your baby's twinkling eyes as your little one realises that she can go to the toilet when she needs to (no matter if inspector is 'monitoring' or not). They don't understand the liberation that comes from no pressure and no stress when you are programmed to learn and someone forces you to learn something that you wouldn't have chosen to look at. They think that punishment drives children to receive an education when, actually, enjoyment and interest engender education in a child who chooses to educate him or herself.

Really, I can't get over the nerve of it. The LAs don't suffer any form of punishment for allowing any number of children who sit in class (or don't) and exhibit not a jot or a tittle of learning through ten-fifteen years of various teacher information-donation or other type of schooling. Yet, they demand to come into our houses and see everything that is wrong with what we do which they will then put right by returning your child to the one education - the schooling.

Where is their commentary on how badly some home educating families are treated by LAs? Where is their report on how people have had to flee the country because of the absolutely diabolical demands and bullying from the LA? Where is their acknowledgement that LAs generally have no clue about laws in place around home education? Where is their lambasting for representatives of a public body who repeatedly harass and upset families whose only fault is that they have chosen to act responsibly and take their children away from failing schools or the torment dealt out by bullies, child or adult?

OFSTED had the opportunity to tell some truth. They failed.

OFSTED had the chance to rebuke and reform the LAs. They failed.

OFSTED had an occasion to shed some light on the dark corners of LA bullying and misunderstanding of home education. They failed.

That's an 'F' from me then.

Further reading:
OFSTED report link and MP Graham Stuart's blistering response

Thanks to Maire whose timely blogging in a wonderful way helps to keep me connected and calm.

And please check out this excellent expose from

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Tell me

Tell me stories.

Tell me stories.

Tell me of the brave and true.

Tell me stories.

Exciting stories.

Tell me stories.

Tell me stories to let me find you.

Do you tell your children stories? Do you explain yourself through tales? Do you sit with a book at bedtime, making sense of the world through the dramas inscribed inside the covers?

Are your children yawning when you tell them, again and again, how you met their father or their mother?

Do they turn away when you ramble on about Grandpa's habits and little old dog that followed him everywhere? Do they listen politely when you tell them about your mother's jig in the front garden when she saw you taking a quick, sneaky photograph of her. Tell them about your triumphs, your failures, your happy times, your grey days, yourself.

Do they know where you went to school, how you felt walking up to the entrance, what you did there, who greeted you, who ignored you, what you learned?

What can the young know about you from your stories?

You give of yourself - your very deepest self - in your stories. You tell your children who you are, who you know, who you love, despise, respect, find attractive, see as humorous... You tell them more than your stories, and those stories will illuminate the love you bear them and crowd out the boring, silly, mediocre times for them.

You will be illustrated in story-form. You will pass into fable as your children tell their children the stories about you, and the stories you told them.

Wouldn't you like to be remembered in this most powerful way?

Tell them stories. Fill their ears and imagination with your stories.

Tell them stories.

Tell them stories.

Tell them about the brave and true.

Tell them stories, powerful stories.

Tell them stories to illuminate you.

Friday, 4 June 2010

The decision

Phew! Hot it is outside, but, with our sort of upside down house, it's quite cool in the dining/sitting/Danae's office room.

The dog is plastered over my right foot keeping it at a reasonable temperature.

Oh, and you can tell it's half-term because it's so noisy out there.

If it were not half-term I would be feeling desperately sorry for all the poor little boiled people sat on their hard seats, taking in scorching air, attempting to stay awake because extreme heat makes one a bit sleepy.

I remember my two emerging from school wilted. Properly drooping from a place where the paint-caked windows were nailed shut against potential vandals. (Where was 'elf an' safety then, I wonder?)

I recall a friend saying that her small pre-school son slept all afternoon and that the beginning- school deadline was racing towards her and him and she didn't know what to do to keep him awake in the afternoons because he needed so much sleep every day as well as every night.

Now, of course, I'd casually suggest home education and listen to the protests and keep schtum. We'd part until the next time when she'd ask me if it was legal, how was he to be socialised, did I get any time for myself, how could she do it because she hadn't had the best education and was rubbish at Maths, and you needed to be a teacher or have a degree or... don't you?

I'd answer patiently as if it was just an ordinary conversation.

She would go away again.

Then she'd come back and say that she was considering it but what about...?

More questions and answers. A few suggestions on my part of blogs to read. A time to join a home educators' meeting. No pressure. No hard sell from me.

I don't know if E ever did think of home education for her little sleepyhead. I may have thought of it wistfully on the odd hot afternoon for my daughters. Little did I know that I'd lose friends, acquaintances, respectability, the tacit approval of authorities, the seamless flow of an average life, time to myself when we did go for it. Little did I know how a single person, with totally committed people around her, can flourish and thrive and become more, and morph into selfhood.

I knew little then.

Luke Skywalker knew he wanted to leave his home planet. He hadn't realised that he'd lose his family, friends, daily life and gain notoriety as someone different. He didn't cotton on to the fact that the authorities would endlessly mark him as a rebel and have him on one of their lists as enemy.

Would you have made that choice again, Luke Skywalker, had you known the cost?

Would I? On one of those hot afternoons, when sticky, furnace-cheeked girls slowly ambled towards me on baking asphalt and heaving little doses of intense wavy air into their lungs did the switch lie deep in my brain ready to flip?

Was I ready then to step out of 'normality'? To face down LAs? To argue with politicians for the basic liberty to educate as one sees fit? To remove my family from the flow of the average?

Yes, I was. But not quite then. It wasn't just one thing that was the decider. It was a thousand.

The decision to home educate is not usually made in a twinkling of a petulant eye but it is a long complicated process.

I'm glad we made that decision. Despite everything, I'm glad.