Friday, 30 April 2010

What am I? What do I learn?

Children with Asperger's Syndrome often have trouble at school.

I know of one in particular.

He attempts to be himself which is a perfectly reasonable stance to take; however, through being himself he does not conform to what school wishes him to be and that is a malleable, biddable pupil.

Witness the word pupil.

Pupil, student, schoolchild, class, sixth former, kindergarten, freshman, graduate

All words for children or collections of children or young people.

A boy with Asperger's, R, doesn't like school.

He shows signs of physical stress and anxiety, and stays off a lot.

When he is there, the school responds with warnings about behaviour then detentions.

Detention. Word for imprisonment, punishment.

The medium is the message.

"...the most important impressions made on a human nervous system come from the character and structure of the environment within which the nervous system functions; that environment itself conveys the critical and dominant messages by controlling the perceptions and dominant messages of those who participate in it. Dewey stressed that the role an individual is assigned is an environment - what he is permitted to do - is what the individual learns. In other words, the medium itself, i.e., the environment is the message. 'Message' here means the perceptions you are allowed to build, the attitudes you are enticed to assume, the sensitivities you are encouraged to develop - almost all of the things you learn to see and feel and value. You learn them because your environment is organised in such a way that it permits or encourages or insists that you learn them."

From Teaching As a Subversive Activity, p. 28-29, talking about Marshall McLuhan's 'the medium is the message'.

So what does the boy learn?

R learns that he cannot be himself. His 'I' is unacceptable and it is unacceptable to him to substitute a mask for the 'I' which he expresses. He learns that he is 'outside' the zone of approval. Many other children are 'inside' the zone and so receive positive reinforcement for their non-'I'/conforming behaviour.

R cannot do that. He sees no need to conform. He is true to 'I'.

Is this boy learning to be accepted?

Since he is frequently punished, no.

Is he learning to conform?

Quite the opposite.

Is he learning that the 'I' of him is OK?

No, anything but.

What is he learning?

R is learning that people who are supposed to guide and look after him in the school do not. He learns that it is OK for those who have a duty of care towards him not only to fail him but to actively seek to undermine him, abuse him and bully him. R knows now that it is fine for another human being to abuse him, and he realises that he has no power to fight back or protest against the maiming of 'I'.

All that the teachers are teaching in the way of useful knowledge is being lost for R because the boy is employing all his psychic energy in the constant battle to try to keep himself safe.

The battleground is his soul. His very being.

Anything extra is draining away. Maths, English, Science, all going to waste.

When will the school realise?

Schools do not realise. They are set up to induce conformity. They will seek to punish those who retain 'I'. They will bring in educational psychologists/counsellors to label the boy in order to shift the blame from school to boy and boy's parents/home. They will muster their weapons: other children, social workers, teaching assistants, even police.

The school will continue to fail the boy.

The parent will revolt at some stage of the closing of professional ranks and seek to home educate the boy.

That day cannot come soon enough.

During the non-coercive education process inside and outside the home base the child will receive reinforcement for 'I'. The 'I' will strengthen and recover. This process may take years - post traumatic stress syndrome is not easy to alleviate.

One day the boy will see he is 'I' and 'I' is worthy and strong and has its own place in the world.

Home education - putting the 'I' in CHILD

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Understanding home education

I always have trouble understanding people who say that they don't understand home education.

What don't you understand?

It is the UNHERD alternative to HERD schooling.

It is the choice of children who are given a choice.

It is the unfettered voice of children who are respected.

It is the fun in learning.

It is the chance to have enough time to develop expertise in something you like to do, and are good at to start with.

It is the opportunity to do nothing on days when anything you do goes badly because you are too ill or tired to do anything.

It is the route whereby life can throw unexpected bonuses in your path and you are there to pick them up.

It is the way to mature.

It is freedom from coercion.

It is saving your hearing from the countless incidences of ear-bashing racket in a classroom.

It is the imbibing of nature in all its beauty and seasons and changes and subleties.

It is really getting to know your environment.

It is stretching and growing in safety.

It is life and aliveness.

It is learning to know the wonders of the universe in reality rather than through the medium of another's mind or books.

It is the way of the future.

Home education.

You can't beat it - so join it.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010


Labour needles religion and those who practice it.

Have you noticed?

Faith schools are attacked:

"That Mr Brown has been willing to tolerate a campaign against faith schools in England that he would not countenance in his own country is another reason for deploring what has been done since June 2007, when Mr Balls was given charge of the English education system. This newspaper published striking evidence earlier this week of the extent to which faith schools are suffering under the admissions rules he introduced in 2008. Over the past six months, more than 30 have been investigated by the Government's admissions adjudicator, and censured for doing what you would expect them to do: ensuring that their intake represents the faith they were founded to serve. "

You would expect a faith school to accept children of the same faith into their fold. To expect anything else is a nonsense.

"With his witch hunt Balls hopes to appeal to an influential constituency that lies beyond his party stalwarts. The secular establishment views religion as a wilful rejection of social liberalism and science. They joyfully report any incident that seems to support their thesis, and conveniently ignore any counter-argument. "

And again from the above:

"The fight for our faith schools goes to the heart of our society. At stake is our understanding of education. Should it be a tool for social engineering or a consumer service? Should it ensure equality or fairness? Government policy promotes neither.

Ed Balls thinks nothing of stomping on the rights of Christian, Jewish or Muslim parents to raise their child in a school environment that matches the morals-based approach of the home. He so loathes the notion of religious-based education that he prefers to tolerate Britain's increasing social inequality, which leaves the well-connected to flourish and the children of the humble and disadvantaged ill-equipped to hold down any but the most menial jobs."

Is this the motivation behind the animus against home educators? Is Ed Balls really afraid that home edders all over England and Wales are busily inculcating decency and morality into their young via the teaching of religious principles?

Is it his business?

Well, no, not one bit. When did government start to dictate religious instruction or belief? Isn't that a free choice for every man, woman and child? Can't you be allowed to make up your own mind which religion to follow or whether, indeed, to follow a religion at all?

Or is it even more sinister a move to alienate people from their humanity, their acts of kindness motivated by a belief in a God, their togetherness fostered by the knowledge that they are all one?

Does it make sense to slice apart a deep feeling that God cares about you and knows you? Will it improve anyone's life to be torn from the body that they have chosen to join?

Belief in God restricts the worst of human impulses, to maim and hate, to conquer and degrade other human beings.

By separating people from their choice to believe in whatsoever they choose, a government can fracture lives and disorder behaviour.

But maybe that creates better consumers because if you empty a person of religion or, at least, the ability to believe in something bigger and better than himself, you create a black hole of discontent to be filled with consumables. That is really what government wants. A race of slaves to the machine they make themselves slave to buy.

God help them.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

A hit! A palpable hit!

I wasn't going to sneer.

I wasn't going to sneer at Mr. Balls, at the DCSF, at the ECM crazed loons, at the numpties on tv and radio, at the parents who thought it was all right if their fellow citizens had their homes invaded by a bunch of lame-brained LA officials.

I wasn't.

But I've changed my mind.

You're all washed-up.

I knew it wouldn't pass.

Because we, collectively, WE, everyone who fought, who racked their brains, who wrote to their MPs, who emailed and put pen to paper to write letters and talked to Lords and Ladies, to statisticians, to stars, to friends and to foes, everyone who fought made one huge GANDALF and shouted with a mighty voice:


So it hasn't.

Celebrate the victory. Today, celebrate.

You're the first people to really fight for freedom in a long while in this country. You're the first to know that freedom is in jeopardy and, these days, the danger comes from the quiet whisperers of Children's Services, of safeguarding, of aims and visions from Councils, of the terrifying tyranny of schools, and from the deadened souls of bureaucrats.

We live to fight on. We fight on to live and breathe the breath of freedom into our daughters and our sons so that they, in their turn, will know how to fight for what matters most.

LONG LIVE HOME EDUCATION - the way of the future.

LONG LIVE HOME EDUCATION - to each child, his own.

LONG LIVE FREEDOM OF CHOICE IN EDUCATION - the world is your oyster, children.

Bally fine job, chaps.

Carry on.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Conversation as we know it

For the last few days I have been off the netwaves because a flood in a BT exchange knocked off our internet.

It's amazing what happens.

We talk more. We all talk more. To each other.

Y and I discussed the shortcomings of Dr. Who and, why oh why, don't they get to interesting other planets but seem to end up in London or Cardiff each episode. She read a Dr. Who book and was seriously absorbed. We talked of many things after that... cabbages and kings...

E and I went over her second marked assignment for her Open University Law course (she got a high A on this and on the first assignment, and the tutor said some very complimentary things about her writing style).

We all hung out together. We did housework, and we talked about the changes we are making to our world and those we wish to make. Y scraped walls because the painter and decorator is in next week, and we spoke about religion (well, it is Easter). She went with me to my mother's who was in a questioning mood about 'where we go when we die' and 'what is the soul and where is it?'

The girls played some games, learning Chinese history from those games during their fun breaks. They stopped for more chats.

It's called 'purposive conversation' - the art of talking, well respected in our society. We reward everyone who can talk - even if they don't do it that effectively. This is a deeper kind of talking, though, it develops your thought processes, it extends your knowledge, it deepens your feeling for others and helps you to see 'where they are coming from'.

"... research that shows that high achieving 'genius' children have a background of both individualised attention and purposive conversational learning, which are found to be major factors in their accelerated intellectual development."

Not that I particularly want to have given birth to genius children, but I get a warm feeling when I realise that I am doing my best for my young while talking to them. And enjoying myself too because they are really interesting people and I learn a lot from them.

Do you think it's too late for me to turn into a high achieving genius?

A topic for another discussion perhaps.