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.