Monday, 21 December 2015

Education of the oppressed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

The unsinkable hatred for home education and the Titanic

The Unsinkable Titanic

In 1912 there was a myth

The Titanic proud and tall on sea

Was unique, constructed specially

Would she sink? That could not be!

There was a firm belief

Too strong for minds to down

That powerful and proud vessel

Could never ever drown

Watertight her hull was

Designed it was with care

Safe as your own house

Furnished with grace and flair

Yet no match was she

The big ship laden

The last unhappy cruise

Voyage of the Iron Maiden

Take care what you believe

Trust neither government nor knaves

Think of the unsinkable Titanic

Large and rusting beneath the waves

by Diane Varty

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 29 October 2015

They don't get it at all

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

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

They don't get it at all.

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

Not the average, deficient box-ticker.

They do not understand at all.

So I'll try to explain.

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

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

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

Manage that?  No, I thought not.

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

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

What do they get out of it?

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

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

Easily led.

Ready to do things they might regret.

Getting into trouble.

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

So maybe that's the reason that authorities don't like home educators.  What do you think?
If you want to home educate, you must register your child.


Again, the state, butting in:

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

New Vistas

Do you know that thing you were dreading?

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

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

That thing.

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

Until next September.

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

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

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

It is her dream.

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

But happier for her.

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

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Ten years ago today

Ten year ago today.  Ten years ago. Today.

We began home educating.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 27 March 2015

Been on facebook

Where have I spent my time since the last blog entry?

Facebook. Quite a lot.

Google. Trawling for research materials.

Home or on Skype. Talking to the young people.

Living quietly.

I really like it when people come onto the lists on facebook and say that they are thinking of home educating (or, often, 'homeschooling') and then I tell our stories or I tell them how good it is or I tell them they might consider reading John Taylor Gatto - anything of John Taylor Gatto's writings.

And then they leap into space and find great joy and that their wings are filled with thermals.

We really haven't recovered from the three blows to mortality, two in the last year, and the final one in January.  Some things take their time, and these qualify as some things.

But, my youngest girl is doing lots and lots of research into lots and lots of areas, and my eldest is thriving at university, but really really really tired because she expends so much energy and is learning and growing so much.

I'm savouring the spring, watching the birds, listening to nature gearing up for its festivals of renewal.


I'm trying a new train track for my mind, and I'm being more mindful and more grateful.  And I'm attempting the rather unusual path of enjoyment.  Enjoying things?  How can I?

And I find that I can.

We're still learning.  We all still learn at any age. Every age. Everywhere. Everytime.

Oh, the joy. The joy!

Monday, 12 January 2015

Would I home educate if I were an abuser?

Would I home educate if I were an abuser?

Certainly not.

Home education brings too many people out of their ordinary minding-own-business status.

They can't leave you alone.

I must admit, a lot of folks have admired my courage, some have told me that they wished to GOD they had home educated their children or, in a few cases, their grandchildren.

But now, as soon as look at you, social workers and, even, police are at the door.

It can be ignorance.  "I didn't know it was legal to home school."

Yes, it is legal to home educate.

"I thought your child was at risk."

At risk of what? Getting an education?

Schools that enable bullying call the police in. Pity they weren't bothered when your child was hit in school by another child.

It's a waste of police resources.

Neighbours who have never shown any interest in children before find their caring side and ring social services who are, seemingly, judge, jury and executioner.

Back off.

Leave an honest, loving set of parents alone and let them live and learn.

It's all wrong.

Or maybe home educators are just easy targets.