Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Some thoughts on the Lord Soley bill

It's funny what you get inspiration from.

I was, and am, reading The Successful Self by Dorothy Rowe who, among other things, trained as a Child Psychologist.

One of the main concerns I am chewing over is what I chewed over last time:  Lord Soley's bill.

As I read the book I came across this sentence:  'We can explain other people's behaviour soley in terms of whether they are like us, and if they are not, we say they are mad or bad.'

Does that explain the hostile nature of some people in society to home educators?

When I mentioned that we educated 'otherwise' to folk I barely knew (who did not home educate) I had the impression that they drew away their metaphorical skirts.  We weren't like them.  We were mad.  Or bad.  Or both.  But we were certainly 'other' - not like them, not in their tribe, beyond the pale.

So we have a great deal of interference in home education (LAs would love to register and monitor, even more than they do now without real authority).  Add to that the nasty press coverage making much of the otherness with the deaths of children which had little or nothing to do with the mode of education.  How often do you read 'Schooled child dies of ......., in ....?  But, should there be a home-educated youngster involved and the mobs are stirred up and baying for the symbolic hanging enacted by registration and monitoring.

But, back to Dorothy Rowe. In a list, she defines a successful self as being "not engaged in a constant battle to avoid the threat of the annihilation of the self."  I've put that sentence in bold because it has a two-fold meaning.

My eldest girl had just that struggle at school.  How many ways others in the school environment tried to annihilate her.  By physical attacks, yes, by emotional abuse, yes, by ignoring her altogether, yes.  She was not allowed to be a 'successful self' until she and I sat down together and I asked 'Would you like to be home educated?'  After thinking a bit, she said: "Yes."

My younger daughter, when asked the same question, also said yes.

Out of school, they were no longer engaged in a constant battle to avoid the threat of the annihilation of the self.  That is what home education brings.  Freedom to study what you want, to discover what you like, to understand who you are, without the ceaseless and ridiculous demands of a bureaucratic system gone mad.

The bureaucratic system tries constantly to break into home educators' lives.  It says home educators must be registered (they don't need to be).  They should be monitored (why?) They have to learn what WE want them to (prove that what you want them to learn will help them to avoid the threat of the annihilation of self and we can talk).  The very intrusion of the state that encourages young people to fight to retain their self-hood is NOT welcome in my house.

My days of home educating are behind me, but I still deny that the state has any business reaching its grubby and guilty paws into home educators' lives.  Indeed, once it has breached the innocent sanctum of the ordinary home educating domicile, it will be game over for ANY parents and ANY children.  It is a wedge to open a gateway for private firms to pry, and for the state to numb the active and interested minds as much as they do at school.

State functionaries go fix the schools.  Make them havens of learning and hives of educational fascination.  Make them safe places for children and adults who seek to facilitate learning.  Then we'll talk.

Or maybe we won't.

Monday, 27 November 2017

Lord Soley and the registration and monitoring of home educated children and families

Oh, Lord Soley.

He was active during Badman times (2009-2010), and he doesn't appear to like home educators or the fact of home education altogether.

A lot of home edders will know that a bill has been put forward by Lord Solely in the House of Lords.  It's a private member's bill and the talk is that it's unlikely to be successful.  But who knows?

The consequences of changes proposed are discussed here:  http://sometimesitspeaceful.blogspot.co.uk/2017/06/home-ed-bill-hl11-2017-faq.html

Now there are so many things wrong with this bill and the Lord himself seems to be an inveterate enemy of home education.

Is it a coincidence that Wales seems to be busy having another bash at home educators too?  It's been driven there by the Children's Commissioner.

The attacks are reminiscent of Badman's over-the-top Review of Home education in 2009 which was stripped of its glory, fisked, gutted and utterly shamed by MPs, Lords, home educators and various lovely supporters of educational freedom.  That didn't stop it nearly becoming law.

The state doesn't like home education, of course, because home education shows up their pallid and parlous excuse for educational provision.  But, as an ex-home educator, I can say home educators are not just going to sit by and allow the freedoms of their children to be taken away by Lords, Ladies, MPs or anyone else.

The media, naturally, have been joining in the hunt with their articles about home educators (generally, unflattering, I'm told, but I haven't read them).  Equally, the good Lord Soley himself is concerned about all these unlicensed and uncontrolled schools that are, supposedly, radicalising home educators.  Most of this talk is highly insulting to our Muslim home educators who just want to do better for the children than the state schooling can do.

Wouldn't you think with the UK in a terrible state on all sorts of points, that officials would
be interested in putting other things right instead of picking on a group that, mainly, already gets things right?

At any rate, home educators are readying themselves for yet another fight for their children to be educated in peace.  Speaking in favour of the status quo, here's what two homeschoolers in two other countries have to say:

Russian homeschooling leader Irina Shamolina said that H.L. 11’s philosophy is unpleasantly close to that of the former Soviet Union, which she experienced as a child:
“We in Russia are shocked by the totalitarian spirit of the approach the government of GB is taking in treating the natural right of the parents to raise and educate their children the way parents prefer to do it. The situation is taking place in the country which proclaims itself to be a model of a true democracy!”
Polish homeschooling leader Marek Budajczak was also deeply critical of the U.K. proposal, saying:
“[T]here are two opposite political mentalities in Europe: the British one (inspiring citizens’ freedom) and the continental one (of Prussian origin). Changing legislation on home education in England and Wales would equate expelling fundamental parents’ rights in favor of statism. We in Poland know the destructive consequences of the last one. England shouldn’t become a secondary Europe; they should be faithful to their own political heritage.”
From  https://www.hslda.org/hs/international/unitedkingdom/201707120-british-lord-targets-homeschoolers-for-repression.asp

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

So proud

I am so proud of both of my girls.

My youngest is a brilliant artist and a caring, loving human being.

My eldest is academic, and a deep thinker who also cares.

About four weeks ago, we watched as she, gowned and capped, crossed the stage to receive her

Yes, she graduated.  From her four year course.  With three awards.  One was for the highest
marks in her school, the second was for the highest marks on a dissertation and the third
was a distinction in Japanese.

OK, I will own it- I burst into tears at least three times.

And now I watch with amazement and awe as my daughters fly into the wide blue of their
respective skies to be the eagles that they are.

Fly high and proud, my beauties.  Enjoy and live your lives in peace and harmony.

Bless you both.

Your mother is so proud of you.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

You know, I look back in disbelief

In about 2004, we were seriously considering home educating our girls.

I happened to know someone who was already home educating her girls so I asked her loads of
questions about home education.

I already knew it was legal.

She told me about Education Otherwise which I thought was an institution. At first, I didn't understand that it was 'staffed' by volunteers, by those who had gone ahead on the challenging road that is less travelled.

It took me a while of asking questions on lists.  I think my yahoo list was my best friend during that

Someone always answered my questions for which I am very grateful.  Sometimes it took people a
few hours or even days to get back to me, but they always did.

A lot of those people no longer home educate:  their children are grown.  Unfortunately, some of those incredibly patient souls have passed on.

To every one of you I extend a hearty thank you.  You taught me more than you know.  You taught
me the true meaning of giving someone time.  You taught me how to think like a free person.  You taught me about the law as it applies to home education (and other things, now and then).  You taught me patience.  You taught me to trust my children and my gut instinct.  You taught me the real deep meaning of community.  You taught me that no style of education fits every child.  You taught me the value of talking to my youngsters and REALLY LISTENING.

I have no doubt that you taught me so much more than what I've just listed.

Thank you.  With all my heart, I thank you.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

New threat to home education - or a whole load of extreme bunkum?

Hello, it's a New Year.  I hope it's a good one for you.

What will it hold for home educators?

What it often holds for home educators - threats and confusion or so it seems at first glance.

Home educators could be filling their children's minds with poison.  They could be 'radicalizing' their children.

They could be making them do the dishes.  OK, I threw that in because we know that 'making' your children do the dishes (wash the dishes, for our American friends) could be a very dangerous thing.  Or no it couldn't.

"A senior government source said: “There has always been the freedom in this country for people to educate their children at home. Many people do it very well. But we need to know about where the children are and just to be certain that they are safe.

“For every parent doing a brilliant job, there may be someone filling the children’s mind with poison. We just don’t know, we don’t have reliable figures.”


Home educators 'could be' letting their children get over the dreadful time they've had at school, or they could be touring the country learning about regions and districts and flooding and overworked water courses and environmentalism...  You see how one subject naturally leads to another.
People home educate for different reasons, not one of them appears to be turning those children into radicals.  For a start, what is a radical?  Maybe they mean someone who doesn't like fracking or Nicky Morgan, Education Secretary, the current incumbent in a long line of people seemingly unaware of anything that home education actually is (in the UK, home education is not generally referred to as homeschooling, although various families 'home school' as in they have 'school at home').
Indeed one wonders immediately just who this unnamed source is?  'A senior government source?  Care to guess? Perhaps Heather Brooke, the amazing reporter who brought us all information about the expenses claimed by Members of Parliament might tell us, but this spokesperson is sheathed in mystery.  Perhaps it is the government tea lady in the Houses of Parliament.  One can only guess..
Many people home educate very well apparently.  How nice, how soothing, that remark just sets you up for the fall, does it not?  'But we need to know about where the children are and just to be certain that they are safe'.
Strange that, when many children who are in care (that is cared for by governmental appointed agents) go missing. These children are not in their parents' care but are LOOKED AFTER children, in the 'care' of the state.
The information was obtained from police forces in England and Wales by the NSPCC, and those figures can presumably be checked by looking at the FOI responses.
So, obviously, children who are in the care of their parents (home educating) are not safe enough in the care of their parents but must be overseen by a state that loses children that it DOES have a duty of care for.
What can one even say to that?
Just to be certain that the children are safe, says the senior government source.  Why would they not be safe?  They are with their parents or in other company like grandparents, friends, home educating groups, or doing what every child does like ballet or gymnastics classes or some such thing.
Of course, when one starts to deconstruct the argument, one sighs deeply with complete and utter tiredness because it's the same old squawking.
1)  We don't know where they are.  So, when school breaks up for the summer, do you know where THOSE children are?  No, of course you don't because you feel no need to. Or you know that to track every child in the country would be ludicrous or impossible or so time wasting and resource wasting that even the most patient taxpayer would shout 'ENOUGH IS ENOUGH' and 'LEAVE FAMILIES ALONE' and 'STOP SPENDING MY HARD-EARNED MONEY ON RUBBISH' or some such thing.   
2) You do know where they are.  They are in the care of parents who make a far better job of caring for their children than the state does.  Remember a few lines back? Thousands of children go missing from state supplied care every year.  It does not engender any particular belief that it would be better for every child if he or she was followed by the state at any or every moment of the day, does it?  As a society, we can have no trust in the ability of the state to prevent harm to children since they lose them quite frequently and no one knows what is happening to those lost ones.  
3) You could know where they are.  It isn't difficult to read a few deregistration letters which say that a child is no longer to be considered a pupil at a school but is now to be home educated. The schools really cannot have thousands of children deregistering every day, can they?  Or the good people in the media would been letting us know about that. So the local authorities must know that children are being home educated because it is a school head teacher's duty to let them know.  Equally, the perusal of a registrar's office in every area would give the birth information of every child in the area, and those who are not registered on a school roll might possibly be home educated.

But why would you do that?  Unless, of course, you are gripped by paranoia for which you should really seek medical help.  The children who have been in the news often for tragic reasons were known by social services and, apparently, many other services who failed to intervene.  So even knowing about children who were in real danger and at real risk the state could not keep them safe.

Actually, I do find the idea of extremism quite terrifying.  It's more the idea that it is one of those concepts that can morph from one thing to another.  Anything can seem like extremism to a conformist mind and a conformist mind is one that expects and even, demands, that children GO TO SCHOOL even if schooling is detrimental to a particular child.  
As to Islamic terrorism, how much terrorism can one pack into young minds?  How would that translate into extremism or terrorism in the future because it is most unlikely that small children would be able to carry out terrorist activities? So you are speaking about children who, within a few years, will be able to be functioning as terrorists.  But, surely, even if a young mind is poisoned - and what does that mean in actuality and how does one define poison in that sense - surely the poison is not necessarily something that will make you act.    A loose analogy (very loose because, naturally, a Convent School education would not be suspected of poisoning a child's mind) would be my friend, M, who went to a Catholic School, despite being Anglican, because the school was situated on her road.  She remains quite fond of the smell of incense and the beauty of Catholic churches, but follows no particular religion, and will often say that her conscience is her guide (which teaching could have come from many other religions).
So what is this all about?
I don't know.  I have a few vague ideas.  Possibly it's all smoke and mirrors. 
Since OFSTED was mentioned in the article about home educating, it might be that OFSTED inspectors want a few more inspections to make.  Of course, their remit is schools because schools are a service provided by the state and have to be inspected to allay parents' fears that their money is not being well spent. And, naturally, to inspect every home educating family they would have to receive more money.  No vested interest there then. But, of course, OFSTED should not be inspecting or suspecting families. Families are not providing a service for money, far from it. Home education is done for love.
So is that an extremist view of a) OFSTED or b) the state schools?
Or not an extremist view at all.
It depends on your definition, doesn't it?


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.