Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Go the Extra Step

It seems reasonable to have imagined, what with the advent of broadband and the gazillions of opportunities that this affords to tailor the curriculum to the interests of the learner and to seek out useful feedback from a large number of people, that the inclination to be spoonfed a pre-prescribed curriculum by just one teacher would decline.

If you add in the fact that pupils may be many hundreds of miles from the nearest educational establishment and may never have actually met the teacher and well, you could quite reasonably have thought that learners would have questioned the need to sit listening politely to the accumulated wisdom of just one individual. But apparently, even for this section of the population ie: Aussie outback learners, the schooling meme persists unviolated.

When Australia's School of the Air Radio called it a day and pupils got on-line with all the necessary, they still look obediently to teacher.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Home Education Success

Congratulations to the Home Educators of Swindon on their victory in the UK Robot Design Awards. (Follow the Robotics Link.)

Religious Home Education on TV

Bother, we missed the Heaven and Earth Show yesterday which carried a discussion about religious reasons for home educating. We have heard though that the Christian home education mother did give the impression that the education she was prepared to provide was somewhat narrow in its vision. The angle in the write-up though seems pretty fair. It also includes Jewish and Islamic Home Ed perspectives.

For good measure, there is also a link to a piece by Helen Hall, Christian HE mum and tireless organiser of Warwickshire HE events, on the subject of her reasons for home educating. From what I remember, she couldn't have provided a more broad range of opportunities for her children.

Quick Links

Quick Links:

*Whoa, despite the fact that it was debating skills that actually counted, this must still have taken some doing. A motion to support the use of child labour in the third world was carried. (If only! - Ds and I could then finally get on with his business plan).

*Angela at Touchingly Naive Books has blogged a very fair minded critique of Lynne Taggart's Vaccination Bible.

*Rowan F-W's argument against smacking children can be found here.

*Daryl's paper is published. Proof that you can be an HE dad, blog, and put in a little bit of work at the same time.

*This probably says more about myself than I should be happy to reveal, but I feel the urge to admit to being very pleased to know that even Norm has problems with his full sto.ps

Sunday, February 26, 2006

More Meme-Busting, More Uncertainty.

From The Times Online, reports that chat-rooms are constructive.

More predictably though, the article states that other research has found a link between excessive video gaming and obesity. However this leaves us wondering as to the definition of excessive since the heavy gamers we know are actually unusually thin, being far too busy to actually eat.

Also on a related theme: From the New Scientist, starving the stomach feeds the brain.

"A hormone that triggers hunger might also improve learning and memory. Ghrelin is released by the stomach when it is empty and triggers hunger by binding to the hypothalamus, a part of the brain that controls appetite and metabolism. However, the hormone is also known to interact with the hippocampus, the seat of learning and memory.

"Although the discovery is surprising, it makes evolutionary sense...If an animal is hungry, it needs extra brainpower and ingenuity to find that vital next meal. Perhaps the cognitive brain is a side-effect of hunger." Contrary to everything my mother and those adverts ever tell you, the researcher concludes "If you've got a big intellectual workload in the morning, it might be worth skipping breakfast.

This is all by way of saying: "Mother doesn't necessarily know best and I can't speak for you!" The old "Put your coat on - your mother is cold" really, really does have to go by the by.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Not Avian Flu but Damn Close

A week of missing stuff. We've missed stuff every single day this week - which actually must constitute the most impressive statistic we can muster of late, other than the number of hours we've put in watching Discovery Kids. And still it goes on, with Dd keeping us on our toes all last night, either being sick or thinking she was going to be. It has been a question of keeping our pecker (Eng.) up rather.

This helped, though it sure didn't help the chicken's (also Eng).

Thursday, February 23, 2006

The Children who are Actually Missing from Education

Could this be co-incidence or is it really just a slice of ordinary life? At dinner last night we were regaled by stories of such an intensity of violence and bull-headed idiocy, that you would honestly have thought the protagonists had been caught up in some ghastly dystopian (mot du jour round here) Hollywood B movie. And then again today, we hear yet more stories of young people fighting, mugging one another, smoking, drinking, using gratuitously foul language, engaging in acts of vandalism and theft; and the setting for all this? Yes, you guessed it, SCHOOL.

I came in here to calm down, but it only gets worse as by what is more certainly a coincidence, someone had sent me a passage from the DFES Children Missing From Education Initiative:

"Children missing from education in this document, refers to all children of compulsory school age who are not on a school role (sic), not being educated otherwise (e.g.privately or in alternative provision) and who have been out of any educational provision for a substantial period of time (usually agreed as four weeks or more.)"

I guess I should be grateful that this paragraph is succinct and comprehensible because most of the rest of the document isn't, being replete with diagrams that make a simple situation almost impenetrable, and abstract pronouncements that could mean almost anything or absolutely nothing. It is the actually the content of this paragragh that should make any right-minded person want to scream.

CHILDREN MISSING FROM EDUCATION???? You want to know exactly where they are? I'll tell you: they're RIGHT UNDER YOUR NOSE.

Breastfeeding and Legislation

Angela at Touchingly Naive has crunched some numbers about the possible effects of the law on breastfeeding rates. Impressive work, not least because she recognises the possible limitations of the stats.

Of course, as a matter of habit I would always say: don't legislate unless there are the strongest possible arguments for it and there is no other possible way to achieve the same end. I think this still applies, though there may be a point in exempting breast feeding mums from jury duty, and making it clear that they are not subject to laws about indecent exposure.

Sensible Stuff

The Institute for Economic Affairs has a tempting offer of a book entitled Government Failure: E.G. West on Education. Edited by James Tooley and James Stanfield. You get the general idea when you see that the book contains chapters on William Godwin and J. S. Mill. Indeed it is said that West's thinking on education was inspirational for Milton and Rose Friedman.

If you don't fancy shelling out the £12 plus, you can view at the above as a PDF; or you could get a used copy from Amazon, though they've bumped up the second hand price a bit since the book was referenced on a UK HE listserv.

Below some tempting snippets:

"Most persons agree that children need the protection of the law against potential abuse by parents. But evidence shows that only a small minority of parents turn out ot be delinquent. In practice it is very seldom indeed that governments remove children from their family home. At the end of the 1980s fewer than two children per ten thousand below the age of eighteen were under state care in the USA or in England and Wales. That is less than two-hundredths of a percent. (Becker and Murphy, 1988)

It can thus reasonably be assumed that the vast majority of parents are altruistic towards their children, so that, for instance they will not neglect their food, clothing or shelter. Yet if these necessities were to be provided today on the same basis as education they would be available free of charge. Indeed, there would be laws for compulsory and universal eating and higher taxes to pay for children' free food at the nearest local authority kitchens or shops.

But it is only in the last century and a quarter that this kind of asymmetry of treatment has emerged. This essay will accordingly look at the history of the subject to enquire to what extent the altruism of typical parents extended to education as well as to other necessities before governments intervened.

- - - - - -

The Literacy Record

The pre-1870 record of educational outputs such as literacy was even more impressive than the numbers of children in school, and this presents an even more serious problem to typical authors of social histories.

On my calculations (West 1978), in 1880, when national compulsion was enacted, over 95% of fifteen year olds were literate. This should be compared to the fact that over a century later 40 percent of 21 year olds in the UK admit to difficulties with writing and spelling. (Central Statistical Office 1995)".

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

No Cogent Answers from the Pro-Smacking Brigade

According to the latest: The Old Schoolhouse has withdrawn all public information about the tour, but intend to carry on 'privately.'

Ho hum. Given the number of pro-smacking people, even within the HE community, that this debacle has flushed out, I suppose this now less publisized tour by pro-child beaters represents but just the tiny tip of an enormous ice-berg, even one of glacial proportions, whose inevitable sweep one would be wise to accept - but this concession seems almost inconceivably sad.

So rather than to concede to hopelessness, and since I am yet to receive any cogent answers to the following questions, I will pose them once more:

"How, in justifying hitting your children, do you argue that someone else should not hit you?"


"How do you convey the doctrine of the minimal use of violence to your children?"

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Internet Resources for Young Ones

Filched from Merry: her Jump Page which contains almost all the sites that Dd (age 3) and I frequent as of late, plus some more. I need it here for personal ref, as well as your delight!

(Am still keeping an eye out re your English Question, Leo.)

Monday, February 20, 2006

The Black Eye Bug

Both kids now have the black eye bug, (so-called locally because kids end up looking as if they have been smacked in both eye sockets.) It has been closing schools round here and should be keeping social workers on their toes, and do hope the LEA don't turn up on my doorstep in the next couple of days.

Having said which, we are pleased to report that no further action appears to have been taken in the case of HE kid opening the door to a Connexions officer with shirt drenching nose bleed in full flow.

For the moment here, all is peace as both are asleep in the middle of the afternoon. All events for week temporarily on hold. Ah well.

You Can Even Learn Mandarin on the Internet.

Phew, that 's a relief. As a general rule, I've learnt through trial and error, that it's probably best not to make claims that are basically, as far as you're concerned, wildly unsubstantiated, but there ARE times when it becomes a matter of urgency.

An elegant lady immediately behind me in the supermarket queue asked me why I was buying a mountain of paper. With what at the time seemed like fine foresight, I judged the queue to be moving at a nifty pace, and therefore replied in what should have been some haste: "Oh we home educate and need to buy this sort of stuff directly."

At that exact moment the queue, in complete defiance of one's normal perception of space/time, came to a grinding halt over a price tag controversy and the elegant lady took the opportunity to inform me that Home Education was actually a thoroughly bad idea for quite a number of different and substantial reasons.

It occured to me that the best plan of action would be forget about the pile of paper on the conveyor belt thingie and run off, but I couldn't exactly remember where I'd parked the car, and didn't fancy being chased round the carpark while I looked for it. Just as I'd worked through that particular train of thought, the queue started moving again and my attention had to be entirely directed to the taxing geometrical conundrum of stacking all that paper into a smallish trolley.

At that point, when one is vaguely aware that all hope of arguing for your way of life lies in tatters, the cashier (young and apparently internet friendly) also enquired about the paper issue.

I gave her the same answer because it might have looked even worse for HE if I'd been caught in an outright lie, but rather surprisingly, the honest response turned out to be a winner. She asked "Oh, is that difficult?"

Me: "Oh no...not at all. You know, the internet is marvellous. You can learn anything you want from it. It should eventually be the death of schooling. You could even learn Mandarin if you wanted." "Fantastic," she opined, even though I didn't know this last bit to be at all true. "That is exactly what I'll do then when I have kids".

I cast a superior glance at the elegant lady and it makes me realise that wild claims are actually a very good idea. It's even better when they turn out to be true.

I do wonder though whether I may have put the nice cashier off her new good idea by having to spend half an hour sweeping the carpark looking for my car.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

All this Vigilance Stuff

There remains general unease on UK HE lists, what with the current review of the deregistration from school process, the children's database, the children missing from education initiatives, and this piece of largely state-sponsored and utterly biased research, that the basic freedoms we now enjoy with Home Education in England and Wales are under threat. This government, with nothing better to do than meddle in people's private lives, has dealt with smokers, fox hunters, (though the degree of civil disobedience in this regard is reported to be considerable), and they've apparently got their way on the ID card front, so we're probably for it at this rate, particularly if the education reforms result in a new set of people who are grossly dissatisfied with the outcome and therefore opt for Home Education in greater numbers.

We may therefore need to hold Schools Minister Jacqueline Smith to the following:

on 6th Dec 2005 she said:

"This Government believe that, for most children, school is the right place in which to receive education. However, we respect parents' fundamental right, under section 7 of the Education Act 1996, to educate their children at home if they so wish. Where that happens, the parents must take responsibility for ensuring that the education provided is suitable and, for children of compulsory school age, is full-time. We have no plans to change this right."

Given the above, it would appear that the government could not rightfully intervene to make the dereg from school process more difficult, but whilst they may have had no plans as of today....

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Child Beating is UNNECESSARY as well as EVIL

In response to those who defend (ie: owners of Homeschoolblogger) the doctrine of corporal punishment as put out by the Pearls*(see below), I say:

In teaching the doctrine of non-violence to my children, I explain in appropriate terms: "use the minimum possible effective force in order to provide yourself and those to whom you have a duty to protect with adequate defence".

My siblings and I were never, ever spanked. I can say of my siblings at least, that they are the most wonderful people. They are witty, charming, optimistic, beautiful, kind, professionally successful, have thriving personal relationships and are extremely good parents. Given that this was achieved without any corporal punishment whatsoever and given that there are very good reasons to encourage the doctrine of the use of the minimum of violence, WHY HIT???

How can you teach your child the benefits of the minimal use of violence when it is clear that it is used utterly gratuitously in the case of beating a child?

There are other MUCH BETTER POSSIBILITIES. A little imagination, reason and creativity would make this abundantly clear. For example, there is no need to hit a toddler to teach them not to touch an electric socket. They can learn through a simple mock demonstration of the effects. This worked extremely well immediately for both my kids and I am pleased to report that neither of them are dead, let alone have died from sticking their fingers in a plug socket.

I would hope that the Christian message of maximal non-violence could be promoted over and above this other message of gratuitous violence. I would expect responsible Christians to see the logic of this. If they were not to do so, I cannot possibly see how they could logically object to someone hitting them hard on the butt, and this for exactly the same reasons that they would use to justify hitting children.

*From another article in the News and Observer :

"This is a sampling of Pearl's advice from "To Train Up a Child" and his newsletter, "No Greater Joy":

PROBLEM Baby bites during breast-feeding SOLUTION Pull baby's hair PROBLEM Boy is a crybaby
SOLUTION "When he begins to scream his defiance or hurt, just ignore him. ... If he demands attention to a supposed wound, then reach in your purse, pull out a terrible tasting herbal potion and give him a spoonful. After he gets through gagging on the vitamin and mineral supplement, tell him that he is now completely healed, and invite him to come back for another dose if he again gets hurt."

PROBLEM Rebellious child who runs from discipline
SOLUTION "If you have to sit on him to spank him, then do not hesitate. And hold him there until he has surrendered. Prove that you are bigger, tougher, more patiently enduring, and are unmoved by his wailing. Hold the resisting child in a helpless position for several minutes, or until he is totally surrendered. Accept no conditions for surrender -- no compromise. You are to rule over him as a benevolent sovereign. Your word is final.

PROBLEM Child whines to mother after father disciplines him
SOLUTION Mother must go over to child and "give him one or two licks on his exposed ankles or legs while commanding, 'Obey your father.'

PROBLEM Child lies
SOLUTION Switch him 10 times at noon each day. Make him pick the tree branch.

PROBLEM What to use for a rod
SOLUTION For babies under age 1, a footlong willow branch shaved of its knots. For older kids, plastic plumbing pipe, a 3-foot shrub cutting or a belt to help turn a child "back from the road to hell."

Friday, February 17, 2006

Objecting to The Old Schoolhouse Tour

Below, a letter registering my concerns about the TOS meetings as listed also below, to the hosts of these events. Please do copy/alter/ use as you see fit:


To whom it may concern,

I understand that you are planning to host an event for the promoters of The Old Schoolhouse magazine on (date).

I am anxious to inform you of my considerable level of concern that these people, who have strong connections with people who advocate severe corporal punishment for children, including babies, are to be given a platform in this country.

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine contains many articles by, references to, and adverts for Debi and Michael Pearl, whose book "To Train Up A Child" promotes child battery. The editors of the magazine also give away a copy of the follow up book "No Greater Joy" upon subscription to the magazine. Both books promote sickening child abuse. By way of a random example: on p. 85 Michael Pearl recommends giving a little girl who won’t get into her car seat “five licks with a stinging switch.” If the girl still doesn’t get in the seat “repeat the switching.” If the little girl continues to refuse to get in the seat he says to take the seat into the house and strap the girl in it for “two or three hours".

The NSPCC has been informed of the tour and the tour dates and are investigating the situation. Various local authorities have also been informed and are also investigating the case.

I would be very grateful if you would reconsider your decision to host a meeting for these people with a view to cancelling the date or otherwise forward this message to the appropriate parties.


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Addresses and Dates:

March 22nd: London W13. Venue organiser contacted and situation explained. Is reconsidering the offer to host the meeting, and is clear that will not allow the dissemination of literature at the meeting.

March 24: Lakenheath Air Force Base, IP27, 01638 523711

March 25: Brandon Baptist Church, High Street, Brandon, Lakenheath). Tel: 01842 763433

March 27: New Life Christian Centre, 26-32 Bridgegate, Retford, Notts DN22

March 28th: Christ Church, Fulwood, Sheffield, S.Yorks

March 30: Edinburgh, date cancelled.

April 3: Wigston, Leics

April 4: East Midlands Home Educators Club, Stapleford, Nottingham.

April 5: Siddington Village Hall, Siddington, Cheshire

April 6: Aberaeron, Wales (currently under review by the hosts, with a view to cancellation)

April 7: Laugharne, Wales (currently under review by the hosts with a view to cancellation.)

April 11: Kaiserslautern (Germany) KMC Military 7-9pm

April 14-15: Kaiserslautern Annual Home School Voncention Rheinland Baptist Church in Landstuhl

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Effects of Corporal Punishment Part 2 - Parental Regrets

For some measured criticism of the Pearl's methods from a parent who tried it, see: Our HomeSchool Blog

Effects of Corporal Punishment - Testimony from a Childhood

On the subject of the effects of using hitting as a method of training your child, the following is a letter written to Roy Lessin, church minister and author of a book called Spanking, whose views appear to be in the same sort of territory as those of the Pearls.

Open Letter to Roy Lessin on the Subject of Spanking

Dear Roy,

After 19 years I have found the courage to write you this letter declaring how your choice to teach and write about spanking has affected me. My purpose in writing you this open letter is to share with you and others that the spanking approach you recommend is harmful. My parents both know my view on this issue. I have talked to them, as well, about how their decision to implement your spanking recommendations affected me.

I have a mission. My mission is to warn new parents who are innocently trying to raise happy, healthy children. Should just one parent spare their child the kind of pain that I endured at the hands of my parents implementing your spanking recommendations, my pain will have more meaning than it does now.

I want to begin by talking about your spanking approach so that we'll both be using the same language. In your book, you describe a process by which a parent performs a spanking on their child:

* The first step is to use the right instrument; if a parent uses their hand, the child might become fearful of the parent's hand.
* The second step is to spank promptly.
* The third step is to find a private place in which the parent can conduct the spanking.
* The fourth step is for the parent to explain to the child why they are going to be spanked.
* The fifth step is to get the child into a good spanking position (when my parents and other adults—such as your wife, Char— spanked me, the ritual involved removing the child's clothing); you recommend bending the child over a bed, or bending a smaller child over the parent's lap.
* The sixth step is to hit the child on the buttocks with a stick or other spanking implement.
* The seventh step is to continue spanking until the child yields a broken cry, which indicates a broken will.
* The eighth step is reconciliation. You recommend that parents comfort the child until sufficient time has passed, and then ask the child to stop crying. You recommend that parents spank a child who displays a "wrong attitude" by continuing to cry too long after a spanking.

The language in your book is much more "sugary" than what I've just written. But my description does not come close to what it feels like to receive a Roy Lessin spanking. So I'll describe what a Roy Lessin spanking is like.

My first spanking was when I was six months old. My mother spanked me for crying after she put me to bed. She had to spank me repeatedly to teach me to not cry when she put me down. I know about this incident because my mother used to tell all new mothers about how young I was when she started spanking me. My last spanking occurred when I was thirteen years old. The Roy Lessin spankings that I remember most vividly took place between the ages of three and seven, because I hardly went a few days without a spanking at that time.

I'd like to share with you, and others, what it was like receiving a Roy Lessin spanking. The moment I found out I was going to get a Roy Lessin spanking, I felt physically ill. Because the Roy Lessin spanking is a ritual, the ordeal could take a long time. (When I refer to a spanking ritual, I'm referring to the steps you outline in your book.) This was hard for me because I had a child's sense of time. The dread bubbled up and consumed me, and stayed with me until the spanking ritual was over. My parents usually sent me to a private room, such as my own room, and there I would wait until one of my parents came. (My dad spanked me the most, so in my illustration let's assume my father is conducting the Roy Lessin spanking.) My father would explain the reason for the spanking. This was an excruciating process because I had to listen while knowing what was coming. Since I might face back-to-back Roy Lessin spankings, I had to be careful not to be disrespectful in my listening to my father. I had already developed irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and would feel my guts cramp up with anxiety during his speech. Then he would ask me to take off my pants and underwear. I would feel deeply embarrassed because my father was not supposed to see me naked. (My family had a high standard for modesty.) My humiliation and fear would grow immeasurably as I leaned over the bed, my father's knee, or whatever was around. My private parts were helplessly exposed as my dad laid his hand on my back. Trying to pull away and defend myself would only mean that the spanking would be longer, or I'd get a back-to-back spanking. The stick, paddle inscribed with scripture verses, or belt would swish violently through the air before slapping painfully on my buttocks or thighs. I would scream in pain and anguish.

I cannot remember a moment of thinking of resisting, rebelling, or trying to"win" anything, as you recommend parents should watch for as they hit their children. I just tried to survive the best way I knew how. The screaming, the hitting, and the pain would continue for unknown amounts of time. When the gruesome pain ended, I would begin to battle with my emotions and my body. I knew that crying too much could mean that my father would start a Roy Lessin spanking ritual all over again to correct my "wrong attitude."

My parents were never concerned about the marks they left on my body. We never we talked about the painful marks on my body, or how clothing, baths, chairs, etc. hurt. The message was clear: there was no pain. Pulling up my pants was incredibly painful, and so was sitting on my father's lap. Because "there was no pain," I had to pretend my buttocks and thighs didn't hurt even though they did, while my father would wrap his arms around me and "comfort" me.

I was not like the idealized children you describe in your book, not knowing the difference between the spanking implement and the parent. My father caused me that pain—not a stick! My father's arms scared me, and I feared my father like I've feared no other man. His touch repulsed me. I was the same with my mother. (To this day,I cannot physically tolerate either parent touching me. I feel physically ill at their touch.) My father would pray, and I could hardly go along but for fear of yet another Roy Lessin spanking. After we prayed, it was time for me to be happy. But my insides would be a mess. Tears would threaten to come back and cause me more pain and anguish. I had to pretend that I wasn't sad, and that I wasn't in pain.

This would be my greatest lesson: to be happy no matter how I felt inside. It would take me a few back-to-back spankings, but I would learn. It would be a lesson I'd learn for life—being falsely happy regardless of how my body felt.

One aspect of receiving a Roy Lessin spanking is the sexual aspect. It's taken me years to even begin to allow myself to speak of this aspect. You see, as a child I had no idea what sex was. I just had this funny sensation that came and went during the Roy Lessin spanking ritual. To my great dismay, I learned that sexual stimulation can be cross-wired with the painful ritual of spankings. This cross-wiring was a real problem for me. Because I couldn't cope with the double message of love and pain, I avoided developing an intimate relationship with a man for a very long time. It took years for me to find a healthy sexuality outside the memories I have of the Roy Lessin spankings. I struggled with this double message as a child. I feel a deep sense of shame as I remember hitting and torturing my dolls and Barbies when no one was around. I needed some way to express the fear, pain, and sexual confusion I felt inside; yet my childish mind couldn't comprehend the significance of what I was doing.

My parents were your "A" students. They followed your eight steps occasionally reducing the entire Roy Lessin spanking ritual to a few swats—not very often, though. My butt and thighs would sting for a long time after a Roy Lessin spanking ritual, so I'd go into the bathroom and use my mother's mirror to look at my behind. I remember seeing red stripes crisscrossing my buttocks and my thighs. At times, I had old marks underneath the new marks. My parents conducted several Roy Lessin spanking rituals a day when I was a young child. I remember a teacher at school asking me one day why I didn't just sit still. I couldn't tell her that it was because the marks on my butt hurt so bad sitting in the little wooden chair.

Now that we've established what a Roy Lessin spanking is and what it felt like to receive one, let's move on to wrong attitudes. I'd like to begin by telling you a story of what it was like having an adult, in this case your wife, address my "wrong attitude."

One day my parents were moving. I was four, and woke up to a house that I no longer recognized. I asked my mother what was happening. Whatever answer she gave, I didn't understand. She sent my brothers and me to your house, where your wife Char was to baby-sit us. On the way out the door, I saw our small parakeet Chirpy sitting in his cage outside our house near some bushes. Now, Chirpy wasn't supposed to be outside. A dark feeling of dread came over me. I was frightened as I walked to the car, looking at Chirpy frantically chirping in his cage next to a stack of boxes. At some point, at your house, Char put all of us down for a nap. The confusion and fear filled me, and I wondered if I'd ever see my home again. When the room was quiet, my emotions burst out of me. I cried. Char came in and told me to stop, and I couldn't. So she performed one of your spanking rituals. I went back to my napping spot. I lay there for the remainder of my nap—unable to sleep, afraid to move, filled with emotions of dread and fear so large I thought I'd explode. But I had to make Char believe that I was cheerfully obeying her. I put on whatever face I could to convince her, and pretended to be asleep. I had to pretend I felt different than I did inside.

There are two points I'd like to make about bad attitudes. The first is that, as you can see above, adults do not have "powers" that allow them to read the minds of children. My parents made this mistake over and over again. They weren't much better at reading my mind or how I felt than your wife was that day I stayed at your house. You see, parents make mistakes. There's no getting around this. But when a parent uses a force as violent as a Roy Lessin spanking, mistakes are truly damaging, especially when the spanking ritual involves breaking the child's will—or breaking any part of a child's psyche!

The second point about "wrong attitudes" is that you tell parents that their children will be happy with your mode of discipline, or even prefer being spanked. I want to say that I didn't experience that joy. I built myself a cheerful, obedient shell. I lived in that shell, only peeking my head out when I felt safe, for 30 years. It took me another seven years to actually try taking the cheerful, obedient shell off—only to run back into it when something felt like the "old fears of my childhood." I have not been happy living in this shell, constantly pretending to be happy when I felt miserable inside. When I think of a happy child, I think of a child who feels free to express their ideas, thoughts, and emotions. I think that a parent's job is to teach a child how to express their emotions, not hit them with a stick until the child displays the emotion of the parent's choosing.

You write about parents disciplining children for disobedience. It seems pretty simple. The parents set up some rules and the children follow them. When disobedience is based on a child doing or behaving just as the parent asks, following those rules becomes much harder. As your teachings played out in my growing-up years, I found that I violated more rules than I could keep track of. Not only that, one of the rules was to follow through without my mom or dad asking a second time. So perfection became the rule, and perfection was something I failed at miserably. Even in the cheerful, obedient shell, I was not completely safe. The life lesson I took away was that there is no such thing as a second chances. I took this lesson to school, and found that I was afraid to try. Not that my parents didn't encourage me—it was just that if the encouragement didn't work, which it often didn't, they'd spank me for getting letters backwards, words wrong on spelling tests, and so forth. Basically, they spanked me for not trying hard enough.

I haven't even mentioned the hundreds of other issues they spanked me for. I learned how to live helplessly. Not only did I face my own internal disappointment at not getting something correct, I faced a Roy Lessin spanking at home when I wore out my encouragement. I grew up thinking that I was mentally handicapped. Later, as a grown adult, I found out that I'm dyslexic—something a Roy Lessin spanking would never cure.

For most of my life, I worried that I'd remembered all this wrong. About eleven years ago I called Char and asked her to listen to while I recalled a Roy Lessin spanking for her. I described to her in as much detail as I could remember the beatings I endured again and again. Char told me that my memories were exactly what you and she had taught my parents. I had not remembered wrong! I read your book a few weeks ago. I was again surprised to realize I knew and remembered your teachings very well. After the years of growing up around your family and hearing you preach at Outreach, your book brought back your painful teachings and the painful memories I've been trying so hard to live with. I kept wanting to grab my cheerful, obedient shell because to this day I feel scared when I think of all theRoy Lessin spankings and teachings.

Both Char, during my call with her, and you, in your first book, talk about spankings having a higher purpose in saving the soul. You reference Proverbs 20:30: "Blows that wound cleanse away evil; strokes make clean the innermost parts." Those "blows" left horrible marks on my body that made sitting difficult and bathing with soap sting horribly, and they terrified my spirit.

Feeling terrified isn't the only outcome I live with. Ten years ago a gastroenterologist diagnosed me with IBS, a condition I've had since I was around three years old. Because of the fierce anxiety I felt because of the Roy Lessin spankings, I had terrible chronic stomach aches and diarrhea while I was growing up and as an adult. Five years ago my psychiatrist diagnosed me with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and I began to work through my deeply rooted fears of my parents and the Roy Lessin spankings. Later a physician associate (PA) diagnosed me with asthma and severe allergies from a poor immune system, a result of mychronic anxiety. The same PA told me that I'm at high risk for colon cancer because of the years of IBS as a result of my anxiety.

Roy, these problems are all due to my parents implementing your teachings using Roy Lessin spankings to correct a multitude of childhood blunders and attitudes. I can't imagine why a parent would want these outcomes for their child. I may have looked happy and acted lovingly towards my parents, but I was emotionally and physically sick inside! Your teachings gave me no option but to live a horrible lie of looking happy when I was miserable.

For almost every day of my life, I fear people. If people like my parents, and friends of my family such as you and Char, would hurt me this badly, what horrible things would others do to me? I was supposed to be safe with my family and friends growing up! I especially fear men in authority roles. I occasionally look even at people I know, and who I know to be safe, with terror just because they've spoken in a tone that reminds me of those early times. I fear making mistakes. I choose not to have children of my own because a child's screams scramble my insides.

Remember all those sermons at Outreach that you, Don Leetch, Dean Kerns, and a few others delivered? I still hear children screaming as their parents spanked them outside the church sanctuary during Sunday morningservice during those sermons. I remember the screams of my siblings. I remember on a Friday night, someone was preaching and a dad took a baby outside for a spanking, and a neighbor called the police. We stopped the church service, and you went out with your bible to explain to the officer why it was fine for the parent to spank their baby. All of us inside prayed that the officer would understand and not take the baby away.

As a grown woman I still fear Roy Lessin spankings. I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night begging my husband to "not let them get me." "My father and I have talked several times about Roy Lessin spankings. He has asked for forgiveness, and is horrified by what he has done.
These conversations have been incredibly painful for both of us, and I'm now 37 years old! I believe that he thought he was doing the right thing. You were a leader in the church he believed in, and you were his friend. Our families socialized together. This was not some teaching he picked up somewhere, and then went off to make the best of it.

I hope that by this point you begin to see how your simple, sweet words about raising children are actually harmful. Perhaps you're wondering ifI want to have a dialogue with you, and talk about what you really meant by your early book. Perhaps you've adopted a policy of grace, and now recommend that parents spank less and not on bare skin? The truth is, I don't want to know. If I needed justification or reasoning for your teachings, I could use your book as a reference.

What I'd like you to do is reconsider your position after carefully looking at how your teachings affected me. Would a loving parent really want to raise a child to fear people, to wear a cheerful and obedient shell, or to live with PTSD and other ailments? I hope the answer you come to is No. I hope that you realize that hitting a child for any reason is not loving. Then, I hope, you join the cause to end corporal punishment in the homes of children.

I came into this world a happy, healthy baby. For no other reason than the Roy Lessin spankings, I now fight for my physical and mental health. Please help others and me so this doesn't happen to any more children.

Help end corporal punishment. Help end child abuse. If Jesus said, "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung round his neck and he were thrown into the sea" (Mark 9:42), I can't image that God would condone such behavior in people who claim to be loving parents.

Sincerely, Bethany A. Fenimore

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Gaming is Good for You

Apparently, (thanks DD) there is a well established link between bilingualism and increased longevity. This from Globeandmail, (via Key Words), may help explain it.

It also looks good for gamers.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine UK Tour

The reaction to the news that the people from the Old Schoolhouse Magazine are winging their way over here from the States with quite a number of dates for a promotional tour has been greeted with considerable dismay on several UK Home Education lists. The thing that is causing particular bother is the TOS's connections with child batterers Debi and Michael Pearl, whose books promoting corporal punishment, even for babies, are sickening in the extreme.

Some UK HEors are in favour of a massive pre-emptive strike - such as contacting all radio stations in the areas the TOS promotors are planning to visit with a view to telling the public at large that we disagree entirely with the message put out by the Pearls. I personally think we just need to register our strongest possible disagreement in various places such as UK home ed sites and support charity magazines, but then wait for any come-back, since some kinds of pre-emptive action will surely only promote the tour.

Home Education in Scotland: Shameful Behaviour of LEAs.

The Scottish Times Educational Supplement carries an article by clear-thinking ex Scottish shadow Minister of Education, Mike Russell.

Take this, for example:

"Choosing how one's own offspring are brought up is a key prerogative and the state should be very careful before it even thinks about denying such a basic right."

At last, someone with influence who is clear on the prerequisites for the maintainence of any hope of a the proper relationship between person and state.

There are other gems in the article, reproduced in full below, but overall, thank goodness we don't live in Scotland, as Mr Russell reports that the balance between person and state is clearly being abused there.

"Talk to most teachers about home schooling and you usually get a very negative response. That is understandable given those who remove their children from school based education are, by implication at least, expressing a somewhat negative opinion of what formal learning can provide and asserting their belief that they can do better. Obviously the welfare of children comes first in any such matter but we should not forget parental welfare as well.

Choosing how one's own offspring are brought up is a key prerogative and the state should be very careful before it even thinks about denying such a basic right. Unfortunately very few Scottish local authorities seem to give a fig for such niceties and some are remarkably cavalier about the existing laws which relate to the matter.

Particularly shocking is the attitude of South Ayrshire Council revealed in recent months in a case involving the Forsyth family of Ayr. The Council manifestly failed to answer correspondence and respond to the request for approval to withdraw within the time-scales recommended by the Scottish Executive Education Department. It's hostility to the very idea of homeschooling was plain in all its actions and to add insult to injury it introduced a large number of red herrings into the procedure which included dragging Mrs Forsyth in front of the attendance panel despite conclusive medical evidence that her children were unfit to attend the school from which she had withdrawn them. It is little wonder that two MSPs and the Children's Commissioner are now involved in that case for it throws up the whole question of whether Scottish law needs to be changed in order to bolster parental rights.

In England parents can withdraw their children from school by means of a simple request. In Scotland the permission of the local education authority is needed though present statute says that approval should not normally be withheld. Parents are required, however, to indicate how they will educate their children outwith a school setting and in many cases this is used by councils to deter would be home educators, no matter their skills or experience. The law also says that a local authority should make available to parents, in simple terms, information about how it will go about making a decision regarding a home education request and indicate what it regards as the essential requirements which potential home educators need to put in place. Needless to say very few Scottish councils do either. In some places information is impossible to get hold of. In others intimidating actions by officials and councillors are clearly designed to put parents off even attempting a withdrawal. In Aberdeenshire, for example , a committee of councillors is involved in a decision making process that can take up to 15 months. Parents complain of having to wait outside closed committee rooms whilst elected representatives deliberate in secret on the fate of their children.

Children themselves , despite best practice dictating their active involvement, are rarely if ever asked what they want. When they are their views are sometimes badly mis-represented by those they thought they could trust. In other cases social workers and health visitors have been pressed into service by the education department to cast aspersions on parental abilities and parental care, though subsequent enquiry usually shows such smears to be false. Some teachers , education directors and councillors may disapprove of home education and may be sceptical about the motives of some of those who wish to undertake it (more than one parent has heard whisperings about "new age hippies" , and even "white settlers" ) but the law exists to ensure fair treatment for all and to banish prejudice.

If anyone wants to outlaw the right of parents to set their own educational agenda for their children, let them come forward with such a proposal and have it debated in the Parliament. I suspect it would be kicked out without much serious consideration, so it is quite wrong to try and achieve the same result by unfair manipulation or even ignoring the law altogether.

A motion before the Scottish Parliament, sponsored by the Green MSP Robin Harper, makes that point by arguing for a legal clarification in Scotland so that parents can exercise their rights without fear of local authority obstruction. Such a change is probably now overdue, given the wide ranging experience of the home education movement and its dedicated charity, Schoolhouse, which has accumulated much evidence of malpractice by many, though not all, of Scotland's local authorities.

There may be some who will balk at further legal change and who remain worried that too much home education will undermine the ability of Scotland's schools to provide a high quality education for all Scotland's children as well as damage the prospects for individual young people. Whilst understandable, neither fear is justified and in any case only a very small minority of parents will ever want to take this route.

The real implications of the issue lie elsewhere. If Scotland's councils cannot be open enough to allow parents to make to make their own choices, how on earth are they going to be open enough to meet the myriad challenges that new technology will soon present to the formal process of education? A wired society will create the ability for pupils to learn at their own pace, in their own homes and by prioritizing their own interests. The effort required to tailor today's schooling to the demands of individual pupils will be as nothing when that set of possibilities becomes real. Local authorities that loosen their tight grip and relax their demands for one size fits all conformity will be in the vanguard of those that can develop their services to maintain high quality education in such a changed world. Those that still think in terms of rigid control and which demand docile acceptance of official diktat will be the losers as will the citizens who are served by them. Residents of South Ayrshire, take note".

Monday, February 13, 2006

Home Education - the Way Forward

Home Education today in the US from Business Week.

HT: Daniel

The Cruelty of Non-Parental Care

Whilst Penelope Leach was always pretty much of the opinion that infants need attentive and sensitive care from their parents, other childcare gurus weren't so sure. But times are a' changing in this area too , (see post below). Steve Biddulph, author of books about raising boys has revised his previous opinion that it is perfectly OK to shove your children into nurseries. According to the Sunday Times, he is now certain that nursery care is significantly damaging and he points to studies which suggest that such children abandoned to the devastation that is their experience of nursery life are more anti-social and prone to aggression.

Whether or not this observation is correct, it seems so desperately sad that we have taken so long to wake up to the simple fact of listening to the child. It isn't as if the evidence was in some way obscure, for there can be few parents who have treated their child reasonably well, who have not ignored the patently miserable cries of their child as they walked away and out that nursery door. How can we have lacked the intelligence to ask ourselves "why is it unacceptable to torture another adult this way and yet apparently OK for me to cause such devastation to my child? Huh???

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Changes in Public Opinion

There is a change in the zeitgeist. When once it was hard to find more than the odd person who could see the point of not saying "Well, of course the 7/7 bombers had their reasons", the The Sunday Times now reports that a full 86% of people think the protests to the cartoons were "a gross overreaction" and "76% said the police should have arrested those carrying offensive or provocative banners"- reactions which in this case seem pretty reasonable.

More worrying though is the fact that "by ten to one, people say that recent events have made them less tolerant of other religions. " This may not be altogether surprising when we read that a leading Muslim cleric, Hamid Ali who publicly condemned the July 7th London bombs, was filmed privately praising the bombers, but it seems essential for dealing with the problem that, even if it is difficult to do so, the principle of making a distinction between peaceable, law-abiding people of faith, and those who incite and enact violence, should be held in the front of people's minds, for to lose this is to lose the principle of rational tolerance for which we should be prepared to stand.

Doing Stuff You Don't Want to Do

David Friedman is back onto the subject of unschooling again, this time dealing with the issue of how unschoolers become adept at dealing with doing things they don't initially want to do. His argument is perfect as far as it goes, though I would go further.

In establishing and fully understanding the causal connection between chores and the real effect that they have, and in being free to choose the tasks that you want to do, and are happy to cope with the consequences of not doing the things that others may think you need to do, it usually makes the chosen task seem less like a chore. This is often an unconscious process but skills to develop the conscious Mary Poppins syndrome* are likely to develop under these sorts of conditions. The reason for this last assertion? Because the task is freely chosen, and the effects desired, the irrationality of suffering in a freely chosen task will seem readily apparent, since it is entirely one's own responsibility.

If on the other hand, someone forces you to do something which you do not want to do and for which you cannot see the point, you would right to blame the coercive person for this situation, since he is the cause. There would most likely be less obvious motivation to make the task enjoyable, since you cannot see the point of the task, and instead the most rational thing to do would rather be to set about releasing oneself from the coercive influence of that person.

*"In every task that must be done,
We find the element of fun.
We find the fun and oops, the job's a game.
Then every task we undertake,
Becomes a piece of cake,
A laugh, a spree,
It's very clear to see....

That a spoonful of sugar
Makes the medicine go down".

Good ditty, though I suspect that Mary was trying to use this potentially rational approach to preference change in an unethical, coercive way, ie: to encourage children to do the things that she could see the point of doing, though the children were not either clear or convinced on that point.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Biotechnology for Children?

Freeman Dyson writes about the future of biology in the 21st century. Unfortunately only the first bit of the article can be read without subscription on The New Scientist website.

In the full article, he makes an anology between current public reaction to the biotech industry and the public distrust that the early development of computers created.

"The public distrusts Monstanto because the company likes to put genes for pesticides into food crops, just as we distrusted von Neumann because he liked to use his computer for designing hydrogen bombs secretly at midnight. It is likely that genetic engineering will remain unpopular and controversial so long as it remains a centralised activity in the hands of large corporations".


"Domesticated biotechnology, once it gets into everyone's hands, will give us an explosion of diversity of new living creatures, rather than the monoculture crops that the big corporations prefer. New lineages will proliferate to replace those that monoculture farming and industrial development have destroyed. Designing genomes will be a personal thing, a new art form as creative as painting or sculpture. Few of the new creations will be masterpieces, but all will bring joy to their creators and variety to our fauna and flora".

And the bit that is relevant to a home education site:

"The final step in the domestication of biotechnology will be biotech games, designed like computer games for children down to kindergarten age, but played with real eggs and seeds
rather than with images on a screen. Playing such games, kids will acquire an intimate feeling for the organisms that they are growing. The winner could be the kids whose seed grows the prickliest cactus, or the kid whose egg hatches the cutest dinosaur. These games will be messy and possibly dangerous. Rules and regulations will be needed to make sure that our kids do no endanger themselves and others."

Overall though, this vision seems rather appealing.


Amongst other points in this post, Norm remarks upon the potential for dishonesty in the rhetorical use of the phrase "and so on". Aside from the irony of the phrase being used by someone writing on the subject of literary criticism, I have taken note and will stop doing that, though it is true to say that sometimes those little etceteras sneak in because I am meant to be cooking breakfast.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Pay Day

Am in receipt of my first pay-check in about seven years and I have to admit, it feels great despite the fact that the day's work had me wobbling around with exhaustion that evening. I think I must be unfamiliar with concentrating hard on just one thing at a time. It was an extraordinarily peculiar sensation but definitely to be repeated - as and when it can be arranged of course.

Truth and Spin in the Education System

I have to admit to being slightly concerned as to school's minister Ms. Smith's take on the situation after reading this:

[she said that] it was easy to forget that pupil behaviour in the majority of schools was good for most of the time. "Ofsted has reported improvements in behaviour in our classrooms this year, rating it as satisfactory or better in 94% of secondary and 99% of primary schools," she said.

Ho hum. I am not clear whether this is simple political spin or genuine delusion. Either way, it doesn't seem accurate. From a previous post "Back to School Bullying":

"school 'bullying policies' are unable to prevent bullying. The great majority of bullying is not reported to teachers or noticed by them. A Canadian study videotaped children playing in a schoolyard and found that teachers were aware of only 17% of the bullying observed by the researchers. Of the incidents they did see, they only chose to intervene 23% of the time which gave an overall intervention rate of 3.9%."

I have to admit, we haven't spent much time recently with many schooled children. In fact we only saw one yesterday, so my overall perspective on this situation is hugely limited. But the thing is, this child is a kind, gentle, trustworthy teen who regularly cares for and plays with my child. My child loves this child and the relationship is tender, teasing, comical, fun. I love hearing those peels of giggles that my children emit when playing with this person. Yet in school she is hated by the other girls for the crime of being pretty. She has had her belongings repeatedly nicked and recently had her head bashed against a mirror in the girls' loos. She then lost her temper and slammed the ring leader's fingers in a loo door. The point of reporting this? Well, no teacher has any idea that any of this was going on, so how Ofsted claim to know what they are talking about is not immediately obvious, just from my one example.

And as a final point on this, outside of the school situation, this child is a fully functioning responsible, kind human being. In school she is forced to be something else altogether.

But back to Ms. Smith. Call me cynical but I'm tending towards the idea that her assertion above was a matter of spin, not least because it came in the context of proposing to extend the powers of teachers to deal with poor behaviour, this time outside the school gates.

Given that teachers appear to be failing to cope with the situation inside the school gates, it looks like another hopeless, delusional proposal.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Naughtiness and Poor Reading Readiness Linked

The BBC Education Website reports on a study from the American Journal of Child Development which claims that the link between anti-social behaviour and poor reading skills in teenagers has been found in children as young as seven.

"Those who had difficulties at age five with readiness to read, such as a small vocabulary and poor verbal skills, became increasingly involved in anti-social behaviour - mainly bullying others, telling lies, stealing," said research co-author Dr Terrie Moffitt.


"Their reading skills had gone down as well".

There is also a suggestion that the causal chain of events works the other way around...

"...a child who starts school with problem behaviour would be predisposed to poor reading skills".

Rather predictably, these ones also fell further behind with reading.

Dr. Moffitt concludes:

"So in answer to which is the chicken and which is the egg, it doesn't really matter - poor cognitive skills would predispose a child to become aggressive.

She then goes on to say:

"To our surprise we found genetics did not explain it. It's an environmental process, such as what goes on in the classroom, and this is important because it can be changed."

Too right, we Home Educators would say! And we think we know the answer. Please miss, please miss...we know!!!

You see, what seems to work for many of the autonomously HE'd boys round here is that they aren't pestered to read before they want to, and whatever age that happens to be, (commonly from seven onwards), it seems to correlate very well with reading readiness. In the meantime, they don't lack for an education. They acquire information aurally from any number of different sources, conversation, being read to, tapes, TV, computers etc. They commit facts to memory. They have meaningful conversations about subjects that interest them, during which they develop the skills of framing an argument, retaining a train of thought, trying to nail ideas accurately in the spoken word, being logical, self-critical and truth seeking.

They don't lose out or start to feel inadequate. They don't feel the need to bully or develop other anti-social behaviours. And when they are actually ready to read, they go for it and catch up quickly.

But what do I know...I don't have a degree in ed. psych, so my observations of the seemingly glaringly obvious are most probably wrong!

The researchers seem to think so. They say that their findings..

"indicate that academic intervention can have a positive effect on behaviour. Programmes that target either reading problems or behaviour problems during the pre-school and early primary school years are likely to produce changes in both areas, the research concludes".

Perhaps there is an argument to be made for the kids who arrive at school without good moral theories, but for those who turn aggressive because of the pressures of schooling, yet more schooling is unlikely to be the answer.

HT: Merry

Your Thoughts on Home Education?

What would you say if you had the chance to bend the ear of a Labour party Education Minister? Would you simply ask that you be left alone? Would you call for greater promotion of Home Education by the LEAs? Would you call for education vouchers or grants for HEors, despite a risk that this will mean that HEors are compelled to educate their children in state-prescribed ways?

Well apparently, there is no need to dream. HE father and Labour party member is canvassing for views from HEors which he says he would take forward to interested Labour party peeps such as rising star, schools minister and Redditch MP Jacqueline Smith who he reports is sympathetic to HE cause.

It is not quite clear what form Ms Smith's sympathy takes, but it is impossible not to be concerned that this sympathy may extend to the issue of the provision of funding. This of course looks dodgy in terms of maintaining educational freedom. It may be a good idea to shout now, so if you happen to have any strong views on this or anything else to do with HE, do let me know soonish, and I'll pass them on.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Second Language Acquisition

Remember all that agonisingly boring memorisation of strings of verbs that led virtually nowhere in terms of genuine second language acquisition? Remember all that hard grind that meant that one only ever concentrated on the method of expression rather than what was being said? Recall all that slog, only then to be humbled by the comparison with the child who had spent all their summer holidays in France and could therefore happily gabble away without a moment's effort?

It seems though that educational theorists, notably the eminently sensible Stephen Krashen have the situation just about right. What learners actually need is caretaker speech (ie: speech that is tailored to the ability of the learner to understand), and to be kept in stress free conditions to listen to this for as long as is necessary for them to then start expressing themselves. Mistakes need not be corrected since the system self-corrects, the more speech that is heard.

How well the National Curriculum can adapt to these sensible suggestions I am yet to find out, but for the Home Educated out there who would like to adopt this sort of approach, the Beeb Language Website seems to offer a Krashen-like approach. It seems I must stop begrudging my licence fee!

Update: Thanks to PGCE teacher trainee for an assessment of the current situation in schools. To quote verbatim:

"Teaching languages in schools today does seem to incorporate a lot of the old and the new theories but given the existence in current schemes of work of some of the problem areas that have been defined by Krashen (such as no allowance for a silent period or insisting on following a grammatical progression), it is unlikely that much benefit can be seen from what they do that is good. The National Curriculum definitely doesn't allow for use of the new methods because it demands constant assessment (and therefore instant performance - no silent period consequently) and it expects that grammatical progression is in evidence, at least in part. Whilst marking is no longer at all dependent on correcting and only on communicative ability- a good thing - the teachers seem to prefer using rote learning as a way of ensuring that all pupils will pass, nevertheless".

HT: DD and Sarah P.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

More Waste of Public Funds

Apropos the startling waste of public money, the Sunday Times reports on the NHS Direct's new website. Perhaps, just perhaps this will work for those with a nurse fetish, but for the rest of us, the thought that we couldn't manage to work this all out for ourselves and must therefore ask nanny just leaves one feeling rather queasy.

HT: Mrs Loveday

Where are all These Suffering Home Educators?

A letter in response to the LEA officer's Independent article about home education can be found here. It seems to confirm the Mr Mooney's contention that there are loads of suffering HEors out there who only get by with great difficulty.

The question that arises from this is: how does this respondent happen to know about these HE failures? If this nominally large number neither attend meetings, nor write articles, and are not known the HE community, how exactly does she know about them? I personally have yet to meet them.

Her contention that "In private I have heard more realistic views of home educators such as: "He's not doing any worse than if he were at school"' "Socially my children are all right, but it's never going to be enough"' and "They can always make up for it when they are older".

is, for the record, not representative of any of the views that I heard at our HE meeting today, where children with every sort of learning style were thriving in their own unique ways. Perhaps HE children are acquiring different knowledge from their schooled counterparts, but it is not clear that these branches of knowledge will be essentially less useful to them when they grow up and they therefore will not have to do any more catching up than schooled children. As for the socialisation opportunities being insufficient...this is just laughable. The problem really is a matter of how to fit everything in.

It is Red Alert All the Time Now

In this super-state, it rather looks as if Dh's brand of personal initiative must go by the by. In a bid to catch the plane that they looked as if they were about to miss, Dh hung a left when other car drivers were turning right, only to be confronted seconds later by three furious armed policemen with firearms pointing directly at his vulnerable bits. At this point his passengers were of the opinion that you don't argue. Having said which - they did get to plane on time, but he is not going to do that again. "Look into my eyes...you are no...o..o...t go..o..o..ing to do..o.o.. that agai..ai..ai..n...."

Sunday, February 05, 2006

We Know Not What We Ask

This Telegraph story about the new government proposals to offer everyone an MOT at five points in their lives in order to assess their fitness, (incidentally by old friend Alice Thomson)could be instructive in several ways.

First it demonstrates this current government's almost admirable ability to directly contradict themselves within the space of a sentence. Take Patricia Hewitt's "People don't want nannying or to be told what they must do but they do want more information, advice and support."


But this irrationality unfortunately is not entirely Ms Hewitt's fault. Although, apparently, people don't want nannying "more than three quarters of 1,000 people who took part in a "citizens' summit" in Birmingham last year said they would like a regular health check".

And so it is with many of the government's encroachments. We call for it ourselves without really thinking about what it all means. Despite the fact that there is hardly a single mother I have ever spoken to who doesn't in some way resent the intrusions of the health visitor, we blithely call for more intrusion, more nannying, all the while saying that this is not what we are doing. And let's face it too. Just how useless is this initiative going to be! Useless, expensive, pointlessly intrusive - so very much on form then.

These calls for coercive intrusion happen all over the place, usually in the guise of solving the problems of the world. If we all gave a certain percentage of our income we would solve the problems of poverty, etc, etc. We must just stop and think what this will mean.

(There are other direct contradictions and a good dose of ridiculous irrationality demonstrated lower down in the article, eg: GP's are meant to become more responsive to patients, and yet they are being told more and more from the top what they are meant to be doing...errgh...stop it, that's enough).

One of the many reasons why I so love home education is that the society is entirely voluntary, it forms spontaneously as a result of meeting the needs of individuals, and nobody is compelled to be involved if it doesn't suit them. We do take care of one another, sometimes extensively and in many different ways, practically and emotionally. It does work. More of this please...I know what I am asking.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Are Schooled Kids Getting Dumber?

This article from the Sunday Times suggests that they are, though my guess is that it all depends on the question you ask.

Given that we cannot individually know even a small percentage of everything, it makes no sense that everyone should know the same thing, so even by their own standards of social engineering, (the intent behind today's schooling), the National Curriculum doesn't make sense.

And a final note...it makes much more sense that variety should be introduced into the system by playing to the different strengths of different learners. How best to do this? Autonomous education.

HT: Izzy.

Friday, February 03, 2006

David Friedman on Unschooling

Inspirational anarcho-capitalist economist thinker and writer of The Machinery of Freedom - David Friedman - has blogged on Unschooling here. No need to say anything more really.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

The Difference between Non-Coercion and Permissiveness

Clare at Playing it by Ear has posted on the subject of the difference between permissiveness and non-coercive parenting. A perfect explanation.

Religious Education an Advantage?

It is one supposed advantage of British state education over US state ed. that religious education is compulsory in the former and forbidden in the latter. The argument for this is that in the UK, creationist type theories can be taught in an appropriate setting, ie: in a religious education class rather than a science class, as is the problem in the US.

But is it such a big advantage for UK children? At least in the States there is debate about how two sets of entirely different kinds of knowledge can co-exist. Children here in the UK are, on the other hand, supposed to swallow the situation whole, without ever directly addressing the issue of how they are meant to be making their whole world view stand up.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Religious Hatred Bill Defeated

Have only just caught on but this is the best news from Parliament in a while and hopefully will represent the turning of a tide.

Could it be that in waking up to the importance of the freedom of speech, that people will also wake up to the importance of making serious moral evaluations, for in having the blank slate of true freedom in the moral sphere, rather than a set of prescribed ways of thinking, it should prompt people finally to think clearly for themselves, and to take their own decisions seriously.


It says a considerable amount about my learning curve as of yesterday, that I have just typed that word into the title box. Even today I have to admit that I don't actually know a great deal about these things. For example, it remains the case that the sentence "that's a beautiful car" is a matter of some confusion to me. I do try to retain the fact that I just don't know how to judge a car aesthetically, but actually in my heart of hearts, I know that those specific words have, perhaps surprisingly, suddenly lost all possible capacity for any meaning whatsoever.

Strangely though this next sentence with similar sorts of words does actually make sense: "Yes, it is guacamole-coloured Morris Marina Coupe, H-reg; it looks fine to me and I've just bought it." I do see, however, that my position on cars may possibly be a legitimate source of great pain to my AlfaRomeo/Ducatti loving husband but I figured he'd coped so far and why rock the boat?

Things have been taken out of my hands, however. Since yesterday, I have been made to think little else other than cars. Dh got a friend of his...(no longer mine also) to come round and take my perfectly good car that has served me perfectly well over the last few years, and only broke down in perfectly understandable circumstances and usually in supermarket car parks where I could just get on with the shopping whilst waiting for the tow truck... away. Although I know where it has gone, I might have problems getting the keys, so I am now stuck with a thing that glints and swishes and swooshes - and it is horrible. I can't calm down and I can't stop thinking about it.

A new category of food has been invented in just one day. No longer are foodstuffs divided into fruit, veg, meats, carbs...We now have clean food and dirty food. Dirty food includes stuff that stains, is likely to shoot out of packaging, crumbles in any way, and cannot be organically thrown out of the window as you drive along.

And other road-users. By pure bad luck, they got considerably worse yesterday. There were hundreds of lorries with sheddable loads all over the place and car-users were pulling out of side junctions, left and right of us.

The only solution is to use this swishy thing one more time, learn how to hot-wire so that I can get my old car back and leave this one in it's place. Seems a fair exchange to me.