Thursday, January 31, 2008

Lord of the Flies

Jonathan of Liberal England has an accurate take on the effects of the 1950's prep school.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Racing Demon - King of Games

Racing Demon is, as its name suggests, a game of beating everyone else with speed and in that sense, it’s a very poor example of a social game because it breaks all the rules of turn-taking and patience! However it is absolutely brilliant for sequencing, toning those reaction times, for visual attention, concentration, memory, spatial organisation, fine motor skills and maths....and all without a playstation in sight!

Better still, the way we play it, everyone actually has a very good chance of winning. In fact even my 90 year old grandmother occasionally used to win, much to the extreme amusement of everyone including herself.

Honesty is a vital ingredient but of course, that should go without saying amongst the wonderful bunch that we are! It should be noted that a bit of card counting in this game is regarded with a certain degree of awe, and is not strictly dishonest, although there may be some players left with seething, resentful questions as to whether this should be so!

Any number of people can join in: the more the merrier. We used to play with approx 20 peeps of all ages and ability around a table. Pure unadulterated fun and a manic order in apparent chaos.

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


Each player starts with a complete pack of cards. It’s important that each pack has a different design or colour on the back.

At the word "Go" the games starts. You play as fast as you can from now on!

First off, each player deals a pile of 13 cards face up. This is called the "Pile”. The object of the game is to get rid of your Pile before anybody else does and you do this in a number of different ways. (See below). If you do manage to get rid of your Pile before anyone else, you shout "OUT" as frantically and as loudly as seems necessary. All play stops immediately and you earn an extra 10 points for winning.

After dealing your Pile of 13, four more cards are then dealt out in a line face up next to the Pile. This is known as the "Line of 4"

The rest of the cards are kept in your hand.

Look at your Pile and Line of 4. Have you got an ace amongst them? If you have, put it into the middle of the table, quick as you can of course - there's not a moment to lose! If the ace has come from your Line of 4, replace the ace card with one from your Pile, so that you still have a Line of 4, thus reducing your Pile to 12 cards - Hooray, you are on your way to winning!

The aces in the middle are now available for everyone to use. They become the basis of a "Stack." Everyone can stack on anyone else's aces, going from the ace, to two, three, four, five, six etc, up to Jack, Queen, King. You must follow the suit of the ace at the base of the Stack. So if someone has put out an ace of hearts, it must be followed by a two of hearts.

Should you happen to have a two of hearts in your Line of 4 or on top of your Pile, slam it down on top of the ace of hearts before anyone else does. Get there as quick as you can for you can be darn sure that some other sod will be trying to beat you to it!

And don't forget, if the two of hearts came out of your Line of 4, replace it with a card from your Pile, thus reducing your Pile and getting closer to winning.

Remember...(unless you have just won and got rid of your Pile), you should always have your Pile and a Line of 4 in front of you.

If someone else does beat you to that two of hearts, tough! You will have to wait for someone to put out another ace of hearts.

OK, back to looking for at your Pile and Line of 4. If there is nothing you can put out in the middle, you can look to do something else to reduce your Pile. This is called "Laddering". With Laddering, you pile onto your Line of 4. Unlike making the Stacks in the middle, Laddering does not follow the suits and does not go upwards. With Laddering, you go down in number and use alternate colour cards. So if you have a black seven and a red six in your Line of 4, you could put the red six on your black seven, and replace the missing card (the six) in the Line of 4 with another from your Pile. (Hooray...even closer to winning). If you then should happen to have a black five, say on the top of your Pile, you could put that on the red six etc. (You can ladder from your top card on your Pile too.)

Still no joy or are you now stuck, ie: you can neither Stack in the middle nor Ladder? Now you use the rest of your cards in your hand....known as the "Pack". Go through your Pack three at a time and as quickly as possible, of course. If you come across a card that can be used either for building up the Stacks in the middle or for helping with your Laddering, pop it on, pdq.

All the time you are going through your Pack, keep watching for opportunities to move any cards from either your Line of 4 or your Pile onto the Stacks in the middle.

Keep going through your hand as quickly as you can, piling upwards on the Stacks and Laddering. Every card you put out onto a Stack will count as one point in your final score, so try to get as many cards out on the Stacks as you can.

There is a picture of what the game could look like here. (They seem to have got it right, despite calling the game Nerts and calling the piles by different names!)

When a Stack approaches completion, get really alert! The last card on a Stack is of course, the King, and if you manage to put the King on the Stack, you claim the Stack and remove the Stack from the middle, keeping it somewhere near you. I usually quickly put it on the floor. Once you have put the king on the Stack, this Stack is known as your "King" and it counts as an extra five points at the end of the game. This is why getting the King is a good idea.

Once someone has managed to get rid of their Pile and has shouted "OUT", play stops immediately.

All of the players who didn't win should then count up how many cards they have left in their Pile. They must remember this number. The number of cards they have left in their Pile will be subtracted from the rest of their score.

Each player should then bunch his Pack with the remaining cards in his Pile and Line of 4, and put this bunch aside for the moment.

The players should then sort out the cards from the Stacks and the Kings that have been removed from the table, and players should then collect their own cards from this sorting. They should then count these cards. Each card counts as one point. If they made a King, they should add 5 bonus points to this score.

They then should subtract the number of cards that were left in their Pile from the total that they made in the Stack. It is perfectly possible, even if you aren't 96, to make a minus number. There is not necessarily much humiliation in that! (See below for the handicapping system).

The winner though will definitely be quids up. He will have nothing to subtract, (as he got rid of his Pile), and he will add his bonus 10 points to the number of cards he got out on the Stacks.

- - - - - - - - - -


Someone familiar with the scoring system can manage this. Don't worry about it if you are new to the whole thing and have enough to think about already.

Handicapping is a great system if you have players of very different skill levels as it gives everyone a reasonable chance of winning at some stage.

How it works:

Create a score board, with players names/initials at the top of columns.

After the first game, write down the scores that everyone made in the appropriate columns.

The person with the highest score in the first game, ie: nearly always the person who shouted "OUT", will then be required to put out 14 cards in his Pile in the next game. The person who made the lowest score will only be required to put out 12 cards in the next game. Make a note of the changes to the number of cards a player will need to put out in his next pile next to his score.

After the second game, write down the scores from the second game and total them up with the first game too. The winner of the second game will be required to put one more card in his Pile for the subsequent game. The person with the highest total number of points overall will also be required to put one more card in the Pile in the subsequent game. If this one and the same person, this person will be required to put 2 more cards into his Pile in the next game.

The loser in the second game will be required to put out one less card out in his Pile. The overall loser will also be required to put out one less card. If this is one and the same person, he can put out 2 fewer cards in the next game.

The scorer should make a note of these requirements next to the players' scores.

It has been known for the very new, young or generally infirm to get down to a pile of O, in which case they can say, "GO" then "OUT" and score a bonus of 10 immediately, whilst all around them will be minus their pile. Tee hee...not such a bad plan!

- - - - - - - - -

Good luck and have fun. And one fine day, I plan on beating my dear mama in a straight match.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Save Your Child

If your child is in the same situation as the protagonist in this story, protect them from the same fate, contact Cruel at School and think very seriously about home education. It has proved to be the answer for many a bullied child.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Summerhill on CBBC

Home educators' reactions to the CBBC series of Summerhill, first two episodes here (shortly to be deleted) and here, have been strongly favorable, for whether or not the series is a reasonable representation of Summerhill, it certainly puts across some theories of autonomous education and evidence for its efficacy very effectively. "When children want to learn, they go like rockets" says the science teacher of the 14 year old who after studying chemistry for under a year, is doing A level standard work. Yes, in the HE community we see this happening over and over again.

Quite a few HE kids watching the film, recognised the themselves in it: the familiarity with taking responsibility for their lives, for deciding how to work in groups, with understanding the function of rules and with thinking creatively about how to make rules workable, the wrestling with moral issues etc. In fact, the lives of the children at Summerhill seem very similar to home educators' experience of HE meetings, camps and festivals, bar the presence of parents.

It seems almost inevitable that the Telegraph should be very ambivalent about the series. In this article, they plump firmly for the idea that the whole thing is a propaganda exercise, but in another report, they quote the directer Jon East talking about Golding's "Lord of the Flies":

"That single book did more than anything else to damage people's faith in the essential decency of children," says Jon East, head of drama at CBBC and director of Summerhill. If repressed public schoolboys who are used to being caned are suddenly left unrestricted on a desert island, it's not surprising that these terrible instincts are unleashed. However, I think that if Summerhill pupils crashed on to the same island, they'd soon have a meeting, set up a committee, find wood, make food and be basking in the sun, entirely happy."

Yep, he has it! And the great thing about this is that Jon East is none other than the Head of Drama at CBBC. He says:

"An awful lot of drama is set in schools - and yet each series only reinforces the dominant paradigm," he says. "What we're trying to say in this drama is that there could just be another way of doing things."

There could indeed. More of this please, Mr East!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Brighton and Hove

"The responsibility of the council is to ensure that parents provide their children with a suitable education."

It is hard to believe it, but yes, various councils from around the country seem quite happy to go about creating their own litigation nightmares. This time it's Brighton and Hove.

Thankfully, home educators in the area are trying to put them right.

"We say: this is not true. The law gives parents the responsibility to ensure that children receive a suitable education, not the local council."

Go there, HEline. Looks as if you have plenty of work on your hands helping some remedial students develop the skills of accurate reading, comprehension and ability to think through the consequences.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Vote to Support German Homeschoolers

From various UK home educating lists:

On a German website where people can put questions to Angela Merkel, someone has asked why homeschooling is not possible in Germany. Only those questions with the highest number of points will be answered. You can support this questioner by adding to the number of points.

By way of a rough translation of the full question:

The questioner is asking the authorities to change the legal situation so that homeschooling is permitted in Germany. She says that the legal judgement and behaviour of the authorities will result in more families leaving Germany and that this is not in the interests of the country. She asks if homeschooling is really a security risk for the country or a risk for children, and says that there is nowhere else in the EU where homeschoolers are persecuted as they are there.

She says that her own daughter is unable to attend school but that she would certainly send her to school if she did not know that the effects of doing so would be negative, but that she would like the legal option of keeping her daughter at home until she is able to handle school. She says there have been positive developments in education in the last 20 years but that it would be unfortunate if those children who need it were unable to refuel at home until they were able to handle the large class groups. She asks to be informed by the co-workers (of the person she's writing to) what is necessary for legalisation of homeschooling to occur.

Go here if you would like to support the fight for legalisation of home education in Germany. Simply click on the + sign. That's it.

If this link is broken, go to the home page and click on "Beiträge Abstimmen". This will take you to a number of pages with questions. Somewhere in these pages, you will find the following amongst the questions there:

"Von Susanne Volkmann Über Bildung Am 20. JanuarWarum ist Heimunterricht nicht möglich? Sehr geehrte Frau Bundeskanzlerin, ich bitte Sie von Herzen, die gesetzlichen Bedingungen dafür zu schaffen,dass Homeschooling in Deutschland legalisiert wird. mehr..."

Click on "mehr" and on the next page (where the whole of the question appears) click on the right hand side of the coloured line, where the + sign is.

That's all folks! Good deed done.

Forced Marriages and Home Education. The "Evidence" so far.

Nazir Afzal said: "We (the Crown Prosecution Service) have identified thousands, probably, of young girls between those ages, 13 and 16, who are no longer in education. Very many of them are, allegedly, being home-schooled and very many of them are not being home-schooled at all
because there is no means of being able to check what is happening to them. Very many of them will end up being-well, they are victims already, I would say-victims of forced marriage or honour-based violence. I know that a number of institutions are receiving freedom of information requests to get the full information. At the moment I do not have that in the way that you would like, but I am sure we can give you what we have." (all the oral evidence the Select Committee took is in the second volume of the report available at
3we01.htm at Q 137).

But the Home Affairs Select Committee were also told by Jasvinder Sanghera of Karma Nirvana and District Judge Marilyn Mornington about examples of children who were missing from school registrars whose whereabouts were unknown. For example, The Forced Marriage Unit recorded that "250 girls aged between 13-16 were taken off the school roll in Bradford during 2006 because they failed to return from a trip abroad" (para 154).

There were also other examples of children being kept at home from school for long periods of time. Shazia Qayum, a victim of forced marriage told the Select Committee: "When I refused to get married I was told that I would not be able to finish my education. At 15 it was very important for me because it was my GCSE time. I was kept at home for a whole year; no one from the education welfare, no one from social services asked the question where I was. My parents handed in a sick note from the family GP telling them that I was not well enough to
attend." (cited in the second volume of the report available at at Q 103)

3 - Finally your question re: paragraph 169, 'I cannot identify any such link being made by "experts" except the allegation made by Mr Afzal. Please tell me what other experts identified such a link and where I can find information about this.'

The other witness who gave evidence mentioning Home Education was District Judge Marilyn Mornington.

Will They Ever Learn?

Below - a list of organisations which asked for home educated children to be included in the scope of new guidance on sex, relationships and alcohol education:

British Association for Sexual Health and HIV: 'The needs of those educated at home should be considered. The assumption may be that they are not a high risk group, but this is not known. Can resources be provided for those home-educated?'

Central Lancashire PCT: 'Why will this not affect children and young people educated at home?'

East Sussex County Council: 'The omission of home-educated children is a concern; this cohort includes some very vulnerable children and young people. Perhaps guidance could address LEA supervisory/advisory duties for this cohort, and liaison with home educators' associations e.g. 'Education Otherwise' could be useful.'

Healthcare Commission: 'CYP not educated at home may not be covered under the elements of the guidance which is delivered but perhaps (hopefully) they will have access to provision through youth, voluntary and community services. Information for home educators could still be provided through voluntary networks. Could explain provision for 0-4 is through other channels and cite (perhaps that's for the guidance when published!)'

Jo's Trust: 'Children and young people educated at home should be covered by any guidance.'

Sex Education Forum: '"Groups not covered". It is unclear why this document would not be relevant to children educated at home.'

To every which one of these, one would say: thanks for the offer but home educating families would rather not be included. Firstly, they are almost always perfectly capable of managing this on their own without any government initiatives on the matter. They know they are responsible for managing this aspect of education. They know they can't delegate these responsibilities to some half-baked crusade in schools. Secondly, despite the fact that there is no statutory basis for enforcement of this guidance, local authorities may well try to use the guidance to pry into extremely private areas of family life.

Moves are afoot in the home educating community to try to remove the offending phrase from section 4.1.1, but should this not pan out, LAs should be aware that any attempt by them to insist upon monitoring HE families for this provision will be met with strong resistance and many a suggestion that they go and remind themselves of Protocol 1, article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights which states that:

"In the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and to teaching, the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religions and philosophical convictions."

Monday, January 21, 2008

Calling Home Educating Inventors (ages 9 - 11)

Six Home Ed in Kent Blog has the details of a competition which is now also available to home educated children.

Good work The Newsteads!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Atheist Home Educator's First Aid Kit

If, like me, you found yourself flagging after the New Year, perhaps to the point where you almost felt a twinge of envy at the thought of all those parents being freed up when the schools reopened - if you felt you simply couldn't face helping anyone play shop any more or build another lego model, or bake another loaf of bread; if you wondered as to the meaning of it all, the point of Christmas, whether it really is worth the effort, I have the perfect answers which come in the form of a very small reading list.

Yup, if fleshing out the non-theistic but spiritual side of rational parenting is what you fancy, you couldn't do much better than "Everyday Blessing: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting" by Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn. For the parent who takes their child seriously, there may be a few passages that you might want to re-write, but overall, the principle of respect for the autonomy of the child is taken as paramount, and better still, self-sovereignty is given it's proper emotional and spiritual significance. Faciliting the autonomy of the child is recognised as being truly extraordinary work, as enriching for the parent as it is for the child.

I have to admit to a past history of miserable failure when it comes to meditative techniques. I would sit around with ants-in-my-pants, itching to get going, to engage someone in my latest thought, or to scream with boredom, whilst all around me seemed eminently capable of achieving authentic bliss with what seemed like absolutely no effort at all. This book has however managed to get me much closer to an understanding of how to achieve a meditative state and this at least partially because the authors readily concede that for many the meditative process is incredibly difficult, which of course immediately made it significantly easier.

The authors manage to link meditative practice to parenting in a convincing and liberating way. The balance and peace that is generated in those few moments of meditation where one feels freed from the urgency and dictatorial nature of one's thoughts, it can spill into one's parenting, making one more able to think creatively, to give up on the first inclination more easily, and at the same time to see one's child more clearly and more lovingly. Yup, this is perfect nourishment that might be the necessary sequel to The God Delusion.

And as to the point of Christmas, (and thanks so much to the kind Christian person who opened my eyes to the possibility of this one), instead of celebrating the birth of Christ, how about using the festival to celebrate one's own family? To marvel at and relish their existence and to honour the sovereignty and to recognise one's sacred duties in facilitating it.

For the second course for the flagging home educator, I would highly recommend Barbara Tizard's Young Children Learning, which without an apparent agenda, demonstrates that conversation with a very close adult (here the mother) is likely to be far more illuminating and educational for the child than the learning environment of the nursery school. If you need to wake up to the richness of those apparently inane or idiosyncratic conversations that you have with a young person, this is the book for you. In those seemingly banal conversations about what one should wear, about the contents of garden sheds and library fines, whether or not drivers should jump a red light, about who should have which bit of lego, it is the energy of the child to know, the richness of the shared knowledge and the freedom to explore without the imposition of pre-determined objectives which contributes to the growth of a wealth of knowledge, and leads the authors to conclude that teachers should learn from parents rather than the other way round.

This should be compulsory reading for any policy maker connected with the Early Years Foundation Stage. By rights, it should mean they simply throw their hands in the air, concede that all the government directives in the world are unlikely to solve the essential problems of nursery schools, and that parents should keep on educating their children in the wider world.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Home Education is Not the Problem.

Spot the trend:

Here in the UK, we hear of the tragic case of Danielle Reid and in the US, we read of the sorry tale of the Jacks family.

The implication behind both stories: that neither situation implicates the social services involved since they had insufficient powers to intervene with home educating families and that they therefore require more powers to monitor and intrude upon all home educating families.

The truth of the matter: that the children in both families were known to social services. They were known to be at risk. Social services have adequate powers to follow up and act in such circumstances. They made bad calls.

Protests from UK HEors got the offending BBC article cached and re-written but the damage continued with Judith Gillespie of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council putting it about on radio and making the same ill- researched assertions and drawing poorly thought-out conclusions.

Message for welfare- and edu-crats everywhere:

Stop blaming home education and get on with your jobs. We cannot possibly live with the level of state scrutiny that you seem to be proposing. You're talking about our PRIVATE LIVES.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Petition Against Early Years Foundation Stage

Open Eye has been doing sterling work in protesting against further government micro-management and meddling that is the Early Years Foundation Stage.

From a circular:

"Please, please, please . . . if you have a problem with 3 and 4-year-olds HAVING to learn to read and write (outrageously, this becomes law in the UK in 9 months time for ALL nurseries – not just state-funded nurseries), then please sign the following Downing Street petition: click on this link and follow the instructions.

They (the gov't) just haven't got it. They think the sooner a child starts something, the better it will be; the notion of age appropriateness doesn't seemed to have crossed their mind. There is masses of evidence (e.g. formal schooling in Germany starting age 6/7, etc) demonstrating that delaying formal learning and letting children learn through just playing is no hindrance to later literacy. In fact it helps.

If you want to sign the
petition, please do it today."

Get signing, I'd say.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

New Scottish Home Education Guidelines

...were published yesterday.

The TES has the story.

Schoolhouse has once again done admirable work on this. Hopefully they will continue to campaign for the unequivocal freedom for parents to educate their children as they see fit. It has sadly proved to be the case that Scottish LAs have caused considerable heartache and stress to prospective Scottish HEors by abusing their role in delivering consent for children to deregister from schools. In so doing, local authorities are in effect acting in loco parentis. They should think rather more carefully about the consequences to themselves when they do this.

On the same theme, the BBC reports that

"Some education directors, meanwhile, have been concerned a fast decision would amount to a rubber stamp - and lay them open to legal action from children who in later life feel their education has been lacking."

Sigh. Once again, IF YOU TAKE OVER AS PARENT and become RESPONSIBLE FOR EDUCATION AND WELFARE, you will be in BIG TROUBLE. Ergo...don't do it.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Are Local Authorities Behaving?

Whilst the current version of Elective Home Education Guidelines appear to demonstrate that the DCSF took representation from home educators at least partially seriously, HEors are nonetheless very well aware that there is plenty of ambiguity in the writing which would allow for serious abuse of HE families by local authorities. Members of Action for Home Education have already let it be known that the guidelines are considered unfit for purpose and have asked that home educators report incidences of abuse by LAs to the HE community, not only so that individual families may be supported, but so that such incidences may be used as yet further proof that the guidelines need, in many areas, to be rewritten much more precisely. Check out Barbara's comment here.

It would be extremely optimistic to hope that Local Authorities will stop abusing home educating families as a result of these new guidelines, particularly when you consider the angles that many of them took in their responses to the consultation on the creation of guidelines. The latest catalogue of errors comes to us courtesy of Notts LA. Take these gems by way of some examples:

"Lead officers of Nottinghamshire Local Authority believe that the draft guidance represents a missed opportunity to draw upon the Every Child Matters framework which sets out the criteria by which ALL children’s well being should be measured (whatever their background or their circumstances).There is no reference to this major piece of legislation which requires that children should be healthy, stay safe, enjoy and achieve, make a positive contribution and, in due course, experience economic well being."

Honestly, where does one start! And how could you, in your right mind, be happy to let someone into your home who appears to think that they have such power over your lives and who demonstrates such a woeful understanding of the law of the land.

Anyhoo...let's have a go at picking it apart. For starters, where, oh where in the Children Act 2004 does it say that all children have to be measured? And if it does say this (and I have somehow developed a previously unknown form of partial sightedness), where does it say who should do the measuring? And who sets the standards for passable well being? And how does anyone suppose that they should monitor for such a subjective criteria? And where in the Children Act is it a requirement that all children must achieve this or that standard? As most of us read it, these were objectives, not requirements. And if all of these outcomes are really requirements, which it is up to the LA to measure and to cater for, how on earth can they account for stories such as this one.

Are you still with me? I don't blame you if you aren't. Critiquing gobbledygook is a mind f**k. Sadly there is a lot more where that came from, eg:

"It would be helpful if home education support groups would also advise parents that the involvement of the Local Authority as a partner in their child’s education is nothing to be feared."

Pfhaa! And:

"Under the draft guidance, the Local Authority remains vulnerable if the child later accuses the LA of negligence in failing to ensure their educational needs were effectively met. Although this has not yet happened there is an increasing culture of litigation in society as a whole and it is reasonable to assume that this could happen in the future. "

Well, if LAs really are going to be responsible for the education and welfare of every child in the land as Notts LA would seemingly have it, then they sure will be in BIIIIGGGG trouble. Take the story of Ben for example.