Sunday, April 30, 2006

Home Educators Against Corporal Punishment

Well done the UK! Recognition from the US for the work done so far:

"Overseas, a group in England is trying to block a home-schooling magazine from being distributed there because it advertises Pearl's books, said Michael Fortune-Wood, a home-schooling father and editor of a home-school journal. They are also lobbying Amazon UK to stop selling the Pearls' books."

HT: Doc

Spank Out Day

From Stop Hitting.Org, the day to stop spanking and to start instead to think of better ways to help children understand seemingly good ideas.

"Why We Chose to Homeschool"

This from Life Without School brings back pleasant memories and tells it like it is.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

"Corporal Punishment is Part of Education".

Beggaring belief; not least: the risks child batterers are prepared to take.

What Advance Degree Should You Get?

Weellll....clearly over-complimentary with regard to the current assessment, but it's spot on with the proposed subjects.

You Should Get a PhD in Liberal Arts (like political science, literature, or philosophy)

You're a great thinker and a true philosopher.
You'd make a talented professor or writer.

HT: Ron

Boris is Mostly Very Right and Only Occasionally Wrong

If we accept Wikipedia's introduction to libertarianism, ie: "that force used against others is considered by libertarians to be illegitimate except in retaliation for initiatory aggressions ", then it rather looks as if Boris (Conservative MP for Henley) is nearly there. They'd be happy down the local libertarian club (we WISH!...we hear sadly that Chris Tame, who would have organised such a thing, died not so long ago), with most of Boris's insights in his latest Telegraph piece:

"It was when the policeman coughed quietly at my shoulder and said that I was breaking the law that I knew the game was up. When you get to my stage in life, you cease to get that thrill out of being arrested. I had to turn and face the throng, who were trying to march with me from College Green, Westminster, to Downing Street. Sorry, folks, I was forced to announce.

About turn! Labour has changed the law, and free-born Englishmen and women can no longer walk a few hundred paces down the Queen's pavement to Downing Street to protest at the closure of their local hospitals. Actually, I had to bawl the message at the top of my lungs, because Labour's new measures against civil protest mean that you cannot use a loudhailer. As we all saw at the Labour Party conference, you can't heckle a cabinet minister any more without the risk of being arrested under section 44 of some swingeing new anti-heckler act".

Boris provides a list of infractions for which we can now be prosecuted - it goes on and on and is frightening in it's intrusiveness. (Don't try changing the switches in your kitchen!). He even nails the Children's Database.

"This is a government that is in the process of setting up an insane Common Agricultural Policy-style database of every child in the country. That's right: hundreds of millions of pounds are to be spent on a register of the details of millions of blameless, innocent unthreatened children, because the Children's Lobby wants it, and the Government is keen to push out an initiative called "Every Child Matters". There surely, is all the evidence you need that the Government is in the last stages of schizophrenia. They insist on knowing the whereabouts of all our children, up to the age of 18, while 1,000 criminals roam free. I don't want them worrying about where to find my children; I want them to worry about the whereabouts of these thugs and creeps, and on that matter they showed a profound indifference. "

The one thing he gets wrong?

"Naturally, I lack the courage to smack my own children, but anyone who is forced to that regrettable expedient will find that new laws proscribe any chastisement that leaves bruising or discoloration".

The principle of non-aggression (proportionate self-defence) should (according to right-minded libertarian thinking) apply to children as much as to adults, so that anyone who uses disproportionate force should be prosecuted. Libertarians should argue that this is what the law should be for, since basic rights to physical freedom and integrity are surely essential foundations upon which any real freedom may be built.

You could send your comments to Boris at his blog here.

HT: June

Friday, April 28, 2006


Oops...that was an unintentional delay - sorry. Caused by not being able to tear ourselves away from den building, treasure trails to magnificent caves, ghost stories round the camp fire, murder in the dark, notably good pub lunches and truth or dare.

Sun-burnt, exhausted, and as usual, very much the minority of one (and briefly two when Dh popped in and came to the rescue), in the arguments about capitalism and Iraq. Ho hum...whatever happened to Peachy? He saved me last year.

Mind you, we all agreed about the two day delay being a bad idea for home education and parental responsibility for education, and have achieved what looked like complete consensus from our local groups with regard to sending letters of objection.

Someone Write the Screenplay?

Pitching the idea (Huh? Must be the fresh air!) Anyhow:

Political dystopia genre.

Happy home educating family cavorting in fields. Cut to educrats getting seriously riled by home educating activism, decide to make HE illegal. Happy HE family refuse to send kids to school. School Attendence Orders slapped on family. They go on the run. Chase scenes -youngest HE kid eventually of family give themselves up. Children made wards of court and are fostered out, parents clapped in gaol. Kids made to go to school.

Kids hate school, foul up, don't do well. Several pertinent points about the failures of the school system made the necessity to pursue stuff that has no relevance or interest the learner, the general impossibility of personalised learning, that questions are frequently asked before facts are given, the lack of reality of the learning, the over-heated atmosphere of classrooms, the poor social skills of bullies, the overarching stench of political correctness and ethically bankrupt moral relativism (Ok, so we had better be moving on here...)

A year later, parents released. They start campaign. It starts small with other ex HEors who have been similarly persecuted. They make the case that the state, in insisting that children must be educated at school, have effectively taken over control of the education of children, and that parents therefore are no longer responsible for this area of their children's lives. They find a sympathetic lawyer who takes up their case, the media gets hold of the story and a journalist suddenly gets it. This IS big news. It has an impact for every family in the country with children between the ages of 5 and 16; ie: that parents are NO LONGER RESPONSIBLE FOR THE EDUCATION OF THEIR CHILDREN. THE STATE HAS TAKEN OVER.

At last the fun commences. There is a revolution, and parents everywhere stampede to sue the state for any educational failures their children happen to have experienced.

How to conclude...? Let me know.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Parental Responsibility for Education

The introduction of a minimum two day delay in de-registration from school, (whilst the school authorities inform the LEAs about the de-registration) would appear to raise the issue of who is actually responsible for the education of children. Given that during that minimum two day delay, parents in effect cannot enact their desire to educate their child in a place of their choice, they can hardly be deemed to be being held responsible for the education of their children during this time.

(This predicament is, of course, entirely different from the situation where parents delegate responsibility for education to a school, since it is clear that in the act of delegation, parents retain ultimate responsibility).

The question therefore arises: "If a parent is temporarily not responsible for the education of the child, does this compromise the principle of parental responsibility as it is generally applied?" My instinctive reaction is "yes," for the reason that this negation of parental power is not chosen by the parents themselves. This therefore establishes a precedent by which the state appears to have a right to remove parental responsibility at any point they so choose (without specific good cause, since home education is equal in statute to education in schools), which in effect means that genuine parental responsibility becomes a chimera.

So right: if the state wants to take on responsibility for the education of my child, I personally will start suing their butts off as soon as they start to interfere, if for no other reason than I feel they are giving my child a bad lesson in how to be a bully boy.

Sunday, April 23, 2006


From The Sunday Times: "Mothers got wrong advice for 40 years."

Two snippets:

"BREAST-FEEDING mothers have been given potentially harmful advice on infant nutrition for the past 40 years, the World Health organization (WHO) has admitted. Charts used in Britain for decades to advise mothers on a baby's optimum size have been based on the growth rates of infants fed on formula milk. The organization now says the advice given to millions of breast-feeding mothers was distorted because babies fed on formula milk put on weight far faster."

and later:

"The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health is to meet this summer to discuss the new WHO standards. The Department of Health said: "Once WHO publishes the new growth charts we will assess the need for revisions to the UK growth charts." "

- - - - - - - -

Good grief. How slow can you go! Only this very morning, I was crowing about how good the medical establishment can be at abandoning redundant theories...I spoke too soon.

Am off to send this to sister with her "underweight" bfed beautiful children.

Thanks JFT.


Clever girl and well done Cookstein.
There are nine of them, all snug.

Seeing the Light

This lot at Hell's Leading Newspaper had the eminent good sense to object to the child beating message of the Pearls, so it doesn't come as much of a surprise to learn that they have seen the light with regard to Home Education.

Cavalor started:

"Let me make myself clear that I was dumb, bloody well ignorant of homeschooling save for the few negative reports that one would get in the MSM between the marriages and pregnancies and/ or divorces of Hollywood stars.."

and concluded:

"I agree with the homeschooling movement by people who don't want to raise their children to be doped up, bullied, disassociated automatons by the public school failed system which has been hijacked by pedophiles and fundies, or harm them by painting the world as something it is not (i.e. the property and sovereign homeland to be lorded over by a superior race to which they belong see Lamb and Lynx the Himmler twins). I merely think that it is a better way after doing the research I was converted from being a naysayer to a hopeful believer. So read some of the other stuff that Cobranchi, Lioness, and O'Donnell have to say, the stuff that let's you know that they can not only do a great job educating their kids but that they truly love them". made Daryl's day...and along with the news that what is still really my dog has fathered nine gorgeous Beanie Baby puppies, it has made mine!

Saturday, April 22, 2006

DfES Response

Have received an unsurprisingly frustrating response to this letter from Dave Fletcher at the Department for Education and Skills, (which I cannot apparently post here since it was designated confidential).

The gist: that the issue of who is actually responsible for the education of children is not one with which he is prepared to engage, though he is quite prepared to send a lot of information that has nothing to do with the questions that were asked, along with a number of pretty meaningless reassurances that LEAs and schools will not become responsible for pressurizing parents back into schools, or for judging whether a parent is fit to HE, despite the fact that this already happens on a regular basis.

Am off to send emails elsewhere.

Friday, April 21, 2006

A Glimpse of a Different Life

Must get better at rapid re-adjustments. Just spent this morning at a mini job interview, then on for a capaccino with bf and young Italian waiters, in nice clothes, with apparently very smart handbag (though goodness knows, I don't know about that - someone else had to tell me), smart, incredibly comfortable car, (with which I am very gradually becoming enamored), beautiful town on a stunning spring day, elegant people everywhere - got home and instantly had to pick raspberries out of a library book.

Ho hum.

An Army of Davids

I wonder if I can save myself the trouble of buying Glenn Reynold's new book An Army of Davids? It looks hopeful since Edspresso seems to have provided a neat summary of the contentions on matters educational in Instapundit's argument about how the little guy, empowered by technology and the market, will take on Goliath.

Think I will get it anyway. It might be cheering to be reminded that all this technology can be used for good, particularly when we've spent so much time recently worrying about the European inclination towards e-government.

And anyhow, what better re-incarnation of David can we hope to find than a home educating child?

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Conversation in Home Education

It's great to see Jan Fortune-Wood in characteristically inspiring form yet again, this time in the Life Learning Magazine on the subject of the value of conversation as part of learning and growing.

Thanks to the Thomas Institute for spotting this one.

Shooting Himself in the Foot

I missed this example of classroom incompetence the first time round, but it could be worth a second look. Actually, part of me feels it's pretty easy to make a fool of yourself in front of lots of people, (I remember my creepy art teacher missing his femoral artery by a millimeter when demonstrating how not to use a stanley knife)...but shooting yourself? That just seems to be pushing it a bit.

(Must admit to being glad my kids aren't in classes like this. )

HT: Key Words

More Implications of the Education and Inspections Bill

For an update on the issue of house arrest of children, brace yourselves and visit the ARCH blogspot.

What to do, ARCH?

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

My Socialisation Problem

Apologies for incoherent blogging of late: completely incapable of constructing a full sentence -the result, I'm afraid, of various forms of excess. Currently this takes the form of a plentiful supply of background hilarity which seems to have been going on for several days now. Children between the ages of 16 and 4 are pissing themselves laughing and playing the happiest game together.

If anyone dares to suggest that HE kids are badly socialised, I personally (as a thoroughly schooled person) would have great problems not being rather rude.

Also apropos this sort of thing, I'm worried we'll be seeing less of the schooled kids who had to leave just now since both conspicuously asked their mothers if they could be HE'd since HE kids were so much nicer.

Oyster Cards in Schools

Why not just make school a more attractive place to be? That way they wouldn't need all this expensive technology just to make sure they're getting children through the gates.

One of the worrying implications - the fact that it doesn't seem to occur to the teachers in favour of the proposal that it would be pretty straightforward for pupils to fool the system. If teachers really think the kids are not bright enough just to give their card to a pal, why aren't they wondering what on earth they are doing with their time?

On the other hand, if the card is made user-specific and with a slightly greater range, that really could spell the end of the secret liaison.

HT: Arch Blog

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Children's Index

Coming to a place near you. ARCH has the list of places where they will be piloting the Children's Index. Even sadder to say - given the spate of letters which clearly indicate that our family has already been extensively cross-referenced between various state agencies, our area is not listed.

Also at the same link, check out the frightening Common Assessment Framework.

"The CAF is an assessment tool to be used by every practitioner who is ‘concerned’ about a child...You do not have to be an expert in any particular area to do a common assessment. The only requirement is that a practitioner has attended a training course on completing the form."

It's done. There really is no corner of private life into which the state does not imagine that it has a perfect right to intrude on the flimsiest of excuses.

HT: Julie

More Blogs against Child Battery

Blogs are still being added to the Blog List against child battery. By way of an example: Talk to Action which has clearly taken up the cudgels.

Arch's Blog

People at the indispensible organisation Action for the Rights of Children (ARCH), have started a blog . Only two posts so far but it will be a regular read, I'm sure.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Long Weekend

Absolutely no hope of an internet connection over the weekend. See you late Monday. House-sitters are moving in as I write...bye!

First Draft Letter re Pupil Registration Proposals


re: The proposed new Pupil Registration Regulations.

I am writing to register my concern about the above proposal to insert a delay between parents notifying a school that they are home educating and the child's name being removed from the register. It may be of interest that I am not alone in these concerns. My anxieties below are either mirrored exactly or are very similar to the views held my a large number of home educators.

Primarily at issue for me is the de facto derogation of the duty of responsibility on the part of the parent/guardian for the provision of education for their child. Not only should this duty be considered a natural one, but it is also designated as such in Section 7 of the 1996 Education Act. A delay in deregistration of a child from school effectively rescinds that duty since it removes the power of parental determination in the matter of their child's education.

So whilst such a proposal may, on the surface, appear trivial, I believe that it does in fact have significant symbolic implications. Our children would clearly become the responsibility and the property of the state.

Further and very unfortunately, I believe these proposed changes will not only impact symbolically. Despite assurances to the contrary, received via communications from home education support charity Education Otherwise, that the DfES holds that local authorities have no duty or right to prejudge whether the parent will provide a suitable education, we are very aware that even under the current circumstances of immediate de-registration upon demand, there is frequent abuse of power by schools and LEAs. Pressure is often applied to get parents to return their child to school or to conform to strict curricula demands. LEAs run checks on parents and send out Education Welfare Officers almost immediately to families who may have already suffered extensively at the hands of an insensitive system. Children may, for example, have been appallingly bullied. These families do not need further bullying intervention by the authorities.

How much worse will this situation become when there is apparent leeway for the authorities to behave in such ways?

Home education is equal in statute with education in school. This fact must remain abundantly clear in law, particularly given that it is already so regularly abused. That a delay in deregistration from school is being proposed when a delay is not seen as necessary in the case of a transfer to another school suggests that the government is not acting in good faith when it professes to take home education seriously.

Yours sincerely,

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

Anyone out there with the necessary energy, do let me know what you think and do use, copy, alter as you see fit!

Update: Slightly improved version sent to: and

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Teacher Unhappiness

From the Beeb: a survey by a teachers' union showed that two-thirds of their members have seriously contemplated leaving the profession and one third have suffered mental health problems; the reason: disruptive pupils - all of which suggests that there is something rather wrong with the institution.

Thanks Stella for tracing the article.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Can't Question this Meme of Mine!

Researchers at Harvard have found that leaving babies to cry it out can have long-term damaging effects.

Of course this is all speculative, but I find it desperately hard not to believe this research with every fibre of my body.

HT: Clare at Playing it by Ear

De-Registration Furore

Anxiety remains high in UK home education communities over the issue of changes to de-registration from school. At issue: the proposed minimum two day delay in deregistration whilst the school informs the Local Education Authority of the dereg. This has been proclaimed by the DfES a cure to the alleged problem of parents withdrawing their children from school over-hastily, and will also give the LEA the opportunity to put pressure on schools not to de-reg failing or troublesome pupils.

There is much scepticism in the HE community about the reality of over-hasty school withdrawal. There certainly aren't many examples of families to be found back at the school gates the next day begging to be let in. Even in situations where families find themselves home educating reluctantly due to the failure of schools to address their needs, these families are rarely to be found asking schools who have already caused them to take drastic reluctant action, to take their children back.

From our side, it looks as if the two day delay is proposed so as provide sufficient opportunity for LEAs to put pressure on parents to return their children to school, and/or for LEAs to run a quick suitability check on families.

Of course the proposals implicitly dramatically infantilise the population - "Oooh poor little poppets, they don't know their own minds" sort of thing. The risk the ptb run with treating people like this is that people may well start to live up to their perception. I wouldn't be above suggesting to the DfES that this proposal will result in an increase in parents casually whipping their kids out of school for a couple of days here and there.

But the main point is that the law should, instead, clearly reflect what should be reality: that it is parents who are responsible for their children and this includes being responsible for their education. This proposed change in de-registration from schools alters this presumption of responsibility, firmly placing control of the life of a child within the remit of the education authorities.

Pragmatists at Education Otherwise report that it looks bad in terms of changing the minds of the ptb at the DfES. When last we heard, the DfES had received some 180 positive responses from LEAs and schools. We must get letter writing, I think. I feel a letter to Jacqui Smith (Schools Minister) coming on.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Solution to Carnival?

ATTENTION all those who prefer not to link to Homeschool Blogger (see logo in side bar for information) but who love the Carnival of Homeschooling: this week's Carnival is currently being hosted by a Homeschoolblog, which seems sad as there are usually some non-HSB gems in there.

But great news: Becky has come to the rescue at The Farm School, all links being HSB-free.

In order to resolve the Carnival/HSB dilemma in the future, Becky and Doc have come up with a great idea. They propose an alternative carnival each week, allowing the non-HSB contributors to decide whether they want to mirror their posts to both sites, or simply to avoid posting with HSB blogs and that also will mean that readers don't risk linking to HSB sites when they don't want to.

Do let us know if you think this a good idea, either from the contributors point of view, or from the readers, or both!

Please see Becky's comment below where she notes that the problem with the above may be that a divided carnival will come to be seen as a split down religious lines, which would be a shame as well as being unnecessary, given that the main point is that, whatever our stance on religious issues, we collectively oppose the beating of children. She, Doc and Chris O'D suggest that non-HSB bloggers all save up and write a great post for the next non-HSB carnival. I think they make a good point.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Unschoolers Tell their Literacy Stories

Just had a smile, a laugh and a cathartic cry over the stories here: stories of how children came to be reading in their own good time ie: proper personalised learning, appropriate for their age, ability and aptitude.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Why Boycott HSB?

Why boycott Homeschoolblogger? Answer: It is run by Gena and Paul Suarez who are more than happy to share platforms with, carry advertising for and defend Michael and Debi Pearl who make a substantial amount of money selling books that have the following to say on the raising of 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."

No Excuse not to Leave HSB

Ron and Andrea's HomeSchool Journal is up and ready...a free space and blog software for all home educators, ready and waiting for all those who prefer not to be associated with people who promote beating children with plumbing lines.

Also looks good!

Friday, April 07, 2006

Pre-Schoolers as Scientists

Future Pundit has a post on preschoolers being naturally inclined to think like scientists. In my mini experiment, this turns out to be the case, since it is now quite clear that it was only me who thought that Dd briefly thought that the TV was actually interacting with her. How traduced she feels. I am sorry.

So anyway, for whatever reason, pre-schoolers look spontaneously for good explanations of cause and effect. Guess that'll be why many creationist child beaters don't want their kids carrying on like that then.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Deconstructing Rubbish

At least three times today, Ds, (in helping DD with her workbook...which she volunteers to do) answered a workbook question in a way that was correct, either in his subjective assessment (which could perfectly well have been demanded by the question as it was phrased) or even in the larger scale of things, but that would have got him marked down as wrong in a schooled context because the answer he gave was not that which had been implicitly delineated by the question.

eg, the workbook required the answer "YES" so that this could be inserted into a crossword space, to the question "Are clowns funny?"

Ds replied "no" correctly, iho and I would say broadly speaking, correctly.

What are we doing here then?

In school: We are telling them to look to play by the rules inherent in the question so that they get the right answer irrespective of the truth of the matter.

In free-form HE: Well, we try:...Ok, that is your opinion which there is little reason to doubt, but there may be another way of looking at the question, say as being a matter of whether everyone finds clowns funny, so you could eg: take a percentage vote, and since there are more adults in the world than there are young children, the latter being the only section of the population who ever actually think clowns are funny, then again you are again right... or some thing similar...

ie: we tell them to test their theories against the data!

We also tell them that questions such as these may not necessarily be about truth seeking, but may be about constraining you to find the right answer, in this case, so as to show the assessor that you have knowledge of a certain set of untested assumptions and that you know how to write down the word YES. Be alert for this kind of debasement of the meaning of words, because if you ever go into the schooling system, this is will happen to you there, though it is unlikely to happen many other places outside of school.

Also, do turn it off after you get out the school gates....otherwise you may well find yourself doing things like going about signing petitions that mean you lose your vote.

End Women's Suffrage

What does this say about schooling?

As lol HT Harry says: "If Lincoln were alive today, he would be spinning in his grave".

How Blog-Obsessed Are You?

25 %

My weblog owns 25 % of me.
Does your weblog own you?
Phew, that's just about alright then!

More on Child Battery as Recommended by the Pearls

For anyone not perversely interested in what it feels like to be whacked with a bit of plumbing line, go visit Let's be Honest Here, where Onorach describes her experiment.

HT: Audrey

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Empirical Tests

Coincidentally both Dd and I have undergone experiences in the last 24 hours which have had the effect of making us strongly question our grip on reality.

As a rule I have often contended, since it is usually demonstrably the case, that children, even from a very young age, can tell the difference between constructs on the screen and the reality outside of this. OK, there may be a few temporary glitches along the way which often take the form of empirical tests, - in themselves implying an often well-founded doubt as to the reality of a screen representation. So it is indeed the case that many families will have to undergo some kind of equivalent of "Trial by Buzz Lightyear" when a Woolworth-uniformed child with meticulously constructed Buzz Lightyear wings will launch themselves hopefully off some bank.

Understandably this phase passes fairly quickly. Perhaps it passed too quickly for Dd, in effect allowing her to forget it, for yesterday evening, admittedly when we were all rather tired, Dd experienced a complete reversal of her assumptions as to the removed nature of TV representions. It so happened that kids were milling around in front of the TV when an HE dad of our acquaintance popped up on the screen right in front of Dd's eyeline and apparently, as far as she was concerned, started talking to her. She was actually good enough to answer him politely to the effect that she didn't understand what on earth he was talking about. Hmmm.

So anyway, with my assumptions already shaken as to children's assumptions, this morning I received in the post the most apposite present I could possibly imagine. It comes from someone, admittedly very dearly-beloved, but well you know how it is with families these days, someone who effectively lives on the other side of the continent, and to whom I haven't spoken for more than a few seconds in the past year. It is a book, more of which later, but the peculiar thing is, as I have said, this book really couldn't have been more appropriate.

You may be thinking, "oh come on, easy explanation....they read your blog, they know your obsessions", but I honestly don't think that is the case, for I know them, I know they would have revealed themselves before now! So for the moment I am working on the assumption, until otherwise disproved, that telepathy exists and that it is indeed the case that people can communicate interactively via the ether and therefore quite possibly through TV programmes.

Should I be homeschooling?

14th Carnival of Unschooling

The 14th Carnival of Homeschooling is up at Henry Cate's place. Regular read, Becky at the Farm School, has a piece on textbooks. The argument applies as much here as it does in Canada.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

April 30th No Spanking Day

International Spank Out Day for April 30th sounds like a good idea. The logo won't download onto my blogger atm, but you'll get the drift anyway.

Monday, April 03, 2006

The Value of Knowing How to Learn

It's actually not so bad having succumbed yet again to something the children have passed on. That should make nearly the full pack when I recover from this, since all of us will then have had both the influenza B and the norovirus. Oooh lovely. On the bright side Dh has taken over today which has meant that I have ended up blogging furiously, if with a severely muzzy brain.

Even given this, am pretty sure that this article on the value of learning how to think and on co-operative rather than competitive behaviour is of interest.

I often worry that HE kids aren't competitive enough, but I think I am right in remembering that Dawkins in "The Selfish Gene" used game theory to show that animals survived better with a degree of altruistic behaviour??

Fluffy Doggy Story

re: Fluffy Doggy Story...we really are hoping for one very soon. A dog that is at least emotionally ours, (and indeed was ours briefly) looks to be due to become a father very shortly.

This 'ownership of animals thing' is all rather an emotive issue actually. I have always regarded animals who were even only briefly in my care, as entirely mine forever. The only rift I have ever had with my sister occurred when one of us moved out of Bayswater, and we couldn't actually split that particular dog in two. Sister won insofar as she got away with the dog, and in a way that I could never explain, but secretly I knew that dog was always really mine.

And it has happened all over again. A neighbouring bf and I have now effectively exchanged dogs. Friend seems, on the surface at least, to have gracefully conceded ownership of this sweet-tempered mouse tormenter/killer, unlike myself, who regularly reasserts my obvious ownership of her smiley athlete of a dog. (It really does actually smile.)

So what will I make of his puppies, I wonder?

Also my horses are going. Actually they are not my horses at all, though they actually really are and no-one else acknowledges this fact. They have found pastures new and are off in a few months time. Dd will also be devastated. It rather looks as if she may have inherited my problem.

Our Road to Unschooling

On the subject of unschooling/autonomous education, Ron at Atypical Homeschool has posed this question:

Unschooling my child(ren) has enabled me to see ________

which actually is more of a poser than I first thought, since I'm finding it rather difficult to recall which came first, the actual unschooling, or the knowledge about it. Certainly a key moment on the road to understanding the theory of autonomous learning came in a sort of Eureka moment in the bath. I did, as it happens leap out, though I managed (just) to resist the urge to run off down the road.

It was an extraordinary moment. I had been resisting the TCS formulation that coerced learning involves being forced to enact a theory that is not active in the mind. I had spent several months thinking about it, whilst occasionally pressurizing a very young and hugely resistant son to do workbooks and the like. Suddenly the absolute transparency, honesty and rightness of the definition of coercion hit me fair and square between the eyes and a whole raft of other connected ideas suddenly spread out from this one central idea. It was as close to a Damascene moment that an atheist can expect to go, and it has changed our lives, probably forever.

Since then, it has become abundantly clear that it is easy to fail in this effort to be non-coercive and to facilitate the learning process. We fail, but we fail much less because we know what we are doing and are continuously getting better and better at finding creative solutions and common preferences. Even in the failure, we are clear that we have failed and can say sorry and strive to do better, and in the times we succeed, it is obvious that the children thrive and learn.

I have learned how much fun it can be.

I have learned (even with only two children) how vastly different humans are in terms of learning style and that a one-sized education cannot possibly hope to fit all.

I have learned that structure can be compatible with autonomous learning, just as much as can an apparently completely unstructured form of learning.

I have seen children gather valuable information from the most apparently unlikely sources - Yu-gi-Oh cards, Ratchet and Clank, War Hammer, Angelina Ballerina, Lego City....

I have learnt the value of tentative theories, truth-seeking, exposing one's ideas to criticism, the value of explanation, the value of creativity and of critical rationalism.

I have learnt about tackling entrenched theories in as proportionate manner as possible: OK, so here we are talking about taking Dh down the same journey towards autonomous education! He is now as clear on the efficacy of autonomous learning as any hard-bitten, intuitively unschooling parent, though he would admit, this journey was a long one for him.

We have had the opportunity to meet some awesome people along the way, some of whom would never accept the wider theories of TCS (basically Popperian, and an adapted from of libertarianism), but who nonetheless strive to be non-coercive towards their kids.

And I have witnessed the force of the truth behind the TCS theory of autonomous education.

I have learned so much on this journey and am so grateful for the help that has been given to me along the way.


Wikipedia gets unschooling just about right, I would say, though many home educators in the UK call a similar sort of thing "autonomous education", probably so as to define more precisely exactly what it is we do and so as not to see it as if in reaction to something else.

There is a key insight that informs the whole thing for me - one that is derived from Taking Children Seriously. It is that people think less clearly about something when they are not fully engaged with the idea. This is actually a debasement and paraphrase of the TCS expression, the full idea being being couched as a definition of coercion, ie: that coercion may be defined as being forced to enact a theory that is not active in the mind, which reduces the possiblity of rationality and creativity.

I have wrestled lengthily with this idea. Is it just a logical but meaningless formulation? Could it be the case that, (as an Etonian beak once memorably put it,) coercion means that you won't consciously remember most of what you are forcibly taught in schools, but somewhere at the back of your mind you will retain a bundle of stuff that will actually serve you well, with the resulting implication that coerced learning is therefore a genuinely worthwhile activity?

The only way I feel I have confidence in the TCS assertion is to put it to the test of my own personal experience. Yes there is stuff that is in there that sneaked in round the back. eg: I learnt Latin for some seven years or so, and recently struggled on page 4 of Ecce Romane Book One. But all that forced learning has left me with at least some ability to deconstruct words, and to recall vaguely the etymological roots of some of the English language. I also probably have at least a loose grasp of basic grammar to show for all that very painful lack of effort, and on the evidence so far, an extraordinarily meaningless A grade O level.

But the learning that matters, that resonates, that genuinely gives space for thought and creativity, for excitement and development has been when the mind is allowed to be freely engaged. So I'd say unschoolers, TCSers and Albert Einstein were right in this regard;

"Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom." Albert Einstein, 'Out of My Later Years,' 1950

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Home Educators at Risk of Arrest

Whoa, am I slow to catch on! So I had heard about the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act, 2005, but I had failed to register exactly what this could mean for Home Educators. This Act made significant changes to police powers of arrest - OK, it was over a year ago but it is only now sinking in; the power of denial, perhaps? Anyway, from link above:

"The term 'arrestable offence' ceased to have effect as, bar a few preserved exemptions, one power of arrest now applies to all offences. Where the threshold of an arrestable offence was previously used to enable specific powers of search or powers to delay certain entitlements, these powers are preserved, but the threshold is changed to that of an indictable offence."

A lawyer specialising in HE law advices that it is therefore legally possible for an officer who suspects that we might be committing the offence of not securing the attendance of our children in school, to arrest us, though in salutary fashion, he adds that it is probable that the police would be reluctant to use their powers in this way, as long as we stay nice and polite.

However, part of dealing easily with truancy patrols without feeling that the privacy of the family had been violated, was the general consensus in HE circles that you did not need to provide personal details to the police. This however, could now unequivocally lead to problems:

"For police officers, one or more of the following criteria now have to be fulfilled before an arrest can be made:
*To enable the name of the person in question to be ascertained (in the case where the constable does not know, and cannot readily ascertain, the person's name, or has reasonable grounds for doubting whether a name given by the person as his name is his real name)
*As reason 1 but in respect of the person's address".

Doesn't look good, really. Am off with the kids to go hide in the woods.

Ah it seems not so slow to catch on, afterall. The Act actually only came into effect from Jan 2006, so it's effects are likely to only be felt from now on! Seems our lunch with the police (see comments below) may not have been a reliable indicator of how things will go...?

Fluffy doggie story to follow!

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Freedom in Home Education

A part-time US home educated 14 year old artist gets her own show. Apparently she's good, but this is the bit that caught my eye:

"Her father, Roger Crowley, is a Tibetan Buddhist and an Amtrak porter. Her mother is a spiritual healer and therapist. Does Crowley share her parents' religious beliefs?

"No," she said. "I'm not interested in spirituality."

Crowley's parents aren't raising followers. Independence is what they value, and that's what Crowley gives them."

HT: Daryl.