Sunday, December 30, 2007

Unschooling Theory

In case you missed it in his links, there is a beautifully succinct description of unschooling by the David Friedman, who I am pretty sure is the author of Machinery of Freedom and son of Milton.

He explains it all, bar the bit about why the brain works best when it is not subject to coercion. (Lest we forget: that the mind of the learner must act first in every act of learning and that all successful learning is therefore autonomous. That coercion may be defined as being forced to enact a theory that is not active in the mind, and that this reduces the capacity for creativity, criticism and rationality. )

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Tim and David on Homeschooling

These would be big-time blogger Tim Worstall and libertarian homeschooling virtuoso David Friedman. Comments to both posts are revealing on the subject of how home education is viewed by the wider world.

Friday, December 28, 2007

"Talented Youngster"

Way to go, Thomas!

If You Home Educate and Live in Bromley....

...get out fast, for otherwise you will find that your family is no longer your responsibility.

From the woeful misreading of current legislation that is the Bromley Safeguarding Children Board Guidance on Home Education...(check out the bit in red for the quite extraordinary appropriation of parental duties by the state):

"Safeguarding Issues:

....Being out of school means the child does not have the routine monitoring of their welfare and day to day contact with a range of professionals that is afforded to children at school. This will require all agencies in contact with home educated children to ensure that the child’s welfare is being promoted.

Safeguarding Children in Education (DfES 2004) states:

“responsibility for children who are educated at home by their parents are not solely education issues. These matters are best dealt with by a multi agency approach and should be addressed in locally agreed procedures in accordance with the principles set out in ‘Working Together’ and the Assessment Framework.”

The ‘Every Child Matters’ 2004 framework sets out the criteria by which all children’s well being should be measured. That is that they should be healthy, stay safe, enjoy and achieve, make a positive contribution and, in due course, experience economic well being. Attendance at school plays an important part, not just in ensuring that a child achieves academically, but it also providing routine health surveillance and opportunities for social interaction that promote greater awareness of safety issues and wider contribution to the community. It is therefore implicit that, as well as ensuring a child receiving home education is meeting the needs of the education curriculum, the local authority should ensure that outcomes for home educated children in all dimensions of the Every Child Matters agenda are promoted.

To this end Bromley Safeguarding Children Board requires agencies within Bromley to ensure they promote the well being of home educated children in all aspects of their development.

Process within Bromley: (from October 2006)

When a parent elects to home educate the relevant school will pass details of the child to the Education Welfare Service, who will complete a Common Assessment Framework checklist within 10 days. If the checklist indicates immediate concerns the EWS will either undertake a CAF or refer the case to Social Care, if the case meets Social Care referral thresholds. If the CAF checklist does not indicate any immediate concerns for the child then the EWS will complete a CAF within 6 weeks. Completing the CAF will allow the EWS team to ensure that those aspects of a child’s life outside of education that would normally be promoted through school are being addressed. If, after the completion of the CAF it is clear that all of the home educated child’s needs are being met then the EWS Team will undertake the continued monitoring of the educational arrangements for the child. The EWS Team will request that monitoring of the child’s education takes place within the family home and that the child is part of the discussions around their education. This will enable the team to ensure that the Every Child Matters 5 outcomes are being met.

If the initial CAF assessment raises concerns about how some aspects of the child’s care might be met or there is knowledge of past or current concerns in relation to a child whose parents have elected to home educate, then the EWS assessor will convene a CAF meeting (advice/assistance can be accessed from the CAF Team) to plan how best the needs of the child can be addressed in line with section 17 of the Children Act 1989. This puts a duty on Local Authorities to safeguard and promote the welfare of children within their area who are in need and to provide a range and level of services appropriate to those children’s needs. This may include requesting that Children's Social Care undertaking an initial assessment, under the ‘Framework for the Assessment of children in Need’.

Where there are previous or current concerns regarding the child but the parents do not co-operate with an assessment under the Common Assessment Framework or an initial assessment by Children’s Social Care then it will be deemed that the parent is not behaving as a reasonable parent and Children’s Social Care will consider whether the threshold for convening a child protection conference has been reached.

Where any agency comes into contact with a child being educated at home and has concerns for their welfare then they should follow the procedure outlined in What To Do If You’re Worried A Child Is Being Abused – HM Government 2003 and refer to an appropriate agency.

September 2006.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Jesus was Home Educated

The lead article in the Christmas edition of the Spectator continues in the time-honored tradition of deriving pretty much any lesson you care to think of from the gospels.

"The awesome mystery of Christmas is contained in the dual nature of the infant Jesus: the knowledge of His almighty power, juxtaposed with the spectacle of His absolute vulnerability in the crib..." blah.

However, in order to avoid being too Scrooge-like about the spirit of Christmas, I thought I might join in. According to this site, Jesus was probably home educated.

"Supposedly, universal education for Jewish boys from age six wasn't initiated until 63AD, by Joshua ben Gimla. So Jesus's early education was probably mostly in the hands of his father, and the other men of the village."

OK, you wouldn't want for your child to end up the way He did, but He didn't do so badly along the way. From the pulpit therefore: emulate the holy family. Home educate your child.

The Spectator leader does pull itself together however. They write that in response to the Unicef report that British children are having the worst time of all children in the developed world, the government has launched the ten-year Children's Plan:

"...when such policies are announced, it is wise to step back and ask who is truly responsible for the welfare of children - and to remember the sage warning of Sir Keith Joseph that 'the very first words that a British baby is apt to be taught to utter are that "the government should do something about it" ' "

"...better child-care is hailed as the answer to everything. ...The government wants all primary schools to provide facilities between 8 am and 6 pm. Thus will these public institutions of learning become a network of glorified creches. "

"Of course, for those who have to work to make ends meet, child-care provision is essential. But is should be treated as a second-best necessity rather than a cause of celebration. There is a growing body of research that demonstrates the adverse consequences for children - emotional and educational - who spend too many hours a week away from their parents and their home. The pioneer in this field is the controversial Professor Jay Belsky of Birkbeck College, London. But more familiar experts, such as Dr Penelope Leach are reaching similar conclusions. Their findings do not sit easily with modern liberal values. But parenthood is not designed to suit the lifestyle preferences of the adult. It is a sacred, lifelong obligation, as well as an unparalleled blessing."

Amen to that!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

How Children Learn

This one is now on my wish list.

With yet more completely autonomously educated teens slotting easily into their desired life choices, and in fact many of them doing high level academic courses without any previous attempt at even structured, let alone coerced learning, it should remain only a matter of time before books such as the above become the mainstream.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Lone Parents and Home Education

From page 113 of the Department for Work and Pensions' Ready for Work document:

"It was strongly felt that increased conditionality was not appropriate for...parents who choose to home educate".

This from the section on the consultation responses to the new welfare reform proposals whereby lone parents who can work will be required to actively seek work once their youngest child is 12 or over from October 2008, 10 or over from 2009 or 7 or over from October 2010.

However, as far as we can see, there is no news on whether the government will take this part of the response to their consultation seriously.


Friday, December 14, 2007

Education Everywhere the great title for a new telephone helpline service which is staffed by experienced home educators who can offer advice on all matters to do with educating everywhere.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Some Psychiatrists on School Refusal

From the Royal College of Psychiatrists "fact sheet": Mental Health and Growing Up, Third Edition. Children who do not go to school :

"You and your child's teachers should encourage your child to go back to school as quickly as possible. Keeping your child off school will make the problem worse. "

No, you are wrong or not by any means always right. Please don't pretend this is a fact sheet.

"If you sort out any underlying problems, like bullying or school work, many of the symptoms will improve."

And if you don't sort it out? Er, not sure. It seems, for wont of any other apparent solution, that children still do have to go back to school. Right, but let's not forget that there are a substantial number of child suicides every year that are specifically related to school problems. Is that not on your conscience, oh you royal grandees?

And just in case anyone is still tempted to think that this is likely to be the child's fault and not the school's, you don't have to go far to find people who were miserable, just miserable to the point of being suicidal in schools, and yet who have not had problems in the rest of their lives.

What is the matter with these eminences who pretend to so much knowledge? Why are children the only class of humans in this country, apart from prisoners, who are apparently compelled to spend huge amount of their time in a particular place that is not of their choosing? Why is being imprisoned in a place you hate, good training for the rest of your life? Why is leaving school and seeking an education elsewhere not evidence of perfectly adaptive and creative problem solving?

Get with it, the RCP.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

ContactPoint Updates

Writer Dave Hill has set up a Facebook Group entitled "Dump ContactPoint (The "Children's Index" Database) with plenty of links to good articles. Spread the word among your Facebook friends.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Seven Things About Me

I was recently tagged by the Clues Academy with the "Seven Facts You Don't Already Know about Me" meme. This was a good thing in some ways. It was particularly good to hear that there are other atheist libertarians out there and that some of them are out and proud. May this particular meme continue to grow!

It wasn't such a good thing in that with a little introspection, I realised that regular readers of this blog would already know about the bits I regard as interesting and open to the public, that the really juicy bits would have to remain a matter for pillow talk only and that the rest was too boring to blog.

However, in the hope that there is just a little bit of slack in the above, here goes:

Seven facts that you may not already know about me:

1. My book of the year, without a doubt, is Richard Dawkins' God Delusion, the essence of which is conveyed very effectively in this TED Talk. Both of these give me the kick I need to stop faffing around and declare my atheism with pride. As with all good ideas that I truly treasure, the theories in the "God Delusion" carry explanatory force. They are not contradictory. They match the evidence. They fit with other good explanations and in Dawkins' scheme of things, you don't even have to declare the infallibility of your atheism in order to call yourself an atheist. So phew - atheism can be said to be compatible with the acknowledgment of the tentative nature of knowledge!

There are only two slightly substandard sentences and a couple of dodgy sentiments in this book, and you only notice them as the rest of it is so peerlessly written and so powerfully argued.

2. My moment of the year: attending the birth of someone so precious to me. Seeing her strength. Feeling so good that I didn't get to hold baby for about 12 hours, cos mum didn't see the need to let go of her. Seeing all the skills of proper parenting coming back home to rest. Realising that my own parenting skills are now good and proper in many regards. Feeling proud that we have, with the help of so many people and organisations, learned these skills.

3. Another huge moment: the birth of another miracle baby: a child born against so many odds it is even now, two months later, hard to believe she actually made it here. A beautiful soul who babbles away with amazing virtuosity.

4. I've spent a significant amount of this year being blown away by the things DH gets up to. Walking into a room where he had been working, and thinking "how on earth did you manage that!" Being so perennially grateful that he has such pronounced skills in so many areas where I have none at all, not least in being a huge risk taker. Bother, have just bitten a nail.

5. Our TV programme of the year? Scrubs. It is a huge common preference in our household. I think the children started to watch it since it works on so many levels. They started out enjoying the physical comedy, but they quickly started to derive a huge amount from the more complex parts, such as the insights into human nature and the frequent perfection of the plotting. You forgive the lapses into sentimentality, cos the characters are believably sentimental. Humans are, I guess - witness the two dodgy sentences in the "God Delusion" and of course there's this post...yup, I shan't forget walking on on Dd whilst she was practicing her dancing in front of the computer, courtesy of a master of fun dance, Dr Turkleton himself.

6. Talking of spilling effortlessly into the sentimental, I shall also never forget hearing Ds patiently and good humouredly repeating the phrase "splendid old chap", even if his version didn't exactly carry the precise timbre that could have been expected by his American interlocutors. I shall also not forget hearing him explaining for the umpteenth time that quite a few Brits, himself included, actually have very good, clean, straight teeth. Funnily enough, I think his education so international that I am surprised that people realise he is English at all.

On a related point, he talks and types and completes seemingly impossible tasks so quickly, that I wonder what education in the information age is doing to his mind.

7. I haven't done a sudoku puzzle in a month, though I still wake up in the middle of the night to do a Kakuro puzzle. I don't know which comes first. The insomnia or the Kakuro.

Ignoring the rules of the meme...tag yourself if you want to!

Friday, December 07, 2007

Calls for the Scrapping of ContactPoint

...are growing louder by the day. Liberty and an alliance of independent school heads are now in on the job.

If you haven't done so already, the petition against the establishment of the database could do with your signature. Blogdial explains strongly and succinctly why you should sign.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Abusive State

As previously noted, one of the most worrying areas of concern in the new Elective Home Education Guidelines is that they fail to make it sufficiently clear that there must be a good reason to suspect a significant degree of harm or risk of harm to a child before social workers have a right (and a duty) to come knocking on people's doors.

The argument from the DCSF seems to be that because home educated children are not necessarily seen regularly by statutory services, that they are therefore necessarily at risk. Indeed this is precisely the argument that a LA seem to have used very recently when they demanded to see a home educating family not very far away from us. There was no reason to suspect that this home educating family were at risk other than that they hadn't been seen by any statutory services recently. The social workers came a-visiting, but left agreeing that there was no case to pursue. Sadly this satisfactory outcome was only achieved after the family had had to deal with the stress of the intrusion, make arrangements for a Home Educating advocate to attend the meeting, make a sound case for themselves, ask whether it was strictly necessary for the social workers to go digging in their children's medical records and resist the calls for them to undertake a Common Assessment.

Is this the future for home educating families everywhere in England? It would seem a little unfair when you consider that the only statutory service that school children necessarily come across is their school. The idea here is presumably that teachers will reliably be able to spot abuse. Yet we hear from a survey conducted by CBBC's Newsround that:

"In a crisis, 76% would turn first to their mother for help, 11% would choose their father and 2% would go to a teacher".

Perhaps social work departments shouldn't just be picking on HE families. Perhaps they should go knocking on the doors of every family in England.

Conversely, it would be interesting to know if the aforementioned HE family has grounds for complaint, either directly via the local authority complaints procedure, or via the Local Government Ombudsman.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

City Councils Still Wanting to Act as Parents

In an otherwise inspiring article about home education in The Western Daily Press, we sadly find Bristol City Council still wittering on:

"The Department for Education and Skills has been discussing how to regulate home education with several groups representing home educators and with local authorities. Bristol City Council welcomed the idea of more guidelines to protect children who are educated at home. A spokesman said: "Parents who educate their children at home are subject to almost no regulations."The council welcomes any new measures which work in the interest of Bristol children."

Oh for goodness sake, catch up, Bristol CC. Firstly, it is not the DfES anymore. It has been renamed the Department for Children, Schools and Families since 28th June 2007.

Secondly, most home education groups have been discussing why regulation of home educators is damaging rather than how to regulate us.

Thirdly, the new guidelines are out. Your article was already a day late because it would otherwise be clear to you that guidelines haven't changed anything by way of enabling the "state to protect children from their parents. "

Fourthly, guidelines cannot change the law and the law of the land is clear: education is the responsibility of the parent, protecting a child from harm is the responsibility of the parent, and social workers don't have a right to doorstep us unless there is reasonable cause to suspect a significant degree of harm or risk of harm to the child. The state cannot and should not try to act in loco parentis, for it will be screwed in so many ways if it does. This on top of doing endless damage to families.

Fifthly, (does anyone else do lists when cross?), the new guidelines make it quite clear that the government think that the current level of legislation surrounding this area is perfectly adequate to the task of protecting children.

Sixthly, I personally have already felt that worrying a little less about what LAs may get up to has made a significant difference for the better in our home education experience.

ie: it would be nice if the LAs would stop moaning, realise the limits of their responsibilities, that they don't have certain duties and that they are therefore not going to be held liable. They could also realise that their jobs are at times necessarily difficult, and that they should just got on with it, for in doing so, they would make life significantly better for large numbers of families.