Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Home Educator's Perspective

From the Children's Commissioner's new website:

"The Children’s Commissioner for England , Sir Al Aynsley-Green, has launched a new interactive website to gather the views and opinions of children and young people. The views posted on the new site will shape the priorities for 11 MILLION, and help the organisation to influence government decisions about children and young people’s lives. "

It might be very useful to offer up the often creative and unusual perspectives views of HEks since they've bought the T-shirts, been there, done that and know that the alternatives can work. Anyone under 18 can have their say. The section entitled Learning and Play might be particularly relevant. Questions like "how would you improve schools" are for the taking. (Our household produced a number of answers to this which ranged from the "make them voluntary" and "turn them into resource centres where people of all ages can pursue their interests and learn what they need to learn," to the" shut 'em down now" variety).

HT: JB. Thanks!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

More on Taking It at the Child's Pace

...this time from the Telegraph

"Like world peace, "early education" sounds like a no-brainer - how can anyone quibble with getting children off to a flying start? The problem is that academic hothousing is subject to the law of diminishing returns.

True, it can sometimes yield the sort of results that make teachers gawp and parents crow: but what about the longer term? Does all that early learning pay off later?

No. The latest research suggests that reaching learning milestones early is no guarantee of future academic stardom.

One study in Philadelphia found that, by the age of seven or eight, there was no discernible gap between the performance of children who spent their pre-school years in nurseries that were rigidly academic and those who came from laid-back, play-based ones. The only difference was that the hothoused kids tended to be more anxious and less creative."


"The argument that more testing and toil is the best way to shape them for life in the 21st century is starting to fray at the edges. A report by King's College London suggests that the cognitive development of British children is slowed by spending too little time messing around outdoors.

"By stressing only the basics - reading and writing - and testing like crazy you reduce the level of cognitive stimulation," says Philip Adey, professor of education at King's College. "Children have the facts but they are not thinking very well."

There's lots more of interest in the article - the problems with putting a child on a pedestal, for example.

Now all we would need is for the author to apply his theories to older children, using home educated kids as his control group!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Early Reading is Not Necesssary

...and could be damaging. So says Dr Katz in an article from the Beeb that I must have missed at the time. We have seen the evidence for Dr Katz's case many times over in the home education community. Late readers = competent, motivated readers.

The problem for most parents: what choice do they actually have if they don't either home educate or send their child to a Steiner school, the second option being potentially problematic in that Steiner teachers insist that a child shouldn't read before the age of 7. Some children want to.

Yep, the only real options lie with home education.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Achievement Gaps

Brian Micklethwait raised the following point with regard to the research from the Fraser Institute.

"The usual assumption, which I have tended to some extent to accept (in the absence of knowing any evidence about it), is that home-schooling is fine when done by well-educated parents, but perhaps rather less fine when done by less well-educated parents. But now read this, from the Fraser Institute:

TORONTO, ON—Home schooling appears to improve the academic performance of children from families with low levels of education, according to a report on home schooling released today by independent research organization The Fraser Institute.

The evidence is particularly interesting for students who traditionally fall through the cracks in the public system,” said Claudia Hepburn, co-author of Home Schooling: From the Extreme to the Mainstream, 2nd edition and Director of Education Policy with The Fraser Institute.

“Poorly educated parents who choose to teach their children at home produce better academic results for their children than public schools do. One study we reviewed found that students taught at home by mothers who never finished high school scored a full 55 percentage points higher than public school students from families with comparable education levels.”

Brian assumed that we in the HE community would know this already, and yes, this phenomenon has been something of which we have been aware certainly since Paula Rothermel pointed it out in her research on HE families in the UK back in 1999. Paula's main explanation for this seems to be that the less well-educated parents are very aware of their short-comings and go to great lengths to compensate for this. I have indeed seen this dynamic at work, but, as Dr Rothermel was well aware, there could be plenty of other things going on too.

For example, she suggests that the happy home and the absence of pressure from schooling contributes to improved academic performance, which is almost certainly the case, but I would also hazard that one of the main reasons for this result stems from the fact that home educators, whatever their level of education, are largely a self-selecting group of mostly thoughtful, creative people. They have guts and nous and their children are likely to inherit those characteristics one way or another. The results of self-selecting for such individuals is likely to look good.

Then again, it is also the case that most HE parents are just so heavily involved, either in the direct teaching of the child, (the more transmissive model of learning) or in being available to help the child to learn whatever they want to learn (the facilitative model of education).

Actually, I only became acutely aware of the constantly high degree of sense of responsibility and need for involvement in the education of one's children recently when for the first time in six years that I spent a couple of days without either of my kids and I found that the pressure that I assumed was a normal part of life simply lifted. Yep, it was a nice holiday, but the thing is, isn't this level of responsibility really what parenting is meant to be about? Schooling parents can absolve themselves of this sense of duty to their children for at least part of every school day. Perhaps at least some of them forget to pick up the mantle again when the children come home and perhaps this could account for the differences in achievement between HEKs and schooled children.

Then again, it could come back to numbers: all that one-to-one stuff. Or it could come down to the fact that even if you use a transmissive model of education, HEors are far more likely to pursue the child's interests, which means you are likely to get far further far quicker.

Quite probably, it is all these reasons and/or others. Either way HE looks good!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Eeek...A Peculiar Experience

...a night on my own...well, just me and the animals. First night like this for over six years, I think.

Now, where's that chocolate stash...

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

School Refusal and Emotional Well Being

For any family struggling with school refusal, Mike Fortune Wood's book on the subject could well be a godsend. In Can't Go, Won't Go , he challenges decades of received professional opinion which asserts almost unequivocally and without substantial evidence in support of these assertions, that it is essential to return an unwilling child to school for they will otherwise never learn to cope with life. Mike provides evidence to the contrary in the form of 17 case studies of children who have been withdrawn from school and successfully home educated. He backs these up with sound reasoning and explanations as to why the professional line may be wrong, along with some arguments as to why home education could be the answer.

This is the first book on the subject which genuinely takes children's emotional needs seriously. This is perhaps not surprising. Most professionals in the field have a vested interest in keeping children in school whether or not they are really coping, and parents often feel they have to ignore their children's unhappiness in order that they may carry on with their own lives as they see fit. Yet forcing a child into a situation where they have been miserable by no means ensures that they will settle or benefit in any way from this enforced return. From the EO webpage on the same subject:

"A research project by Hersov and Berg, both advocates of the view which insists on school attendance, ironically confirms the likelihood of troubled children becoming troubled adults with this conventional response."

In marked contrast, the evidence emerging from the home education community is that HE has saved many children and their families from misery. It has given them their lives back and many of these children have gone on into successful careers or into high pressure further education with often fewer difficulties than their schooled peers.

Now all we have to do is to tell this to the DCSF who are hosting a review of child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) and are calling for evidence to help inform the deliberations of the review team as to how to improve these services, though we had best be aware that the review is headed up by Jo Davidson, the Group Director of Children and Young People's Services in Gloucestershire CC, and notable for her lobbying of parliament following the Spry case.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Home Education in the Telegraph looks as if the Telegraph could be starting to get it.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

For the Records

...more research on Home Education, from the Fraser Institute, from October 2007

Monday, April 07, 2008

Social Workers Report that Database Doesn't Help

...but will the government listen? It seems they would far rather pretend that Social Workers simply aren't telling them that the Intergrated Children's System (the ICS, the database which is meant to hold social work records), means a lot more red-tape in the form of data input and is not sensitive to client's needs and is therefore not useful for anything other than pretty dodgy data collection.

We might never have known about this were it not for the tireless work by the people at ARCH. They issued a FOI request for a copy of an evaluation of the ICS which the government had commissioned from academics at York University. This report had seemingly disappeared and not only from public scrutiny - there were opposition ministers asking to see it too. Read the full story here.

There’s more in Community Care and a bit in the Sunday Times, where e-caf also comes in for a battering.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Another Website in Need of Input from Home Educators

From Anxiety Care:


"Parents cannot afford to allow school refusal to be ignored or treated in a haphazard and ineffectual manner. The law requires a child to be educated, and most parents are not able to pick and choose where this takes place. If children do not go to school, parents may be taken to court, and there is even the (very slight) risk of the child being taken into care. Nobody wants this to happen, so professional help is usually readily available, and it is vital for parents to make the best use of it.

Most current treatments for school refusing are carried out around the home and the school by clinical child psychologists. They will involve helping the child to deal with anxiety symptoms in the situation where they developed, while getting the child back to school as quickly as possible. Inpatient treatment compares poorly with this kind of 'live' support, though a small minority of children do fare better away from home.

Some parents may be tempted to take their child out of the school system altogether, but research shows that temporary home tuition is not a useful road to recovery, and works against the child's early return to school. Permanent withdrawal, even if some children do better academically, and feel more content outside the school system, has some dangers. The child with low social skills may not learn how to relate to the peer group, which can become a major problem. The child may also never resolve the underlying problems that generated, or were part of, the school phobia."

They may thus become prime candidates for a similar anxiety disorder later in life when faced with going to college, or to work. They may also be so handicapped by lack of the social and 'peer' learning gained at school that character traits such as timidity, over-sensitivity, and the tendency to have unrealistic expectations of themselves and others, may become a permanent barrier between the young adult and the rest of the world."

Now what research would that be, we wonder? And even if research does prove that temporary tuition out of school is not the answer, (to what? presumably on many an occasion, to overcoming a perfectly rational fear of school), that doesn't mean that it's possible to conclude that long-term home education is not the answer, because for many children, it has been just that.

For the record, we have now seen plenty of school-phobic, home educated children become extremely adept at managing social situations. Many go on to college and get degrees with no problems whatsoever or they have gone straight into sometimes demanding careers. Had they remained in school, it might have been a different matter, since there is a high chance that some of them would either have actually managed to commit suicide, or would be self-harming or would have long-standing depression. It is a wonder how any professional would want that on their conscience.

So yes, how about this plan: deregister, deschool and socialise with a lovely bunch of HE children who can show these anti-social school kids a thing or two, for HEKs are not infrequently appalled at the way school children are supposed to relate to one other. This doesn't mean that they can't cope with the anti-social behaviour they encounter. The other day, I watched and learned, as a group of HE children helped three recently deregistered school children learn about how to socialise in the real world, away from a hell-hole of a prison. The recently deregged children were throwing sticks and stones (literally and metaphorically) at a mixed age group of HEks. The HEks discussed the best course of action and decided that the school socialised kids just wanted attention, so the HEKs would offer it in the best possible way. A fun game of hug-chase ensued, with the HEKs chasing the deschooling children with open arms. No name calling, no anger, no stick throwing. The HEks just showing these other children how to have good, simple, kind fun. I was proud and amazed as such a solution would never have occurred to me.

Ho hum. Someone's got to put Anxiety Care right!