Monthly Archives: January 2011

The ghosts of Badman and Balls, like poltergeists infect the LA here.

The DCSF was dead, to begin with….

We battled and we won. Oh well, let’s be honest here, we didn’t win, they simply ran out of time. We have a new government who have more than enough real problems to deal with, especially in education, that surely families who are home educating could be left in peace. You would think so wouldn’t you?

I received a letter and questionnaire yesterday from the LA. They say they want to improve relations between LAs and home educators. Well, that didn’t seem to be the case during the Badman and Balls bulldozer event. In fact the LA we are registered with were so honest and shiny that they managed to loose their response to the Government so that a FOI request could be denied. If they want trust, being honest would help.

The questionnaire wants to know all about our family inclduing how many children we have and what our post code is. Strange questions for an anonymous response methinks.

But the glaring omission in all the paperwork is what they have on the table for us. They say they want to improve relations, and I bet they do as they must surely be at an all time low after the Badman’n’Balls debacle. But their info and questionnaire STILL give the impression that they think they are the ones in charge of our children even though they admit they have nothing to offer.

Despite the fact that I have had visits here every year for 6 years and I know most of the other registered families have the same, the questionaire shows no understanding of the philosophies and methods that underpin much home education. In fact the only one the seem to acknowledge is Autonomous/Child Led. This is deeply frustrating.

The website info admits that parents do not need to follow the unbeleivably awful National Currriculum and then lists subject on the NC!

I don’t think I will attend the meeting. So far as I know the LA have no idea that I use a wheelchair. I don’t want to advertise the fact by turning up in one. But I do think I’ll fill in the acceptable bits of the questionnaire.  It’s just a bit depressing that after all that has happened, and all the information LAs could have and should have listened to, that it seems the people who think they are in charge of us, just HAVE to have boxes to tick and some strange need for us to tick boxes for them.

Frugal Friday Books and free lessons for Home Education

One of the ways Home Educators are often offered for saving the pennies is to use the local library rather than buying all the books children can get through on their educational endevours. Well, I have to admit I gave up on our local library quite some time ago. The selection and standard of books were just awful. The idea that you can order something only works if the book is anywhere in the system. 

Iona has built herself a pretty impressive aray of books from charity shops including  some good Oscar Wilde, Conan Doyle and de Maurier books. I’ve collected a lot of books over the years which she has inherited, such as the Poldark novels and some Dumas stuff.

A fellow HE mum has noticed that her local library have just shut down the school books supply and they actually had a reasonably good set up. Apparently local authorities faced with cutting costs don’t feel the need to cut down on extras at City Hall, when stopping educational resources is a way of clawing back the debt.

School libraries could step into the breach I suppose, but I bet they wont.

As it happens our family supply of books, which grows a bit at a time is shared within our little HE group and they share with us. I have donated quite a few books to church and hope that soon Father will sort out the bookcase there so people can borrow books at the weekend.

Communities could step into the breech here and people could donate good books to parishes for more parish based libraries that could be open to the local community.  Perhaps if parents were choosing, supplying and borrowing the books there would be a much better quality selection. (And perhaps if library budgets weren’t splurged on naff ‘teen’ fiction there would be money for books that actually have something to say).

Meanwhile Internet archive is a great resource for free books.I recently downloaded Five Children and It which I am reading to the children. It offers a lot of books for Kindle now as well, for those who use it.

 Also check out Freebie of the Day as there’s often books to download there and audio.

I also love  this HERITAGE HISTORY site which has the books colour coded from Green for beginners, to Olive and then Red for more advanced reading. The books are organised for time and place and they even have some good Catholic stuff there.

FREE LESSON set as I did a follow on to the Milgram lesson.  I think this lesson is just an introduction to a huge subject on what is legitimate authority and obedience. But I hope it will be a start for a good family discussion.

There’s more here for the organisation journal set and some more Greek.

Kalei puts up a lot of stuff herself so do keep checking her blog and site.

When did it become “normal” for children to be tired and miserable all the time?

Most mothers I come across love their children and want the best for them. Not all, of course, but most. But over and over I am finding myself in conversation with mothers who are telling me how difficult life is for their family because life is just so demanding and difficult for their very young child or children. I am talking about children as young as 5,6,7 here. The thing that is making life so difficult, producing tired, miserable and even frightened children is school.

Mothers speak in tones of shrugged powerless shoulders as they explain how their child has been bullied, has to face (at the age of 6) that he isn’t good enough at something and must be thrust with strangers for the morning. The same child having just about adjusted to this change is thrust into the exam fever as SATS approach. He is SIX!

Mothers tell me how they must rush hither and thither dragging tired and disgruntled little ones with them to fit school, afterschool and extra stuff into their evenings. Clubs, groups, events getting later and later so that rest and even getting food become a major obstacle.

It seems to me, from outside this lifestyle now (thank God) that we have made child misery “normal”. These mums don’t want this for their children. Who would? But they are part of the great “groupthink” that expects this and must have it.

Things aren’t that easy in my world either. But I tell you, something absolutely drastic would have to happen before I would allow a child of mine back into that life of school, misery and exhaustion. Especially as so little actual learning takes place.

I am normally very careful about not being too critical of sending children to school. I am well aware that most people think it’s the best thing to do. I am also well aware that far too many of us made that decison with no understanding and I am very aware that school is rarely the best place for a child whatever their age. But I am left shaking my head as mothers tell me how miserable they and their children are- and tomorrow they will do it all again.

I’ve been listening to HS through the hard times today. Get it while it’s there and check out the book download too. There is some great insights and she even mentions a HS mum who uses a wheelchair (so I’m not the only one). One part well worth hearing is about how she began to HS her nephew. Her experience of him just out of school rang very true for me. I remember the same problems when I pulled Alex and Iona out. Enjoy.

All I can say to parents who are unsure is, think very hard before putting your children into school.

My home education is turning into school at home I think.

I have read so many parents who insist that homeschooling is a bad word because it makes it sound as though all we do is School at home. The methods we all use are more diverse and tailored to the child than that, they cry and they insist we don’t spend all day around the table with workbooks and sheets.

It has been creeping up on me that we are becoming more and more schoolish in the way things are going. What would Charlotte Mason think if she saw us? I don’t know but I don’t think she would be too appalled. We have moved to more workbook type things, but even so they are well written workbooks and there is still daily time for some living books. It’s just that the books are now more just for reading rather than as jumping off points for all kinds of narration.

We’ve got more into the Seton and Critical Thinking books, which are essentially workbooks. However there’s a definate sense of Miss Mason in the way the Seton books are set out, so it doesn’t seem too far removed from her living books approach. I’ve also just invested in a good Greek set and have an eye on the Latin as well, once we’ve done the bulk of Mr. Linney’s book.

I don’t want to lose the sense of education being an “atomosphere” or a “gentle art,” but there is something reasurring about knowing someone has done the work of setting out coherant lessons even when I am incoherant, and has judged the right level even when I am at a loss.

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I have come across parents who, when they are ill either send their children to school or let them watch Discovery or National Geographic and call that education. I am tempted to both of these at times but the way I avoid it is to let them do workbooks. It might not be the very best education I could give them, but it’s a still a lot better than some other options. To be fair to those who have produced the books, the ones I have bought, are written to a high  standard.  It’s just not as gentle as a purely CM approach, and perhaps not quite as interesting.

But there’s still plenty of the spirit of awe and discovery from Charlotte Mason  in our lives, which they love and so do I.

Alex is learning…

Up in the attic ds Alex has been busy working with his online tutorials.

Here’s his first animation piece-

Apart from 3D animation he’s working away on colour theory. It seems these online tutorials have him on  a massive learning curve, which he is pleased with. It is worth noting that this level of skill wasn’t even touched on in collage.

Teaching our children about legitmate authority and obediance

I wrote a lesson on discernment before the Milgram incident. I think many people believe that discernment is just the process adults go through when testing a vocation, but of course it’s far wider than that.

It can be difficult to discern what we should or should not be doing with our every day lives. What we need is a good dose of wisdom, and common sense, followed by humility and lots of prayer.

The reason God says Love Me first is because THEN we will be willing to receive the grace He offers and have what we need to honour our mother and father and love our neighbour.

As parents we are under obligation to teach our children obedience. However we cannot take it for granted that all people who demand obedience should receive it. Obedience must come with eyes wide open, not shut or blinded. At Nuremberg the defence “I was just following orders,” didn’t wash.

One of the useful tools of discernment I was taught during my nurse training was to always know exactly WHY you are doing something, and to have all the information on something before inflicting a patient with it. Doing something because some doctor or other tells us to isn’t good enough. If you read my lesson on Milgram you’ll see a couple of us at least had to refuse to do something.

I have come across parents who openly boast about how they are teaching their children to disobey and disrespect people in authority. I am assuming they wont like it when those children become disrespectful, disobediant and generally nasty towards them. But something else  seems to happen with people who have never learned what should be obeyed and what shouldn’t — see Milgram.

Parents quietly groan about the peer pressure in school and even those of us who HE have to face this. Obviously it is easier to deal with when parents (the legitimate authority) have more time with our children in a loving home than when they are out with peers all day and with very little legitimate authority to guide them.

One of the major problems we have as parents in teaching obedience to our children is that words like “love” “Authority” and “power” have had their meaning stripped from them. “Obedience” then becomes a difficult concept to grasp. We have to reinstate the true meaning of legitimate authority in our homes, so that our children can learn true obedience and true freedom It’s a huge responsibility but all true authority comes with responsibility and comes with agape-charitas the giving-love.

If you listen to Catholic Radio for any length of time you soon come across people who are living the Milgram experiment in very real situations. They phone looking for advice on how to refuse to do evil to others when their workplace demands it of them. There are those who have been courageous enough to refuse to do evil even at risk of unemployment; and there are those who have lost their job.  These are ordinary people who have put God first. So merry gentlemen (and women) let nothing you dismay.

Homeschooling study. I wonder what it might show about Home Education in the UK?

Studies of home education in the USA seem to be happening on a fairly regular basis and so far always show that children who are home educated are doing as well or more often better than their schooled peers. A new study (opens pdf) has been reported in the New American that estimates as many as two million children are now being educated by their parents. H/T Zoe Romanowsky

Studies like this do not seem to happen so much in the UK, and after the way Ed Balls and Co behaved are hardly likely to happen successfully. But I do wonder if the increase in HS in America is mirrored by the same thing happening here?

Totally anecdotally, from my experience of American homeschoolers online whether on blogs or forums, I get the impression that there is more recognition over there that children need parents to be parents.  Over here the rights and responsibilities of parents have been so undermined they are practically crushed.

The media in this country has been largely antagonistic to home education, but even bad press has raised awareness and seems to make more people ask questions.

I watch the American HS community with interest. I think those who believe that the future belongs to HS families might be true.