Tag Archives: education

Malala – a true heroine.

Watch as Malala Yousafzai tells Jon Stewart what she planned to say to the Taliban man who came to kill her.

She was shot two years ago when she was 14. She nearly died but the British army flew her out and brought her to my local hospital where she was treated and is looking very well!

Now 16 she is an amazing young woman.

The complete interview is here:

Will the changes in GCSEs help home educators?

The Conservatives Hold Their Annual Party Conference - Day 4Michael Gove is setting about changing the way GCSEs are done. My dh says one of the changes will be that pupils will be reading whole books for English. That has to be a change for the better – if it happens.

Gove is ditching course work and continual assessment, probably, in light of the unsurprising news that parents and even teachers were doing the coursework for pupils, on a rather embarrassingly regular basis. So, those who cheated were getting better results than those who did the work for themselves.   Gove is moving to an exam only GCSE. Is this a good thing? Umm, I don’t know, but it might make life just a tiny bit easier for home ed children.

If this actually happens then I wonder if home educators might feasibly have an easier time accessing exams.

As it stands most people seem to either send their children to school or college for GCSEs or they (like us) go through the IGCSE route with the massive exam costs that go with it.

There had been some colleges willing to take pupils at any age, so long as they were ready, but that door got slammed when funding changes ensured that pupils able to take GSCEs at 13 or 14 would not be able to and would therefore have to wait until they were of a bureaucratically acknowledged age. I can’t help wondering, sometimes, if Gove et al actually want children to be educated.

Gove has also announced that GCSE exams will be harder. I wonder if this means GCSE and IGCSEs will now be on the same level. At the moment it is generally recognised that IGCEs are harder and therefore of a higher quality.

While on the surface these changes might look good, I’ll wait and see. It’s under this Government that UCAS as ditched equivalencies making Open University points worthless while easier exams are accepted.  It is going to be a massive shift in emphasis from getting an education to jumping through hoops and I am yet to be convinced that this will happen.

It is very frustrating to see that in America many universities are welcoming homeschooled students with open arms because they have noticed how much better educated they are, on average, than schooled children; that over here doors that were open or opening have been shut. UCAS needs scrapping completely, as it’s nothing more than a tick box machine that rejects well qualified students simply because there isn’t a box to tick.

American universities have a massive advantage in that they still meet with would-be students and actually interview them. This helps form a view of whether a student can actually do the work of the degree. Having a box ticked that shows a student has a good memory, is hardly a ringing endorsement as far as I can see. Having a folder full of lovely exam results but an inability to work independently or treat other people with respect is not a good start in adult life.

I am glad I don’t have children old enough for any of this right now. Whether it will be better or worse by the time they are old enough I don’t know.  I did think the children could get work and do a part-time degree with the Open University but they have jumped on the “charge excessively” bandwagon and their courses are simply no longer affordable.

As things stand I would prefer my children to do one of the very good quality homeschool Highschool Diplomas, but as UCAS narrows it’s boxes this might not be the right choice – unless they don’t want to go to Uni over here or at all.

As more distance learning is launched I’ll be keeping an eye on what options the children might have.

Sir Ken Robinson speaks on the need for a learning revolution.

This is a continuation of the excellent talk Sir Ken gave a few years ago about how schools were destroying children’s creativity. His critique of the massive use of Ritalin for children stuck in my mind from that one.

This speech is just as good and just as true and will be just as ignored. I was interested when he commented that people in the audience were from various places, including industry.

I would love to believe that this means a change in tack from industry and they are actually, genuinely, appalled by the standard of education and instead of using it as a great excuse to push for slavery by the back door – bringing in lots of people from Eastern Europe and paying them £2 a hour or less and saying it’s because home grown kids won’t work. Do I sound a little cynical? Sorry, seeing what is happening around me is making me feel like Cassandra and there isn’t even a Greek gift!

It is good to see that Sir Ken recognises and supports the place of Home Education. It would be nice to think that the youngest MIT Professor having been homeschooled might be a plus for us too.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not suddenly saying that home education is to ensure more and more prodigies. No. Children can grow and learn to be all sorts of people; so long as they are good people, moral thoughtful, discerning people. But the occasional MIT Prof from our rank is good too :)

If you have the time you can watch the first speech on education illustrated wonderfully by RSA Animate.

The more I talk to people who work in schools, or have children in them the more I am left wondering why we keep doing this to our children.

Home Education; the purpose of education and the method.

There are a few high profile “thinkers” for want of a better label, who are beginning to speak more often on how schools are not educating our children.

Meanwhile we here more stories of Taliban and Al Qaeda dominated countries who are determined to deny woman and girls the opportunity of an education.

Most people, as far as I can tell, do believe that giving a good education to children and adults is a good in itself. Under natural law we know that parents have a right and a great obligation to ensure the education of our children. For us education isn’t simply opening the empty head and pouring in the information. Education, which comes from the words meaning “to lead out” is a way of helping our children develop and people, morally, socially, physically and academically.

There is a great danger, it seems to me, in reducing education down to holding information and methods of pouring information into children. I am also very suspicious of the push to make all education “Machine” based.  Children need more ways of learning than just what a computer can give them. We use the computer in our Home education, but really there’s very little “online” work that the children do. Starfall and more.Starfall is great, but even there I download and print the stories, workbooks and sheets. So a lot of the time the children are looking at paper, not a screen.

I have a number of reasons for this. First I don’t think the high colour, loud sound, and busyness of online lessons is good for the development of concentration.  Low stimulus is better for younger children as they begin to explore the world around them, build their senses and train their senses. It’s interesting how the Montessori early years curriculum is very much about training the senses of the child so that the gross and fine motor skills are built on strong foundations.

One of the most repetitive and annoying questions home educators get asked is what we call “The S word question.” Someone inevitably says  “What about socialisation?”

Children need to be properly socialised. That is they need to learn to be with other people, good manners, kindness, listening skills, sharing, conflict solving, turn taking in conversation, and all manner of other social skills are needed to get a child and adult through life. You simply cannot learn this, sat at a computer all day.

If the video maker in the link above is saying we have the technology in most western homes, libraries and community centres to make schools unnecessary, then I would agree. I would say the school system is a failed experiment and it has failed spectacularly; unless, as some people believe, the school system really was set up to de-educate the masses. Even if you put aside the dreadful academic outcomes, schools are not producing well socialised adults.

I think most of us have seen the inability of too many young adults to behave in a “normal” way at mixed aged gatherings. They sit, plugged into their technology, texting people who aren’t there, or playing games or whatever. Anything other than be with other people who are not their immediate peers of their immediate peer group.  My daughter faced a weird issue because she didn’t have a mobile phone. One friend was horrified that instead of texting ahead and have my dd meet her on the pavement, she would have to ring the doorbell and possibly (oh the horror) speak to an adult or a younger child!

One of the things I am sold on with Montessori is her insistence that children be in mixed aged classes. She saw this work really well at ensuring the younger children were taken care of and helped by older ones and that aggressive competition was diminished. She called this “peaceful education” because it encouraged true social behaviour.

If we reduce the purpose of education down to feeding information at children, that is a very narrow and dangerous view. It is certainly the view of those who want to control the information and make it suit their agenda. If we reduce education down to what a machine can tell us, that is more dangerous still. No parents wants their children sat, hunched over a computer all day.

An education needs to be more catholic than that, rounder, broader, deeper. We want our children to know how to learn, how to discern and think things through. That comes through relationships with real, loving people.

Real Education is a dangerous thing for some

This article via Nonna reports that the German minister Norbert Blum has spoken out for intrinsic family rights.

In Germany parents are not allowed to decide for themselves what is the best form of education for their children. They are forced, violently at times, to send their children to school, no matter how bad the school might be.

Parents who have removed children to home educate – which is an intrinsic right – have been persecuted, their children forcibly removed, and parents threatened with prison.

Sounds like a Nazi regime doesn’t it? And that might be because the law against Homeschooling dates back to 1936. It’s one of the few Third Reich oppressive laws that wasn’t repealed.

from the article:

Michael Donnelly, GHEC2012 secretary and director of international affairs at Home School Legal Defense Association, the world’s largest home education organization, underscored this impact.

“Norbert Blum has said what no one else in Germany has been willing to — that Germany’s iron-fisted monopoly on education is unhealthy for children and families. I hope Angela Merkel and others in her party will listen to the wisdom and advice of this German statesman and take action soon so that parents in Germany can homeschool like millions around the world,” Donnelly said.

The German government have received heavy criticism from those fighting for human rights over the years. unfortunately they are somewhat sheltered from proper condemnation by the strange anti-family culture of European power bases.

I am sure the nod-wink of European politics to family oppression is why Ed Balls and his strange sidekick Badman felt comfortable in citing German law as a reason to come after home educators in this country.

One of the primary goals of most home educating parents (as far as I’ve seen locally and internally) is to teach our children how to learn. We want them to be able to make their own discoveries, to discern right from wrong, truth from twaddle (as Miss Mason would say). We want our children to learn to think critically and be able to understand language use and misuse.

The Taliban are quite right to be deeply afraid of a well-educated populace. They are even more right to be terrified of educated women. It has been shown in missionary work that when the woman and girls are educated they educate the men and boys. Then education spreads from families to local communities and out there. A real education is a genuinely empowering thing.

People who want to bully, control and oppress don’t want people who can think for themselves. Spoon fed education and mass dumb media are great tools for them.

I am grateful I can still home educate my children.

The White Paper on Education; does it mean anything for Home Education?

The awaited white paper on education has been published. The media have various things to say on it, but there seems some sensible suggestions there.  Some of the media report that there will be more freedom in the curriculum but I don’t get the impression this means the banal national curriculum will be scrapped.

Ofsted say that bad teachers need to be sacked! Well Duh! But of course as all the comments below various articles tell us, getting rid of bad teachers is nigh on impossible. There is a view that the unions protect bad teachers at the expense of everyone else.

Then there’s the constant refrain that parents need to be more involved with their children’s education. But despite the fact that under law (Ed Act Section 7) parents have the primary legal right and duty to ensure our children receive a suitable education, parents still send their children to schools where nothing much like education happens.  It is made more difficult by the fact that those of us who did ever try and get to grips with what our children learned and were soon told to butt out and leave it to the “experts” and “professionals”.

Anyway, I can’t help thinking that Mr Gove is attacking the problem from the wrong angle.

Why are so few children able to learn in school? Why do so many leave school and have no literacy or numeracy skills and not enough social skill to get a job? Why are teachers in primary school complaining that children can’t talk?

Why do, apparently intelligent young people who have a string of qualifications to their name so often come across as socially awkward, unreliable and not very sensible?

I think there are a lot of root problems that need some serious weed killer before lopping of the heads of the weeds. The root problem is that families are not caring for their children much these days, institutions are. 

This is thanks to a massive push begun before Labour got their mits on power, to have both parents in work and to force single parents back into work before their children have learned to talk!

The media reports on the white paper don’t even mention the role of parents as primary educators. Is this because of shoddy journalism,  or is it because the paper doesn’t mention parents either?

Does state controlled compulsory education ever work?

I vaguely remember that when we were in the thick of the fight to keep Badman and Balls out of our families lives that there was a small suggestion, that really we should be looking at getting the state out of education all together. There was much talk about how compulsory education had failed so spectacularly that even Oscar Wilde’s Lady Bracknell couldn’t have predicted the direness of the outcome.

Whether we like it or not, or care to admit it, Britain and America tend to follow much the same path in cultural changes especially in areas of education and the more concerning trends. I’ve come to the conclusion if there’s and idea that is going to harm people America will try it and see it is bad and Britain will see what America has done, and do it anyway. Like the fool that has to learn from his own mistakes, rather than the wise man who learns from other peoples.

Then the trailer for ” Waiting For Superman” goes out and the debate heats up.

H/T InsideCatholic

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The Triumph of Gareth Malone.

It did occur to me after posting the last review about Gareth Malone’s Extraordinary school for boys that if the final episode showed that he had not achieved much, if anything, then Home Education might look a bit dodgy too. After all that waxing lyrical about how Gareth’s approach was so much like so many of us home educating parents, well then, I was hugely relieved it worked.

Whether there is a truly empirical base for how home education works is one of those debatable points. The lack of full empirical data is a lovely excuse in driving the fact-twisters like the comedy duo Badman and Balls to come up with their “stats” on home educated young people.  There is one oft spoken of problem with the school approach to education that those of us who educate our own children mutter about over cups of tea – the appallingly naff and girly National Curriculum, and the institutionalised approach to education which barely allows children to learn and be interested in anything for themselves. In fact many of us would say it is a definite handicap to learning.

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Malone’s school for boys and Frank Field’s school for parents. Makes you wonder…

I watched the second part of Gareth Malone’s Extraordinary School for Boys t’other night. It was very interesting, and I found it quite disturbing in places.  Then I saw Danae’s post on Frank Fields and I am wondering what to make of it all.  More comments have been added to the bbc blog on Gareth’s endevour some raising points I was going to talk about here. One dad in particular picked up on something I noticed. He is a dad of one of the boys in the programme and didn’t turn up the the “meeting” because it was held at 3:30pm on a week day. As he pointed out, how many dads could possibly be around at that time of day? Even Gareth muttered something about the time of it in the programme.

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Kelly’s book A Matter of Conscience is here.

Kelly very kindly sent me a free copy of her book A Matter of Conscience. She has sent freebies to all the people she has quoted in the book. I think that’s very generous of her. She worked hard with us last year to fight the encroachment into family life and freedom that Ed Balls and his sidekicks Badman, Deech, Soley and others wanted to force on us.

Click on the picture of Heleyna holding the book and order your copy. Check out Kelly’s post on her book.

It seems that yesterday, the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows was also FREEDOM IN EDUCATION DAY. Parents can take back their responsibility and role as primary educators of our children. Surely our conscience tells us to.

Are the BBC unwittingly supporting Home Education (snigger)?

On BBC 2 on Thurs nights at 9pm a new ‘reality’ show goes out called  “Gareth Malone’s Extraordinary School for Boys.” you can catch on iplayer if you are quick. The premise is that Gareth Malone goes into a primary school and takes the boys from Years 5 and 6 (that would be grades 4 and 5) the 9-11 yr olds and instead of teaching them to sing, he is going to raise their literacy levels by 6 mths. He has been given two months to achieve this. Putting aside for one moment the fact that the headteacher has asked a non-teacher to do in two months what her own teaching staff couldn’t do in 5 or 6 years, Mr Malone is up for the challenge.

I am well aware that the research shows that boys do worse than girls in literacy, and that overall boys do worse than girls in exam situations. This stuff was around and a real problem back when I did my Advanced Diploma in Special Educational Needs, way back in the ’90s. The system of education we have, thanks to the National Curriculum and just the bizarre factory-system means that nothing much has changed and boys still suffer. As it happens the research shows that white working class Boys (social classes 4 and 5 if I remember rightly and I probably don’t) did the worst of all.

So here we are twenty years later and all they can come up with is a gimmick for the BBC. Oh well. As it happens I rate Mr Malone quite highly. He comes across as  genuinely interested in making a difference to these boys. It is reiterated that he is not a teacher (dum dum deeeer- non-professional, non-expert let loose on children!!) and then he has to negotiate strenuously past the ‘elf’n’safety to get what boys what they need.

Any home ed parent watching this will not know whether to laugh or cry. Poor old Gareth fights to allow the boys to work outside, chop at trees and clear a den where they can sit and talk and climb and be boys. He has to call it an “outdoor classroom” to make it acceptable.  He explains some games and activities he wants to do with the boys and the headteacher asks how that will help raise the boys literacy!! She is the qualified teacher here and she can’t see how getting boys to actually talk, that is use verbal language, and be interested in something will raise their standards of literacy!

We are then treated to a truly tragic event. The boys ( remember we are talking about ages 9-11 here) are asked to play football and some are asked to be commentators. They know the game and enjoy it. Some of them can’t string together a coherant sentance. Most can’t make a basic comment on the game their friends are playing. I found it heart rending.

Then there was a brief reading assessment. Some of the boys were reading books my 7 year old is reading and they found it really hard. So hard, it was putting them off reading all together. At that point I really was upset, especially as I remembered Alex’s real hatred of books thanks to the lack of support he got in his first primary school. Thank God for the excellent SEN he had in his second primary school and a pox on the Secondary School who wasted all her work.

The class teachers for years 5 and 6 don’t come off well in episide one. Their own language ability comes across as poor and they look less than professional in dress as well. There’s a telling moment in the staff room where Gareth is sitting alone to eat his lunch.  I thought the staff came across pretty badly over all. Perhaps things will improve as the series continues.

But the parents don’t come out of this looking good either. One set of parents were so proud of their son having his xbox and massive TV while no book was in sight and the dad laughingly said that when a new game was on offer why have a boring book?  Frankly he came across as a complete…well I’ll try and remain charitable.

There’s a fascinating blog conversation here. It’s BBC so getting comments on is a nightmare and I haven’t tried. But I really think Mr. Malone should come and see Home Education in action. I think he might like it. I have to say I think far too many of the teachers who comment are showing us more reasons to home educate.

Dorothy Sayers.


Dorothy L Sayers was a forthright and very wise woman. I love her writing-but I am a little pleased I never met her. I think I would have been rather scared of her.

She says things that need saying and there are number of Quotes from her.

I have just added her wonderful essay on THE LOST TOOLS OF LEARNING to the resources section on the sidebar.

Her book THE MIND OF THE MAKER is in the Living Books (factual) box on my sidebar.

You might also like to read her first Lord Peter Wimsey novel online; WHOSE BODY?

Then you need to buy the rest.

Iona’s learning

Iona is nearly 14 (she will be on the 4th Jan) and so is UK yr 9 USA and Ambleside yr 8.

She has studied children’s fairy stories with emphasis on Oscar Wilde and the Brother’s Grimm. As part of this we looked at the roots of storytelling and how stories express culture and identity. We used some of the resources available from Amblesideonline

Her science projects have continued with some work on blood spatter analysis in forensics and more work on her project on poisonous plants. She is also working through a basic science module we got from the USA. It is of a much higher standard than the GCSE syllabus I had started her on. KS3 science is almost pointless.

She has been working on a large project on the Spanish Armada.

We are using THIS site for her to play word games to assist with her spelling problems. I am also going to be asking her to do some of the Oxford Reading Tree books with Ronan as he learns to read. I am hoping that she will become more familiar with the basic words such as ‘they’, ‘there’, ‘said’ and so on that she still finds difficult to spell. Interestingly I recently came across an article written by a woman who herself is very dyslexic and she said she made up a lot of memory tools to help her spell where word pattern recognition escapes her. Iona has been doing much the same thing to help her spelling. It is something we are going to increase and work on over the next year.

She reads a lot. It has been a very important part of her home education that she has had time to read, books, articles, recipes, and so on. I have encouraged her to read good literature but she also likes easier books such as those by Eion Colfer. Both Iona and Alex are Artemis Fowl fans.

She is still reading Winston Graham Poldark novels and I would quite like her to read “Marnie” if I can get hold of a copy. I think I will do a post on recommended well researched novels that will give teens a good grasp of history-and hopefully a love for it too. I studied the industrial revolution at school for O’level and was bored stiff by it all. I hardly remember a thing I was taught, but when I read the Poldark books I was fascinated by it all, seeing how and why things were invented and their use; steam pumps for the mines; coal as the real black gold of it’s day and how politics and war effected industry.

I’ll add more to this later….

Reasons to Homeschool

Homeschooling can be hard work and I am sure I am not the only one who occasionally wishes she was sending her children to school. But there are so many reasons I am glad I homeschool.

On the negative side there is the national curriculum, which here in the UK is appalling in standard. Mac at Mulier Fortis has written her response to the latest Government plan. Knowing she was a science teacher I asked her before what she thought of the content of the present GCSE and she didn’t mince her words. I had begun to teach Iona (13) the beginning of the course to give her a head start-but I was astonished at the poor standard and even obvious mistakes-theories presented as facts and the low level of actual science in the workbooks.

Alex sat the International GCSE which is exam only and far more science than faff and fad. I had phoned the universities before embarking on IGCSE’s because I had never heard of them before I began homeschooling and was told they preferred them. They are generally considered higher quality and of course being exam only (some of them) cheat proof.  When Mac wrote THIS post a commentator recommended IGCSEs.

The children expected to listen to the twaddle they are being fed are truanting in massive numbers. They can hardly be afraid of missing anything can they? Mac points out that all the fun bits of science have been removed and the recycling and tree hugging is bulking up the worksheets.

But it isn’t only science that has suffered. English has been feminised to the point where even girls get bored. Where are the books for boys to read? Where are the books that have something other than misery and depression in them? The IGCSE offered Pride and Prejudice and The Importance of Being Ernest as well as Julius Caesar- well written and interesting and the last two actually had some interest for my son. He loved The Importance of Being Ernest.

Another good reason to homeschool is that my children will not only have time to read-something not done in school-but will be able to read well written and good books (no Pullman here) that actually increase their literacy and vocabulary.

To make matters worse in schools, even primary schools, the sex education agenda is being pushed very aggressively.  They are insisting that children need even more explicit information as though this will help in any way. There is NO EVIDENCE that sex ed is reducing teen prenancy rates or disease rates. I’ll write more on this as it is very important and will have a knock on effect on homeschooling families.

Still who cares? So long as schools can reduce their carbon emissions by 2016!!

I am SO grateful I can homeschool my children.

You can download the whole PLAN if you want to.