Saturday, April 07, 2007

Just to clarify

When Tony Mooney talks about the 'national scandal' of 'a quarter of home-schooled children doing little or no work,' do we think he's referring to autonomous educators, or educational neglecters?

My understanding of his views from recent radio interviews, (transcribed here and here) especially:

TM: The children are in control, yes. That's my experience. They are dictating how their education should go and what they want to do and what they don't want to do.

EN: That's not a child's place though is it?

TM: I don't think it is. I think when youngsters get out of the primary stage [they] should be following a logical, structured course of study and it's not the case in many of the families I go to.


is that he's definitely referring to the legitimate practice of autonomous learning. Tony Mooney obviously puts no faith in the method and has little or no understanding of how it works.

Given that the mainstream media seems to be queueing up to provide him with a platform to assert this view, should we not be presenting information to the contrary, to be used in our defence?

He's been given three opportunities to proclaim his opinion about this 'scandal', as he calls it, and yet I have not seen autonomous learning defended on any of those occasions. Is this deliberate? Do the people 'on our side' who are being asked for their view not think autonomous learning is publicly defendable? Because I beg to differ.

Many of us can and will, if necessary, produce our autonomously-educated adult offspring to prove him wrong. Both my sons have said they would argue the case for autonomous learning to anyone on any occasion and they would do so very well. I know of other young adults who would do so equally well. Many, if not most autonomously educating parents keep diaries and/or blogs to chart their children's undeniable educational progress and the method has been more than adequately explained in various books, journals and educational reports over the years. LA personnel who properly research educational methodology and have been lucky enough to see it in action and observe the results, are invariably understanding and supportive of autonomous learning.

I think Mr Mooney is being used by the mainstream media to assert his view on this matter in order to raise the profile of the home education issue in a negative way and to cast doubt about it in the minds of the general public. I think this should be rigourously defended at every opportunity - not just because of the risk to autonomous learning, but because this is obviously being done as a precursor to the consultation, in order to add weight and support to the view that we should all be monitored and regulated on an ongoing basis. I think Tony Mooney should be publicly counter-attacked by us for his obvious lack of professional knowledge about educational methodology. In drawing public funds for "inspecting" (a job which currently has no basis in law) home educating families without proper understanding of what it is that many of us do, is he not being fraudulent, actually?

I strongly disagree - if this is what happened - with the policy of blaming the lack of work seen by home education "inspectors" (and until their role has proper legitimacy I will continue to use inverted commas,) on those families who may or may not have been coerced by schools into deregistering against their wishes and who may or may not belong to the legally recognised race of people which is officially known as Gypsy/Roma and Travellers of Irish heritage.

I fear the intended damage to our case has already been done, but nevertheless it's crucial that we work together and discuss our policy to prevent this plan of discreditation of autonomous learning and the raising of concern about it in the public mind, from continuing to be so alarmingly successful.

Unless there are good reasons not to do so? If you can think of any, please do tell me.

20 Comments:

Blogger Baz said...

Well, as I see it, its very simple. When the government wants something, it sets its stall out from many different angles in order to try and achieve it.

What I see here is this - the average Daily Mail reading person is constantly imformed that travellers are the dregs of society who are violent, nasty people that ruin communities and cause social problems, and [i] look! they don't send their kids to school so they can't possibly be getting an education!!![/i]

Then you have the social issue of truants, and the current disturbing trend of violence, blamed by the media on [/i]hood wearing truants who don't go to school so they can't possibly be getting an education!!![/i]

And then their home educators who, by the very nature of their choice, don't send their children to school for perfectly legitimate reasons and may decide to educate autonomously - or in other words [i]they don't got to school so they can't possibly be getting an education[/i]

See the point? Its called association by design. Its one of the oldest and most effective propaganda tools that you can use. Take one section of society thats demonised and add to it, in order to reign in other elements.

Mr.Mooney is an education inspector who's job it is to "police" the school system (for want of a better term). He is also part of the agenda thats been slipped into the Ivatts report. It also appears from his comments that he has very little idea about the science and concepts behind autonomous education. What he has got going for him is that he's a "respected figure in the education community" who has government support and he plans to "effectively regulate the education of young people"

This is very reassuring to your averge Daily Mail reader, who thinks the "upstarts" are going to get what they deserve, the kids are going to be taken off the streets and the problems are going to be nicley swept away. In other words, in government terms, hes their "champion".

The most effective thing to do - IMHO - would be to point all of this out in a rather pointed but subtle manner and back it up with well supported facts.

And it needs someone - or preferably a body of people -experienced in the subject matter to do it. You can't throw something like this out into the open arena if the person talking about it has no knowledge of the subject whatsoever, or hasn't been involved in the community for a long time, because thats not going to work. The best defence against the ignorance displayed by Mr.Mooney is knowledge and lots of reasoned fact.

2:15 pm, April 07, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

"Mr.Mooney is an education inspector who's job it is to "police" the school system"

Well he's not really, Baz. As far as we can make out he's an ex-headmaster come private tutor come jobbing contracted out home ed inspector. I think he might like to think the above was true, or give that impression, but it isn't.

I think one of the main things we should insist on is that if we are to be 'inspected', the people doing the 'inspecting' at least know what they're talking about.

2:28 pm, April 07, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

- which he clearly doesn't, I should have added :-)

2:29 pm, April 07, 2007  
Blogger Bishop Hill said...

It's hard to reconcile Mr Mooney's view with the results of Paula Rothermel's testing of home educated children, a large proportion of whom were, presumably, autonomously educated. Mr Mooney needs to explain how it is he thinks these "neglected" children manage to perform so much better than schooled children in an independently run test.

3:00 pm, April 07, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Yes, it's a pity we've only got Paula Rothermel to use. Not to denigrate her work - it's obviously very useful - but is there nothing else we can use? I'm wondering what the unschoolers might have by way of research.

3:03 pm, April 07, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

but is there nothing else we can use *as well as hers*?
is what I meant. Feeling I have to choose and use my words very carefully these days!

3:05 pm, April 07, 2007  
Blogger Ruth said...

Do you mean US unschoolers Gill? I am sure they must have some research but would the UK ptb take any notice of it? We might need to do our own somehow. I realise it is a lot of work and needs careful thought. Not all the stories we get back will be good ones for a start. Also it might be hard reaching HE who children are now working and HE in their family finished.

Maybe the argument should be to Mr Mooney where is his proof children need structure after primary school? I laughed at that. You can't change a child's way of learning to accept a curriculum just cos they are 11. Also Mr Mooney has contradicted himself over this before somewhere but I can't remember the link now

5:32 pm, April 07, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Yes, I see it will be a difficult job :-(

Maybe it's not worth doing. I've been thinking about it all in the sunshine and wondering what's the worst they can do and how likely it is. And what on earth we can do about it - not a lot, it seems!

But I know that when reasonable people look at my autonomous provision (which is no better or worse than any other autonomous provision I know of) and talk to us about it, they end up being satisfied that my children are well-educated.

It seems grossly unfair to me that some people are coming up against the Tony Mooneys of this world, who don't actually seem to want to know anything about the learning method, other than to dismiss it out of hand.

Two possibilities spring to mind: either I'm wrong in my speculations - in which case I should go away and shut up! Or I'm right about some or all of it, in which case it's weird to the point of disbelief that it seems to be only me saying it! And that makes me tend to think the former might be true and that's what I should do :-)

People have probably thought all this stuff through while I've been doing other things anyway, and done all their discussing and deciding already. There seems to be a lot happening in EO and AHEd and I doubt there's much I can add.

2nd Life is looking good anyway...

I might do a few people a favour and go and get lost in there!

I agree with you wholeheartedly about Mr M, Ruth, for what it's worth :-)

6:12 pm, April 07, 2007  
Blogger Ruth said...

I think you are right in your speculations but I think the reason why few are saying anything is cos few are truly autonomous HE. I get the feeling from many quarters that autonomous learning has "gone out of fashion" and even many who class themselves as autonomous it do a mixture of other styles with it. I am getting the feeling we are becoming a minority group among HE. Newcomers to HE are actively discourage from the autonomous route by LA staff. Also I have read blog posts arguing against autonomy lately, and that is the HE choice, but no doubt their same concerns about it are doubled in the minds of any LA staff who read or watch the blog rings and discuss it among themselves. Even among HE autonomy is seen by *some* as "doing nothing." Far from doing nothing I think it is harder to do well than school at home:) You can't say enough at 3.pm for a start.

7:00 pm, April 07, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Thanks for that Ruth xx You're obviously more clued up about these things than I am.
What do people do then, suddenly say: that's enough following your interests, you have to do as we tell you now?

I can't imagine doing that to my children after the delight of seeing them develop and learn their own way but as you say, each to their own.

If people think autonomous learning means doing nothing, they're very mistaken, but they're entitled to their views I suppose. I ask my teenage children regularly whether they think they'd do better if they were coerced or compelled into doing it and they say definitely not: they'd just rebel and do far worse. So we won't be changing what we do here anyway.

8:03 pm, April 07, 2007  
Blogger Tech said...

I think you;re right Ruth, unfortunately. I know a few people who say they HE autonomously, but it's nothing like I would call autonomous. It's very strange really, I'm not by any means the sort of person who would try to convert somebody, or eulogise about AE, but I know that some of my friends have very different conversations about what they do with me, than they do with other people. I find it all very bizarre tbh. I do think AE has become watered down as more people have decided that it's _the_ thing to do, iyswim?

8:27 pm, April 07, 2007  
Blogger Tech said...

What I mean is that it's become a sort of PC buzzword in HE to say you AE. So people who still use some compulsion have decided to say that they are AE because it makes them sound *better*.

8:29 pm, April 07, 2007  
Blogger Ruth said...

What do people do then, suddenly say: that's enough following your interests, you have to do as we tell you now?

I can't say cos I don't know for sure. I only know from my observations is sometimes the child never had a say in their learning in the first place. Some families do not think that works for them. Others seem to lean towards more structured parent led learning as the child gets older. Tho how they make the leap I do not know cos I know for a fact my children couldn't. I read somewhere today about structured ed and the article on in the EO mag last time and how helpful it had been to them. It seems it is much more popular.

Also maybe - this is awful really -but maybe some are scared to do or carry on autonomous learning cos of the undercurrent of threats of assessment and more monitoring and are looking for more tangible methods of education to appease the authorities should the bad day arrive. I also have this niggle autonomous ed is being played down as a possible problem.

If people think autonomous learning means doing nothing, they're very mistaken, but they're entitled to their views I suppose.

It is a misunderstanding of it thing I think.

8:33 pm, April 07, 2007  
Blogger Ruth said...

Yes Tech I wholeheartedly agree. All things to all men springs to mind lol

8:36 pm, April 07, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Aaargh! There is no better or worse, IMO - just what works for each family! Do people not try different methods and settle with the way that suits them and their children?

I agree it seems to be fairly unusual to be completely autonomous - unless all the others are off having quietly blissful lives somewhere instead of shouting it from the rooftops. That's probably the case ;-)

Personally I'm torn between publicly blogging everything we do to demonstrate that we don't sit around watching TV 24/7 and that yes, we do learn and make good progress, and just quietly getting on with it and pretending it's not all happening. But that's just not me!

Maybe I should blog more about what we do. The thing is, natural learning is an amazing thing to witness and it doesn't stop happening as they get older, does it? It just gets better IMO.

If there are people who would like to be truly autonomous but daren't Ruth, that's tragic :-( OTOH if there are people pretending to be autonomous because it is (or was) trendy - well, that's almost worse!

Freedom to do what works for our children and families without needing to pretend it's anything other than it is is the ideal situation IMO. I realise I'm stating the obvious there :-)

8:45 pm, April 07, 2007  
Blogger Ruth said...

"Do people not try different methods and settle with the way that suits them and their children?"

Yes I think most people do. Well I say most - I have seen people exploring different methods on the blog rings but when push comes to shove it is usually the parent who decides what is working or not, usually by the results they see, and if they can live with the method. Quite often the child's view is secondary. We tried stuff - well documented:) that I feel hot with shame over now but at least I can say structure does not work here:)

I don't blog a blow by blow anymore either. The older ones are not keen unless they specifically ask me to and most of what we do is a gradually unfolding of life and probably insignificant on a daily basis and not interesting enough to write about.

it doesn't stop happening as they get older, does it? It just gets better IMO.


Oh it does get better. Having said that both my younger two are amazing at the moment and I forget half of it to record cos it is just life.

If there are people who would like to be truly autonomous but daren't Ruth, that's tragic :-( OTOH if there are people pretending to be autonomous because it is (or was) trendy - well, that's almost worse!

Probably a bit of both camps:( I have hard peopel say I woud llet them do waht they want but I ahve the LA to keep happy and I have heard ppeoel say they are autonomous some of the time(?) Bit like only being on a diet on a weekend to me but each to his own. I agree doing what is best for your own family in freedom whatever that is is the ideal:)

9:16 pm, April 07, 2007  
Blogger Ruth said...

Sorry about typos:( Keyboard has gunk in it

9:16 pm, April 07, 2007  
Blogger Tech said...

I think as well it's quite difficult to blog because you don't always know what they are learning. Case in point; we're watching who wants to be a millionaire and there was a question about which river did someone or other take the first European settlers down in 1541. Daisy said that is was the Mississippi, ChloƩ said the Amazon, but then Daisy went told us in detail that it wasn't because she'd read a book about Pizaro (?) who took the first europeans up the amazon, and told us lots of detail about the trip. I didn't even know we had such a book, let alone that she'd read it!

I think people do try AE, but they get cold feet and often don't give themselves long enough, or let themselves trust the child enough to give it a proper go. It is scary, and I can completely understand why people who have LAs breathing down their necks immediately they dereg wouldn't have the confidence to try it out. The sad thing about that is that as more and more people become know much quicker than they used to, it could be the death knoll of new HEers coming to AE, so the TMs of the world may get their wish :-(

9:31 pm, April 07, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

"I think as well it's quite difficult to blog because you don't always know what they are learning." Ali learned Russian when I wasn't looking! I knew about the Japanese because he asked me for books and tapes, and later on for a private tutor.

But the Russian happened when he was older - apparently he started doing some coding work with a Russian person online, and got the language tuition from him and from websites.

And yes, they all keep coming up with great reams of knowledge I didn't know they had!

As for TM - I know I should probably be careful what I wish for - but I'd actually relish the idea of having our provision inspected by him. I'd just like to have the debate with him, because I've got the people here to prove him wrong.

If learning equals someone standing over you making you work, how can my children do what they can do?

6:08 am, April 08, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

"I can completely understand why people who have LAs breathing down their necks immediately they dereg wouldn't have the confidence to try it out."

I can too, but sometimes I think this can be compounded by what the parent expects the LA to want to see.

I had a really good chat with our LA/HE officer when we first met, to find out what it was they were interested in - quality or quantity? Work, or learning? I explained that the more I coerced the children to produce work, the less they actually learned. I asked the officer whether she defined education as being the production of a pile of work under duress, or whether she saw it as the nurturing of interest and curiosity so that real learning could develop.

She thought about it a lot then agreed it was the latter and has encouraged other HEing parents to try different methods if they wanted to and to trust their instincts etc, since then.

Most parents aren't so brave and bolshy though, especially at first - quite understandably. It also depends on the 'inspector' - we had one at the very start who tried to test the children and did no end of damage. There was simply no talking to him: he knew best and that was that. Totally inflexible and deaf to argument - like someone else we can all think of ;-)

My stepdad used to be of the same mindset and attitude though, about autonomous learning. I think he sees it differently now he's seeing the end results, thank goodness.

8:05 am, April 08, 2007  

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