Saturday, September 22, 2007

I won't be signing this one

I've put my name to two petitions about home education recently. I happily signed the one which asked "the Prime Minister to ensure that all parents are informed of their legal right to home educate their children." and, prior to that I was pleased to be able to sign the one back in November 2006, which asked for "the Prime Minister to Allow home educators to be free from the interference of Local Education Authorities," but I will not be signing this one, which is asking for state funding for home education.

School education used to work OK sometimes until the government started funding it. Let's not ruin home education in the same way. He who pays the piper, calls the tune. Government officials do not and never will know better than good parents, what kind of education is best for each individual child. How can they, without living with the child and spending all their time with them?

There are many ways of securing funding to home educate without resorting to direct state funding. Groups can apply for funding grants, individuals can make use of freecycled and recycled resources, there are public libraries and museums with free admission. But generally, the greater part of learning is absolutely free of charge because it arises from discussion, debate, reading and just plain old thinking.

Ask any home educating family and they'll probably tell you that yes, they could do with more cash for activities, outings, resources and materials. But the vast majority would not accept that cash if it came directly from the government as 'funding for home education' for the very real fear that 'value for taxpayers' money' and all the teaching to the test that implies, will follow soon afterwards.

Home educators and their children are extremely lucky with the educational freedom we currently enjoy in this country. The country benefits from us in turn: both in the short term, with the savings we make for the education industry costs and in the longer term, when our children become financial assets to society. For the most part, we produce highly-motivated, creative, original thinkers who are vital to the progress and drive of our nation, now and in future decades - especially at a time when the schools seem to be turning out exactly the opposite.

Let's not let our greed spoil it.


Blogger Allie said...

Hi Gill,

You say:

"School education used to work OK sometimes until the government started funding it."

What school education was this? Was it the classics and war obsessed public schools or the church propaganda schools for the poor? Both of those involved liberal hitting of the kids. Was it the Victorian academies for young ladies where you learned not to be too clever? Do you really know of good schools that pre-dated state funding of education? I'm not saying there weren't any but I am surprised you say this with such confidence.

11:03 am, September 22, 2007  
Blogger Lisa G said...

Gill, I completely agree with your main point because I believe that anyone who thinks state funding will come without strings is kidding themselves and I certainly wouldn't be interested. However, I do believe there are people who would choose to home educate by following the NC and take state funding to do so and that should be their right if that's what they want. So, although I won't be signing either, I completely support those who want to go after their 'share', so to speak, of the education budget!

11:43 am, September 22, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Hi Allie,

LOL! Good point. No, of course I don't really know of good schools that pre-dated state funding of education. When I wrote that sentence I was thinking of Gatto's "Fifty children of different ages teaching each other while the schoolmaster hears lessons at his desk from older students. An air of quiet activity fills the room. A wood stove crackles in the corner," and his "Society rich with concepts like duty, hard work, responsibility and self-reliance."

I don't know how real that was, or how genuinely pleasant it was, or precisely how exact were his estimates about the plummeting of literacy rates since the advent of compulsory education. I don't think any of us can, without having been there, so I perhaps shouldn't have made such a confident statement and neither should Gatto. If it comes to that, what can any of us speak about with absolute confidence, other than our own personal experiences?

My own personal experience of state-funded compulsory schooling was that it was not helpful to me. There :-)

11:44 am, September 22, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Hi Lisa. Hmmm I'll have a think about that! Not sure whether I agree with you there or not.

11:44 am, September 22, 2007  
Blogger Ruth said...

Yes my thought is there is no such thing as a free lunch and sooner or later any funding would give the government greater control over us.

2:49 pm, September 22, 2007  
Blogger Wobblymoo said...

While I agree with you and will not be signing, I do think there should be a choice for those who do want funding to have it whether there is strings attached or not.

5:17 pm, September 22, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Yes, I've been thinking and I do agree that people should be free to try to make whatever contracts with government they choose. As long as they aren't negotiating my freedom away, I'm happy for them to go ahead.

5:23 pm, September 22, 2007  
Anonymous Clare said...

Well, in theory I believe in informed choices and the freedom to make them. However, I'm wary that a system where some people get funding and others don't could be the thin end of the wedge. Some people get funding and the restrictions and inspections that will probably go with it and others refuse everything. At some point the Gov will wonder what's going on with the 'unregulated' lot and will start bringing in restrictions for them too :-(

Someone likened choosing to HE to choosing to do anything privately such as getting medical attention - it's a private decision to opt out of the state system and we can't decide to do that then ask the state to fund us doing it.

5:55 pm, September 22, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Putting your child in a state school is entering into a contract with government, whereby you agree to ensure your child's attendance until deregistration or age of leaving. Negotiating some payment in return for complying with other forms of government-dictated education would be just another such contract, wouldn't it? Those of us who are more free and independent ought (in theory) to still be able to remain so.

I think if people took that position it might be a cause for concern on our part, but no more than, say, people accepting home visits in case they became mandatory.

6:01 pm, September 22, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brilliantly said, Gill!

Clare, you wrote:

"Someone likened choosing to HE to choosing to do anything privately such as getting medical attention"

I'm not sure how much it is comparable, but I'm curious.

People are not usually able to do brain surgery on themselves or their children, but parents that read can teach to read and so on, right?

10:35 am, September 23, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with you totally Gill on this one.

As for church propaganda schools, it seems to me that church going people fought hard and long based on the principles of respect and love for fellow man in order to get children from up chimneys and the slave trade stopped, if that bad then stone me.

12:01 pm, September 23, 2007  
Blogger Allie said...

Oh, yeh, yeh there were a lot of Christian people who fought the bad and were champions of the poor and enslaved - I wouldn't deny it. There were also 'Christian' schools where the kids got beaten bloody and taught all about the glorious British empire and the godless savages. History's complicated and I was just pointing out that Gill made quite a sweeping statement with no indication of evidence.

12:59 pm, September 23, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

I did, you're quite right Allie. Guilty as charged! Thanks for the criticism, it's very useful :-)
I do have a tendency towards making unsubstantiated sweeping statements without necessarily realising I'm doing it. I'm grateful to be picked up on it.

2:18 pm, September 23, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I sort of read your 'sweeping statement' as a sort of liberal minded clause, I suppose ... a sort of open minded understanding that it may not be black and white. Mind you, I was instantly thinking of Montessori, Steiner, possibly Quaker schools even when I was reading.

I've been very concerned about this issue (payment for home ed), as it has been piloted in some areas (with the registration requirement) and seems to me a bit like offering us sweets to attend Sunday School (the sort of Pied Piper thing you refer to.)

Had been wondering about a tax break system that wouldn't require 'proof of value for money' or accountability. Can't quite think I'm due payment if I opt out on the basis that I'm not using the state service ... because I know lots of people aren't using the service either (childless, or those with grown children) and still pay for it through their taxes. So, had been thinking that a tax break would be appropriate, and maybe safe, but I'm not so sure.

Certainly don't want to be asked or even, eventually, required to register for funding (with the slippery slope of interventions that could indicate).

Seems like a classic case of the very British way of incorporating any movement into the establishment in order to tame it (our country's long term strategy for undermining potentially threatening movements and avoiding any kind of revolution. .... give just enough slack to bring it off the boil.)

I'm not all together sure that some people taking this up (and thus, it being established) will not pose quite a threat to us all in some way. Wouldn't like to tell anyone they shouldn't take up funding they are comfortable with, but I think we need to look closely at why this is being piloted and proposed at this point in history and what the underlying purposes of it would be ... considering it would cost quite a bit of money for the government to do it. It has to serve some sort of function in return. No such thing as a free lunch?

6:53 pm, September 23, 2007  
Blogger Elaine said...

No I will not be signing and I strongly resent people inviting state control into one of the last remaining bastions of freedom parents in this country have.
And yes it is a personal opinion.

10:56 pm, September 23, 2007  
Blogger Allie said...

I agree with your main point too, Gill. I am quite anxious about people seeking funding direct from LAs, in whatever form. I think that home ed could become transformed into state sanctioned school at home - and the state would be far happier with that.

9:39 am, September 24, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Better to stop funding state education than to start funding non-state education? ;-)

1:05 pm, September 24, 2007  
Blogger Annkrozeika said...

I also will not be signing the petition as any funding will definitely have strings attached that we don't all want.
What gets me is how the petition creator has stated something along the lines of single parents being discriminated against because they have less money, or something...?
I'm a single parent who is currently walking around in boots with a hole in (yes we are that poor! lol), and yet I am managing to successfully and happily HE my daughter, and certainly do NOT feel discriminated against in any way. I chose this situation for us, fully aware of the fact that we have barely any money - but we have enough to eat, a home, warmth and love and that's enough. We manage to get out and about, we just choose things that don't cost the earth. What I'm trying to say is, if WE can do it on a shoestring, then anyone can. And if we need a bit of extra money for something then we sell our old stuff on Ebay! I do not need HE-funding from the government, and even if offered, would politely decline. There is no discrimination involved!
Sorry to rant, but I can't stand it when people who are feeling hard done by make a public statement that sounds like we're ALL feeling hard done by when I do not feel like that.
Great post Gill, completely agree with you on this, and again, sorry for sounding off! LOL :)

11:57 pm, September 24, 2007  
Blogger 'EF' said...

I've not read the comments so do forgive if I offend.

The point of this comment is to show that in England at least, many homeeducating families ARE already recieving subsidies and financial the form of an income coming from the state.

I get shudders when anyone starts up with wanting more funding from the government for home ed. People could be recieving less if we are not careful about which battles we choose to fight. I've met a few who really do whine about wanting more money for home ed and it's just one way I don't do, however, I can understand why people want the tax system to pay them back somehow.

We don't use the welfare system (any more), we don't use the schools or the public health care system and the pennies we get we have worked for et cetera...we don't owe the system anything. But does the system owe us?

Taxes are daylight robbery and if we all paid for what we use that would be great - however, what about those that cannot?

I can imagine a time in the future when home edders could recieve more cash, but then i reckon what they would do would be to only subsidise those home edding parents who are 'qualified'. Right now none of us need to show our CV or qualifications when we opt to home ed, but once we are on the 'payrole' we'd have to 'be' qualified. Would this outlaw some families because they are not deemed fit?

Over here a parent cannot be on the dole and home educate. The government does not subsidise home edders in any way. In England there are many families who home educate and recieve government subsidy in the form of 'dole'....but over here home edding families have their dole removed if they are home educating their kids. A person on the dole over here has to be working for the dole and either being on a course or working in an old people's home etc. as 'free labour' until they get a paying job.

I put it to ye (most kindly) that the government is already subsidising home education by funding families with dole money if they choose to stay home with the kids. It's not a luxury I can get here. Life would be a lot easier if I could..and I'd certainly see a lot more of my dh if I was recieving a government subsidy.

Pushing for more money for home edders could mean that the government notice the numbers of families recieving dole in this way and could upset the apple cart. English politicians are looking more and more to the scandinavian model...I am just warning you all that it could be a lot worse.

And Gill hit the nail on the head about the one who pays the piper choosing the tune. Look at how the inspectors storm into schools to call the we really want that power in our homes?

10:47 am, September 25, 2007  
Blogger 'EF' said...

WOT I meant was that the whole system is going through upheaval right now and of course They want less people to be seen as 'unemployed'.

If a parent is registered as 'unemployed' but is in actual fact unable to work because they have chosen to be 'unemployed' and thereby educate their kids at home then..well..what is that panning out as?

If a parent is recieving disability living allowance (or whatever it is called now) and also home edding..doesn't that also mean that the parent's ability to educate their children in the 'appropriate' manner is under question? If someone is saying that they are not well enough to do day to day work then and recieving money from the system because of this, then how can they prove that they can take care of their kids?

These are not my thoughts, but I am just seeing it the way the red tapers see it.

Sometimes I miss back in the day when home edders were a rumbling subversive quiet group. All this out in the open business makes me a little jittery.

11:00 am, September 25, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Very good points, EF. I was kind of thinking about what you've told us of the situation there when I was writing the post.

Zoe, yes I feel the same. I didn't like the special mention of single parents in the petition either. I don't think it helps our situation at all to draw attention to us and differentiate in that way.

7:26 pm, September 25, 2007  
Blogger dottyspots said...

I'm also rather suspicious of such a petition and my blood boiled slightly at the mention of single parents (although I'm not one atm, I have been one and have some very good friends who are HE-ing sps) and seeing single-parents 'singled' out (sorry - couldn't think of an alternative word) makes me feel a bit jumpy.

I haven't read the exact wording of the petition (as TBH I discounted it straight off), but anything that suggests that single parents are less capable (for whatever reason) of HE-ing is a cause for concern IMHO.

In addition, anything that might draw attention to those HE-ers who may be drawing some other form of financial support and in our case it's WTC as we are working, but because of our situation with myself at home and working p/t around the children (a whole different rant which I am planning to blog when I have the headspace) we are classed as on a 'low' income. Perhaps the suggestion might then be that we cannot 'afford' to HE as if we were both in f/t work we would likely not need to claim any further (or any) tax credits...

The effect that this might have for people on income support or DLA, etc. is a concern.

Some people seem to forget that compared to some countries (and the US springs to mind) many people are supported financially more than they might otherwise be (and that's not wanting to get into a debate about financial support, because I don't have that headspace for that either atm :0)

I'm not a nervous person, but such suggestions make me rather antsy...

1:58 pm, September 26, 2007  
Blogger Lucy said...

Thanks Gill for your excellent blog post, and to all the commentors. We are fairly new to the world of HE so it's really good to have these things explained. Thankfully I still have a child under the age of free funded institutionalisation so don't feel obliged to work full time as child care for two (even with the school day) would be too much.
I actually thought we did quite well by not having to buy uniforms and other school related costs.

8:52 pm, September 26, 2007  

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