Saturday, June 13, 2009

To lie to one's child, or tell the truth? Home education post-Badman

So, having [hypothetically] had 'my' home education plan approved by the Local Authority for the ensuing twelve months, I know I must devote some part of that time preparing my child to..

..through exhibition or other means .. demonstrate both attainment and progress in accord with the statement of intent lodged at the time of registration

Otherwise we're not likely to be allowed to register in the following year and she must attend school full-time, or I will face charges under the Truancy Act, punishable by imprisonment.

In realistic terms, if the Badman recommendations are enacted, this will mean some schooling, to which she may be resistant. I would go so far as to say that she is likely to be resistant, as she'll naturally pick up on my resentment of the whole process no matter how hard I try to suppress it. This (as I found in the early days of home educating the older three, when school was the only kind of education I knew about) will present us with a serious problem, because I will have to somehow coerce or persuade her to undertake the work.

When she asks me why she has to comply, will I lie to her and say: "You must do it, because I think [for example] that it's vital that you be taught the knowledge, skills and understanding through the study of the locality of a local school and a locality either in the United Kingdom or overseas that has physical and/or human features that contrast with those in the locality of a local school"? [Source: National Curriculum Key Stage 1: Geography]

Or will I tell the truth, and say: "Well, it's just something we have to do in order to be able to stay at home. If you refuse to do it, you could be ordered into school and if you refuse to attend school after that, I can be imprisoned." I've discussed it with the teenagers and some other family members and so far everyone thinks it's best to be honest with her, but I think she'll very quickly grow to hate the compulsory element of her learning, to the extent that the optional element shrinks into non-existance. It's what happened with the older three before deschooling, and was definitely their problem at school.

It reminds me very much of the imposition of the National Curriculum in schools, which happened after the Education Reform Act of 1988, just as my stepson was beginning his school life. I think we had one or two years without it and then it came in, and the teachers were hugely demoralised by the restrictions it placed on their creativity and ability to do their job well.

Then came the enforced Literacy and Numeracy Hours in 1998, which finished off my younger son's faith in his teachers and interest in his school education. "Why must I do this boring work?" he asked them. "Because the government says so," was his teachers' reply. He opted out at that point and set off for home in the middle of the day, aged 9, which is why he ended up being home educated and having free choice about his learning for the ensuing decade to date.

The naturally evolving curriculum he chose was far from being broad and balanced. A natural linguist, he first mastered Japanese, then a range of Internet coding languages and is now intensively learning Russian, as well as building his own house on our land. As I type this he's attending a Russian Club in Leeds, a weekly arrangement he made via some friends. Who knows where it will lead? I don't, and I don't care as long as he's happy and as safe and fulfilled as possible. I know that he has no resentment towards either me or society, because he lives life on his own terms.

This kind of a happy outcome is looking increasingly unlikely for my younger two children, aged six and two, as the options available become closed to us and we're 'brought into line' like so many toy soldiers. Personally I despair of finding a good solution for them now, but I am a little bit heartened by the news that, in a friend's office of half a dozen or so very conventional people who usually think I'm somewhat weird for home educating, there was nevertheless universal shock and outrage on Thursday at the Badman recommendations.

So, maybe this is - finally - what it will take to wake people up en masse to the progressive loss of their civil liberties.

Too late?


Anonymous Jax said...

The review response was a battle, a skirmish that we lost. But it was invaluable experience in that it has shown us the battle lines that our opponents expect us to fight on. Now we need to remember this is a long haul, and not expend all our energy and outrage too quickly, it's time to regroup and coordinate our efforts if at all possible, and yes, look at how we get the mass of parents and the population to wake up to what is going on.

Of course, having been blogging on eroding civil liberties for some years now, there are times that I think it's a hopeless case, but that's the time to reach for the chocolate and take a blogbreak, before coming back refreshed and ready to fight on.

I have a 6 year old, and a not yet at all year old, and I will allow them the education that they and I see fit. However I have to do that.

1:57 pm, June 13, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really wonder what 'they' are going to accept as curriculum. How will they define 'broad'?
I am glad to see more people waking up to the loss of liberty involved here.

Although the outcome hasn't really surprised me-Heppell's behaviour was a large clue as to where this was all going- I am quite shocked at the tone of the document.
Badman is hardly subtle is his dismissal of all the research on home education; and his total disregard for the views of parents who are home educating. There is one long para in the thing where the 'experts' get to decide our lives and then as an afterthought tacked on to the end he writes that home ed families should be involved.
The whole thing reeks of "Stupid uneducated mums trying to teach their kids".

1:57 pm, June 13, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

They're nothing. They can do nothing. They cannot create children, birth them, cherish them. They are jealous creatures on the verge of extinction with nowhere to go, accumulating a MASS of hell in their karmas. We are mothers - they DO NOT STAND A CHANCE. We have not yet begun to fight.

terminator mowing down all who threaten our children

2:23 pm, June 13, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

Thanks Jax. Fighting spirit is good (I have plenty, joining the queue to be blogged!) but I think it's also important (for me, at first) to demonstrate the stark reality of what these recommendations will do to our children's lives. I did make it clear that the scenario was hypothetical, based on the Badman recommendations being enacted.

Mum6Kids - I quite agree, good point. I would be interested to read Stephen Heppell's honest opinion of these recommendations though.

Diane, I think I'm going to start calling you Boudicca! You go, girl! xx

2:32 pm, June 13, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

OK, I didn't make that 100% crystal clear at first perhaps, but I have now.

2:41 pm, June 13, 2009  
Blogger Merry said...

I've told my kids the truth straight away, there it is almost inevitable that we will have to jump through some hoops, keep some records and do some things differently in order to preserve the most of what is important to us.

In some respects this is not so difficult for us; we've always been known to the LEA and we do some formal work already, albeit in a very laid back and relaxed way.

My own battle with SATs levels in the preceding weeks to Fran going to school made me vow never to go through that again, in that way, but it gave me some decent insights.

My experience of my kids interests and days out is that often they trickle along the edges of the National Curriculum and with a small amount of inventiveness, i can tick some boxes in a fraction of the time they do in schools and still do it far better. And the Literacy/Numeracy skills - we do it mostly by computer game and i have no plans to change, given they do the same in school.

That said, i had 2 very late readers; but if anyone comes after me about Josie or any other 'out of sequence' skill learning, i am going to point to the blogged evidence of the elder two and how successful that has been.

If they try to force them into school on those points, i will make them find me a catchment classroom where every child exceeds the skill set of my child.

None of that means i think i should have to do any of this - but i firmly believe we are clever enough to beat them at their own game - we've all used support and email groups for years and if we need to, we'll use them to work out ways of doing what we need to do now.

3:15 pm, June 13, 2009  
Blogger Maire said...

I am very heartened to hear Gill that people are understanding the outrage of this. Unfortunately in my own family I am getting the if you have nothing to hide line from those whose itellect should allow them to be less naive.

3:40 pm, June 13, 2009  
Blogger Raquel said...

"If you have nothing to hide then you are innocent...let them get a warrant if they have reason to suspect you!" My new mantra!

8:25 pm, June 13, 2009  
Anonymous Good Luck (and I do mean it sincerely despite the tone of the post) said...

Too late?

I'm afriad so, in my opinion.

In parts of the England - for example, where I live - the authorities have been carrying out these recommendations for at least the last 5 years. My neighbour (who has now moved abroad) home educated her 4 young children and was relentlessly picked on by the local authority (LA) and even ended up fighting a court case against the LA (in early 2007), which the family won.

I would also add that the local Education Otherwise group were of no help whatsoever. Support from other local home educators was non-existant.

I was so horrified by what I witnessed, that I attempted to rally support for the family back in 2007. NO ONE WAS INTERESTED, NO ONE WANTED TO KNOW, NO ONE WANTED TO HELP.

I told the local EO representative back in 2007 that she would live to regret this total inaction on her part and as a representative of the group. I warned her that it would only be a matter of time before the LA would treat her family in the same way. Her response? "Unlike you, I don't live in a disadvantage areas and I'm middle class, so they'll never bother my family." (quote from email sent in April 2007) I was from then onwards publicly ridiculed and even accused of scaremongering and of being paranoid!

Yes, I am very bitter. The Scottish and Welsh home educators, like me, saw this coming and took action.

I'm not a home educator - my neighbour's experience frightened me off the idea. However, if I ever change my mind, my first move would be to go to Scotland. Unfortunately, that's not feasible for our family so we are stuck. But there is a silver lining - my daughter attends a superb school, one that my previous neighbours were not able to send their own children to, so I realise that my family are very priveledged.

Anyway, enough rambling, and good luck to you all. I sincerely wish you all the best because if my previous neighbour's experiences are anything to go by, heaven help you.

9:15 pm, June 13, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, Anonymous, even without the power and the law behind them, local authorities have been misusing and abusing (yes, abusing) home educators. There are many stories like this. Acres of them, sadly. So this is our chance to get ourselves the power to jettison them. We have a superior system. All we need is to give their shaking edifice, called the school system, a few strategic kicks and it will all fall down. Then society can establish something that really work like learning centres. We are scared of our power but we must take it now.


12:26 am, June 14, 2009  
Anonymous I'm not the only one who had problems engaging EO! said...

Hark! What do I read from facebook!!!!!!!!!!!! Seems I am/was not the only one who had difficulty getting Education Otherwise into gear.

(Lifted from Facebook)
Dear Ms Harley,

Thank you for your note.

I did in fact urge Education Otherwise some years ago to engage more proactively in this process and the wider public policy debate if the interests of home educators were not be ridden roughshod over in this way. Sadly, our advice was not followed.

We remain happy in principle to work on this issue which, as you rightly say, raises fundamental issues about the balance of rights between parents and the state, but any such input would have to be on a commercial basis, though we would look to discount fees if we could.

Whilst I note you have established a fund for both legal and lobbying work, I would strongly urge that lobbying work is by far the higher priority.

If you are able to raise a fund, then do revert and we would be only too happy to discuss further.

With kind regards and all good wishes.

Chris Whitehouse

The Whitehouse Consultancy Ltd
Specialists in Public and Parliamentary Affairs
Southbank House
Black Prince Road
London SE1 7SJ
Tel: Switchboard: +44 (0)20 7463 0690
Tel: Direct line: +44 (0)20 7463 0692
Fax: +44 (0)20 7463 0691

I don't know whether to be relieved or raged. If a professional and well-respected lobbyist could not "engage" Education Otherwise to be more proactive, what chance did I have? Little wonder I had ZERO success with EO myself! If only I had known this before, I would not have wasted my time with EO.

4:29 pm, June 15, 2009  

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