Saturday, September 07, 2013

My thoughts on home education ID and membership cards

I've been home educating for quite a few years now, and the subject of home education ID cards has come up every now and again. People are attracted to the idea of using them to gain negotiated discounts and entrances and those who distribute them are perhaps attracted by the role of benefactor for whatever reason, or just want to be at the centre of things.

That's all well and good if everyone participating is happy, but could they be seen as a step along the route of mandatory home education ID? The gradualist approach of government takes what people have accepted as normal, then makes it official, then makes it compulsory. So you can start with some home educators joining a voluntary ID card scheme of their own making, and end up with this as a form of registration/regulation, with home ed ID cards being government-issued and dependent on certain hoops being jumped, and these then being raised ever higher, of course.

My children have benefitted from free home education, in pretty much every respect. It has cost us very little in either money or compliance, and it has still been possible, and enjoyable, and fruitful. It has been full-time, efficient and suitable to their ages, aptitudes and abilities etc as a more schooled education could never have been. We have deliberately avoided any kind of fund-raising and the compliance that comes with this, and have kept official intervention in our lives to an absolute minimum. I want my grandchildren - and all our children and grandchildren - to enjoy the same freedom, if they want it.

But the price of freedom is eternal vigilance, and part of this is to watch yourself, and be aware of how much free grain you might be eating, and whether the fence posts are quietly, slowly going in behind as you munch.


Blogger Michelle, Nottingham said...

Brilliantly said Gill. Thank you for putting it so succinctly.

12:45 pm, September 07, 2013  
Blogger Maire said...

Thank you for putting this into words.

12:58 pm, September 07, 2013  
Blogger Unconditional Mum said...

Can I ask what the problem with fundraising is? I'm looking into doing it as it will be the only way to sustain our home ed group.

4:15 pm, September 07, 2013  
Blogger Unknown said...

Paranoid Home Schoolers are Paranoid.
I'm gathering this is in reference to the scheme being proposed in South Wales by one or two organised groups? A scheme which is not compulsory, and certainly doesn't affect anybody in England? Why does everybody think their opinion matters so much, especially when not armed with facts? Is it simply because other people are more organised and actually do things for the wider Home ed community, while a small "elite clique" sit around and bitch and gossip, while not being able to hold a venue of their own (mainly because of their feral children, and their own incompetence), and bring nothing to the table but their own inflated egos and misguided sense of self importance? Projecting into the future about what hypothetically might happen is absurd, and it's all anybody has said in opposition. No facts, just wild speculation, and fear of the gubberment, from a group of people who can't even hold their own venue !!
What a strange bunch.

4:05 am, September 08, 2013  
Blogger Gill said...

Hi Jade, fundraising was a route we decided against when it started coming with compliance requirements such as policies. Our local group has been meeting every week for over ten years now without fundraising.

Hi Simon, paranoid home schoolers might be paranoid. I wouldn't know - I do unschooling, not home schooling. My post is in reference to as many as FOUR ID card schemes of various types now being either planned or up and running in mostly England. One is in Wales.

I'm sorry, I can't help you with an answer to who thinks anyone's opinion matters either. I don't know anything about it. The only opinion I feel free to express is my own.

I'm interested in this idea that the wider home education community is sitting around waiting to be rescued by these organised, active types. In my experience, home educators are extremely capable of organising things for themselves and sometimes even resentful and suspicious of those who insist on setting up umbrella groups to think and do things for them. As I've suggested in my post, even with the best of intentions, such organisations can be co-opted to the detriment of the original cause.

I do "hold a venue" of my own, so you're not armed with many facts yourself! Please see my reply to Jade above. I don't *think* I'm generally thought of - by those who know me - as incompetent, with feral children. Is this assumption of yours based on my decision not to print, distribute and use ID cards, since that is all you seem to know about me? How peculiar.

8:21 am, September 08, 2013  
Blogger Unknown said...

"I do "hold a venue" of my own, so you're not armed with many facts yourself! "

My dear, this is referring, as many of my other points are, to the "Home Ed community" in South Wales, who are opposing the scheme ran by two organisations. The scheme in Wales is only open to members of the organisations, and nobody else. I am referring to the deluded ones that likely furnished you with the information. All I hear is predictions of the future, and wild hypotheses, and a fear of the "Omnipotent state". Fear. Paranoia. Delusions of self importance. Not a good environment for a developing child !!

8:58 am, September 08, 2013  
Blogger Gill said...

I have heard about one South Wales card, from someone I have known for many years and come to respect very highly. Your wild insults are highly inappropriate and incorrect in that respect at least.

I know about the English cards from a variety of sources (all obviously respected by me) and of course, from looking myself. It's not difficult to find them.

My post is about ID and membership cards in the abstract. I am not a fan of hounding or insulting individual people, and I try to be kind and give the benefit of the doubt wherever possible.

Your 'paranoia' insult is an interesting one though, and often used to try to silence more experienced, long-standing home educators who issue warnings about "new" ideas, which are often old ideas that have previously gone wrong.

One amasses a body of knowledge over the years, and then what? We sit quiet and say nothing, for fear of being called paranoid - and apparently worse?

No. We carefully and sparingly speak our minds.

9:09 am, September 08, 2013  
Blogger Unknown said...

while i cannot agree with the previous person's virulent language, they are making good points about the community here in wales. My husband and I are not members of the groups who propose the scheme, but have seen the forums blow up over the last few days with attacks on the groups and accusations of fraud and collusion with the ptb. It does come from a select few who oppose everything this lady does, for some reason. The wales community seems to be at war with itself. It has almost put us off home education. We have a card from EO, is this any different?

10:04 am, September 08, 2013  
Blogger Gill said...

Hi Marjorie,

I'm sorry to hear things have got so unpleasant in Wales. I didn't know that and I think it's sad, when ultimately it is in everyone's interests to try to find common ground.

I do remember from the Badman Inquiry days here in England though, that people's fears and anxieties were running high - understandably, when you look at what was at stake.

I think (if memory serves me right) that the EO cards were the first of the problem ones. In our area, for example, the people who set up certain activities with discounts at public venues arranged (bizarrely, because EO had no input) for people to use their EO cards to gain admittance as part of the group.

It took some protracted and very patient explanation to reverse that decision, in which it emerged that some people thought EO membership was compulsory for home educators!

I can't tell you about my concerns regarding EO , not because what I have to say isn't true, but because the org now has the power in law to take me to court to prove it, and I don't want the hassle and stress of that. But I have not been a member for quite a few years and would never rejoin it. We didn't use the card for ID.

It's probably enough to say that in my opinion we have been at our strongest as a movement, politically, when we have acted and spoken as many individuals, rather than claiming to represent a body of membership, which quite often had no idea about or even interest in what was being said and done on its behalf. In terms of activities, our experience of local home education ones here in West Yorkshire is that they have been many, varied and usually very affordable. This continues to be the case, and I am delighted by the breadth of choice on offer to local families. Our own meeting is just a small part of that, which suits me just fine.

Going back to the issue of cards we did, as someone else on Facebook has mentioned, at one point make our own 'for information only' truancy cards, when we had teenagers going out without parents in school hours. But now I don't think I would even do that, because of the risk of normalising such things and the gradualist process that might follow, which I've explained here in my main post.

10:36 am, September 08, 2013  
Blogger Unconditional Mum said...

Hello Gill thank you for your reply. I certainly understand what you're saying about fundraising and I wouldn't want to be held down by those restrictions. Unfortunately any attempts at getting social groups going never work because the amount of people who come, which is quite a few, and what is a reasonable amount to ask for cost just does not cover the cost of the cheapest venues. Is there any other ways round this?

11:11 am, September 08, 2013  
Blogger Gill said...

Hi again Jade. I do sympathise, and I know from experience how difficult it can be to get groups started and keep them going in the early days.

Free venues might be something to look at? Some of the best groups I've known have met up just in parks, libraries and other free venues. Our weekly meeting takes place in a free room provided by the local authority, but that only works well because the local authority agrees to not be involved at all, apart from the bare minimum interactions with me.

If and when we eventually lose this venue and can't find another free public one, we'll use people's houses I think. I'm getting our field ready for such an occasion, but I appreciate not everyone has one of those.

The thing is, there is no need for meetings to be highly organised or very busy, in order to be viable and to benefit the families attending. In W Yorks we have different people running different groups, meetings and activities to suit their and their children's ideas and preferences. This works really well, because it means there is usually something going on to suit everyone.

I love the way the different areas develop their own flavour of social home educating, but our experience here is that more is better. And more people organising things is best of all.

11:28 am, September 08, 2013  
Blogger Unknown said...

There is a huge difference between ID cards (which i am dead against) and membership cards (whether from an annual fee or a small fee for the card).
I agree, in an ideal world kids would all be confident enough to explain they are legally home educated to every truancy office or security guard, but realistically that's not gonna happen. Nor is every parent gonna have the confidence to also explain. Most truancy patrols will be ok, but i'm sure we've all heard of truancy officers demanding the families details and ringing the LA to check? I certainly have on numerous occasions. A card of any sort can help alleviate this.
When it comes to discounts, i am not aware of any card that gets a unique to that 'company' discount. The ones that i have arranged have been discounts for all home edders, unfortunately some of the venues will not back down on the proof thing. Currently most venues allow home edders access, in groups, at school rates, no proof needed in that instance (as far as i know). But places like Merlin attractions and the Eden project are offering the home ed rate (sometimes better than the school rate) to individual families, in their own words 'how can we tell if school children are using the discount' my response was that they would have to use an amount of trust and common sense, they would not back down, initially their only accepted proof was an LA letter. I and others have talked with these venues and explained that not all home edders are known, so an LA letter isnt possible. Someone else must have mentioned cards, because in one conversation i was asked if all home edders carried a card, i said no, it's quite rare. They have said they will add it to their accepted 'proof'. The people I have been talking to were not told that the new website i have been involved in, would be offering a card (until the discounts were finalised, at which point they were told the list of all organisations that did cards). They were reminded that asking for 'proof' was not a welcome thing, but their response (if i remember 4 organisations have said similar) is that the alternative is to withdraw the discounts for individuals and put it back as group access only. Which would be detrimental to hundreds of families. So for now proof is needed in some venues, if people don't want to access those venues at the discount then fine they dont need a card or LA letter. But i personally for the sake of £2 would like to save over £100 everytime i take my kids to legoland (although the doorstaff have not been asking for proof, the management say they should be, i didnt tell them they werent ;) )

So i'll shush now, i can't see how a smarter version of the 'law on a piece of paper' from an 'organisation' run by any of the home edders can be any problem? ID with photos and possible information sharing with police and LAs is very scary though!

9:52 pm, September 08, 2013  
Blogger Gill said...

I suppose people are going to carry truancy cards, whether we like it or not. I hope they - and all the sites etc talking about truancy patrols - include a reminder that only the police need to be given the identifying details, and that this can be done in private, separately from the education welfare officer in the truancy team.

But yes, I do acknowledge that being stopped by a patrol can be a very stressful situation.

As for discount ID cards, I would forego the discount before I used one. I don't even use loyalty cards at the supermarket, because for me any savings or rewards aren't worth the violation of privacy. It's an ideological thing.

As for how centres can work out whether children are home educated, if it was me trying to negotiate for this, I would point out the unlikelihood of school children using their facility with their family in term time, and recommend they simply drop their price in school hours to reflect that, if they want to offer two different prices for family visitors.

Or they could have an educational rate to be negotiated if individual families phone ahead. Or people could just pay the full entrance price, as I would expect to. Not that we would go to either anyway in the foreseeable future - these days we tend to spend our spare money more on home-based stuff. But when we have been to such places in the past, I haven't expected or even thought about a discount because of home ed.

"i can't see how a smarter version of the 'law on a piece of paper' from an 'organisation' run by any of the home edders can be any problem? ID with photos and possible information sharing with police and LAs is very scary though!"

Can you see how the normalisation of card carrying could lead to compulsory home ed ID though? And that once - in that process - a card is required, this would automatically come with registration and compliance and all the things we've been resisting for years? In my view it's not a safe direction of travel.

7:06 am, September 09, 2013  
Blogger Unknown said...

@Chez - I have been home eadding for a long time. Legoland has been one of our favourites 14 years ago as it is now. As far as I recollect home educating mum negotiated a discount for her brood, got it, and asked if she can advertise on the national lists. She was allowed and did so. In the beginning, home edders were required to go to the booth, state that they were home edders and pay their discounted price. That changed in somewhat when home edders needed to book their visit in advance. I have done that every time I went - even last year - without one of those cards. Me thinks there have been some myths spread here. We should also not forget that we would like to visit someone's business here. The believe that we are entitled to anything by virtue of being Home educators is quite wrong, with or without cards. Count your blessings and use your wits is all I can say

8:15 am, January 12, 2014  

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