Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Parents Hit Out at Plans to Increase Oversight of Home Education

"Many in the home education community are opposed to a register, claiming it will not make children any safer. They are also concerned that the proposals, if approved, will strangle the home education movement in England, which they regard as a vital alternative to state education."

Parents hit out at plans to increase oversight of home education
Home schooling community says government proposals undermine parental rights and cast suspicion.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

My Own Tutor

My husband, Kaushil, who's a secondary school maths teacher (on supply these days), has a new project: My Own Tutor - an online learning platform with telephone tutor support, if needed.

This may be of interest to some home educators, particularly those who follow the National Curriculum, or are looking for a study programme to help with exam preparation.

It is not an expensive programme, and the money invested can be recouped with Shop to Learn, which gives you discounts on everyday purchases.

Check it out, and please share with anyone you know who might be interested. Thanks. :)

Saturday, 7 April 2018

A Reminder

Sorting through some papers, I came across this piece of writing from my eldest son's brief time at school. He must have been about 6 when he wrote this, and I kept it to remind myself why I took him out of school to educate him alternatively.

My Dad (his grandad) loves teddy bears ....

Monday, 26 March 2018

World Changers

100 years since some women in this country were permitted to vote, my youngest son and I have been enjoying Kate Pankhurst's colourful picture book, "Fantastically Great Women who Changed the World". So, it was great to see a workshop with the author as part of this year's Bournville Bookfest, Birmingham's children's book festival and annual celebration of storytelling fun.

Kate's book - and the new sequel, "Fantastically Great Women who Changed History" - introduces a cast of inspiring and adventurous female world changers, who have been too long overlooked by history. I recommend them. As we listened to Kate talking about her inspiration for the books and the way she learned about the characters she chose to include, it occurred to me how important it is that boys and girls are given both male and female role models. Seeing men and women visibly engaged in varied work and roles inspires our children to believe they can do anything.

Another favourite with my six-year old shark-obsessed little boy is, "Shark Lady" by Jess Keating, "The True Story of how Eugenie Clark became the Ocean's most Fearless Scientist" beautifully illustrated by Marta Alvarez Miguens. We love the story of how Eugenie's childhood fascination with sharks grows with her until she is exploring the oceans and making new discoveries as a leading ichthyologist. The way the world is right now, how important it is that children are presented with stories of courage and boldness, that they may find their own passion, their own voice and raise it fearlessly.

Listening to Kate Pankhurst, I am thinking of brave little Naomi Wadler and others, who spoke out in Washington this weekend against gun violence. I think of the legacy of Michelle Obama, a role model girls like Naomi have grown up watching. I am sure this has helped them believe they, too, can and should raise their voices and stand up for what they believe in. We need to see women speaking and leading with courage and conviction.

In Kate's books we read of Boudicca and of the Suffragettes, of Marie Curie, Ada Lovelace and many other courageous women in times gone by, but the battles are still there to be fought, and the voices of courage are still so needed. Naomi gives me hope for the future. She reminds us to keep showing our children that our values and our voices matter.

Monday, 19 March 2018

Rootless Urbanite

"The whole time I was at school, I wanted to be at home on the farm. I was convinced then, and I still am, that home was a more interesting and productive place to be for me. Making someone do something they don't want to do with thirty other bored kids seemed to me absolutely pointless. I'd look out of the windows and watch the swifts rising above the town, their scythed wings glistening in the sunshine."

My husband often works in challenging classrooms in our own city here in the Midlands where there seems to be disconnect between the teacher / culture of school and the young people who frequent these classrooms. That is why I said in my TEDx talk we need to profoundly change the way in which we engage these young people. We need to recognise the value of their own stories and the worlds that they inhabit. We need to help them to write their own journeys, discover the dreams and talents within, enabling and facilitating, rather than always thinking that we know better ....

When I was 15, I went to my GCSE Geography teacher with an idea for my coursework, a geographical enquiry. I went to him, a young Sussex girl with my love for the Downs and the Weald, and fascination for the geographical features I encountered walking the local hills with my friends. I wanted to investigate the strata of the hillsides; I certainly wanted a project rooted in the local countryside I loved. But the teacher didn't encourage my interest .... "You should do urbanisation," he said. Urbanisation? What did I know about urbanisation? But, ever the compliant student, I spent the weeks that followed studying global urbanisation, and drawing seemingly endless pie-charts, all beautifully coloured and nicely presented. I got an A in GCSE Geography, but a line of self-initiated enquiry was closed to me and, a few years later, life and education moved me away from those Downs I so love. I miss them still ....

"Students learn to pass, not to know. They do pass, and they don’t know."(Thomas Huxley)

"The question is not - How much does the youth know when he has finished his education - but how much does he care?" (Charlotte Mason)

Though I no longer dwell in the South Downs, the South Downs will always dwell in me.

Now as fracking companies threaten those hills of mine, who will stand before the destructive machinery and say, "No" if we do not care? Who will stand with the native American communities at Standing Rock and say, "Save our Water" unless we care? The Grade A is not so important, really, is it? Not for a rootless urbanite who really just wants to go home ....

"I sometimes think we are so independently minded because we have seen just enough of the wider world to know we like our own old ways and independence best. My grandfather went as far as Paris for a trip to an agricultural fair once. He knew what cities had to offer, but also had a sense that they would leave you uprooted, anonymous and pushed about by the world you lived in, rather than having some freedom and control. The potential wealth on offer counted for little or nothing set against the sense of belonging and purpose that existed at home." (James Rebanks in "The Shepherd's Life)

True Unschooler

He is cross with me because I tried to show him something ... "No, don't show me. I want to discover the world myself!" True unschooler!

Mirrors, Maths and Magic!

"Certainly Anna had a gift ... at once as mysterious as it was simple. She had an immediate grasp of pattern, of structure, of the way that bits and pieces were organised into a whole. Unexplainable as this gift might be, it was always well and truly earthed in the nature of things. As simple and as mysterious as a spider's web, as ordinary as a spiral seashell. Anna could see pattern where others just saw muddles, and this was Anna's gift."

I studied Education and Psychology at University, many years ago. Beside me, livening up many a dull lecture, was my dear friend, Pauline, full of life and joy and laughter. Some of our favourite classes were in Developmental Psychology. I remember watching and discussing many entertaining films of very small children being observed in psychological experiments. Very little conclusion could actually be drawn from these experiments, the samples were usually too small to be significant, and children are so individual. But how Pauline laughed at the beautiful children, their cheeky faces and funny, funny comments.

Pauline gave me a gift. It was the gift of faith. And the idea that faith should be simple yet profound, safe yet daring, serious yet tremendously good fun. Her God was always smiling, and she delighted in His company. Pauline died almost 12 years ago. She was too young, too joyous, too full of life ... I still can't believe she is gone. Of all the people in my life, she is the one person with whom I would dearly love to discuss unschooling. I wish we could walk this path together, and continue laughing at the beautiful curiosity of small human beings. She would 'get it' ... I know she would.

A long time ago, Pauline gave me this book, "Mister God, This is Anna". I found it on my shelf and read it again recently. It amazed me how full of unschooling it is, and how full of deep spirituality expressed in the person of a very small girl as remembered by her friend, Fynn, as they wander the streets and encounter the characters of London's pre-war East End. "Anna's attendance at school was reluctant and not too frequent." Her learning and discoveries take place primarily with Fynn, in conversation as they go about life together. Her learning is not compartmentalised .... She philosophises about God as she discovers the wonders of seeds, or dismantles a radio or looks into her mirror book. It was re-reading Anna that gave me the idea for my youngest son's birthday this year - Mirror tiles, and a prism. Today, the wonder began ....

"We'd both been told that 'five' meant 'five' and nothing else, but the figure 5 reflected in the water or a mirror was the figure 2. And this fact of reflection could produce some pretty curious arithmetics, and this is what fascinated us so much. Perhaps they were not of any practical use, but it didn't matter. 'Five' meant what is usually meant by 'five' only by usage and convention. There was nothing at all special about the figure 5; you could allow it to mean anything you liked as long as you stuck to the rules once you had made them, and you could go on inventing rules forever - well almost. So you see we were wasting our time, but we didn't see it that way; we saw it as an adventure, something that had to be explored.
Anna and I had both seen that maths was more than just working out problems. It was a doorway to magic, mysterious, brain-cracking worlds, worlds where you had to tread carefully, worlds where you made up your own rules, worlds where you had to accept complete responsibility for your actions. But it was exciting and vast beyond understanding."

"'If,' said Miss Haynes to Anna, 'you had twelve flowers in a row and you had twelve rows, how many flowers would you have?' Poor Miss Haynes! If only she had asked Anna what twelve times twelve was she would have got her answer, but no, she had to start messing around with flowers and rows and things. Miss Haynes got an answer, not the one she expected, but an answer.
Anna had sniffed. This particular kind of sniff indicated the utmost disapproval.
'If,' replied Anna, 'you grewed flowers like that you shouldn't have no bloody flowers.'
Miss Haynes was made of stern stuff and the impact of this answer left her unmoved. So she tried again.
'You have seven sweeties in one hand and nine sweeties in your other hand. How many sweeties have you got altogether?'
'None,' said Anna. 'I ain't got none in this hand and I ain't got none in this hand, so I ain't got none, and it's wrong to say I have if I ain't.'
'Brave, brave Miss Haynes tried again.
'I mean pretend, dear, pretend that you have.'
Being so instructed, Anna pretended and came out with the triumphant answer, 'Fourteen.'
'Oh no, dear,' said brave Miss Haynes, 'you've got sixteen. You see, seven and nine make sixteen.'
'I know that,' said Anna, 'but you said pretend, so I pretended to eat one and I pretended to give one away, so I've got fourteen.'
I've always thought that Anna's next remark was made to ease the look of pain and anguish on Miss Haynes's face.
'I didn't like it, it wasn't nice,' she said, as a sort of self-inflicted punishment."