Category Archives: Home Ed

Look what I made!

It wasn’t exactly an educational activity, since one child refused to have anything to do with it (and cried when I threw her off the computer for ten minutes while I printed things), whilst the other one was desperate to sever his own fingers with the paper strimmer, but wasn’t really making much of a contribution. Never mind, I’ve had a fun afternoon, and I still think it’s a useful resource in helping small people understand how the historical stories that we learn about fit together. Chronological history, and all that.

Our history time-line
Our history time-line

It’s a time line. It’s very busy at one end, since it turns out we know almost nothing about the world before 1500, except that some Romans came, and then there was a battle, but that’s OK. It makes me want to learn some stuff to fill in the gaps, and hopefully, it will make Daisy feel the same. If nothing else, it makes it starkly clear just how recent most of our history is, even the things we think of as a long time ago, like Queen Victoria being on the throne.

Doing it all in the wrong order

Daisy was thoroughly overtired by 8pm tonight, mostly because of a late night last night, and big day of playing and trampolining. As a result, her inability to spell Mario adequately to search Google for the faux-Mario games that Daddy had been messing about with, reduced her to great heaving sobs of devastation. It all came out: It’s not fair, I can’t write, all my friends can write better than me, all I seem to do is reading, why can’t I do writing instead, etc, etc, etc.

So we had a calming and reassuring cuddle, and I pointed out several key facts to her:

  1. Most of her friends are older than her, and one of them is nine, which is a clear three years her senior. It stands to reason that they should be more expert in such things, after so much more practice.
  2. She identified her one friend who is actually six months younger, and still writes better than she does, so then we talked about how Home Education Is Different.
    Daisy has not been concentrating on writing. One of the important advantages of HE, is that she gets time to focus on learning other things, and to ask the Big Questions which are bothering her. Lots of those questions are about history. She knows an inordinate amount about the Battle of Hastings, even though it’s about 18 months since she looked into it properly, and her recent interests have resulted in in-depth discussions of 20th Century Political History. A couple of weeks ago, we covered, in an hour and a half, and through the medium of conversation,

    • the causes of World War I,
    • the reality of mechanised warfare and unprecedented casualty numbers,
    • the Treaty of Versaille,
    • the effect on Germany,
    • the creation of the League of Nations,
    • the rise of Hitler,
    • the failure of appeasement (with side note that appeasement doesn’t work on Daisy, any more than it worked on Hitler!),
    • the invasion of Czechoslovakia and Poland,
    • World War II,
    • the fall of France,
    • Pearl Harbour,
    • (great great) Uncle Henry dying in Burma,
    • Hiroshima and Nagasaki (side note into nuclear power stations, and Japanese current affairs regarding earthquake, tsunami and crisis-ridden reactors),
    • the partition of Germany,
    • the partition of Berlin (with diagram of West Berlin isolated from Western Europe),
    • the intransigence of post-war USSR and the fear that engendered in the West,
    • the Berlin Wall,
    • the Cold War and associated climate of fear,
    • and the fall of the Berlin wall within my lifetime, after a 40 year stalemate.

    Most six year olds simply don’t have time to learn that stuff, in that depth, and if they do, they probably lack the intellectual energy to do it. There’s other stuff, too, of course. She knows a lot of stuff about National Trust stately homes, and associated history, she’s learning lots of sciency things about the Mersey, and the weather, and states of matter, and other stuff – some of which will coincide with what they learn in schools. But the fact is, her learning is varied and complex and entirely focussed on what she’s interested in, and that’s how it should be.

  3. Because whilst I said I wasn’t brave enough to pursue autonomous education for Daisy, it transpires that I’m not bloody-minded enough to make her learn specific things in a specific order, just because I say so. And the thing I said explicitly to her, tonight, that I’ve probably only implied before, is that she is in charge. If she wants to learn to write, she can. We can do it together. We own work books (which never, ever get opened, mind you), and she is capable of getting them out and practising, but if she wants me to help, I will. Of course I will – what parent says “No, I’m not helping you learn to write”? So, we decided against the work books, but starting tomorrow, we’re going to choose a sentence out of one of her books, and copy it out, every day. I was amazed that she agreed to it, but she seemed very keen.
  4. Of course, we also talked about the most likely outcome, tomorrow morning: that I will waltz up to her, and say, “Do you want to practice that writing, now?” and she will say, “Not just now. Maybe later.” Because she is JUST LIKE HER DAD. Kevin is shockingly bad for agreeing that something needs to be done, but living in a perpetual state of not wanting to do it just NOW. Later. Tomorrow, maybe. It drives me insane. But I’ve told her – it is her choice. I won’t make her do writing if she doesn’t want to. But if she wants to learn to write, there’s really only one way, and that’s by practising. It’s up to her.

So, there we have it. Daisy’s education is broad, balanced, and in entirely the wrong order, if you’re used to thinking about these things in the way that schools do. And tomorrow, we will either start a concerted attempt to meet her self-identified need to practice writing, or we will decide that we don’t care that much after all, and play the Sims. One of those two things.

Not Back To School

There is an increasing movement, amongst home educators, to celebrate beginning the school year outside of school, by means of a Not Back To School picnic. It started last September, when we were fighting for our survival in the face of blank and unyielding government intrusion, and this year it’s gained some momentum, as a way of celebrating, and advertising, the fact that There Is Another Way. Because there is. And not everyone realises it. Continue reading Not Back To School

*blows dust off website*

Blimey. I think I just uncovered the Lost Cave of Blogginess. I feel like Indiana Jones. It’s like there’s a whole civilisation here, that everyone’s forgotten about.

I notice that the Twitter feed’s out of date – I do still tweet, so not sure why the website’s three weeks out of date. And comments are off. Odd. I shall have to poke Kevin for some kind of tech support.

What was the last thing I blogged? Ah, yes, I remember. It was political, wasn’t it? I was very political, then. That was all Before the Election, though. Everything has changed since then. The world feels different. I did sort of predict that it would, but the starkness of the difference has still taken my breath away.

The new government simply does not care about home educators. It’s not interested in us. And nothing could make me happier. They do not mind that they don’t know what my children are learning – they’re reasonably content that the evidence suggests they’re probably learning quite a lot. They do not need to control the minutiae of what we do on a day-to-day basis. They do not feel the need to protect my children from me, just in case I secretly hate them. They know that that’s very unlikely, and in any case, that all the existing mechanisms for protecting children from nasty parents are pretty much good enough as they are. They are not obsessed with power and control. They are, largely, obsessed with trying to make the books balance, and it’s a sufficiently challenging task that they are unlikely to give me and mine more than a second glance for some years to come.

After 18 months of anger and fear and outright paranoia, the change was quite a shock. It took me a while to settle into it. But settle into it I did. A couple of weeks ago, Ofsted produced a report that they were researching before Christmas, into home education. It was all the same yada-yada-yada as we’ve heard before – no-one is monitoring these people, anything could be happening, blah, blah, blah. It was precisely what we were all dreading, last year, when we first got wind of it. Except the wind has changed, and when I read the summary (didn’t bother to read the whole thing, it wasn’t important enough), I didn’t get angry. I laughed. I smirked as I marvelled at how far out of touch Ofsted had suddenly become. It was precisely the report that the last government wanted them to write – the government which couldn’t bear to leave us alone to get on with it, that wanted to pin down every possible deviation from the state-sanctioned norm, and legislate it out of existence. But this government didn’t want it.

I suspect that they weren’t supposed to publish it at all. A few weeks before, the Department for Education had told all the quangos and gravy trains to stop producing this stuff, until they worked out what the priorities were. But Ofsted had put a lot of time and effort into producing a report which helped to justify their existence, at a time when they’re quite afraid for that existence. And besides, these people could be doing anything – someone should be checking up on them! In any case, the response from the government has resembled the sound of tumble-weed blowing through the deserted town. So much so, this week, Diana Johnson felt the need to poke them, from her new spot on the opposition benches, to try and goad them into continuing the witch-hunt that she was so very keen on. She didn’t get very far. The response amounts to “Yeah, yeah, home educators, we’ll look at it later. Much later.”

It won’t be forever. Sooner or later, someone with the power to do something about it will say, “What do you mean, we don’t know how many there are?” and the whole silly roller-coaster will start again. But that day isn’t likely to come for a very long time – until they’ve got the books to balance, at the very least!