For to be free is not to merely cast off one's chains,
but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.
- Nelson Mandela -

Monday, March 30, 2009

Showing off...

Myrna made the local newspaper when she won the Sam Bellingham Memorial Trophy after winning four of her six classes and the sing offs in the Carlisle Drama and Music Festival 2009. The name above hers on the Cup is... Andrew Johnston!

Friday, March 20, 2009

And then there was life...

I intended to do a post with 'evidence of ignorance', but life took over. Besides, I haven't received any additional info, nor did I have time to gather it myself. And looking at what's going on other blogs, on Facebook and on various lists, I am trailing behind and it would be a shame to waste good energy while I have plenty to do anyway.

Meanwhile, in spite of efforts to break home educators down, home ed life in this family has never been stronger. And busier for that matter. We've had amazingly intense weeks here, with lots of extremely exciting and positive things going on, which I will come back to in a minute.

There is no way I would ever concede the education of my children to the state. I strongly believe my children are quite capable of being in control of their own education in order to achieve their own goals in life and I've gladly taken it upon me to provide for them in any way I possibly can. I also believe that love, trust and respect are the strongest foundation to build a well balanced life on. And up to now the state haven't given me much reason to believe they're in any way capable, let alone willing to give my children the same opportunities as I as a parent can and want to give them. In other words, I do not want the responsibility for a suitable education for my children taken away from me.

At this moment I'm not sure what's the best way for me to help guarding the rights and the educational freedom we have in this country. I am trying to find out in what way I can put what I've got to offer to best effect. What have I got to offer, for that matter? That's not a question in self pity, it's a genuine attempt to self analysis.

- My knowledge of Dutch educational legislation, Dutch political systems and the mysterious ways the Dutch educational system works is of no use whatsoever, that's for sure.
- I am not very good with virtual groups, yahoo groups and all that. In 'real' groups it's hard enough for everyone to find a comfortable place, feel the dynamics and try and create - and maintain - a balanced atmosphere. But you can actually see the people, their facial expression, their body language. In a virtual group all you have is the written words, and if you're lucky you know one or a few of the other group members. You can't see the quiet ones, you don't feel the vibes, you don't see how people look at each other, whether they smile or not, and it's very hard to determine if what looks like an aggressive remark is based on frustration, sadness or bitterness. Also, unless you've been with a group from the very beginning, you won't know what's already been written about, if and how other members know each other, and you haven't got a clue how people really perceive your written words.
- Our geographical position and our way of life don't leave much room for meeting up with lots of other - politically active - home educators and the fact that I have to earn a living as well as eat and sleep, doesn't leave me with an abundance of time.
- In spite of everyone saying my English is good enough, language is a handicap. I still think in Dutch and writing in English is a challenge.

So what have I got to offer?

- My personal experience, I suppose, and the things I've learned in my own life. Mostly through trial and error.
- My passion for autonomous education and the fact that in the past ten years I have had to stand up for that on several occasions, in court, in the media, on seminars about education, in one to one situations, etcetera. Mostly in Holland, but I'm gathering quite a bit of UK experience :).

So where does that leave me as in making a constructive contribution to securing the legal right of freedom of education in this country?
I'm still not sure. And until I am I think I'll just stick to what I feel good and comfortable with and that's enjoying our autonomous life to the fullest. And every now and then I'll stick my nose into political matters, or I'll make a comment of the list I'm on because I really feel connected to something or someone.
But most of all I'll try and live in the moment, be calm and assertive when it comes to making sure my 'pack' is safe and happy and all the while love my children to bits. And my husband of thirty (!!!!) years, of course.

The past two weeks I was overwhelmed with happy and successful moments. Moments where my children were happy, ecstatic because they reached goals they'd set themselves. Because they had achieved what they wanted to.

Our eldest (19) started in her new job and after only two weeks got offered a fulltime job, including paid training to get the qualifications she wants. She is over the moon, feels self-confident and strong.

Our son (17) has been promoted to Lance Corporal in the army cadets and at the same time got given a few quite responsible tasks. He was commended for his commitment, for his dedication √°nd for his ability to stay calm under pressure. Not bad for an Aspie, hey? Plus he got his grading to orange in Hontai, the classical form of Jiu Jitsu and he was asked to help train the youngsters twice a week.

Our youngest (13) took part in the Carlisle Music Festival and managed to win four of the six (singing) classes she took part in and get a second prize in one. Then she had to sing in the finales and won that, singing O Mio Babbino Caro. So she won the trophy for best under 18 vocal performance (which went to Andrew Johnston last year, by the way :)).
As a result we might get an article about home education in the regional newspaper, because she seems to have made quite an impression on the journalist who interviewed her.

Of course there are lots of little and big moments where I know, see and sense that autonomous home education was the best choice for our children. And I certainly do not measure the success of our home education by the prizes my children win or the qualifications they earn. But it's definitely good to see how capable they are to carry themselves in this world without losing one little bit of their unique selves.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

A letter to Baroness Morgan

Again, I am going back to what started the current review of home education.
Although it said in the DCSF press release that the review "will assess the effectiveness of current arrangements for parents who home educate and of local authority systems for supporting children and families" it is obvious from all that is happening now that not the quality or the functioning of the local authorities is under scrutiny, but much more the whole concept of home education itself. That's weird, to say the least, because there is ample evidence of failures of local authorities - with sometimes disastrous consequences - but none concerning home education as such. Therefore I have drafted a letter to Baroness Morgan and I am still gathering relevant evidence to convince her of the fact that local authorities and other agencies involved in education and child welfare are - often - ignorant of existing law and guidance in regard to education outside the school system.
Please feel free to leave more such evidence in my comment box.

Dear Baroness Morgan,

As an elective home educator I am well aware of the weight your words carry when you choose to express your concerns about matters related to education and children's welfare.

As a responsible, caring and most of all loving parent I share your ambition to do everything possible to prevent and fight child abuse in any form. Children, I think, are entitled to a well balanced upbringing in a stable and loving environment. If I have any reason to believe children are denied this chance I will do everything possible within the law to intervene.

As a law abiding citizen of this country I feel it my duty to inform you that the information on which you commissioned the current review of home education is not only inaccurate, but could also lead to damage and/or disruption of young people's lives.

Apparently the information you were given led you to believe that "home education could be used as a ‘cover’ for child abuse such as neglect, forced marriage, sexual exploitation or domestic servitude".
Based a.o. on your first press release on this matter it appears that no distinction is being made between 'children missing education' and 'children in home education'. There is a distinctive difference between the two. In the first case children are not going to school and are not receiving any other form of education, while in the second case parents have chosen to provide their children with an education suitable to their age, aptitude and ability and to any special educational needs the child(ren) may have.

I put it to you that the existing legislation and guidance on elective home education is sufficient, but that local authorities and other agencies dealing with education and welfare have insufficient knowledge of it, and are therefore not capable of applying it in an efficient way. That to me is a concern and I genuinely feel the wellbeing of children in general and of those in home education in particular would be better served with a review into the competence and functioning of said local authorities and other agencies. Their incorrect interpretation of law and guidance, together with an insufficient and/or incorrect understanding of home education, not only causes unnecessary grief and damage to home educators, but also leads said authorities to - unnecessarily - feel inadequate and/or incompetent in cases where there might be reasons for concerns.

Rather than using assumptions and suspicions I can support my statement with ample evidence of cases where local authorities and other agencies display ignorance of existing legislation and guidance, as well as of the workings of education other than through the school system.
Furthermore, I could provide you with a list of people with ample knowledge and experience of home education and related legislation, who could efficiently and effectively conduct a review into this matter, supply you with both a relevant report and suggestions for improvement, as well as suitable training/education for LA's and other agencies working in this field.

I trust that after reading this letter and looking at the attached evidence you will share my concerns and take appropriate measures to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all children.

Yours sincerely,

In a next post I will list all the links I'm sending the Baroness. Up to now I have:

In this post on Carlotta's blog you'll find the Dorset LA response to the 60 questions they were asked to answer. From the frustrated tone of their answer it is quite obvious they are yet again confusing welfare issues with educational ones.

After a - very brief - item on BBC's Radio 4 programme PM a very lengthy and similarly
interesting and informative discussion came to life on the PM Blog. Very significant was comment no. 74 by someone who presented himself as a 'Children Missing Education Officer in the North of England'. The answers to his comment speak for themselves.

Another LA response to the questionnaire that caught the attention because of the apparent lack of knowledge was
this one from Birmingham LA. One home educator from that area contacted 'her' EWO about the contents of this response and he knew nothing about it, apparently. It makes me wonder how much the person filling in the questionnaire actually knew about the day-to-day reality of the situation 'on the ground'.

In Lancashire
this press release brought to light that Lancashire County Council were under the false impression that they could make local agreements about visits and providing of examples of work with some home educators about all home educators. And of course they, too, showed they were not informed about their legal rights and limitations.

With regard to the ongoing review a shocking case of ignorance and uninformed partiality was displayed by NSPCC spokesperson Mr Vijay Patel in the Independent when he implied a connection between the death of Victoria Climbié and home education. Even though DCSF and Mr Graham Badman have now said they know there is no such connection, the NSPCC has not yet officially apologized and is still involved in the so-called independent review of home education.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Eagerly awaiting further action...

Did you read this on any of the lists?

From EO's Spokesperson:

I have permission to quote this statement that I have just received from Graham Badman's office, after I sent over details of the references made in the Independent article by Vijay Patel about Victoria and home education and after I gave them the link to the statement made by the Victoria Climbie Foundation:

"The DCSF, and Graham, know that there is no link whatsoever between the tragic death of Victoria Climbie and home education"

This statement was made to me officially today in an email written by Elizabeth Green who is working for Graham Badman during the Independent Review of Home Education.

I read it. On one of the home ed blogs.
But I didn't read it in - for instance - the Independent. And as far as I'm aware there wasn't a national press release or any other attempt to make the general public aware of the fact that Mr Patel had misinformed them.
I am eagerly awaiting what DCSF and Graham are going to do after more or less acknowledging that they're aware of the biased views of NSPCC, represented by Mr Patel. After all, we are being told this is an "independent review".
For that matter, what is NSPCC going to do? They still haven't made a full public apology for their damaging comment, they haven't sacked Mr Patel, they haven't withdrawn from their involvement with the review.

How on earth can I even try and achieve the five outcomes of ECM for my children when the Powers That Be are doing their utmost to make it impossible!? Not only by threatening to disrupt, interfere with and intrude into our personal life and development, but also by having that done by people who not only have no knowledge of autonomous education in the first place but on top of that have not even been CRB checked!