Archive for January, 2009

Deja vu, it would seem.

January 20, 2009

The DCFS is going for another round of consultations on home education policy. Technically, as we’re in Scotland, this isn’t immediately relevent. That said, we’re not likely to be north of the border forever and how homeschoolers are viewed is something that everyone should be concerned about, particularly as I’ve heard that this particular review is inspired by cases uncovered by the Crown Prosecution Service of children being listed as homeschooled when in fact they were forced into marriages. Here is my response:

Do you think the current system for safeguarding children who are educated at home is adequate? Please let us know why you think that.

No.

Comments: I don’t think it is acceptable that home educators do not necessarily have to make themselves known to the government. I also believe it is a mistake that, as far as I’m aware, the identities of home educators are kept by councils–there should be a centralized database that councils pull information from. Beyond names and addresses, I don’t believe the government is entitled to further information as 1. the government cannot ensure that the level of safety and education is sufficient within its own schools and 2. home educating parents are entitled to the same assumption of innocence and competence that parents of schooled children enjoy until there is evidence to the contrary.

Do you think that home educated children are able to achieve the following five Every Child Matters outcomes? Please let us know why you think that.

Be healthy

Yes

Comments: Parents are in the best position to monitor and ensure good health, and the government should assume that the vast majority of parents will do so.

Stay safe

Yes

Comments: It stands to reason that as parents tend to have the keenest interest in keeping their children safe, having more contact with them can only lead to increased safety. The thrust of questions relating to safety seem to be a veiled attempt to assess opinions on the degree to which home education is or can be used as a cover for abusive practices. I think, however, this is the result of faulty logic. There is no reason to assume that more abuse occurs in home educating households. Just as the government doesn’t uncover pockets of illegal activity in schools by turning the entire student population upside-down and shaking them, neither will Orwellian monitoring of home educators be an effective means of revealing child abuse. This mindset and the actions that follow from it only damage the home educating community and make them more distrustful of the government and its policies.

Enjoy and acheive *it makes me warm inside when education reps can’t spell ;)*

Yes

Comments: Again, parents can best assess the interests and abilities of their children and in the majority of cases will work to satisfy their needs.

Make a positive contribution.

Yes

Comments: While the desire to make a positive contribution has a great deal to do with intrinsic motivation and personality, home educating families are just as likely to provide the kinds of role-models that inspire such activities as schooling families. It is hurtful to home educators to imply otherwise.

achieve economic well-being

Yes

Comments: The ability to have economic well-being, whatever that is, is subject to so many factors and varies so widely across the entire population that I really don’t think this question merits a response, as indeed it cannot be answered honestly or in an informed way.

Do you think that Government and local authorities have an obligation to ensure that all children in this country are able to achieve the five outcomes? If you answered yes, how do you think Government should ensure this?. If you answered no, why do you think that?

No

Comments: I think the focus is misdirected. The government can hardly ensure that these goals are achieved in its own schools. Rather than focusing so keenly on intangibles like testing in schools and endless home education policy reviews, time and resources should be spent in making the country a friendlier and more supportive environment for families generally.

Do you think there should be any changes made to the current system for supporting home educating families? If you answered yes, what should they be? If you answered no, why do you think that?

Yes

Comments: A home educated child should be entitled to the same level of government financial investment in learning materials and experiences as a schooled child. This should be a policy across the education system. More should be done for children who are being home educated because of failings on the part of the school/s. Certain community investments in the education of all children would be helpful. For example, children should be provided with free or deeply discounted public transport to encourage more outings. Policy-makers tend to overlook the fact that parents with children in school as well as homeschooling parents often find it difficult to find suitable work arrangements. In fact, the government ought to swiftly reverse the overall trend of encouraging work over family life.

Do you think there should be any changes made to the current system for monitoring home educating families? If you answered yes, what should they be? If you answered no, why do you think that?

Yes

Comments: Once a child is identified as being home-educated, there should be no monitoring unless there is evidence to suggest his or her rights are being breached.

Some people have expressed concern that home education could be used as a cover for child abuse, forced marriage, domestic servitude or other forms of child neglect. What do you think Government should do to ensure this does not happen?

Answer: Abusive parents likely exist in similar proportion across all the spectrum of educational choice, and certainly many abuse in ways that are not readily detectable, even with monitoring. The government needs to accept that it is not wise nor is it even feasible to isolate a particular population with no proven increased risk of abuse and subject them to undue scrutiny. There needs to be a point at which the government can accept that it cannot read the hearts and minds of its populace and does not allow itself to engage in civil rights abuses simply so it can feel proactive.

*****

Saying that kids should all get funding is a tricky issue, I know. Basically, I don’t think that money should be the main entitler to a good education. Neither should testable/assessible ability! A poor child who doesn’t test well is left to the postcode lottery, which, from what I understand of government schools in this country, he’s unlikely to win. Some will argue that many private schools have bursaries, etc., but what if the child lacks parents who have the necessary awareness and wherewithal? And a bursary doesn’t alleviate the stress of having to compete to be able to attend a school. Does it seem right that a child is tested to be allowed his education, tested repeatedly while he’s receiving it, and then tested hugely at its completion? Is the stress associated with simply growing up and being deemed as having a proper chance at a successful life worth it? Is it not in itself a kind of human rights breach?

It’s simply unacceptable that there is such variance in school quality and that the bad ones are truly dire. If the government cannot find a solution, then it really is sort of left with the idea that keeps getting thrown around by US Republicans–the voucher system, which assumes that competition heals all. It seems to me that what is needed is a policy U-turn with regards to working with children, as I mentioned above, and a clear vision of a family-friendly culture. I’d say a good starting point would doubling the number of people working in education, and ensuring each of them, even those in support roles, earn a meaningful wage. You cannot change a nation of failing schools with endless policy consultations, particularly the pointless finger-pointing sort. Most people understand the importance of happy, educated children. What we need are lots more heads and hands on the ground assessing real problems and creating real solutions. As a society we generally need to be more friendly and responsive toward children, while at the same time challenging them to be good people. I get the general sense that children just really aren’t looked after very much. We plop them in front of a Disney film at the first holler when they’re tiny, and we continue keeping them disengaged thus until we deem it’s time they did something with their lives. I feel very bad for today’s teenagers, because now they also have to step into an adult world that is very badly off, because the grownups who were meant to keep the economy strong were similarly tuned out..

I dunno. It’s 4:30 in the morning, and the only reason I’m awake is because I have heartburn. 😛 I’m sure most of what I wrote will seem nonsensical after I’ve slept a bit. Yeah truly, I should definitely do my part for a child-friendly world and get enough sleep such that I’m not beastly to the kids tomorrow. 😉

Cold cold cold

January 19, 2009

This is me these days:

Very cold and a bit resentful. The former because the house just won’t heat up properly, and I wear many layers of clothes, hats, and jackets to preserve my body heat. The latter because we’re paying what I’m guessing is more than £200 per month just to run the boiler and I feel that for that money I should be luxuriating in nothing but camisole tops should I choose to. So, due to cold, giving all our money to Scottish gas, and feeling generally lethargic, we haven’t been up to terribly much aside from the odd virus. Remember that song, ‘If we make it through December..’? Yeah, that month for me would be January. At least next month I can eat lots of chocolate and pester James for cheery flowers.

We’re fully back into homeschooling at least. Keeping the kids’ brains busy makes me feel less bad about not going hardly anywhere. They’re about to finish a math text which makes me feel vaguely accomplished. Though to be fair, we’re impatient learners and will have techically done less than 1/4 of the prescribed work as we have no desire to do busy work once a concept is mastered. The fact that I always performed worse in classes that required a lot of pointless scribbling is probably biasing my teaching methods, but we work with what we have..

When we’re not learning, we are doing crafts, building Lego and playing Wii. Oh yes, I got a Wii and Wii Fit for Christmas. You can guess who the only person still without a Wii Fit profile is :P. I’ll get around to it just a soon a I can remove a few layers of clothing without risking frostbite.

Some few pictures from the last month:

A rather badly taken photo of our Christmas spoils. ‘Spoil’ is a fairly appropriate word in this case, as the kids managed to end up with even more this year than usual. I think James wins as gift-giver this year with the boots he bought for me. He had noticed that I had ordered some boots on clearance only to have the order cancelled as they had run out of stock. Seeing that I was bummed out, he then went to Glasgow a few weeks later and managed to track down a pair for me–in the right size, in the right color! It was on this trip that he also managed to snag the Wii stuff. I was so dead impressed, particularly as his normal shopping strategy involves me having to kick him out of the house on Christmas Eve with the bank card.

I did manage to finish his quilt in time for Christmas, the piecing and binding hastily sewn up while he was away on business. The back is seriously amateurish, and the actual quilting was minimal. Fortunately, I had bought a high quality wadding which tolerated my half-assedness well, at least where the quilting was concerned. Technically, this is my first quilt that had a proper wadding and backing, and I found it enormously frustrating. The cotton and the wadding stuck to each other so much that trying to align and smooth them required almost more patience than I could muster. I was sure I must have been missing some key insider tips on making the whole experience zen-filled. Ah well. Also, you might notice the quilt is square rather than a standard bed size. I could pretend that I just like it that way, but the truth is that I screwed up a couple rows of cats and couldn’t bear the thought of picking out all those stitches. Fat quarter quilts are great, so long as you don’t screw up any of your pieces. Anyway, James likes it, or at least is wise enough to say as much. I DO like the cat motif. It’s hard to see, but the fabrics are all very beautiful, and have an asian theme. He picked them himself, actually! His Christmas sweater is almost finished, the knitting on the second arm due to be finished today.


This is one of the cuter advent calendars I’ve seen. James’ mom Anne sent it, and the kids really liked putting it together every day. They even hid little surprises in most of them and made up a game for us to play, which we finally got around to doing the other day. Very sweet.


Oh oh, Mo got me a gorgeous stack of fat quarters for Christmas. We seem to have a decent system–she sends me fabric that is so hard to get here (in person anyway) and I send her British yarn. Her birthday is coming up, and I’m having a terrible time trying to decide what to get. I want to get her loads and loads is the problem because I adore spoiling her, even more so now that she’s about to have her baby.

The cats have been up to the usual naughtiness.


I thought I was very clever repurposing a birdfeed holder for cat food. I forgot to consider the fact that birds aren’t capable of lifting lids of that size. It is now weighted with a jug of juice. I would love to have an immaculately styled home, but it’s precluded by my need to have the house strewn with McGyver-esque naughty cat solutions. The downstairs toilet is the absolute worst. I have, in this tiny room, two cat litter boxes; one open and another huge covered one. I also have to have a big empty plastic bin next to the toilet. Why?? Because Mittens prefers to urinate on bare floor. I suppose I should be grateful that he will at least use the bin, but sheesh. What really gets me is that if he sees that he has peed in the box and no one has gotten around to mopping it up yet, he will suddenly deign to use a litter box. Argh!


Mittens has extreme food tracking skills. We rarely get cat food in the Tesco order (grocery home delivery–a godsend, even if I do hate Tesco), and yet on the recent occasion that I did, he zeroed in on the bag, which was wrapped in another bag, neither of which was leaky, and prompty tore into it. Here James is extracting the kitten from the bag. Being on a diet must trigger some latent desperating hunting skills, or something. Poor fattypuss.


I found the kids these excellent super-challenging dot-to-dot books that are pretty addictive. Mittens even likes to give them a go..


Representative of who is in control of this household.

The kids were invited to a little Build-a-Bear party, which was very cute, have to say.


Funny, it was the adults who thought this part looked a bit dodgy. Growing up twists the mind..


Nyssa went for a typical cat-in-pink-dress sort of thing. Joseph chose a bear and dressed it in slippers, an army helmet, stuck a wee cat to its arm, and gave it a little backpack stuffed with another tiny animal. Hehe. Oh, also Grandpa Mike and Grandma Mel should note that I was serious when I said that Joseph wears his new hat everywhere! 🙂


Lovely robin, very grateful for his food (better be–I buy him premium stuff) and look at how tubby he is, even though it’s midwinter! ❤