Saturday, November 11, 2006

A nice walk in the woods - and a rant!


Pearlie went to Squeezebox in the morning. Both kids went to capoeira in the afternoon.


I worked all day. Pearlie did Kids’ Club, (they’re working on a mock tv advert for their new chocolate bar, P is in charge of a flying pig??) she then had a bit of time at home with Dani before Yoga class and then Woodcraft Folk. She was pretty tired when I got home.

Leo spent a happy few hours at the grandmothers’ house. My mum had a really bad back but she worked with him on one of those puzzle books where you follow clues to solve a mystery. Dani finished that with him in the evening.

Friday at Wilderness Woods

Today one of the local HE mums had a booked a guided walk at Wilderness Woods. This is a lovely managed wood – sweet chestnut trees that were dropping nuts everywhere, and a Christmas tree plantation. The woman guiding the walk showed us quite a lot of interesting fungi, and pointed out other stuff. I don’t think she’d had much dealings with HE kids before as she was quite keen on telling them what she wanted to tell them next, and less keen on getting diverted by their questions! I have noticed that lots of HE kids really don’t respond well to that fake style of questioning where you know the questioner has the answer. She even tried to get them to chant back the answer when she had given it – all a bit odd! I suspect that what would have worked better would have been to plant herself in a central place and be ready to answer any questions that people had.

Anyway, it was a beautiful wood and the play area had a rather fine flying fox thingy, so the kids were happy. P was a bit under the weather today. I gave her a dose of Calpol before we left as everything was making her cry (tv progs, hair tangles, breakfast…) and, as L and I have both had a bit of a cold this week, it is likely she is battling something off. P is so rarely ill that we tend to forget it is even a possibility! P was pretty jolly during the visit as two friends she wasn’t expecting to see were there. Leo did the whole walk with his rucksack full of Edge Chronicles books…

We stopped at a fine old church on the way home – not one I have ever been to before. It was a Thirteenth century church with lots of lovely stuff in it – a vestments chest from about 1260 and a wonderful carved pulpit from the 1600s. I like old churches because they remind me of long, summer country walks with my dad, when I was about Pearlie’s age. The kids were enthusiastic too.

Thanks to the mum who organised it and took us in her car!

In other news…

Well, murmurings on the home ed email lists are indicating that the govt may be gearing up to deal with the ‘anomaly’ (as they put it) of our freedom to determine the nature and content of our children’s education. Great. The Every Child Matters agenda that is sweeping through the agencies of the state looks set to be translated into ‘make sure every child’s education is controlled by us’. This is really bad news for home educators. One of the best things about the law around HE in this country is that it does give us the freedom to define education in our own terms. Sadly, of course, this really can’t be allowed in this era of the ever present ‘expert’ and they are bound to try to pin us down to make sure that our children are ‘achieving’.

It really would make me laugh it wasn’t so sad. The government spend half the time telling us children are badder, sadder, less fit, less able to communicate, more dangerous – and the other half telling us that the answer to all these woes is yet more of their bloody initiatives, more control, more punishment. They want all the credit when things go ‘right’ and then blame all the bloody feckless parents when things go ‘wrong’. Not for one moment does it occur to them that the constant badgering, controlling, patronising garbage they hand out is in any way implicated in the negative things.

It is clear that the people who are best placed to ensure that their children are well cared for and loved are parents. And the people best able to build happy lives for children are those children themselves. Yes, people get trapped in shit lives and problems – many of them caused by government policies. If they want to help families then how about some decent affordable housing and a health service that isn’t being slowly bled to death? How about a minimum wage that is somewhere approaching a realistic living wage. How about you stop pouring our money into weapons to kill other people’s children. Stop it with all the ‘help’ that people didn’t ask for and don’t want – like that fantastic boost to family life, the jailing of parents whose children won’t go to school. Rather than the baby curriculum for children under three how about you actually make sure that all midwives and (yes, I know this is laughable) doctors have proper training on breastfeeding. Why not actually fulfil your obligations by providing the services we pay for in our taxes and keep your controlling paws off our freedoms?

When I was young, in the 1980s, the Tories did shitty things. And we knew they were shitty, and they knew they were shitty. They said, ‘we don’t care if people are losing their jobs and whole communities are dying’ and ‘we have no regard for the people sleeping in the gutter’. It was nice and clear. What this lot have done is to never once admit that they are heartless bastards. They do everything because it is honourable and noble – even making war. They can take the death of a child at the hands of people who were supposed to be caring for her, and who died because the systems that had the power to save her were under-funded and confused, and use it to push their own agenda of ‘help’. What they think will ‘help’ is to monitor everyone, to make sure we all pursue their one ‘common sense’ definition of a healthy, safe, achieving, contributing child.

Well, pardon me while I exercise some freedom of thought here.

Here’s a nice John Holt quote that I read some time ago and seems to be ever more pertinent in this country.

“The nightmare state of the future, if it comes, and it is well on its way, will be above all a tyranny of ‘professional helpers’, with an unlimited right and power to do to us or make us do whatever they (or someone) considers to be for our own good.” (John Holt, 1974)

Yep, 1974. It is from ‘Escape from Childhood’, which is an amazing and refreshing antidote to the current dominant model of what constitutes a healthy childhood.

The last ten years in this country have seemed to me to be the triumph of the process of ‘gilding the shit’. Substance has been thrown away and presentation is all. It really doesn’t matter if the schools are full of sad kids and depressed teachers – with violence at every turn, or the hospitals full of filth and desperately over -worked staff, because there is always a shiny new programme or initiative that is being poured over the whole stinking mess and buffed up to a sheen. There will be a new logo, and lots of expensive consultants can make a packet, and everyone can ‘get on board’. And then, lo and behold, it will turn out to mean nothing.

I am not about to just give away my children’s freedoms. We have seen the world of the National Curriculum and the SATS, we have tried to be ‘good’ parents, helping you shine up the shit. But we are not going back to that. I won’t trot my kids through anyone else’s curriculum – no way. The last few years have made me realise that the freedom we have is like fine wine for free. Our children just bubble, so busy doing and being. They are clever, clever, clever. They see through it all, they ask more about everything, they are so sure that they can do anything, go anywhere, be anything. They make up their own definitions of themselves and they won’t accept other people’s. I won’t label them up as ‘level three’ – nonsense, ridiculous, forget it.


peri said...

Very well said - more power to your elbow Allie. You are right and I feel all home-eding parents must feel the same way. I know I do. It is shocking that parents are no longer seenss as responsible and adult enough to know how to raise their own offspring - freedom of choice is dwindling as we are all becoming hemmed in by policies and societal pressure.
My greates pleasure in J's home education is his freedom to explore the ideas in his mind - not some so called child expert and his overall happiness in his life everyday.

Hope and you and Leo are back to full fitness soon and that Pealie super-girl fights of the germs as ususal. Hugs to you all.

peri said...

ps. sorry for the mistakes - it's early and my fingers and brain are inhabiting different dimensions *sigh*

Tech said...

Absolutely fantastic post, thank youm you rant with style :-)

Nic said...


Jax said...

what with the flexi schooling and working, I'm not on all the lists atm, could you point me towards anything you can on this gearing up for another wade into our rights?


Gill said...

Well said Allie :-)


Ruth said...

Brilliant post Allie. Really well put.

Carlotta said...

We'll be with you all the way Allie. No way are my kids going to be forced to conform to anything so unsuited to their needs.

Julie said...

Great post - I thoroughly enjoyed your rant. You articulated my thoughts perfectly.

HelenHaricot said...

i love your rants - long may they continue.
I think the only thing we have left is direct mass mailing - MP, quangos, councillors and DofE, DoH etc as individuals, so that they drown under the weight of trees. cc'd to all the newspapers possible