Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Summer!!!

We’ve got summer – like, no rain and bright sun and all that! Hoorah! Today we spent nearly five hours in one of my favourite parks. The kids and I met up with cousin B (7) who is doing a one hour a day mini-tennis course there this week. Bit by bit, home edders and friends started to arrive until there was a big mix of kids. There was a game of gangs, bases, chasing and capturing and Pearl and Leo ran around non-stop for hours. Pearl did actually stop for her sandwich and fruit but Leo ate his on the hoof. Dani came to meet us once she'd finished work, and she and P cycled home together. By the time the kids went to bed tonight they were both swimmy eyed with tiredness.

Yesterday we went to visit my dad and his wife in the mid-Sussex town where they live. We had a lovely day. The walk from the station to their house is punctuated by nice distractions for the kids: a play area with spinning see-saw (which our kids call a seebount!), several patches of brambles where early blackberries were found and railings used to stop people cycling down a walkway that are actually impromptu climbing frames. We were treated to the usual feast for lunch. My dad’s wife remembers every food stuff that the kids enjoy and provides a whole range of choices – and always meringues! After lunch we sat in their gorgeous garden and played and chatted. As well as some toys (bats and balls and so on) they keep lots of useful things tucked away – a half section of plastic drain pipe kept P busy for ages. My dad has a wonderful little summer house type thing at the end of his garden – lined with bookshelves, comfy chairs, radio and a plug in heater to keep his books dry in the winter. If I had such a place I think I’d never come out!

Current activities here (when we’re not out enjoying the weather) are:

Thinking about our weekly schedule of activities. Dani has constructed a colour coded system and the noticeboard is covered with little coloured bits of paper…

Making ginger biscuits. Dani and the kids made these on Saturday when I was at work. Arriving home to the smell of freshly baked biccies is so cosy!

Catalogue and website browsing. Thanks to a gift from my dad, P has boosted coffers and is currently to be found comparing tops, skorts, jeans, vests, leggings, sweater dresses and so on. She is very into clothes at the moment.

Drawing and writing. This is Leo – as usual! His book of Moley stories goes from strength to strength.

Enjoying some second hand books. Pearlie was very chuffed with a gift of some Horrible History books from our next door neighbours – all ones she hasn’t read before.

Knitting up a storm! Guess who? Yep, Dani’s Penrose Tile knitting nears completion.

Mending. I finally got round to sewing a patch on a large rip in Pearlie’s sit and sleep chair bed. I have been thinking a lot recently about the lost skills of mending and how sad it is that we now replace rather than repair.

Thinking, talking and planning about how we can re-organise the rooms of the house to give us three real bedrooms. At the moment we sleep in a room that is separated from the living room by a curtain and Pearlie is in a very small room. We have a cunning plan but it is probably going to cost a lot (moving kitchen and installing a second shower where current kitchen is) so we need to think carefully.

Here’s looking forward to a few more days of sunshine!

Friday, July 27, 2007

End of week

Lots of things are coming to an end for the summer. I wish summer would start. This week we went to:

  • The last Kids Club – a lovely, chaotic, sports day involving visiting children from the crèche that meets in the next door building, a wheels race for all comers, delicious soup and yummy cakes
  • The last Friday group – a success for both P and L, which makes a pleasant change
  • The last play in the park after Sports (well, Pearlie did, as part of a 24 hour socialise-a-thon she and her friend E. arranged for themselves in the middle of the week)
  • Not the last Squeezebox or swimming club, as they are both carrying on over the summer
  • Not the last capoeira, because we missed it. The kids are hoping their regular teacher will be back in September, as it’s not quite the same without him.

Tomorrow is Allie’s last day at work until September. Looking forward to some days off and days out as a family.

As we were in an end of term-ish mood, we went straight from the park to the cinema this evening, to see the Simpsons Movie. Lots of laughs.

I’ve been staying up too late for too many nights trying to get this consultation response done. It feels like having some particularly difficult and boring homework to do. Anyway, it’s done now. I just hope we’ve done enough.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Generating stories

Ages ago, when we were new home educators, I bought a product called a story generator from Philip and Tacey. It hasn’t been used much as the words on it aren't very inspiring. The idea is to use the twelve sided die to generate features such as characters, location and time – and it gives you some objects, actions, adverbs, adjectives and so on - all from lists on a chart. I’ve often looked at it and wondered if I could use the idea to make something more appealing. So, this morning I made a Doctor Who themed story generator. It was great fun adding characters like Sycorax and Autons and objects like sonic screwdriver and Tardis. I think you could do various different versions – fantasy themed, animal ones – whatever appeals to people in your family. People don’t need to be able to read or write if you work collaboratively.

Leo and I both wrote stories. Here is his (with permission, of course) – exactly as he wrote it. This is all his spelling and punctuation but Leo writes in 99% capitals and I won’t type it that way or you may feel like I’m shouting.

The Tardis sparked and glowed when the Doctor used his sonic screw-driver to oil a switch on the console. VVVRRR!!! The Tardis flew through the vortex and landed in summer time of 2007. It was dawn in London. A huge space ship was hovering over London. It was the Sycorax. People screamed as a window on the space ship fell of the side of the ship and fell to the ground below. “Sycorax mighty, Sycorax strong, Sycorax rock!” a voice called out of the window hole and Captain Jack was thrown out of the window. The people fled to the forest. Captain Jack silently picked himself up and stumbled towards the Tardis. “Doctor!” he shouted. I am anxios about them. A lazer beam shot down and killed innocent people. The Doctor pulled Captain Jack inside the Tardis. “Now! All powered up! VROOM VVROUMPH! The Tardis went as it shot through the air and landed at the side of the forest near the main estate. “Now! Lets hide behind those bushes. Said The Doctor. OK! Said Jack. They ran to the nearest bush and hid. An army of Sycorax marched towards the forest. But then time suddenly sliped and the Doctor and Jack landed in the Tardis and the Tardis was sent back into the time vortex towards the moon.

I’m really impressed with the way Leo is now picking up punctuation. He has a good feel for what makes a sentence and is using full stops. There are some commas in this too and he doesn’t seem to be afflicted by my curse of over using them. He seems to be figuring out speech marks well – just sometimes forgetting to close them, which I remember doing. All his writing skills are the result of writing what he pleases when it pleases him and it does still amaze me how this is evolving.

So, I recommend story generators. They’re good for poems and plays too. All you need is a many sided die, or a spinner, and your imagination. Here's our Doctor Who one - feel free to give it a go.

Doctor Who story/poem/play generator

Characters
Slitheen
Captain Jack
The Master
Rose Tyler
Daleks
Cybermen
The Sycorax
The Lonely Assassins
Moxx of Balhoon
The Beast
Reapers
Autons

Settings
An abandoned planet
A network of caves
City
An aeroplane
Forest
Space station
Bedroom
Public toilet
Eye of a tornado
Factory
Theatre
Station

Time
The far future
The end of a great civilization
The present day
The second world war
Summer
Midnight
Last week
Christmas
At dawn
Dinner time
During a war
During a party

Actions
Leapt
Fled
Screamed
Gasped
Clambered
Skidded
Grabbed
Fumbled
Opened
Laughed
Smashed
Dazzled

Objects
Sonic screw driver
Silver box
Key
Tardis
Window
Pen
Book
Cupboard
Knife
Pocket
Mask
Feather

Some descriptive words
Astonished
Lonely
Fearful
Excited
Anxious
Delighted
Exhausted
Frozen
Shattered
Lost
Confused
Powerful

Slowly
Silently
Endlessly
Patiently
Aggressively
Roughly
Joyously
Quickly
Carefully
Viciously

Mighty
Stinking
Brittle
Shining
Loose
Green
Chilling
Mysterious
Gold
Black
Smooth
Tiny

Good luck!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Have a few photos - in random order!


Here's dear old Bunny, the guinea pig. We've no idea how old he is but he's been with us nearly two years and was fully grown when he arrived. He's developed a rather unpleasant problem of the nether regions that afflicts older boars. This means I have to be rather more involved with his bum than I'd like but apart from that he's going strong.

Here's a picture that shows Dani's bike trailer in action. I snapped this on the way to Hesfes.


Leo and Dani had a good afternoon armed with a fungi identification book in a Brighton park.



I found a photo from Hesfes! She was having a great time - honest!




At our local community festival - on July 8th - somone had constructed this amazing Dalek.


Our little Doctor!


Pearl and Leo on the climbing wall at another community festival. We're rather well off for community festivals round here!


Pearlie very high up!



Leo made this super little surfer dude. He's constructed entirely out of wax from BabyBel cheeses. It is a little soft for this purpose so he does sag after a while!






Saturday, July 21, 2007

8 things meme -

Tagged by Pearl

The rules are simple…Each player lists 8 facts/habits about themselves. The rules of the game are posted at the beginning before those facts/habits are listed. At the end of the post, the player then tags 8 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know that they have been tagged and asking them to read your blog.

  1. I was born in Sydney. My parents travelled here with me when I was about 15 months old, and ended up staying.
  2. My parents are both mathematicians.
  3. I am happy living without a car.
  4. I love knitting.
  5. I have a tendency to get way too involved in the organising of things, then end up with all the responsibility for making them work.
  6. I am very lucky that I have a job I enjoy
  7. I am constantly astonished, enchanted, exasperated and mystified by my children
  8. I often feel I don’t really fit in, but I quite enjoy looking at things from an outsider’s point of view.

I can’t think of anyone to tag, who hasn’t already done this one, but if you are reading this and you haven’t done it yet, please do!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Rant!

I’ve been reading some debate recently about the government’s proposal to force single parents to work outside the home. I’m not really surprised about this – it fits with their crazy aim to force parents to work all hours and spend most of their wages on childcare. What does surprise me is when parents in couples feel the need to tut and wag the finger at single parents and moan about how ‘they pay their taxes…’ and ‘lazy single parents spend all day watching daytime tv…’ Why say such things? Do people really think that they are being ripped off, that life as a single parent on benefits is some kind of con, being perpetrated on them? Here’s what I’d like to say to them, if it wasn’t too rude to make it past the moderators!

“If it’s so great, then why not just hand in your notice, get rid of your partner and jump on the gravy train? If that doesn’t sound appealing then maybe you should just shuddup!”

If you are a parent how can you not accept that there is plenty of useful work being done by people at home raising their children? If a parent wants to be there for their child, isn’t that a good thing? I also think that there are selfish reasons to defend this principle. Newsflash!! You never know what might happen in your future! Sitting smug thinking that you have ‘a nice house, big car, partner with a high wage’ is really so very, very unwise. Life throws up surprises – relationships break down and people die. If I ended up as a single parent then I’d give up work in a flash if our home educating depended on it. I want to know that this would still be possible in the brave new Brown world.
Been quite a routine week here. There was another Hedline meting with the EOTAS bods yesterday, which happened at our house – quite good, I think. Most of the kids’ groups have been on – Kids’ Club twice for P, once for L, Squeezebox, Capoeira and some park playing. Not much point giving you more details, as both Pearl and Leo have been blogging this week.

My chief pre-occupation is the fact that we have an electrics problem – no lights on two of the three floors of the house. We have a somewhat unorthodox (and old) arrangement of fuse boxes but we managed to locate the correct fuse. Old fuse box means we have to fiddle about with fuse wire and a screwdriver and all that. I can actually do that (remember being taught by my mum, in the cupboard under the stairs, in the dark – hardly optimum learning environment but the air of excitement obviously helped!) and so fixed it – three times! Every time I sorted it it blew again in a few minutes, so something is clearly wrong. Gave up and phoned electrician. Electrician was out so am now playing that game where you have to decide whether or not to keep hassling. If you are too much of a pain in the bum then the electrician will get fed up and not come, if you are not enough of a pain in the bum then the electrician will decide to go to someone who is making a fuss. Ho hum. Think I’ll give it until tonight and then ring again.

Our house was built in the 1860s – one of many workers houses, thrown up in large number out of what was handy. I am convinced that some of our walls are made of Bungaroosh – fitting shelves isn’t a great choice as they often fall off the walls. We also have the joy of damp in the basement and so have to run a de-humidifier down there. Many houses just like this one were demolished in the slum clearances in the 1960s. I reckon the ones in these streets only survived because the council ran out of money to keep knocking them down and putting up tower blocks.

Seems bizarre that these houses change hands for more than a quarter of a million pounds! The housing market in Brighton is insane – you need to earn a huge amount to get on the ladder here. People brought up in Brighton end up leaving because they know they will never be able to buy anything here. And the rental sector is hopeless. Most of my young colleagues can just afford to live if they stay in shared student housing and then they struggle.

Anyway, lets see what the electrician advises. Really hoping this isn’t a damp related issue. Really anxious it may be as back wall is wringing where old rotten window needs replacing. Worry, worry, worry… Call electrician again, I think. Oh yes, and get window firm round for quote for back window.

Sorry, this turned into boring house post!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Funeral in sunshine

I went to the funeral of a family friend this afternoon. He was the male half of a couple who have been friends with my mum for about forty years. Back in the mid seventies, when my parents’ marriage broke up, they were a wonderful source of support to her. The man in question, D, was a plumber. He’d often take a tea break in our kitchen, popping in for a chat with my mum – a ciggy or two and cup of tea or three! He was a very softly spoken man, with a dry sense of humour and twinkly eyed smile. According to family legend he once baby sat for me when I was about four years old. Once he’d read me a bedtime story I asked for another. In all innocence he said:
“How many bedtime stories do you usually have?”
“About seven…”
Bless the man, he read me my seven stories.

The weather here was typically changeable today, but the sun blazed down for D’s funeral. The crematoria is surrounded by massive trees. I was early, so walked about for a bit in the graveyard. The graveyard is part of a larger one that was over grown and out of use for many years. The grave stones are largely Victorian and wonderfully varied. Dani and I once went on a guided walk and got shown some of the most unusual: a massive granite one in the shape of a railway turntable, for one of the chief engineers of the London to Brighton line, one with a beautiful white horse for a whole dynasty – mothers, daughters, fathers, sons. It is a place I love to walk. I find the stones, the calm certainty of the place, a very soothing environment. I’ve always liked graveyards.

It is strange to find that my parents’ generation is really old now. Faces from the past call to me and I dredge my memory and realise that I know them. What shocks me is the realisation that I remember those people when they were my age now. They were just ‘grown up’ to me.

Anyway, here’s to good old D, who bailed out my mum on many an occasion when the services of a plumber were beyond the reach of our family purse, who loved to dance, to fish and to have a laugh. I hope that F (his wife of some 48 years) can hold close the happy memories through the darker times ahead.

Monday, July 16, 2007

A dragonfly moment

Leo and I went across town to one of our favourite parks today. One of our home ed groups takes a summer break from the indoor venue and has outdoor meets instead. These tend to be very patchily attended, and Leo and I found ourselves alone. We decided to please ourselves and enjoyed a lovely few hours pottering about the park. It was quiet because the schools haven’t broken up yet.

Leo had his scooter with him and he had a fine time gliding down slight inclines. The scooter in question is rather high class, a Xooter, which we got very cheap as it had some water damage. It has incredible gliding capability and is great fun to ride.

After that we went off to the manor gardens and looked at the pets’ graveyard. This was one of my favourite bits of the park when I was about Leo’s age. It is a row of maudlin little Victorian grave stones in memory of various dogs. He was affronted (as I remember I was at seven) by this one:
Here lies Tatters
Not that it much matters.

Then we went on to the Rockery, to look at the fish in the pond. As we sat there we realised that a mighty, beautiful blue dragonfly was there with us. It never stopped moving, all the time we were watching it. It seemed almost as big as a bird, and we could easily follow its movements. We saw it chase a smaller insect in the air.

It was a wonderful moment – peaceful and magical. We sat low on the stepping stones across the pond and the dragonfly swooped over our heads. A moment to be grateful for home ed.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Identity, family, badges and labels

Just recently I have found myself wandering into some blogs of other lesbian mums. It has got me reflecting on the way our lives as parents have panned out, and on the whole thorny question of identity.

When the kids were little we were very active in our local L and G parents’ group. In reality it was always more a lesbian mums’ group than anything else, occasionally a dad (or prospective dad) would appear, but as he was nearly always the only man there he usually didn’t return! The group had a mixture of single parents and couples. I think there was only one family that was in the process of adopting. Back in those days (8 or 10 years ago) this was still a tricky process and usually involved one parent adopting and the other remaining pretty invisible in the official records. That’s very different now and we know of several local lesbian and gay couples who have adopted children. But, anyway, most of the families had kids they’d either chosen to have as a couple, or who had been born from previous heterosexual relationships.

The group was usually pretty busy and families would come quite a way for the sessions. We were very active in the whole thing – being key-holders, keeping the books, getting involved with planning Christmas parties or organising speakers. Mostly that was just an established pattern for us – and especially for Dani. If she gets involved in something she tends to get really involved! But it was also indicative of our sense of looking for an identity as a family, and as parents. Not only did we attend the group religiously, we read all the books we could find (both always do that, no matter what the issue!) on lesbian and gay parenting. Looking back, I am glad and grateful that we took that approach. Going to the group when P was little gave me a place where my parenthood wasn’t questioned and I didn’t have to keep explaining myself – and that was then mirrored for D when L was born. Can’t say what it gave to D, P, or L but they were generally keen to go. I think that it did help the kids to realise that other people had two mums, or no dad, or some other combinations of parents. So, how come we aren’t still there every month? What happened to that need?

I guess that part of the explanation is that people just do tend to throw themselves in to things when they are new to them. The way we behaved was pretty much a carbon copy of our early years as out dykes – at the club nights, in the campaign groups, wearing all the gear, reading all the books. Later on you calm down a bit, realise that you’re in this for the long haul and attempt to integrate the new aspect of your life with everything else. (Think Little Britain’s Daffyd as someone not yet engaging with this process!) Also, you tend to realise that whatever the label you still have a need to work out how to do this as you – or, in the case of family, as us.

Several jolts occurred when we were very involved with the L and G parents’ group - things that jarred with our sense of how we wanted and needed to parent and live. One was the realisation that our model of family creation (each giving birth to one child, sharing the childcare and both working outside the home) was not actually being followed by anyone else! We found ourselves floundering for common ground with families where one person thought that all the housework was her job, or that the kids should be neat and tidy when their working mummy got home. That kind of rigid distinction of roles wasn’t reflected in the heterosexual partnerships of our own siblings and we were a bit gobsmacked to find it in lesbian parents’ relationships. Another was that we’d find ourselves being part of discussions on ‘discipline’ for toddlers and little kids. Talking about appropriate punishment was just way off the radar of our beliefs about parenting. It was only a matter of time before our decision to home ed Leo, and Pearl’s decision to come out of school, introduced a giant hiccup in our comfort levels. For some reason, around that time, discussion often tended to centre around which were the ‘good’ schools, and how to ensure you got into them. So, we felt less and less at home.

If our day to day lives had thrown us more homophobic situations to deal with, then we would surely have clung a bit closer to that group. There’s nothing like adversity for bringing people together. But, extremely luckily for us, we live in a city and a neighbourhood where we don’t face lots of prejudice. Brighton is also a place where people make diverse lifestyle choices. The kids aren’t surrounded by families that all look the same. They know that people (parents and children) come in a range of sexualities and gender identities. Though I’m not naïve enough as to assume that they never have moments of discomfort to deal with, they aren’t facing daily bullying at school, or on the street. Dani and I both have families and work mates who accept us for who we are and both our employers recognise our family relationship. So, with gladness and thanks, but some element of relief, we stopped going along to the L and G parents’ group.

This process, of acknowledging a path, identifying with it and slowly working out how to walk it as yourself, is a recurring pattern in life. People do it in all sorts of environments – home, family, career, unpaid work, hobby. I have been quite conscious of how our family has adjusted to the label of ‘home educating family’. Finding a philosophical location where our family is comfortable, as well as actual places where each family member is comfortable, is an ongoing process. Sometimes we flounder when family members have different needs. Sometimes we need to stop and consider how we’re doing and if everyone is getting enough of what they need.

I have realised that recognising and caring for all elements of myself is essential for happiness, though it is not easy. If I’m tasked with finding a good image of a dalek for someone’s poster, that doesn’t mean I won’t just sneak a quick image search for Karina Lombard – just to brighten my day. If I am reading something heavy on the origins of thinking, then I might well take a break with the latest G-Scene. Nattering to my mum on the phone is as vital as following in-depth debate about the government consultation on home ed. Getting the washing on is as important as getting to work on time – but neither is as vital as being there when the children need me. If I get just a couple of chances to dance ballroom stylie with my true love in any one year, then those chances are worth grabbing with both hands. And so on… Being a parent, being a lesbian mum, being a home educator – they’re all who I am, but they’re only part of who I am. What I hope for the future is that our children feel the freedom to define themselves, to name what and who they are - no matter how unusual the combination of labels.

My response to the HE guidelines consultation

Apologies for this boring post, but I thought it might be interesting/helpful for anyone who has still to respond to the consultation.

Question 1: Do you agree that it is helpful for the DfES to issue guidelines to local authorities?

Yes

I believe that clear and accurate guidelines would help local authorities move towards a better understanding of their duties and powers in relation to home educators.

At the moment, there are numerous examples from around the country of home educators being given inaccurate and misleading information by their local authority. For example:

  • home educators are frequently given the impression that they must agree to an annual visit from a local authority officer, to discuss their education provision
  • these visits are often presented (and experienced) as some form of inspection, and local authority staff often claim to be authorised to "approve" home educators' provision, or withhold such approval.
  • home education is frequently viewed as a cause for concern by ill-informed local authority officers and other state officials, such as social workers, health visitors and hospital staff.

This kind of attitude is the major obstacle to any form of constructive relationship between local authorities and the home educating community.

I believe that this problem is best tackled by the publication of clear, unambiguous and legally accurate guidelines, directed solely towards local authorities. In general, home educating families do not need guidance from local or national government, and are not seeking to create any kind of relationship with our local authorities.

Question 2: Do you agree that the description of the law (paragraphs 2.1-2.3) relating to elective home education is accurate and clear?

Yes

Question 3: Do you agree that the description of local authorities' responsibilities (paragraphs 2.5-2.11) is accurate and helpful

No

The phrase "but all children should make reasonable progress" should be removed from paragraph 2.5.

As a home educator, I am of course intensely interested in the progress made by each of my children. As the person responsible for providing them with an education suitable to their needs, I am best placed to observe the progress they are making.

My partner and I are taking an autonomous approach to our children's education. This means that the children themselves make decisions about what they wish to learn about and how they approach these topics. Our role is to facilitate their learning through the provision of resources, opportunities and experiences, and by encouraging and supporting their skills in self-directed research.

It would be extremely difficult for a local authority officer to make a meaningful judgment about whether my children were making "reasonable progress", because they would not know what the children had identified as their priorities for learning. By definition, there are no set standards for an individual, self-directed education, and it is therefore impossible for there to be a standard measure of "reasonable progress".

There is no mention of "reasonable progress" in Section 7 of the Education Act 1996, and therefore there is no need for it to be included in the guidelines. The inclusion of this phrase would encourage those local authorities who already overstep their powers to continue to do so.

I welcome the emphasis in paragraph 2.7 on the fact that local authorities only have a duty to act if they have good reason to believe that parents are not providing a suitable education. While many local authorities currently believe they should make enquiries of all home educating families they are aware of, this practice goes well beyond what they are required to do by law.

Unless my behaviour gives cause for concern, I am not routinely questioned as to whether I am breaking the law. For example, I do not have to persuade local authority staff, on a routine basis, that I do not violently assault my partner. It is presumed by society that I am innocent of this crime, unless proved guilty.

As the law stands, I am due the same courtesy, as a person who is presumed to be abiding by the law which states that I must provide an efficient, full-time education, suitable to the age, aptitude and ability of each of my children.

When local authorities do have reason to contact a family to make enquiries, as discussed in paragraph 2.8, this should be done politely and with respect for the wide diversity of educational philosophies present in the home educating community. This paragraph should remind local authorities that parents have a free choice about the method by which they respond to such enquiries.

You have not asked about paragraphs 3.1 to 3.3. I believe these contain important principles, and should be retained in the document.

Question 4: Do you agree that the section on contact with the local authority (paragraphs 3.4-3.7) is accurate and helpful?

No

All of paragraph 3.4 should be deleted, after the word "investigating".

Suggesting that the community in which a home educating family lives should be considered as a risk factor, is to invite local authorities to make decisions based on prejudice rather than considering the needs of each individual child.

The research cited is not based on direct contact with home educating families from the Gypsy/Roma and Traveller communities, or indeed anyone from those communities. It is shocking that the sentence quoted should be included in a government document and thus given the status of fact. I find this expression of a prejudiced attitude both offensive and distasteful.

This problem continues in paragraph 3.5, where authorities are asked to take action on the basis of information which "may cast doubt on whether an 'efficient and suitable education' can be provided". This is not what the law requires - there is no mention in the law of authorities taking action on the basis of what *can* be provided. The law (as accurately described in paragraph 2.7) directs authorities only to take action if they have reason to believe that a suitable education *is not being* provided.

The whole of this section is written as if a visit by a local authority officer to the family home is the preferred method of contact between the authority and a home educating family. Other means of providing information are given only as alternatives, where the family rejects the offer of a visit.

While a home visit may be the preferred option for local authority officers, it is the least favourite option for many home educating families, not because they have something to hide but because they are concerned for the educational and emotional welfare of their children.

For families providing an autonomous, child-led education, the intrusion of a visit (often viewed by everybody involved as an inspection) can be extremely disruptive to the intrinsic motivation on which such an education rests. Children in families pursuing an autonomous philosophy of education are developing the skills of identifying and pursuing their own priorities for learning. Local authority officers often attempt to measure such children against an external set of educational priorities. Children who are receiving an extremely efficient education, in which they follow their own interests and complete their studies to their own satisfaction are then being mistakenly judged against an entirely irrelevant standard. Parents understandably wish to avoid this kind of situation, by providing information in a form which reflects the priorities of the child.

For children who have been bullied or had other damaging experiences while at school, the feeling of having the safe haven of home "inspected" can be extremely traumatic.

For children with some special educational needs, the pressure of a visit and the disruption of routine that this would inevitably bring is unbearable and damaging.

There is no need for children or parents to experience this kind of worry and disruption, simply in order to respond to a local authority's enquiries. There should be no assumption that a visit is preferable - the choice of how to respond should be a free one offered to parents.

Question 5: Do you agree that the section on providing a full-time education (paragraphs 3.11-3.14) - and in particular, the characteristics of provision (paragraph 3.13) - is accurate and helpful?

Not sure

I do not agree that the list of characteristics in paragraph 3.13 should be used by local authorities as a trigger for further investigation, as advised in paragraph 3.14.

I also think that the list of resources in the last point of paragraph 3.13 is unnecessary and overly prescriptive, especially given the likelihood that paragraph 3.13 will be used as a checklist by many local authorities.

Because home education allows parents to provide a tailor-made education for each child, there are bound to be children who need resources that are not included in the partial list given. For example, a child with a particular aptitude for carpentry may need a good set of tools. This is not included in the list, and it is not possible to construct a list that includes all possible resources needed to provide home education for all possible children.

I am astonished that you have not consulted on paragraphs 3.15 to 3.19.

Paragraph 3.17 can be interpreted as being contrary to Section 324.(5) of the Education Act 1996, which states:

"Where a local education authority maintain a statement under this section, then-

(a) unless the child's parent has made suitable arrangements, the authority-

(i) shall arrange that the special educational provision specified in the statement is made for the child, and

(ii) may arrange that any non-educational provision specified in the statement is made for him in such manner as they consider appropriate, and

(b) if the name of a maintained, grant-maintained or grant-maintained special school is specified in the statement, the governing body of the school shall admit the child to the school."

This confusion arises from the wording of the SEN Code of Practice, which the draft guidelines closely follow.

I think the publication of the guidelines on Elective Home Education should be used as an opportunity to clarify the issue of local authorities' responsibilities when a child with a statement is electively home educated.

As the law states, the authority has no duty to ensure the provision specified in the statement, if the parents have made suitable arrangements.

In this case (the case considered in paragraph 3.17 of the draft guidelines, where there is a statement in place but the authority considers the home education provided to be suitable), the parents may well wish to write to the Local Authority and ask the LEA to 'cease to maintain the statement' for their child. Local Authorities should not unreasonably refuse to do this, and this scenario should be described and explained in the guidelines.

The guidelines should also make it clear that where a statement is maintained for a home educated child, in this particular situation, there is no legal requirement for parents (or indeed the local authority) to provide anything specified in a statement of Special Educational Needs.

Question 6: Do you agree that the section on developing relationships (section 4) is useful?

Not sure

I think it is a good idea for local authorities to endeavour to achieve a better understanding of home education. I support the development of trusting and respectful relationships between local authorities and home educators as a community.

However, I do not think individual home educators should be placed under any obligation to form a relationship with their local authority.

Question 7a: Are the suggested resources in section 5 and appendix 2 useful?

Yes

Question 7b: Should any other contacts be included?

No response

Question 8: Please use this space for any other comments you wish to make about the guidelines

I am pleased to see that the Department has chosen to consult on draft guidelines, to encourage local authorities to act within the current legal framework surrounding home education.

Our freedom to provide an education for our children that is very different from the education provided in schools is extremely precious to us.

I believe the educational diversity found within the home education community is also precious for the future of education, as technology continues to reshape the economy and the needs of society. Home education is a living example of the kind of personalised education only now being introduced in schools.

I am pleased to see that the government has rejected calls for legal changes that would have threatened to homogenise and stifle this vibrant and creative section of society.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Here is the news


According to Leo! This was created during yesterday’s 6 o’clock news bulletin on the telly.

And here is the news according to HEdline, your friendly neighbourhood home education campaign group.

The headlines from the Green House are:

Tennis achievement: Pearl, 10, Leo, 7, and Dani, 38, all managed to hit a tennis ball across the net in the local park

New Grizzly Tales books finally available in shops. Leo snapped them both up.

Dalek Sec Hybrid action figure nowhere to be found in town

Baby seagulls on roof opposite begin to fly

And finally, advance notice of an important sporting event. Local HE readers welcome to come along – contact us for full details.



Tuesday, July 10, 2007

This blog?

I’ve been pondering the future of this blog recently. I went through a big wobble just before HESFES, when I felt I couldn’t be bothered trying to keep the blog up to date, and was thinking that the kids could just blog what they want about their lives. But, then I found myself doing a HESFES post and the habit kicked in again.

I suspect that this blog will become less diary-like and more a place for thinking, but we shall see.

Today, I thought I’d put a bit more of an HE slant on the post and include a quick update on what people are up to round here.

Pearlie loved HESFES and would probably happily live in an environment like that. Back at home, she found two copies of First News waiting for her, which she has been enjoying. The First News subscription was money very well spent, I think, as both the kids like it – and I read it too. Pearlie is more and more interested in news and current affairs and is picking up lots about the world.

Pearlie has also returned to steady work on a scarf she has been knitting for some time – inspired by HESFES knitting, I think. Today she went to Dani’s work to use a badge maker to make up some nice designs of her own. She has a bag which is steadily getting covered in badges – very trendy.

Tonight she has gone off to a swimming club, where there has been something of an HE invasion. It is a very big club – quite loud and manic – but P enjoyed it last time, so she’s hoping to stick with it.

Leo has been quite glad to be home from camp – and clearly needs lots of time playing on his own. He made a cart for his toy Ood this morning, out of an old chocolate box and using toilet roll tubes as rollers. Pearlie explained that this was similar to the way the Ancient Egyptians used logs as rollers. A nice home ed moment.

Yesterday, Leo and I had a great conversation while walking over to my mum’s house. He explained his idea for de-humidifiers to extract water from the air in damp climates, which could then be transported to areas where people need water. This covered lots of topics – climate change, energy usage, solar power, the difficulties of transporting large quantities of water – and more.

When at my mum’s house he wrote a list of his top twenty prized possessions, which included his big toe??

Both the kids went to Squeezebox today, where they started some new songs – all good.

Dani has been working on a new Hedline newsletter, with local authority work update and reminder to people to respond to the consultation.

I’ve been getting irritated with some nasty little bug that is preventing me from commenting on other people’s blogs!

So, let’s see what happens with this blog over the next few weeks...

BTW, between Crete and HESFES we never blogged about an excellent home ed trip to the Science Museum (Friday 22nd June), where we all went to the ‘Science of Spying’ exhibition, and saw a 3-D dinosaur movie. So, many thanks to the organised home edder who sorted the group booking and saved us a lot of money.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Do-si-do and cyberpriests

Last night we went to the long postponed family shindig in honour of my mum’s seventieth birthday. She is now seventy one and a half, and as the party coincided with my brother’s fortieth, they made it a joint celebration of 111.5 years on the planet. The party was a ceilidh, with live band and caller, so much fun was had by all! The kids enjoyed dancing, I caught up with old friends and we all reeled home at nearly midnight.

Today was our annual, local community festival and we had recklessly booked a stall, which meant setting up at 9.30am. It turned into a beautiful day and we managed to get shot of a few toys and assorted other stuff. The theme this year was Doctor Who, and (in true Brighton fashion) the local Anglican priests took part in the parade in full religious gear and Cyberman masks! These clergymen surpass themselves each year and are a model of jolly participation. Let’s just say that the Anglican clergy in Brighton tends to be quite at home with the whole theatrical side of life. Leo wore his suit, converse boots and Doctor Who glasses and went as the great Time Lord himself. Pearlie had a stab at looking like Martha Jones, but that was a bit of a challenge without the jacket and so on.

Tonight has been a bit of a struggle as we are all ragged, but the kids are now in bed and I think we’ll soon follow.

BTW there is a good discussion of home ed available on the BBC website – from the Worricker show that was on this morning. It starts about an hour and a quarter in to the programme.

Friday, July 06, 2007

And when it was good it was very, very good...

HESFES

Well, I don’t think I’ve ever camped with more insane weather than the week we just spent at HESFES. The weather was largely responsible for the horrid bits. So, let’s get those out of the way.

The journey there!

This included the following:
Mighty rain storm that soaked Dani and Pearlie as they attempted London cycling.
Bike trailer mishap that slowed D and P in their ride to the campsite from Colchester. This involved diversion to bike shop and buying of bigger spanner!
Two more downpours, through which D and P rode on. Our astonishing P managed to cope with this and the fact that the wiggly route made the ride 16 miles long and the weather made it four hours!
My mobile phone dying unexpectedly at Colchester station – leaving me with only crappy pay phone as means of contacting D on the road.
Misunderstanding which led to friend going to wrong station to collect me and Leo. In the end I piled tired boy into cab and took that all the way to the campsite.

Tent struggled

Saturday night I woke to horrendous rain, which was pouring through one of the tent doors. It was also threatening to overwhelm other parts of the tent. Kids were rolling about a lot (probably disturbed by weather) and I ended up sitting in the middle of everyone, crying and vowing never to camp again!
We spent a lot of money at the campsite shop in the morning, buying tape to seal one door, re-proofing spray to encourage the tent to actually repel rain, and lots of rope etc. We lashed our spare tarp (which was supposed to be covering the bikes!) over the tent on the windward side. This helped a lot during the rest of the week, when it continued to…

Piss Down

It rained every day, not continuously, but repeatedly. If someone says ‘showers’ you imagine little tinkly rain, yes? Well, this was big, ploppy rain that could form a little river and flow under your tent door in a moment. Or, it could soak a child’s hoody, or the towel you’d left ‘drying’ on the guy rope. Even better, it could appear just as you crouched over your little camping cooker trying to coax it into boiling water for tea.

Wind?

Yes, crazy, rattling, tent-felling wind. Our little tent survived, partly as it was surrounded by larger tents, but many people had bowing tent roofs and walls. The last night was scary. I had a wonderfully vivid dream about stupidly bedding down with the kids in a room in a condemned house that was actually falling off the side of the building.

Lack of sleep

See above. There is enough room in a three person tent for all four of us, but not when wind and rain are disturbing everyone. I also developed a ‘don’t touch the sides’ obsession and so would wake in the night to move people’s feet!

The bike trailer

This had a problem on the way (solved) and another on the way back (as yet, unsolved), which meant we had to walk the bikes and trailer through London on the way home. In the end it felt like we had three big, annoying, wheeled bits of luggage, rather than the slick people and gear moving system we’d started out with…

But that is more than enough moaning.

Here are the very, very good bits.

Good people

Numerous people helped us over the week. We had an offer of sleeping space in another tent, which we didn’t need in the end, but which made me feel that staying and trying was possible. Leo’s scooter was carried there and back by another friend, which meant he had a vehicle, which he enjoyed a lot. Someone took P’s bike to Colchester station for us, which meant we could all cab it to the station on the return journey (D’s bike folds) and so got home at a reasonable hour.

HESFES vibe and hanging out…

I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about this, but it was good. Yes, the teenagers do get drunk – but that is what I did at their age, and not in such a mutually supportive atmosphere. And, there was no nasty undertone of violence that you often get when people are hanging around drinking. There was a bit of annoying noise late at night, but they couldn’t really compete with the wind!

The kids were able to find their own level of independence and enjoy it. P spent a lot of time cycling about, finding good things to do. She found out who Andy was and asked if Duck Rock could appear in the children’s cabaret. She bought wool and knitted a scarf. She appeared at the tent with lovely weaving. She joined in with the music workshop and played in the end of week show. She also hung around with friends and watched teenagers doing crazy things, like making an exploding pepsi bottle by adding mentos!

Leo stayed closer to us – which was his own choice. He loved the swingball that someone had brought and got very good at using the scooter to balance and glide. He and I enjoyed bashing metal to make bowls. He was sad to find that there was no keyboard available for Duck Rock’s performance, but he rose to the challenge of singing instead! He’d had enough by the end of the week, but managed the journey home very well, considering how tired he was.

The children’s cabaret

This was one hell of a long night. We got the marquee at about 6.30pm and Duck Rock performed at 10.30pm. There were some really great acts – lots of variety. I enjoyed the whole thing and was heartened by the diversity – everything from poetry recitation to rock bands and little kids telling made up stories to gymnastics by girls in leotards. Good stuff!

Science breakfasts and an astronomy talk

Both of these had the (always pleasing) ingredients of people who are passionate about their subject and a willing audience. The astronomy guy kept saying things that seemed to contradict the science I was sure I’d been taught at school – so that was good for me. Dani particularly enjoyed some of the discussion at the science breakfasts that addressed science as a process and the development of ideas.

The beach

I always enjoy beaches – a place to get away from hustle and bustle. Leo would happily spend hours on any beach, especially one with dead crabs...

The conference

We managed to catch several sessions between us. I listened to Ian Dowty and was impressed by his encyclopaedic knowledge of all things home ed law related. I didn’t take notes, which I should have done, but was left with some useful snippets I didn’t know and some ideas to ponder.
Dani went to the session on the consultation, which was good. Hang on, little announcement needed:
Hey, People! Respond to the Consultation!

Singing round the campfire

I’m not hardy enough to find this enjoyable in the rain, so I missed most evenings, but I did enjoy one evening of singing. A woman with a spine tingling voice appeared out of the night, like an angel, sang ‘Maggie May’ and left. Who was this person??

The end of week show

This was great. P played the drum in the HESFES band, which had tens of members. They played and sang ‘The Wall’ and a new HESFES song, which included the immortal lyrics:
“We know the answer to two times two,
And we socialise fine, thank you!”

So, that’s the summary. It was a challenging week, but I’m very glad we went. We failed to take photos as the weather made it too hazardous to take the camera out of the plastic bag at the bottom of the rucksack, that was in a bin bag, under the spare groundsheet!