Monday, 6 July 2009

A Letter to a Cyber Friend

Thank you very much ...... for trusting me to be doing the best for my child, I do not always receive such respect.

I really had no choice though, Beth saw a news item on home education and a few days later made an hour long impassioned plea to be home educated. She had been at school for 4 years and had changed from a quirky independent capable child to one who could either cry or scream but not much else.

In Britain the National Curriculum and the Sats and endless testing and goals have changed education for the worse. I personally was profoundly shocked by the behaviour of the boys in her reception class, this is 4 year olds, it can only be described as bitchy. The children were so stressed by the rigid structure that they took it out on each other, it was important to show no weakness.

She was bullied by the other children, she was different, not a girly girl, preferred to play with the boys. She is also dyspraxic, dyslexic, dyscalculiac and possibly ADHD, we have an assessment for this tomorrow.

In spite of two of my other children having attended the same school, both of whom are dyslexic, they ignored my suggestion that Beth was also dyslexic until we felt forced to pay for a private diagnosis. They then used what seems to be the favoured method over here of more of what hasn’t worked before stressing and overloading a child who already wasn’t coping.

All my children are neurodiverse in this way as am I and my husband but it is school that makes it such a problem and a special need. Without the need for early clerical skills in order to manage a class of 30 it is not such a problem. I read to her, scribe for her and she is not suffering the humiliation of seeing children far less bright than she is being approved of while she is found wanting.

She is my fourth child and my first was born 32 years ago so I have a lot of experience and have come to trust the human’s natural inclination to learn, it is very powerful if it is not turned off. My children have amazed me with what they have learned outside of school with no input from adults, my son has knowledge of computers that is way beyond my own and he has gained it through his own independent research. The teaching of computer literacy is a particular problem for schools as so many of the children are worlds ahead of the teachers and the curriculum.

I have had to be the difficult parent, the veritable warrior mother in order to get a suitable education for and to defend the mental health of my children in school here and with Beth I thought why use all that energy fighting the school when I can do it better.

Child development and learning have been one of my interests from the start so it is not just experience that informs my choice. I spent a large part of my childhood in staff rooms and have taught in adult education myself. I started my reading with “The Children on the Hill”, took in “Anything school can do you can do better”, Piaget, Montessori and the Newson’s series that started with “Four years old in an Urban Community”. 15 years later it was “The Continuum Concept and Three in a Bed” More recently my reading has included John Holt and John Taylor Gatto amongst almost everything written about dyslexia and Adhd!! Also watching things like Ted on how schools kill creativity.

I am very happy with my choice to home educate and wish I could go back in time and do it for all my children. There is a thriving home ed community here and we could be out every day of the week at various events where Beth would get the opportunity to socialise with children of all ages and adults, which is a more natural state of affairs than being confined five days a week with children born within 12 months of oneself. We do not do most of the things we could do because we both appreciate time to ourselves, to read and play and garden and use the computer, but even so Beth goes to Triathlon, drama and French every week with other home ed children as well as visits and sleepovers with her special friends plus the not inconsiderable input of her siblings. And just next week we are off to Hesfes the Home Educators Summer Festival for a week of fun and games, crafts and music and socialising with hundreds, maybe thousands of other home educating families.

Beth has more friends than any of my other children at the same age, inspite of being a socially difficult child. She is invited to parties, my other children were excluded by their school peers at this age as they were different. Different both by being very bright and differently abled.

Home educated children are different, they are not being judged all the time, they are accepted as they are and they accept other children in the same way. It is a nurturing and nourishing environment that has been tolerant of Beth’s sometimes very difficult behaviour as she healed from the misunderstandings she experienced in school.

She still often talks of how she was told off after break each day for not remembering what she should be doing. She genuinely cannot understand how a teacher who knew of her attention difficulties could tell her off for not listening. She is still wounded by this as she was not capable of remembering and the behaviour of her teachers was akin to shouting at a child with no legs for not walking. Invisible disabilities are another real problem for schools, they are very difficult to understand if you have not experienced them, and training for special needs here is abysmal.

The implementation of the Badman review threatens to take away my right to decide what is a suitable education for my child and give it back to the very Local Authority that runs the schools that so failed my child. It also would give them the right to interview my child alone against their and my wishes to interrogate them as to welfare and education with no evidence of any harm or lack of education.

The Local Authorities often do not understand autonomous education/unschooling or natural learning but to me it seems obvious; if you have a question in your mind and you look for information to answer that question you are far more likely to remember the answer than if someone comes and talks at you about something they are interested in. Natural learning takes advantage of that fact to facilitate a child’s finding out about what they are interested in. It also involves the strewing of many interesting resources and the visiting of many interesting places. See Sandra Dodd for an excellent article on strewing.

To my mind for a child not enjoying school, and this is supported by research, home education gives them a far better chance of a good education regardless of the class or educational level of their parents. You can deliver education to a child but you cannot make a disenfranchised child learn.

I too really hope that the situation here will be resolved without the draconian and disproportionate recommendations of the review, Beth is terrified that she will be sent back to school and I have had to stop talking about it in front of her. This situation is echoed in many homes throughout this country where previously exceptionally well functioning families are now living in a state of extreme stress and planning to emigrate and looking for a country that is more accepting of a families right to choose what is best for their children.

There is a strong suspicion that the government is doing this because it doesn’t like free thinkers and at the moment home educators have escaped their indoctrination. I have been a lifelong Labour voter but I doubt I will ever vote for them again, they are behaving like totalitarian fascists.

I am very sorry to dump such a lecture on you but it has been a very useful exercise in gathering my thoughts for me, thank you for showing an interest. Also thank you for making a difference to those misunderstood children that you teach. Strokes for the soul are as rare as unicorns for children here.

Best wishes Maire

I will try and come back and add links to this post later.


Mieke said...

Wonderful post again, Maire. It shows that one side of you - and I think of EHE parents in general - that motivates us to do all the other things; the researching, the networking, the visiting MP's, the writing letters and blogposts. And all that on top of our - apparently - not so normal day to day life, home educating our children. This letter of yours gives insight in why you - and we - can and will keep doing all these things and why we won't roll over and give in to people, to a system that wants to control and not parent or nurture our children. Again, thanks!

sunnymama said...

That's such a great letter. Lots of the reading material you listed has inspired me too and I loved the Ken Robinson TEDTalk on how schools kill creativity!

Thanks for visiting my blog today. You asked about how I got 2 sidebars on my blog. I followed the instructions here:

I hope that helps :)

sunnymama said...

Your blog looks great with the extra sidebar!

Maire said...

Thanks Mieke we will keep on going to stop this ridiculous proposition.

Thanks Sunnymamma and thanks for the site to change my blog. After trying for an hour my husband came and sorted it out, I had missed one - ! Now just got to get the flickr sideshow to work.

ellyodd said...

There's if you're looking for support

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