Friday, September 29, 2006

All sorts

History - Henry VIII and his wives; understanding life in Tudor England.

History - Black Britons: slavery; abolition of slave trade in Britain in 1802; all slaves freed in 1838; aspects of Black and Asian heritage and culture, pivotal events and extraordinary people like Sarah Parker Remond, Mary Seacole, William Cuffay, John Archer, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Walter Tull, Dadabhai Naoroji, Noor Inayat Khan; multiculturalism.

English - writing - journalism

PSHE - Self-esteem: how do you feel about yourself? What makes you feel good about yourself?

Health - levels of toxicity in the environment; to the harmful effects of pollution

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Sc & Hi

This morning I met Maria, who's thinking about home-educating her daughter and we ended up planning a home-education event! It's always great to meet people who share similar ideas and interests.

Science - DJ finished reading Suffering Scientists by Nick Arnold. The book includes ancient scientists, scientific methods, astronomers, chemists, biologists and physicists.

History - Later on we'll watch Ancient Rome: The Rise and Fall of an Empire - we'll find out more about Julius Caesar and his rise to prominence as a brilliant military tactician.

Human Rights

"The European Court of Human Rights gave another setback to German homeschoolers by affirming that the interests of the State trump the rights of parents to educate their children."

Home-education has been illegal in Germany since Hitler banned it in 1938. State persecution of home-educating families in Germany is happening as we speak. The family in question has strong Christian values and didn't want their children to be exposed to sex education.

Althought I don't subscribe to religious fundamentalism and I admire the Dutch approach to sex education, I still think that this is a human rights issue. Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that "Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children." And according to article 18 everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion and the freedom to manifest his religion or belief in different ways, including teaching.

I was left wondering whether the court's decision was influenced by the current islamophobic trend - after all, if Germany allows Fundamentalist Christians to home-school their children, then Fundamental Islamists would also be entitled to do so and - who knows - their curriculum might include martyrdom and suicide bombing! Maybe I'm just being silly... but the court "agreed with the finding of Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court which stressed “the general interest of society to avoid the emergence of parallel societies based on separate philosophical convictions and the importance of integrating minorities into society.”

In our western society, which claims to value democracy and freedom, children don't go to school by choice but by compulsion, and the state claims to know better than parents the best interests for their children. "Imposition is the approach to be expected in a Totalitarian State of either the 'right wing' or 'left wing' variety. But a democracy is supposed to be different, tolerating variety, diversity and choices, provided that human rights are respected." (Meigham)

The Court also upheld the findings of German Administrative Courts that “the applicant children were unable to foresee the consequences of their parents decision for home education because of their young age.” I personally don't know the ages of these children. But I came to realise that our society does not see children as people, "but something rather pre-human". I happen to agree with Satish Kumar, the founder of Schumacher College, when he says that "a child is not an underdeveloped adult, a child is fully a whole being and, in my view, a child is capable of making a decision which is appropriate to his or her age."

Anyway, enough for today! If you're interested check this:
European Human Rights Court Denies Appeal of German Homeschooling Family
HSLDA E-lert on the persecution of German Homeschooling Families
Read the EU Human Rights Court decision here
Germany Uses Nazi Era Law to Imprison Mom for Homeschooling; Family Flees to Austria
Police Crackdown on Home-Schooling in Germany

On the news: Virtual school 'beats real thing'

Today's quote
"The danger of education... is that it so easily confuses means with ends... it quite easily forgets both and devotes itself merely to the mass production of uneducated graduates... people literally unfit for anything except to take part in an elaborate and completely artificial charade which they and their contemporaries have conspired to call "life."
Thomas Merton (1979)

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


Fearlessness is the foundation of all education, the beginning and not the end. If you do not build on that foundation, the edifice of all your education will topple over.

At present, the minds of the students become dull there. They can only imitate. Instead of this, they must acquire the power of independent thinking.

Real education consists in drawing the best out of yourself. What better book can there be than the book of humanity?

It is a gross superstition to suppose that knowledge can be obtained only by going to schools and colleges. The world produced brilliant students before schools and colleges came into being. There is nothing so ennobling or lasting as self-study. Schools and colleges make most of us mere receptacles for holding the superfluities of knowledge. Wheat is left out and mere husk is taken in. I do not wish to decry schools and colleges as such. They have their use. But we are making altogether too much of them. They are but one of the many means of gaining knowledge.

The real difficulty is that people have no idea of what education truly is. We assess the value of education in the same manner as we assess the value of land or of shares in the stock-exchange market. We want to provide only such education as would enable the student to earn more.

from Gandhi on Education

All sorts

Philosophy & RE - Last night we had an interesting discussion on the teachings on emptiness according to Madhyamika Prasangika philosophy, whereby nothing exists 'inherently' or 'from its own side'. We covered several points of their proposed method for 'searching the self'. We also discussed Buddhist ideas of rebirth and enlightenment.

PSHE - we discussed the differences between acquaintances and friendships.

ICT - DJ has been updating his website (uploading images, etc)

History & Technology - This morning we watched The Aztec, Maya & Inca. Keywords: science of hydroponics, astrological knowledge, Mayan calendar, codex, sports, beliefs in gods, sacrifices, rubber, chocolate, obsidian knives, medicinal plants, cleanliness, El Dorado, Spanish arrival 1519, Machu Picchu, Nazca, oroya, first suspension bridges made of grass. I found an Ancient Mayan Civilization internet lesson.

On the news: pupils on strike

Today's quotes
"I suppose there are two reasons why, against all the evidence, we continue to tinker with the reform of formal education, and try to make the unworkable work. The first is that children do not have a vote. The second is that no one has proposed a plausible alternative to schools. If I were tyrant for a day, I would extend suffrage to include everyone over the age of 11 -and encourage 'home schooling'". Sir Christopher Ball in Guardian Education 20th March 2001

Abuses of human rights implicit in mass coercive schooling
1) detention without having broken the law: children are detained for 15,000 hrs of their lives in a day detention centre called school.
2) imposed curriculum: no right to control what goes into their minds; no right to choose and devise own learning plans.
3) ageism or age-apartheid: imposition of 15,000 hrs of compulsory peer-group attendance
4) sexism: in the UK there still are single-sex schools

Roland Meighan in Are children people?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


Ancient Greece: Athens, School and Geography

Weather, Place and People: Desert USA - the weather as an important natural characteristic of each locality - Death Valley in California - exploring the scenery of salt flats, sand dunes, rugged mountains and deep canyons of one of the hottest places on Earth - finding out what it's like to live in such a harsh environment.

City Scapes - Paris: Exploration of Paris's Pompidou Centre and La Defense, 2 of the city's more recent innovations

Sorting and Using Materials - uses of different materials.
Plants and Animals in the Local Environment : The variety of wildlife in a back garden.

PSHE - Mental Health
Stephen Fry: The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive
How sufferers of manic depression cope: medication, suicide, electroconvulsive therapy, and healthy diet

On the news
Why I am having a go at home-educating my daughter
No need to turn up at 24-hour school
Home education on Radio 2

Today's quotes
If we value independence, if we are disturbed by the growing conformity of knowledge, of values, of attitudes, which our present system induces, then we may wish to set up conditions of learning which make for uniqueness, for self-direction, and for self-initiated learning. - Carl Rogers

Our schools have become vast factories for the manufacture of robots. We no longer send our young to them primarily to be taught and given the tools of thought, no longer primarily to be informed and acquire knowledge; but to be "socialized" -- which in the current semantic means to be regimented and made to conform. Robert Lindner, psychoanalyst in Must You Conform? (1956)

Nothing enrages me more than when people criticize my criticism of school by telling me that schools are not just places to learn maths and spelling, they are places where children learn a vaguely defined thing called socialization. I think schools generally do an effective and terribly damaging job of teaching children to be infantile, dependent, intellectually dishonest, passive and disrespectful to their own developmental capacities. - Seymour Papert

It seems to me that anything that can be taught to another is relatively inconsequential, and has little or no significant influence on behavior. I realise increasingly that I am only interested in learnings which significantly influence behavior. I have come to feel that the only learning which significantly influences behavior is self-discovered, self-appropriated learning. Such self-discovered learning, truth that has been personally appropriated and assimilated in experience, cannot be directly communicated to another. As a consequence of the above, I realize that I have lost interest in being a teacher. - Carl Rogers

Monday, September 25, 2006

Off we go

This morning went to Keynsham to a asplings' mums get together.
We drove past Cadbury's Chocolate Factory.
DJ took lots of photos on the way back. Discussed money & debts and watched Nuremberg - Nazis on Trial (WW2 History) - learned about Steer, the Nazi who said sorry.

The Usborne Riding School by K. Needham & L. Smith
Kingfisher First Riding Lessons by Sandy Ransford

Today's site
Your Education System by
Dara Molloy

On TV & games
All my son wants to do is play video games
Economics of Restricting TV Watching of Children
Value and Uses ofTV and Video for Unschoolers

Sunday, September 24, 2006


ICT & reading - last night DJ read a whole book: Crashing Computers, by Michael Coleman.

History - We plan to watch the final part of Elizabeth I (1533-1603) and find out more about her relationship with the Earl of Essex and Robert Cecil. Elizabeth I resources: lesson plan and online lesson.


Students are taught, through the process of schooling, to be conformist, unimaginative, docile, and a great many other things that are by and large considered virtues in the working world. Stay this way and you may never feel good about yourself, but you will be congratulated by authority figures for the rest of your life.

Education seems to be something that all the ideologues can agree on. It is obviously helping people to adapt to the insanity of modern society. We become automatons, docile bodies – boring, dumb, and monotonous from doing schoolwork with the same characteristics. By and large, students submit to their behavior modification and faithfully reproduce the current social order. from Toward the Destruction of Schooling

The goal of producing docile bodies in schools has persisted for too long. Youth today are not passive or compliant. The rewards dangled before them of a decent job and material wealth for those who do well in school are either seen as undesirable or unattainable by too many. New strategies for providing an education that is perceived as meaningful, relevant and which begins to tap into the intrinsic desire of all individuals to obtain greater personal fulfillment, must be devised and supported. Anything short of this will leave us mired in a situation that grows increasingly depressing and dangerous each day. from Preventing Violence in Schools Through the Production of Docile Bodies

Saturday, September 23, 2006


We went to Wellow Trekking Centre. DJ is really enjoying it and wishes he could come here every single day. Unfortunately there are no more available slots. On the way back we stopped at the library and got some more books.
Yesterday our discussion included: the meaning of life; how magazines' use of brushed up images of slim women are triggering anorexia in girls as young as seven; human rights; British opreations in Afghanistan; Israel vs Lebanon/Hezbollah; the situation in Darfur, etc etc
History - we watched Elizabeth I, and learned about the Virgin Queen's later years, the execution of Mary Queen of Scots and the war with Spain.

Friday, September 22, 2006


"Dear Teacher, I am a survivor of a concentration camp.
My eyes saw what no man should witness:
gas chambers built by learned engineers,
children poisoned by educated physicians,
infants killed by trained nurses,
women and babies shot and burned by high school and college graduates.
So I am suspicious of education.
My request is: help your students become human.
Your efforts must never produce learned monsters, skilled psychopaths, educated Eichmans."
Educator Haim Ginott

"So what is learning? Is learning a process of accumulation? Is there any other kind of learning, learning which is not accumulated? And I learn in order to gain a reward, or in order to avoid punishment. I learn a particular job, or particular craft in order to earn a livelihood. Now I am asking, is there any other kind of learning? And you have to go to the factory, or the office, every day of your life. Get up at 6 o’clock, drive, walk, work, work, work for fifty years, routine, and get kicked about, insulted, worship success. That is a monstrous life. And that is what we are educating our children for." Krishnamurti

To arrive at the simplest truth, as Newton knew and practiced, requires years of contemplation. Not activity. Not reasoning. Not calculating. Not busy behaviour of any kind. Not reading. Not talking. Not making an effort. Not thinking. Simply bearing in mind what it is one needs to know. George Spencer-Brown

Two Kinds of Intelligence

There are two kinds of intelligence: one acquired,
as a child in school memorizes facts and concepts
from books and from what the teacher says,
collecting information from the traditional sciences
as well as from the new sciences.

With such intelligence you rise in the world.
You get ranked ahead or behind others
in regard to your competence in retaining
information. You stroll with this intelligence
in and out of fields of knowledge, getting always more
marks on your preserving tablets.

There is another kind of tablet, one
already completed and preserved inside you.
A spring overflowing its springbox. A freshness
in the center of the chest. This other intelligence
does not turn yellow or stagnate. It's fluid,
and it doesn't move from outside to inside
through the conduits of plumbing-learning.

This second knowing is a fountainhead
from within you, moving out.

Intrator and Scribner, Teaching with Fire

Thursday, September 21, 2006

China & Rome

Games & History - DJ's into Dynasty Warriors 5 at the moment. He told me the game is educational because he is learning about the history of China, about policies e.g. promoting trade and governance e.g. listening to people's suggestions. DJ sees himself as a kind ruler, ruling by respect rather than through fear, and told me that he never demands taxes - instead he is into charitable aid or distributing large sums amongst people. Through the game people can learn about the Three Kingdoms and 2nd and 3rd century Chinese military history. If you're really keen you can even join a China History forum.

Tonight we'll watch Ancient Rome: The Rise and Fall of an Empire, a drama-documentary charting the history of the Roman Empire, beginning with the story of Nero.

Conflict resolution - I got angry today. I don't like being told to shut up and DJ has the habit of using these 2 little words, either because he feels my voice is too loud or because he perceives what I say as criticism, as pressure to change his behaviour or (even worse) his very being. So, rather than react with anger, I could acknowledge the wisdom of those 2 little words. It was great to notice DJ's willingness to forgive, let go and communicate his needs. "I want us to be friends but I just need to be in my cave" he said. This came about because I wanted him to go out and suggested we went for a walk. Option 1: impose neurotypical behaviours and neurotic 'shoulds' lists and deal with the consequences of adding unnecessary pressure in our lives. Option 2: respect DJ and respect his need to be in his cave for as long as he needs to and then enjoy his company when he's in a more outgoing mood. I'll go with the most difficult - option 2, of course!

Developing the heart: DJ helped me by carrying all the shopping upstairs. I had bought 2 chocolates and after eating one he was going for the other. I said I had bought one for each, that I would leave it where it was, and that he should do what he felt was right. He didn't eat it, he left it out for me. :-)

Today's site: Katie's dissertation on the use of ICT in home education. For those who have an interest in the final piece, follow the link called read the analysis.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Blah Blah

We got more organic fruit & veg from riverford. DJ talked about entropy and suggested I read the book he's reading about time. Regarding the 50hr school week, DJ reckons the government is going crazy. DJ's dad and sister popped in for a while and brought some gifts: Chemistry in Action, Magnets Kit, Science Book of Electricity, and Colours & Shapes. JG came over for tea and we watched A Shot in the Dark in the evening, a comedy with Peter Sellers.

On the news: Alarm over pupils facing a 50-hour school week
Nick Seaton, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education: “This will destroy childhood. In many ways it is an abuse of children."
Richard Thornhill, head teacher: “We strongly encourage parents not to leave any child full-time five days a week. It removes the opportunity for parents to get really involved with their own children. We cannot replace parents at school. We cannot replace the love and care and nurture they should get from their parents. Giving a child the freedom to have down time does not work very well at school because we have to have rules and regulations.”

HE on TV: click here (13.20 & 14.28 into the programme)

On the radio: "anxiety-driven"children at school - with Dr Rowan Williams (6mns)

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

City of Bath

Last night DJ found it hard to fall asleep, so he read Horrible Science: The Terrible Truth About Time, by Nick Arnold. This morning he was feeling tired but after a bit of history (the Aztecs: how Cortes brought an end to the Aztec empire) he still found some energy to go into town. First we met Joshua and had an interesting chat about (the lack of) appropriate educational provision for aspies. He seems to be enjoying City of bath College with support from Farleigh Further Education College in Frome. His message was 'fight the system and work towards reintegration using EOTAS, sort out a schedule, get some structure into your life, self-discipline is important, and go out everyday.' We were both exhausted by the mere thought of it, but left with plenty of food for thought...

We walked by the Abbey, listened to some live music, checked the Pump Rooms, stopped at the Post Office and finally got to Victoria Art Gallery. We saw the Pump Room model as it was designed by Thomas Baldwin in the 1790s, and a lovely Sedan Chair (1770s). Sedan Chairs were a bit like taxis, they were carried by two chairmen who gripped poles attached to the metal hoops on the sides of the chair. They were for public hire, used to transport bathers and visitors around Bath. We giggled at the Laws of Bath, which were 'by general consent determined' - but it was Beau Nash who introduced within the social scene codes of conduct which were turned into a set of behavioural rules. One of the rules stated 'That the younger ladies take notice how many eyes observe them'. Well, we found that funny!
When we left we admired the Pulteney Bridge, crossed the Guildhall Market, went to the Library, got some more books, stopped at the Health Food shop and went back home.

Today's sites
Autism Acceptance Project
Unmasking the Face, an exercise in the identification of emotions expressed by the human face

Autism and education: the reality for families today
"Home education is a preference for some parents and a route they always intended to take. However, this is not the case for the 20 families in our survey who home educate. When asked why they home educate, parents highlight a lack of adequate provision for their child in the local area. Most are concerned that the ‘system’ can be inflexible, and struggles to respond to the individual needs of children with autism."

Today's quote
Khalil Gibran on teaching
"No man can reveal to you aught but that which already lies half asleep in the dawning of your knowledge. The astronomer may speak to you of his understanding of space, but he cannot give you his understanding. The musician may sing to you of the rhythm which is in all space, but he cannot give you the ear which arrests the rhythm nor the voice that echoes it. And he who is versed in the science of numbers can tell of the regions of weight and measure, but he cannot conduct you thither. For the vision of one man lends not its wings to another man."

Monday, September 18, 2006

Our day

Last night we watched A Beautiful Mind - I just love this film! Let us celebrate neurodiversity! This morning, a lovely surprise: 2 books arrived on the post - unexpected gifts from my cousin. There's something wonderful about this flow of giving and receiving...

Dialogue: DJ told me the difference between digital and analogue TV signals - and we continued exploring the theme of individual freedom vs consideration for others. Watching Virtually Addictive also led to a lively discussion.

Reusing & Recycling: got a laptop from freecycle, a "recycling" project where people give their unwanted items for free rather than throw them away.

History: Genghis Khan - we watched a documentary about the 13th-Century Mongol leader who came to conquer an empire larger than the Roman Empire. DJ loved every second of it!

Today's site: Autism Law - includes a forum

Today's quote - Jacqui Jackson
"For children on the autistic spectrum, school is often a nightmare of confusion and chaos. As a parent of children with autistic spectrum differences, it has been my job to pick up the pieces and be the proverbial kicked cat. Whilst many parents like myself often get bogged down with the weight of our mediator, negotiator, advisor and protector's hat, it seems as if there is no choice in any of this. But there is! Education may be compulsory, but school certainly isn't."

On the news

Home-education on the news
Our lost childhood - "The best thing you can give your children is your time. Proper time. Not a few snatched minutes here and there while you whisk them off to ballet, or violin lessons, but time, playing with them, talking with them and simply being with them. We go swimming, but for fun. We go for lots of walks, but we don't turn them into nature lessons. It's just time for them to be and think and do whatever they want. It is very sad these days that so many parents are competing through their children."

Scotland's smartest was educated at home by her mum, who said: "In society today there is pressure that we have to do more sooner and earlier. I like the concept of children learning at their own pace and related to their own ability. There is this misconception that you have to be rich to home educate but that is not the case."

Sunday, September 17, 2006


Education easily abuses the mind through imposing on it too many demands to absorb knowledge, to be clever, to be ruthlessly self-interested. The desire to add letters before and after one's name seems to imply that the students are not satisfied with the number of letters in their name! To live wisely and intelligently requires a deep, meditative re-examination of priorities. Without this inquiry, we will go on demanding more and more from the minds of the young to force them to fit into the objectives of the private and public sector. C. Titmuss

The school leaving age should be lowered to zero. A child ought only to attend school if he wishes to, either because he likes it for its own sake, or he has agreed to it... That the state should compel any of its citizens who are not convicted criminals regularly to attend any institution whatever is a monstrous violation of basic human rights. Brian Micklethwait

Let’s help our children to develop the habit of freedom. Let’s encourage them to celebrate who and what they are. Let’s stop teaching children to fear change and protect the status quo. Let’s teach them to inquire and debate. To ask questions until they hear answers. And the way to do that is to change the way of traditional schooling. Our education system does its best to ignore and suppress the creative spirit of children. It teaches them to listen unquestioningly to authority, insists that education is just knowledge-contained subjects and that the purpose of education is to get a job. What is left out is encouraging sensitivity to others, nonviolent behaviour, respect, intuition, imagination and a sense of awe and wonderment. Anita Roddick

Education aimed solely at raising living standards relates to concepts of employment, jobs and careers based on individualism and personal success. Education for livelihood is just the opposite. It is about relationships, mutuality, reciprocity, community, coherence, wholeness and ecology. For a hopeful future of humanity and of the Earth we need an urgent renewal of education. Most schools and universities are dominated by materialist and consumerist goals. They have taken on the mission of literacy instead of meaning, information instead of transformation, and training instead of learning. Modern-day educators have become servants of the economy and they are oblivious to the catastrophic consequences for people and the planet. 'Education as usual' is no longer an option. Satish Kumar

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Aspies & School

Josh Muggleton - Josh is 17 and has Asperger's Syndrome. After 4 years in secondary mainstream school he had a complete breakdown. Josh studied for A levels using a home-based study programme. When asked what was it that caused the breakdown, Josh replied:

"It wasn't the bullying, it was the lack of understanding of the staff at school. Nobody seemed to listen to what I was saying. I needed a place of sanctuary when things got too much for me. I needed encouragement from teachers, not threats. (...) Inclusion didn't work for me. I tried my best to adapt, but true inclusion only works when schools can give enough support. If they can't do that, then inclusion becomes very damaging. I'm only just beginning to rebuild my shattered confidence and self-esteem."

He now gives talks to teachers, parents and professionals.

I read his article on Communication, the National Autistic Society magazine, and when I checked Josh's webpage I realised that he is currently attending the local college. So I got in touch and now we're looking forward to meet him in a few days.

On the news: Schools 'fail autistic children' - click on the video link on the right hand side and watch home education in action. Also on BBC Radio Five Live Daniel Pipe, a home-educating dad, speaks out - 1hr5mn into the programme.

Today's quote: Jan Fortune-Wood
Children who are labelled with Asperger's Syndrome do not need more structure and direction in their lives; they need considerably less. They need, primarily, to be freed from being seen as products or being objectified and defined by a list of subjective observations. They need parents who are unquestioningly on their side, not to impose their own or so-called experts' agendas on their children in the name of loving assistance, but simply to assist their children in carrying forward their own intrinsically motivated lives in process. To do this requires a willingness to ask radical questions and to let go of many entrenched assumptions about education, psychology and parenting, to name but a few. It requires going against mainstream and often allegedly expert opinion. It is not an easy path. It is not a neglectful path. It is a moral path.

What we've been up to: Got more books and films from the library. DJ has submitted his first Flash MX animations to Newgrounds. Yesterday our dialogue included issues like respect and consideration for others (e.g. respecting other people's needs for space and privacy); the importance of inquiry (questioning everything); the meaning of love and the difference between desire, attachment and love; the importance of being aware of our thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations, and what meditation is about.

A superstition called socialisation by Roland Meighan
The S Word by Mike Fortune-Wood

Friday, September 15, 2006


Home education is on the news again, and I've been listening to unschooling voices online. With our decision to explore unschooling, I'm noticing how journeying into the unknown brings about feelings of uncertainty and all sorts of fears. I've loved this talk by Krishnamurti, where he explores fear in it's many forms, and explains how fear arises and how to approach it, what to do with it.

Today's quote: Krishnamurti
"Society is doing everything to inculcate fear by laying down standards, religious ideals, class distinctions, ideas of success, the sense of the inferior and the superior, the rich man and the poor man. Society is doing everything possible to breed distorted values. (...) It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”

Inspiring site : Planetary Voices
The Spirit of Ecology by Satish Kumar
Buddhist Approach To Peace by Christopher Titmuss - 13mns into the talk, Christopher comments on school, the worship of study in our culture, the emphasis on knowledge and information at the expense of the development of the whole person, their heart, their spirituality, their being, etc., and therefore unhealthy.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

In Dialogue

Another easy going day. DJ learned about monsoons and we made GF pizzas. We're now adding more ingredients, like green peppers, courgettes and onion. We've watched evacuation (more WW2 history), talked about life in the 1940s and compared it to life in the 21st century. We noticed how the quality of diet has changed - just check this Food Most Foul animation.

We discussed democracy, the education system, the balance between freedom of choice and consideration for others, rewards and punishments, self-evaluation, aspie feelings-perceptions-sound sensitivity, what is desire, the positive aspects of boredom, growing up, etc, etc.

Teen Taming

I no longer believe in the use of rewards and punishments ("consequences"). I also don't believe in imposing rules. Instead, my focus now is simply on building a loving relationship with DJ.

What exactly are we teaching our children when we follow so called 'expert' advice? Or when we punish them when they do what we don't want them to do? Or through our assumptions that we must have control over them? It seems to me that we would actually be saying: don't trust your own intelligence, just do what other people tell you to do; don't bother working out why you act the way you do, don't bother learning how to communicate your thoughts and feelings - instead, put your energy into figuring out how to avoid sticks and pursue carrots; and don't waste your precious time developing an understanding of your mind and emotions, instead try to control other people and your environment.

I've noticed that when I'm not obsessing about control life becomes much easier. The difficult moments we've experienced in the past were not caused by lack of consistency and control but by an authoritarian, outdated, inflexible and coersive educational system and by my willingness to listen to so called 'experts'. Needless to say, I no longer believe in experts either. I see all behaviour as communication and I think that aggressive behaviour in children is more often than not a cry for help and a deep desire to be understood. When our children 'misbehave', do we ever wonder if the problem lies in the pressures they are under?

Today's quote
"Many students with Asperger Syndrome view school as a stressful environment, presenting several stressors that are ongoing and of great magnitude. Sometimes teachers report that the student with Asperger Syndrome is doing fine or managing in school. However, parents report that when their children arrive home, they often lose control. That is, the child experiences the rage attack, meltdown or neurological storm at home. It seems as if these students have used all of their self-control to manage at school, and once they get to a safe environment, they let go of some of the pressure that is bottled up within them."
Myles and Southwick, Aspergers Syndrome and Difficult Moments

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

I wonder

I wonder what shall I cook today... After a hectic Summer we've settled again with riverford and their organic fruit and veg home-delivered boxes. They're just great! After all, we are what we eat!
I found a free online course in self-understanding for children. DJ did a bit of history: WW2 Children - we watched evacuation - diet, manners and behaviour in the 40s. Later on we'll probably watch The Teen Tamer Foul - Mouthed and Furious with youth behavioural expert Lorrine Marer trying to help a couple who have reached the end of their tether with their 12-year-old son's aggressive outbursts.

DJ's thoughts on unschooling
"By not being told what to do I'm actually learning how to be free and how to be my own person."

Today's quote: Krishnamurti
When you are told what to do, what to think, to obey, to follow, do you know what it does to you? Your mind becomes dull, it loses its initiative, its quickness. This external, outward imposition of discipline makes the mind stupid, it makes you conform, it makes you imitate. But if you discipline yourself by watching, listening, being considerate, being very thoughtful - out of that watchfulness, that listening, that consideration for others, comes order. Where there is order, there is always freedom.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Another day

DJ's going for the GF Chocolate Cookies!

Yesterday I went to a local NAS branch meeting for the first time. The meeting revolved around funding difficulties and their 2 Out of School clubs. As I'm aware of the lack of services for local 'aspie families', I was disappointed that the focus was on the clubs (therefore on the few already accessing their services) rather than on reaching out to the many who have no support at all. I imagine they'd feel they lack the resources to do it.

DJ watched Horizon - The Genius Sperm Bank, the story of Robert Graham, who planned to improve the next generation of the human race by setting up a sperm bank where all the donors were geniuses.

History: Egypt The Search for Tutankhamun - documentary about the archaeologists who discovered Ancient Egypt's treasures in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Today's quote: George Bernard Shaw, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1925, never went to university and was largely self-taught

"My schooling not only failed to teach me what it professed to be teaching, but prevented me from being educated to an extent which infuriates me when I think of all I might have learned at home by myself."

Monday, September 11, 2006


Me: "I'm thinking about ensuring you have the freedom to make your own decisions and become self-regulating. Have you noticed I haven't requested you to have a break from the computer?"

DJ: "No. What I noticed is that it was really nice and quiet for once... in 12 years!... I've been using Flash MX (animation software), learned a bit about action script and I've added the Newgrounds pre-loader to an animation."

Today's quote: John Holt

"To trust children we must first learn to trust ourselves...and most of us were taught as children that we could not be trusted."

Sunday, September 10, 2006


J's done it again! A delicious Sunday lunch for the pleasure of our taste buds. We're having a lazy Sunday afternoon... I've been exploring Ringo and DJ watched most of Blackbeard, about the life of the famous 18th century pirate.

Today's quote: Ching Ning Chu
Acquire the courage to believe in yourself. Many of the things that you have been taught were at one time the radical ideas of individuals who had the courage to believe what their own hearts and minds told them was true, rather than accept the common beliefs of their day

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Horse Riding

Today we went to Wellow Trekking Centre and DJ had his first horse riding lesson. Sounds pretty straight forward, doesn't it? Well, it was hard work to get out of the house to start with. Eventually we managed to get to the car and found the farm OK.

As soon as we got there DJ decided he wanted to go home and that he definitely wouldn't have a go. Ann was great though and said: 'if you don't want to come to the horse, then the horse will come to you.' And so we took the horse for a walk, away from the others. Gradually DJ relaxed and when he was ready he chose to have a go - this happened when we were away from the large group and indoors. He loved it and is willing to try again in a fortnight. At the moment he is completely focused on his task: computer animation!

DJ's comments on Home-Ed:
"You don't get bullied, you don't have to do really boring things that take ages and you don't have to go to really boring lessons where you don't learn anything."

Today's quote: Roger Schank

The most important thing to understand about the mind is that it's a learning device. We're constantly trying to learn things.

Friday, September 08, 2006

This & That

DJ's dad popped in for lunch: here they are munching home made GF Almond Macaroons - delicious!

ICT: DJ taught me about the task manager and how to close programs that aren't responding.

History - WW2: we watched evacuation. It covered safety measures (e.g. gas masks, blacking out windows and street lamps, tapping mirrors, air raid wardens) and issues like homesickness, living with others, and table manners.

Science - balanced diet: In the evening we watched Ready Meal Me, an investigation of the harmful effects and medical impact of fast foods. Scary stuff... Luckily we don't do junk foods!

Society - watched The Law of the Playground, where celebrities talk about their school days of rivalries, punishments, violence, poor career advice, insults, hierarchies and humiliations.

Reading: Robots, a Salamander book

Quote of the day: Krishnamurti

"Do you want your children to be educated to be glorified clerks, bureaucrats, leading utterly miserable useless, futile lives, functioning as machines in a system? Or, do you want integrated human beings who are intelligent, capable, and fearless?"

"And should not education help you to find out what you really love to do so that from the beginning to the end of your life you are working at something which you feel is worth while and which for you has deep significance?"

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Another day

Home education on the news: More kids having lessons at home.

DJ wasn't interested in the Simple machines game. Instead, he's still into Runescape and Rome: Total War. In the afternoon we watched evacuation (a bit of WW2 revision). Since DJ is getting into animation I decided to download Macromedia and have a go but ended up asking him for help! I found it hard work. In the evening we watched 9/11: The Twin Towers, a docu-drama telling the story of the terrorist attacks from the victims' perspective, focusing on those trapped inside the Twin Towers and their struggle for survival. I found it really upsetting, though.

Best thing of today? DJ has been helpful!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Radio Free School

I've just been listening to Radio Free School - lovely to hear unschooling voices online! I've also found a lovely poem and the Times Religion Correspondent Ruth Gledhill's weblog. Ruth was at the Zen retreat and has her retreat diary online.

DJ has been playing runescape, exploring computer animation with Macromedia and cooking: chocolate crunch - yummy! In the evening we watched You Are What You Eat - a good reminder of the importance of healthy eating - and Lost Cities of the Ancients -The Dark Lords of Hattusha, and learned loads about the ancient Hittite civilization and how archaeologists work.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Bits & Bobs

This is me, many years ago... a good reminder of impermanence and aging...

This morning we watched Temper Your Temper. Neuroscientist Dr Alan Watkins talked about the effects of anger on the body and gave some tips on anger management e.g. exercise, healthy eating and breathing exercises. In the afternoon DJ did the Middle East quiz, checked the geonet game, and explored the trade ruler game.
Later on we watched Ice Storm: Perfect Disaster and DJ sayed up late watching spy thriller The Bourne Identity.

Yesterday night we watched Lost Cities of the Ancients - The Vanished Capital of the Pharoah. It was about the city of Piramesse, built 3000 years ago by the Ramesses the Great, explaining how it disappeared and how it was found in the wrong place. DJ stayed up late watching Saving Private Ryan, a Steven Spielberg's WW2 drama.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Zen Retreat 6

These are some of the books DJ read over the past few days. Today was the end of the retreat. Wake up, pack up and go, pretty much! But we still had time to spend with our new friends, to sing silly songs and swap contact details. The journey back was trouble free and faster. We're glad to be back home. DJ was desperate to on online! And guess what: today he switched off the PC before I did (but that was after he checked what paquiderme meant!)

Zen Retreat 5

It was a busy day again. DJ decided not to join in. We both completed an evaluation form at the end of the day.

(Morning has broken)

Nowhere to go to
Nothing to do
I'm stuck with my mind
And stuck with you

Wishing what is not
Trying to let go
I keep on breathing
deep and slow

Zen Retreat 4

By lunch time I was thinking I'd have to pack up and go as DJ was just not happy and on the verge of a meltdown. Fortunately we were 'saved' by Martin, who let DJ have his laptop until the retreat ends, and by Hal, who let DJ borrow his Sims game. Hal and Cal joined DJ for a while. I noticed that when DJ was playing the Sims, all bar needs were pretty full except one (can you guess which? social needs, of course! the bar was totally empty - that tells you something about aspie priorities!). Mind you, when I said this, DJ got upset and said: 'No they were not! And they're always changing!'

Check this on DJ's blog
BL (before laptop): 'I'm bored, wonna go home!'
AL (after laptop): 'I'm not bothered whether to stay or go. I could stay for another ten days and not be bothered about being here'

Zen Retreat 3

DJ has vowed not to leave his room so it was nice that Hal and Cal spent a couple of hours with him upstairs playing SimCity4. When the boys left DJ stayed on his room reading A Treasure of Pirate Stories chosen by Tony Bradman. 'I'm bored and I wanna go home!' he said when I walked in - meltdown danger zone, but things calmed down gradually...

We had an interesting discussion about interbeing and asked a lot of questions about individual needs within a group setting e.g. Where does encouragement stop and subtle cohersion begin? How does one balance our own individual needs with the needs of the group? How do we relate to peer pressure? Can the idea of interbeing be misused in order to pressurise individuals to comform to the ways of the group?

PS: Check DJ's blog entries

Zen Retreat 2

Creativity & Humour
We wrote a short story, and created and reviewed 2 comic strips.
Check DJ's blog: there's some funny posts in there

Zen Retreat 1

It was hard work this morning. Everything ready and DJ refusing to leave... I was getting stressed, antecipating total meltdown. Anyway, we managed to get going and survived a long drive to Unstone Grange - M42 was a nightmare! We were exhausted by the time we got there. DJ's mantra was, as usual, 'I wanna go home!'
When we arrived at Unstone Grange we were welcomed in and shown the way to our room - I'm so glad we decided not to camp this time! - we stayed up for a while resting and making ourselves home in our simple but comfortable room. DJ read Wallace & Gromit Crackers in Space and together we read some more Dilbert Future.
Later on we got to meet another home-educating aspie family - synchronicity or what? What are the chances of that? Anyway, it turned out that we share a very similar story... which was lovely! And DJ had some fun with Hal and Arthur.