Monday, April 30, 2007

HE Rights - epetition reply

"We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Allow home educators to be free from the interference of Local Education Authorities."

Government's response

The Government respects the rights of parents who choose to educate their children at home. Local authorities have a limited scope for intervention if it appears to them that a child in their area is not receiving a suitable education. We do not believe it is unfair for local authorities to scrutinise the quality of provision when legitimate concerns are raised. This should be done sensitively, and recognise that home educators do not have to follow the National Curriculum and have a broad discretion as to how and when education takes place.

J. T. Gatto

Classrooms of the Heart 1991

Sunday, April 29, 2007

On Parenting

...from a a talk by a Buddhist nun...

Your child is not your property
Your child is not here to fulfil your expectations
Your child is not here to live out your hopes and dreams

Your child is not an extension of yourself
But an individual in his own right
Heir of its own karma
and that's what he brings with him to this life

Please,
Don't resent your children for not fulfilling your expectations
They were born from our bodies but they don't belong to us
Our jobs are to give them a nesting place
while they can't care for themselves
Conflict is to be expected

We tend to resent those who don't fulfil our expectations
Many causes and conditions affect parent-child relationship
which are outside our control
Our children are not under our control

Pema Chodron, another Buddhist nun, on control and fear:

"We have so much fear of not being in control, of not being able to hold on to things. Yet the true nature of things is that you're never in control. You're never in control. You can never hold on to anything. That's the nature of how things are. But it's almost like it's in the genes of being born human that you can't accept that. You can buy it intellectually, but moment to moment it brings up a lot of panic and fear. So my own path has been training to relax with groundlessness and the panic that accompanies it. That seems to be the essence of the teachings, to stay in the space of uncertainty without trying to reconstruct a reference point."

On Parenting II

The following is from “Raising Children Compassionately: Parenting the Nonviolent Communication Way” by Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D.

"Having been educated, as I was, to think about parenting, I thought that it was the job of a parent to make children behave. You see, once you define yourself as an authority, a teacher or parent, in the culture that I was educated in, you then see it as your responsibility to make people that you label a “child” or a “student” behave in a certain way.

I now see what a self-defeating objective this is, because I have learned that any time it’s our objective to get another person to behave in a certain way, people are likely to resist no matter what it is we’re asking for. This seems to be true whether the other person is 2 or 92 years of age.

This objective of getting what we want from other people, or getting them to do what we want them to do, threatens the autonomy of people, their right to choose what they want to do. And whenever people feel that they’re not free to choose what they want to do, they are likely to resist, even if they see the purpose in what we are asking and would ordinarily want to do it. So strong is our need to protect our autonomy, that if we see that someone has this single-mindedness of purpose, if they are acting like they think that they know what’s best for us and are not leaving it to us to make the choice of how we behave, it stimulates our resistance."

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Education Politics

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair meets Autism Campaigners
The Autism Awareness Campaign UK are calling on the on Government to tackle the failure of secondary schools in bringing in educational strategies to deal with autistic children in a mainstream setting. Tony Blair conceded the government needs to do more."

Parents Should Do Their Homework To Aid Autistic Child's Education
Oliver Wendt, a "Purdue University professor, says the challenges of educating a child diagnosed with various autism disorders are best met by parents. It's important for parents to keep an overview of how different programs are affecting the child. There is no tried and true method. Education needs to be tailored to fit each individual child. Parents know a child's likes, dislikes and breaking points better than anyone."

I'll summarise:

* schools are falling
* parents are best placed to meet their children education needs


Unfortunately, the government seems to believe that "experts" and "professionals" are the good, clever guys, while the families are problems they need to sort out. But lets not go there...

Last month, in Westminster Hall, there was a debate on Education and Autistic Children, with Lee Scott urging the government to address the failure of secondary schools to come up with education strategies to deal with autistic students. Education Other Than At School is not mentioned, not even once, not even now that a few experts are becoming aware of its benefits. For example, Tony Attwood, "a practicing clinical psychologist with more than 25 years
experience with over 2000 individuals of all ages with Asperger’s Syndrome" considered to be "one of the world's top experts on AS" said:

"I have always found home schooling to be a positive option that has literally saved the lives of many children. I have always been an advocate for homeschooling and have supported a number of families who have considered this option."

Anyway, back to the debate... At one point Lee Scott says:

"Baroness Warnock is right to say that inclusion "springs from hearts in the right place". Many of us have at some time been seduced by the theory of inclusion, which seems so nice and reasonable and politically correct, but there is clear evidence that it does not work for every autistic child. Many parents know that inclusion is not appropriate and that that policy is failing their child. We need to make available to every autistic child the form of education that will give them the most effective learning environment. We should support inclusion, but only where it is in the best interests of the child and is the parents' choice."

Not once the distinction between education and schooling is made. Not once an acknowledgement that schools are unfriendly environments is made. The assumption seems to be that schools are the best environments for learning; and, if learning is not taking place, schools are still the best places for children to be in.

Fortunately, there are sensitive, caring parents out there, parents who see what others are oblivious to.

"Our kids are expected to cope with extreme stress throughout the day. They've had multiple sensory assaults, had to try to decode confusing social situations, been forced to try to learn on the same schedule as the rest of the class, and very likely have been bullied or taunted by classmates. They are coiled springs that have been held in a tightly compressed state until they can hold it no longer. Sometimes they explode at school. Sometimes all the anger and frustration come exploding out as soon as they can find a safe place to let it all go - and that's home." [from Lise Pyles' Homeschooling The Child With Aspergers Syndrome]

The reality is that secondary schools are a huge source of chronic stress for AS teens and therefore a major condition in the development of mental health problems. There's lots of highly intelligent aspie teens who, despite having more than the intellectual capability needed to cope with the curriculum, appear to be failing because the very structure of the system is totally unsuitable. Like Kevin Foley says, "Too many children with AS suffer 'meltdown' as a result of being forced to operate in environments that test their skills to breaking point and beyond. We need to ' personalise' our children's education so that this doesn't happen. We need to cast a cold eye on what currently passes for 'inclusion' and be aware of the daily reality for many of our children in mainstream schools"

Anyway, back to the debate! Andrew Pelling (Croydon Central, Conservative) said:"from the figures... and the response that I have had from secondary schools in my area, it seems that there is a tremendous lack of confidence that schools can deal with pupils with the condition."

Lee Scott talked about "a recent survey by the National Union of Teachers, which found that 44% of teachers are not confident in teaching children with ASD and that 39% are not confident in identifying children with ASD."

That still leave us with 66% of confident teachers. Are these the ones who, confident in their intellectually acquired ignorance, blame and exclude the children? There are many confident professionals out there, including those who reckon the best approach is to just give them an asbo!

Bill Rammell (Minister of State, Department for Education and Skills): "Most worrying of all is the finding of the Office for National Statistics that 27% of autistic children have been excluded at some point and that most of those 23% overall have been excluded more than once. That is a concern."

He continues: "worrying though those findings are, it is not possible to argue that we have a general crisis in provision for children with autism... we are not facing a picture that uniformly shows a system that is not delivering. Previous reports have suggested that about 70% of parents of autistic children are satisfied with the education that their children are receiving."

So what he's saying is: YES but No but... I wonder where he's getting his figures from... from home educating parents?

Mercury Poisoning

Autistic Children Clinically Proven Mercury Poisoned
"Recent peer-reviewed scientific/medical studies by Nataf et al. (2006) and by Geier and Geier (2006) leave little doubt that many autistic children are indeed mercury poisoned.

For the past several years, there has been a raging controversy as to whether or not the mercury...in vaccines, has caused the dramatic rise in the rate of children diagnosed with an ASD. Many experts have insisted ASDs are caused by some yet-to-be-identified genetic cause. A paper recently published in Nature Genetics described the results of multi-million-dollar genetics study (which studied a thousand-plus families with at least two autistic children using in-depth genetic screening). Tellingly, the authors reported, "None of our linkage results can be interpreted as 'statistically significant'…"(The Autism Genome Project Consortium, 2007). This makes it unlikely that purely genetic aberrations are the root cause of most ASD cases."

Friday, April 27, 2007

On Children

Kahlil Gibran

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let our bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

[I also like the one on teaching...]

On The News


Autism and the Rain Man syndrome

Choirmaster & school governor who abused boys
Teacher accused of affair
Failing schools reports banned before election

Warning of schools becoming 'ghettoes'

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Being an Unperson

A great video by Ballastexistenz. Her blog is great too!

Anyway, some time ago I wrote to the local MP, Don Foster, supporting the NAS anti-bullying campaign, and today I got this reply:

"Thank you for your letter dated 29 March concerning schooling for children with autism. Please accept my sincere apologies for the long delay in replying.

I read your comments on your own case with great interest. I strongly agree with you that every child with autism should be schooled in an environment appropriate to their needs. The Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Children and Families, Annette Brooke MP, has pledged our support for the aims of the National Autistic Society's manifesto, which calls for all teachers and teachings assistants to receive appropriate training to best support the needs of children with autism.

I entirely agree with the three specific points you raise regarding bullying and I have written to Alan Johnson MP, the Education Secretary, asking him for his comments and to take your opinions into consideration when formulating government policy.

I shall be in touch again as soon as I receive a reply."

[...don't really believe in politicians...]

Sleepy Teens


Science: Today we've been exploring SLEEP, using the flash interactive website Cycles of Sleeping and Waking and a couple of short videos: Sleep and Circadian Rhythms and Sleep - Brain Functions.

I've been looking once again at the differences between surface and deep level learning, with Teaching teaching and understanding understanding. This short film also covers the 'Blame the Students' approach and passive learning.

Questioning the News

Home tutors 'help autistic young'
Home tutoring lifts IQ of autistic children

Prof. Bob Remington, said:

"This form of teaching can, in many cases, lead to major change."

Well, DUH! Isn't that obvious? Who wouldn't benefit from one-to-one home education?! Putting children in noisy environments, surrounded by large numbers of unfriendly or uncaring 'others', you know, like in schools, for example, and what happens? Their whole energy will be wasted in trying to cope with the stresses arising from such hostile conditions. There will be no room left for learning.

Children "who are anxious, angry, or depressed don’t learn" - they don't "take in information efficiently or deal with it well... When emotionally upset, people cannot remember, attend, learn, or make decisions clearly. As one management consultant put it, “Stress makes people stupid.” [Coleman, Emotional Intelligence]

Back to the news, "The researchers, from Southampton University, also found parents rose to the challenge of the intensive course." DUH! Parents LOVE their children and would do anything for them. I find it very worrying indeed that our so-called experts are treating this as a 'find' - I mean, why would they think otherwise? Why is there still a cultural tendency to think negatively of parents, and to blame mothers? Where does that come from and why do so many 'professionals' seem to unquestioningly share such attitude?

"Mother-blame is not a new phenomenon. In the 1940s and 50s, mothers were held responsible for autism (McDonnell 1998), schizophrenia, the emotional breakdowns of young soldiers, and homosexuality (Terry 1998; Thurer 1993). In the 1960s, mothers were held responsible for the rebelliousness of youth – for their political protests, drug usage, sexual activity, and fondness for rock'n'roll. A study of 1970, 1976, and 1982 clinical psychology journals found that “mothers were blamed for seventy-two different kinds of problems in their offspring, ranging from bed-wetting to schizophrenia, from inability to deal with colour blindness to aggressive behaviour, from learning problems to ‘homicidal transsexualism’” (Caplan 1998: 135). Mothers are blamed for children’s poor school performance, low self-esteem, and poverty. Today, children’s problems – or children as problems – are often linked to the social situations of their mothers – poor mothers, unmarried mothers, divorced mothers, employed mothers, and so forth (Arendell forthcoming; Garey 1999: 29-41; Smith 1987: 167-75, 1999)." [as seen here]

And when it comes to Autistic Spectrum Disorders?

"In the 1940s, Dr. Leo Kanner invented the idea of blaming mothers for their children's autism. It became known as the "refrigerator mother" theory. The problem with Kanner's theory is that he had no evidence at all to back it up. It was a guess on his part that fit in neatly with orthodox psychiatric beliefs of the time. Bruno Bettelheim popularized this idea in the United States in the 50s and 60s.

Dr. Bernard Rimland, a parent of a son who has autism, skewered the "refrigerator mother" theory as early as 1964. Eventually, in the 1970s Kanner himself rejected this idea. And Bettelheim was shown to be a con man who had no medical or psychiatric training and abused the children under his care.

Unfortunately, during the 30 or so years when medical science pretended to know what caused autism almost no research was done on the disease. And several generations of parents who trusted the medical experts of the time spent their lives needlessly blaming themselves for their children's illness. Ideas, even factually wrong ideas, don't die easily. And this idea still creeps out of hiding occasionally."

Do you still believe in "experts"? DUH! WAKE UP!

Today's Links
Inclusion doesn't have to start at school
Myths and misperceptions about school bullying
Home education: Council lobbies for better monitoring
Are schools concentration campuses for mind destruction?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Deschooling

When opening my eyes to the reality of the schooling system and the negative impact it has on children's lives, I often notice anger arising in my mind. When I say anger, I mean the whole spectrum, from mild irritation to outrage. Sometimes I even feel righteous and justified in my anger; after all, things shouldn't be the way they are! And, of course, 'should thinking' is bound to result in feelings of anger...

On the other hand, I know by now that getting annoyed doesn't change anything out there; it simply ruins my peace of mind. Like the Buddha said, "holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one getting burned."
There are some role models out there that embody patience and tolerance. A Tibetan monk who was arrested, imprisoned and tortured by the Chinese talks about his experience in this way:

"The people who tortured me and hurt me, they were not acting under their own control. They were acting under the influence of a mind filled with a misunderstanding of the nature of reality. (...) Many of these people are acting under duress. They are acting under orders from higher-ups and so forth. They don't have a choice about whether they are going to torture me or not. They just have to do this. This is their livelihood. This is how these people survive."

The same applies to teachers, headteachers, SENCos, educational psychologists, educational welfare officers, social workers, GPs, paediatricians, psychiatrists, child psychologists, family therapists, parents support workers, occupational therapists, counsellors, politicians, policy makers, you name it! They're all merely following orders from above and trying to survive. Ignorance is all pervading, to the point that most of them are actually convinced they're having a positive impact in people's lives. Some cogs may have a kind heart but, at the end of the day, they're powerless parts of a useless, sometimes dangerous machine.

Talking about the recent killings in the US, this is what the monk said:

"At a deeper level, this incident helps us understand the importance of raising our children in a society that emphasizes compassion and empathy. This kind of tragedy signals where the hearts of our youth are. And it clearly reminds us that we need to be models of compassion and empathy for them from a very young age, whether as parents, as teachers or other mentors. If we ourselves embody compassion and empathy, our children will quite naturally develop these values and it will be much more difficult for tragedies like this one to take place." [as seen here]

If children learn from who we are and what we do rather than what we tell and teach them, it follows that we really have to stop talking the talk and start walking the walk! A good starting point is to ask ourselves what traits do we want to be modelling for our children right now. Once we are clear about that we can think of specific actions we can take that will embody the values we want to encourage.

It would be great if our society and our institutions embodied such values, but that will never happen for they don't have a soul. They may pay lip service to them but they are, by their very nature, unable to go any further. So it's up to us, individual parents, to take responsibility for that.

The same applies to learning. What kind of role model are we? Are we curious about life and passionate about learning? Are we clear about what we mean by 'learning'? Are we open to the possibility that maybe we're not? Because it is from this acknowledgement that the wish to learn about learning will arise.

Anyway, enough said for today. I'll leave you with a great quote from Carl Rogers:

"I want to talk about learning. But not the lifeless, sterile, futile, quickly forgotten stuff that is crammed in to the mind of the poor helpless individual tied into his seat by ironclad bonds of conformity! I am talking about LEARNING - the insatiable curiosity that drives the adolescent boy to absorb everything he can see or hear or read about gasoline engines in order to improve the efficiency and speed of his 'cruiser'. I am talking about the student who says, "I am discovering, drawing in from the outside, and making that which is drawn in a real part of me." I am talking about any learning in which the experience of the learner progresses along this line: "No, no, that's not what I want"; "Wait! This is closer to what I am interested in, what I need"; "Ah, here it is! Now I'm grasping and comprehending what I need and what I want to know!"

Resources
Maths Dictionary
Learn about electricity
KS3 sustainability resources
Link: Education and schooling - the differences

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

RE and Stuff...

Religion: Looking at conflict resolution or reconciliation as spiritual activities. We watched Peace Warriors, a programme from the Faith in Action series about clashes in Gujarat and attempts to reconcile Hindus and Muslims. Both faiths explain that "those who practice violence are damaging the very religion they profess to defend." We've also been exploring Buddhism, karma and Darwin's evolution theory.

Society: We watched "Big Ideas That Changed The World: Terrorism", about the history of terror and organised revolution. DJ learned that terrorism is a political strategy used to cause changes in society; that although violence has been used to cause fear for a long, long time, it was Robbespierre who played a huge role in our current notions of "terrorism". He famously said: "Terror is nothing else than swift, severe, indomitable justice; it flows, then, from virtue." [That somehow reminds me of those who'd like to reintroduce caning in schools out of love for their students.] The first "terrorists" were people in power; that's a good reminder to those who think terrorism is a non-state phenomenon...

Blogosphere: Check out Lucy and Esther Jane.

Resources
Cool Reads
Reading Comprehension
Can I have a word?
Bright Minds
Grants for Voluntary Groups

On The News

I found out that the precedent is being set for the corporation control of schools, with a US firm managing a UK state school. Meanwhile, other schools resort to all sorts of tricks to cope with the management by numbers approach, including urging pupils to drop maths.

We are also reminded that when it comes to the education system, the reasons why we do certain things have no really valid basis; rather, they are "habits we rarely question." I didn't know, for example, that the reasons behind the longer summer holidays was to enable children to help during harvest. Here's an excerpt of the article, by Estelle Morris :

"And why do we make most of our children change schools at the age of 11? Because it is good for standards? Or because it is bad practice to have 10-year-olds and 12-year-olds in the same school? Not really. Half a century ago we decided that 11 was a good age to select a child for an "academic" or a "practical" education. So children change schools at the age of 11 because of the 11-plus, and it seems to have become a habit we rarely question.

But is it the right thing to do? There is an argument that both academically and socially it can be a bit of a disaster. The evidence tells us that academic standards are likely to drop back when a child changes school, and we know that children need stability. Changing schools at 11 means changing their physical environment, their teachers, their friends and the very structure of the day - in one fell swoop. Overnight, they go from being the oldest to the youngest, and from learning in a small community to learning in one perhaps five times as large. It doesn't do a lot for children's emotional security."

My school experience was very different. School started at 1pm and finished at 6pm. That meant I could stay up late and wake up late. I never had a uniform. Revising was something to do whenever I chose to. I never, ever, throughout all my schooling, had a single piece of homework to do. That didn't stop me getting a first class degree, so I'm living proof that the theories about homework are nothing but bullshit. The Homework Myth looks like a good book...

School summer holidays lasted 3 months, which were spent at the beach. There were no half-term holidays. Truancy was never a big deal. If children skipped lessons, parents would never be blamed or perceived as responsible for their children's truancy. Rather, the children themselves were implicitly encouraged to take responsibility for their own behaviour. We were allowed a fixed number of unauthorised absences, which I made the most of, and it was our responsibility to stay within the limit - we knew that if we didn't we might end up having to repeat the same year!

There was one school up to year 4, another up to year 6, another up to year 9, and finally another up to year 12. The transition to secondary is a particularly difficult time for children with Asperger's Syndrome. But then, apart from parents, who gives a shit? Not the teachers, not the schools, not the system. That is, unless children become so distressed that they end up acting out their suffering. The saddest thing is that, due to staff's ignorance and lack of empathy, this is inevitably misperceived as a behaviour problem. Typical example of projection! What we see is what we are. In this way, vulnerable children, the victims, are blamed by the perpetrators. As institutions, schools' main aim is their own smooth running, not children's education or well being, so there's only one possible solution - expulsion! Hmm, and I thought lack of imagination, empathy and flexibility were supposed to be autistic traits...

Anyway, lets go back to the news. A teacher who went undercover to expose violence in UK schools finds herself in trouble. Whistleblowers beware! There's a link to another interesting article, where a teacher admits that her role was one of crowd control. The teacher said: 'My role was simply one of crowd control. I felt useless and inadequate.' Her estimate was that, on average, she failed to teach anything at all in 4 out of 6 lessons a day. Other teachers confirmed that they lose around 3 months a year of teaching attempting to control children's behaviour.

Obviously, such an environment is not conducive to learning. Much less so if you are, like most aspies, hypersensitive to sound and thrive on quietude and calmness. My guess is that all children, and aspies in particular, would struggle to "rise above the chaos" and get used to "a cacophony of noise." But never mind, if things get too much, the school can always kick them out. Or call the "experts", who'll do their very best to get the child to meet the needs of the institution, and not the other way around.

And finally, if children manage to survive the ordeal, make sure they have realistic expectations: after all, school leavers don't have much to look forward to.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Hinduism and stuff...

Religion: today we've been learning about Hinduism and, after watching Elephant God, a discussion followed. We compared Hinduism with Buddhism, as both believe in rebirth, and also with Christianity, as both believe in one God and in an unchanging soul.

PSHE - Human Health & safety: discussed crime, drugs and truancy, and watched In and Out of Trouble.

Other than that, DJ is carrying on with his stuff, which he now likes to keep private.

Check out ToonDoo - I joined in and had a go. The result's here.

Link: following the appearance of a home-educating family on Wife Swap, the episode is being discussed on the TES discussion board

Genius

"If children grew up according to early indications, we should have nothing but geniuses." Goethe

I've been flipping through the Observer Book of Genius that came with the Sunday paper and, as some bits stood out, I thought I'd share them with you.

1 - Genius and Sleep
If you want to become a genius you're advised to get 8 hours sleep. That took me right back to schools days, when DJ was continuously sleep deprived. We are told that we solve problems in our sleep. For example, "Dmitri Mendeleev worked out the periodic table in a dream and Paul McCartney dreamt 'Yesterday'."

On the other hand, odd sleeping patterns also seem common. Brunel slept an average of four hours a day, and Marie Curie regularly skipped sleep.

2 - Genius and Activity

Whilst nowadays most parents encourage their children to busy themselves with a constant stream of activity, like sports, play, arts, music, and so on, the truth is that, like Leonardo da Vinci said, "Men of lofty genius when they are doing the least work are most active."

For example, "Charles Darwin failed his degree because he spent the vast majority of his time at Cambridge lying in a punt, observing flies." Was he doing nothing? Or was he the most active?

3 - School Failures and University Drop Outs
Truman Capote wrote: "When I was around twelve, the principal at the school I was attending paid a call on my family, and told them that in his opinion, and in the opinion of the faculty, I was 'subnormal'. He thought it would be sensible, the humane action, to send me off to some special school equipped to handle backward brats."

His formal education ended when he was 17. Years later, he wrote, "I was determined never to set a studious foot inside a college classroom. I felt that either one was or wasn't a writer, and no combination of professors could influence the outcome. I still think I was correct, at least in my own case."

Nikola Tesla was a university drop-out. He dropped out of the University of Graz and the University of Prague. Galileo Galilei attended university "but was forced to withdraw due to lack of funds."

4 - Autonomous, self-directed education
"Autodidacts are an intrinsic part of the genius myth, either prospering in a vacuum because their abilities are not inhibited, or acting alone because no-one else can keep up with them. Indeed many great minds claim to have acquired their ability despite their education. As George Bernard Shaw declared, 'the only time my education was interrupted was when I was at school.'

Others, like Beethoven and Ramanujan, "received barely any schooling."

5 - Loners
Isaac Newton "was lonely, unhappy and given to impotent rages in which he threatened to burn the house down." Truman Capote was a lonely child, who taught himself to read and write before starting school. Bobby Fischer taught himself chess at the age of six, paying alone for a year.

6 - Eccentricity
"Geniuses by their nature like to think of themselves as a bit above the common herd." Glenn Gould "was very attached to his routine. He would only play concerts when sitting on an old armchair his father had made." Hmm, was he an aspie too? Others are known for their lack of social skills. Einstein, for example, admitted that "I lack both a natural aptitude and the experience to deal properly with people."

7 - Prodigious Savants
"Many savants suffer from autism." Check out, for example, Stephen Wiltshire and Daniel Tammet, who said: "The genius I most admire is Albert Einstein. He too was a very visual thinker. In fact, some researchers speculate that Einstein may have had Asperger's syndrome, the same mild form of autism that I have."

8 - Thinking Outside the Box
This is something geniuses do, as they have the ability to see new pathways, the capacity to see things from highly unusual angles, the capacity to overlook what is not essential, to understand the true significance of the obvious, and so on. Some people think of geniuses as "people who continue to astound, surprise, delight, challenge, not conform and yet somehow manage to keep body and soul together."

9 - Curiosity
According to AS Byatt, genius "consists in extraordinary curiosity and extraordinary power of thought, together with the ability to combine known things into new ideas or art forms."

10 - Character Traits
Certain character traits seem common in geniuses. These include: persistence, obduracy, vision, capacity to stay true to that vision, infinite capacity for taking pains and indifference to ridicule. I take this means that a true genius' aim is not success, fame, good reputation, or profit, which in turn means they're somehow immune to these common worldly concerns.

Conclusion

So, it seems that, if we want our children to fully develop their potentials, it would be a good idea to

1 - Allow children to sleep as much or as little as they need.

2 - Allow children to decide their own levels of activity; be open to the possibility that, when your child seems to be doing nothing, they're actually working things out in the privacy of their own minds

3 - Remember that, regardless what you're told by 'professionals' and 'experts' of whatever field, nobody knows your child like you do; take your child seriously, trust their own feedback, and never, ever, surrender your own judgement!

4 - Become aware of your assumptions and beliefs around the benefits of schools and higher education. Then, do a reality check.

5 - Find out about self-directed learning and autonomous education.

6 - Become aware of your assumptions around socialization and solitude, and respect your child's natural temperament.

7 - Rejoice about neurodiversity!

8 - Instead of trying to get your children to look at the world through the eyes of an adult, try looking at the world through the eyes of a child. Allow them to be children. Remember that children are not defective adults, they are whole beings in themselves.

9 - Regain your own natural curiosity. Ask yourself: in what kinds of environments do curiosity and creativity flourish?

10 - Develop the heart, not just the intellect.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

A definition

...of autonomous education by Jan Fortune-Wood:

"Autonomy is the right of self-government and free will. Education is the process by which we develop intellectual potential and foster the growth of knowledge. Education relies on a rational development of conjecture and refutation. Autonomous education is simply that process by which knowledge grows because of the intrinsic motivation of the individual. In fact, the core to understanding autonomous education is in understanding the absolutely fundamental and unshakeable role of intrinsic motivation"

Read more here

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Deschooling

I'm noticing that a lot of my posts mention the problems with the school system, either through the quotes I include, news links, or whatever. My intention isn't really to create a school bashing blog. I guess this is all part of my deschooling process.

Just in case you haven't come across the concept of "deschooling", Beverley Paine explains the process parents go through this way: "the unlearning of concepts and beliefs about the nature and purpose of education. It often takes many months, and sometimes even a year, for the process of deschooling to unfold."

So, having been conditioned to accept, without questioning, out of blind faith, a series of educational myths, I'm going through this process of opening my eyes to the reality of the situation, unplugging myself from the matrix, moving away from total denial... that word, denial, for some reason, brings to mind Kubler-Ross' 5 stages of grief:

denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.

I'm now wondering whether there's something, in the deschooling process, about loss? All changes involve loss but here I'm thinking more in terms of mourning the loss of a fantasy. These last 18 months have been really exciting, with a steep learning curve and a major paradigm shift taking place...

So, these five stages... After denial, the next stage is anger. On the one hand, anger at the huge amount of conditioning, brainwashing and propaganda I was subjected to; on the other, anger that it has taken me so long to see through all the lies. It is easy to point the finger and direct the anger at all the people in the system who are still in denial but, at the end of the day, anger is like eating poison and expecting the other person to die. It doesn't work and I don't want to waste time and energy with it. Whenever I notice I'm getting annoyed at the widespread mix of ignorance and arrogance out there, I gently remind myself that I too have been there - and it wasn't that long ago...

After anger comes bargaining. Some parents try bargaining. I went through that too. Before de-registering I actually had a go at it; thought about flexischooling, building some sort of partnership with the school, etc. Didn't work, of course, but the process was, in itself, a great eye-opener! Painful but incredibly revealing - definitely educational! ;-)

Underneath anger there's usually some degree of sadness. People are hurting out there, school children as young as 11 are committing suicide - that is a fact, that really is happening. Realising that things were not as pretty as we thought they were is kinda sad... Acceptance is not easy. These 5 stages are not necessarily linear, and I'll leave it at that. I'll just end with this quote, from someone I admire:

"It is not up to us to judge whether something is good or bad, but just to know what it is."

J.T.Gatto...again!

"Why, then, are we locking kids up in an involuntary network with strangers for twelve years? Surely not so a few of them can get rich? Even if it worked that way, and I doubt it does, why wouldn't any sane community look on such an education as positively wrong? It divides and classifies people, demanding that they compulsively compete with each other, and publicly labels the losers by literally de-grading them, identifying them as "low-class" material. And the bottom line for the winners is that they can buy more stuff!"

"Mass education cannot work to produce a fair society because its daily practice is practice in rigged competition, suppression, and intimidation. The schools we've allowed to develop can't work to teach non-material values, the values which give meaning to everyone's life, rich or poor, because the structure of schooling is held together by a Byzantine tapestry of reward and threat, of carrots and sticks. Official favor, grades, or other trinkets of subordination have no connection with education; they are the paraphernalia of servitude, not freedom."

"Mass schooling damages children. We don't need more of it."

History and resources

History:
Cuban Missile Crisis


Resources
Science with me
Picture Dots
Make, share and print dot to dot puzzles from your own photos

Friday, April 20, 2007

Photo

I'm the youngest...

Today we did a bit of history, learned about
Victorian Police and Prisons

What about socialization?

Here's a story by an unknown author.
Thank you Laura for posting this...

What about socialization? (from another angle)

Two women meet at a playground, where their children are swinging and playing ball. The women are sitting on a bench watching. Eventually, they begin to talk.

W1: Hi. My name is Maggie. My kids are the three in red shirts, helps me keep track of them.

W2: (Smiles) I'm Terri. Mine are in the pink and yellow shirts. Do you come here a lot?

W1: Usually two or three times a week, after we go to the library.

W2: Wow. Where do you find the time?

W1: We home educate, so we do it during the day most of the time.

W2: Some of my neighbours home educate, but I send my kids to school.

W1: How do you do it?

W2: It's not easy. I go to all the PTO meetings and work with the kids every day after school and stay real involved.

W1: But what about socialization? Aren't you worried about them being cooped up all day with kids their own ages, never getting the opportunity for natural relationships?

W2: Well, yes. But I work hard to balance that. They have some friends who're home educated, and we visit their grandparents almost every month.

W1: Sounds like you're a very dedicated mum. But don't you worry about all the opportunities they're missing out on? I mean they're so isolated from real life; how will they know what the world is like, what people do to make a living, how to get along with all different kinds of people?

W2: Oh, we discussed that at PTO, and we started a fund to bring real people into the classrooms. Last month, we had a policeman and a doctor come in to talk to every class. And next month, we're having a woman from Japan and a man from Kenya come to speak.

W1: Oh, we met a man from Japan in the grocery store the other week, and he got to talking about his childhood in Tokyo. My kids were absolutely fascinated. We invited him to dinner and got to meet his wife and their three children.

W2: That's nice. Hmm. Maybe we should plan some Japanese food for lunch on Multicultural Day.

W1: Maybe your Japanese guest could eat with the children.

W2: Oh, no. She's on a very tight schedule. She has two other schools to visit that day. It's a system-wide thing we're doing.

W1: Oh, I'm sorry. Well, maybe you'll meet someone interesting in the grocery store sometime and you'll end up having them over for dinner.

W2: I don't think so. I never talk to people in the store, certainly not people who might not even speak my language. What if that Japanese man hadn't spoken English?

W1: To tell you the truth, I never had time to think about it. Before I even saw him, my six year old had asked him what he was going to do with all the oranges he was buying.

W2: Your child talks to strangers?

W1: I was right there with him. He knows that as long as he's with me, he can talk to anyone he wishes.

W2: But you're developing dangerous habits in him. My children never talk to strangers.

W1: Not even when they're with you?

W2: They're never with me, except at home after school. So you see why it's so important for them to understand that talking to strangers is a big no-no.

W1: Yes, I do. But if they were with you, they could get to meet interesting people and still be safe. They'd get a taste of the real world, in real settings. They'd also get a real feel for how to tell when a situation is dangerous or suspicious.

W2: They'll get that in year 3 and 5.

W1: Well, I can tell you're a very caring mum. Let me give you my number; if you ever want to talk, give me call. It was good to meet you.

Author unknown

News & Links

On The News: Hanged boy 'was bullied on bus'
Related Link: Bullycide cases

On TV: You might want to watch Wife Swap this Sunday on channel 4 as one of the families is home educating. Unfortunately, apparently the 9 y.o. girl is "seen hitting a horse three times in the neck with a rake after it gets in her way" and the RSPCA is appalled.

Links
learn in freedom
delight-driven learning
unschooling defined
Stupid in America (YouTube)

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Image

Criminalising children

My thoughts on the recent US university shootings, which some Americans see as "another government black-op that will be used as justification for turning schools into prisons, festooned with armed guards, surveillance cameras and biometric scanning," led me somehow to reflect on school discipline and the criminalisation of children.

In a recent post I included a link to a clip where you can watch a 5 y.o. girl being handcuffed in kindergarten class in 2005. More recently, only a week ago, a 6 y.o. girl was handcuffed and arrested and earlier this month, a 13 y.o. was arrested in school for writing on desk. Since recently we've been prompted, by the bicentenary of the slave trade abolition, to explore racism, I couldn't stop noticing that the three girls were black...

Of course you might think this is all irrelevant, after all we're not in the USA. But in the UK Tony Blair wants children to face criminal checks. What do you make of all this?

Compulsory Education

"Going hand in hand with the spread of public education have been compulsory attendance laws, which have forced all children up to a high—and continually increasing—minimum age, to attend either a public school or a private school certified as suitable by the state apparatus. ...the entire mass of the population has thus been coerced by the government into spending a large portion of the most impressionable years of their lives in public institutions. We could easily have analized compulsory attendance laws in our chapter on involuntary servitude, for what institution is more evidently a vast system of incarceration? ...as a vast prison system for the nation's youth, dragooning countless millions of unwilling and unadaptable children into the schooling structure. The New Left tactic of breaking into the high schools shouting "Jailbreak!" may have been absurd and ineffective, but it certainly expressed a great truth about the school system. For if we are to dragoon the entire youth population into vast prisons in the guise of "education," with teachers and administrators serving as surrogate wardens and guards, why should we not expect vast unhappiness, discontent, alienation, and rebellion on the part of the nation's youth? But now it is increasingly acknowl­edged ...that, especially in urban areas, the public schools have become cesspools of crime, petty theft, and drug addiction, and that little or no genuine education takes place amidst the warping of the minds and souls of the children.

A crucial fallacy of ...school worshippers is confusion between formal schooling and education in general. Education is a lifelong process of learning, and learning takes place not only in school, but in all areas of life. When the child plays, or listens to parents or friends, or reads a newspaper, or works at a job, he or she is becoming educated. Formal schooling is only a small part of the educational process, and is really only suitable for formal subjects of instruction, particularly in the more advanced and systematic subjects. The elementary subjects, reading, writing, arithmetic and their corollaries, can easily be learned at home and outside the school.
Public and Compulsory Schooling, Murray Rothbard

Autonomy

DJ was up all night - too excited to sleep!

"I found out how to set up the live TV on my computer! I only need better signal! Or a longer cable instead of the aerial... So that's a bit of autonomous home education that I did all by myself! And, I downloaded a different Flash programme, different but very similar to the one I once had, and I'm using this big tutorial to teach myself! Could you get me a longer cable now?"

I noticed not only his incredible excitement but also that he was

* reflecting on, and expressing, what he had done so far
* working out the next problem solving step
* aware of what autonomous education is all about
* absolutely determined to do what he had set out to do

DJ went off, calculated the length he needed for the cable he wanted, and then, after all the measuring was done, explained exactly what he needed. So I went to the local shop and come back with the requested materials. He went back to his project and, a little later, came out and said:

"I did it! I've managed to set it all up, all by myself, so now I can watch TV on my computer. I can pause, rewind and fast forward, which means I can fast forward through all those annoying adverts when I'm watching a film! I have the benefits of sky plus for free! And I can also record!"

Then he went on and on, trying to explain what's the difference between analogue and digital and why he can only get the basic 5 channels.

It seems pretty obvious that he is rediscovering that learning IS fun, working things out IS fun and that he is really enjoying the buzz he is getting out of it. This buzz is also known as lust for learning.

It has been known, for more than two thousand years, that this is something we all share. Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC) noticed how "all men by nature desire knowledge." Hobbes, in 1651, also talked about this passion, "which is a lust of the mind, that by a perseverance of delight in the continual and indefatigable generation of knowledge, exceeds the short vehemence of any carnal pleasure." So there, it's even better than sex!

Well... unless, like Alfie Kohn says, "we destroy the ... love of learning in children, which is so strong when they are small, by encouraging and compelling them to work for petty and contemptible rewards--gold stars, or papers marked 100 and tacked to the wall, or A's on report cards, or honour rolls, or dean's lists... in short, for the ignoble satisfaction of feeling that they are better than someone else."

Right now, DJ is busy, and he explains "I'm learning about team work because I'm trying to make friends and allies so we can help each other in Civ IV, a multiplayer online game."

Moving on, to the blogosphere, thanks Gill, for a class divided, which we can watch online. I've also found an interesting post on Blogdial: Germany and Taliban united; They both ban home schooling.

Resources
Tate Learning

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Today...

History
English Civil War - Learning Zone (Part 1)
English Civil War - Learning Zone (Part 2)

...which reminds me that some time ago we were watching a documentary about the Vikings when suddenly DJ said:

"It wasn't the Vikings that had horns on their helmets. That idea is based in Teutonic mythology. Only the Teutonic Knights had them. I learned that from Medieval II Total War. There were lots of discussions going on about helmets on the forums. That's where I know it from."

It's good to see them learning from games!

English: DJ did some grammar quizzes on:
adjectives and prepositions
differentiating adjectives from nouns
adjectives with -ed and -ing
adverbs

Social Studies: discussing school violence and discipline

Resources
Google Sketchup
Izware Nendo
Road to Grammar

Today's Links
Articles of interest to home educators
What's Wrong With Home Visits?
Unschooling the Gifted Child

School Discipline

OK. What did we learn today?

In 1982 the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Britain was wrong to allow corporal punishment in schools against the wishes of parents.

In 1987 corporal punishment was finally banned by parliament in state schools (but not from private schools) - by a majority of just one vote!

Since then there have been many calls to reinstate the cane.

In the following clips, from 1996, we see this discussion taking place.
The first clip is an introduction and clip two shows interviews with the caning headmaster and recently caned boys at a private school that was still using corporal punishment at that time.

Here it is: reintroducing caning in schools - continues here.

Headmaster: It's not so much that if you cane a boy it changes him, it might or it might not...

Reporter: Don't you think there's something a bit barbaric about hitting people to make them behave?

Headmaster: Its the very opposite of barbaric, its civilising.

What about this? Following yesterday's post where I mentioned the criminalisation of children in general, and in particular the dangers of criminalising children within the autistic spectrum, here we can watch a
5 year old getting handcuffed by Police two years ago. You can read about it here. How would you feel if that was your child? Do you think this is civilising?

But never mind... we can always watch this and have a good laugh about it all...

Watch Online

what the ancients did for us
Islamic World of Inventions
The Two Winstons
Shakespeare's Twelfth Night
what the romans did for us
Victorian Police and Prisons
the fourth world war
war by other means
John Pilger

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Multiple Intelligences

We enjoyed watching Horizon, which was all about multiple intelligences, the shortcomings of the IQ test and the importance of emotional intelligence.

What Type of Thinker are You?
According to the quiz, I'm an existential thinker. Existential thinkers like to spend time thinking about philosophical issues such as "What is the meaning of life?" They try to see beyond the 'here and now', understand deeper meanings, and consider moral and ethical implications of problems as well as practical solutions.

Existential Thinkers include: The Buddha, Gandhi, Plato, Socrates, Martin Luther King. Careers which suit Existential Thinkers include: Philosopher, Religious leader, Head of state, Artist, Writer.

University Shootings

Finding out about the US university shootings and how the 'Police came out of nowhere' got me thinking about the 'problem - reaction - solution' process.

From George Bush we hear that: "Schools should be places of safety and sanctuary and learning" and that the government "would stand ready to help local law enforcement... any way we can." My guess is that 'any way we can' does not refer to diplomacy but to the usual power-over, police state attitude.

Here, we have voices alerting us that the US college shooting 'could happen in UK'. In this article, Prof Alderman, referring to security at the New York campus, said: "Security was pretty tight. Every student and member of staff had to wear photographic ID and there were security guards on the gates of every campus. Nobody was allowed in or out without ID. But security ID can only go so far, especially if you have a sprawling campus, and not one that you can lock-down" Hmm, 'lock-down' seems to be the next step...

Events like these serve as perfect excuses for governments to enforce new policies. In name of security, lets fingerprint all children, make sure they're locked in schools and that they adapt to surveillance society while young, by getting used to being watched by school police units. Police bases for schools are well underway. In Cambridgeshire, a school is paying £35,000 for a police officer to patrol its corridors. The police officer said: "It is a sign of the times. I don't think things have got worse over the last few years, but the school has identified a need to have me on site more."

Of course things have not got worse! However, our perception is changing thanks to the mass-deception work of the news media. The use of wording is, of course, carefully chosen. On the one hand, children are frightening and out of control, on the other, police intervention in schools is described as reassuring and positive. Teachers welcome police in schools, they've been saying this for a while now, but do we really want our children to be seen as potential criminals and having the police send four police officers to tackle a 11 y.o. boy, who called schoolmate 'gay'?

Do we want vulnerable children, who already struggle to cope with the school's unfriendly environment and the bullying that goes on, to be given the help they are entitled to - but hardly have access to - or anti-social behaviour orders? Did you know that "more than a third of children given Asbos have underlying brain disorders such as autism." If not, and if curious, you could always read 'Autism link' to Asbo youngsters.

Today's Quotes
"In lesson six I teach children that they are being watched. I keep each student under constant surveillance and so do my colleagues. There are no private spaces for children; there is no private time. Class change lasts 300 seconds to keep promiscuous fraternization at low levels. Students are encouraged to tattle on each other, even to tattle on their parents. Of course I encourage parents to file their own child's waywardness, too.

I assign "homework" so that this surveillance extends into the household, where students might otherwise use the time to learn something unauthorized, perhaps from a father or mother, or by apprenticing to some wiser person in the neighbourhood.

The lesson of constant surveillance is that no one can be trusted, that privacy is not legitimate. Surveillance is an ancient urgency among certain influential thinkers; it was a central prescription set down by Calvin in the Institutes, by Plato in the Republic, by Hobbes, by Comte, by Francis Bacon. All these childless men discovered the same thing: Children must be closely watched if you want to keep a society under central control." - Gatto

"The chief lesson I have learned in a long life is that the only way you can make a man trustworthy is to trust him; and the surest way to make him untrustworthy is to distrust him and show your distrust."
Henry Lewis Stimson (1867–1950), U.S. Secretary of State (1929-1933), U.S. Secretary of War (1911-1912 and 1940-1945)

Monday, April 16, 2007

Music Animations


Verdi - Traviata - Choeur Bohémiens
Video sent by Quarouble

Elgar's 'Pomp & Circumstance'
North Indian classical music
Chopin's "Minute Waltz"
Aqua Harp
Beethoven's 5th
Mozart's Piano Sonata
Verdi - La Traviata
Mozart - Dies Irae
Vivaldi - Four Seasons
Offenbach's Barcarole
Pipe Dream
Tango - En Tus Brazos

Money, War, Race

PSHE: History of money, money systems, banks, etc

Social Studies: We've been discussing war as entertainment and the militarization of popular culture, using parts of Militainment Inc.

History: Racism - using Colour of Money Part 1, we covered the following:

* how racism emerges in the 16th and 17th century;

* slavery as an early form of colonialism, whereby people defined as non-Europeans find themselves dominated by Europeans;

* the idea that "the British don't become slave traders because they are racist; they become racists because they use slaves for great profit in the Americas and devise a set of attitudes towards black people that justify what they've done"

* economics as the real engine behind the slave system;

* the way slaves were captured and brought to the New World;

* 11 million Africans were transported across the Atlantic;

* how masters had absolute power over the slaves;

* debates whether Indians could be categorised as humans;

* emergence of biological theories of differences in skin colours leading to racist theories such as polygenism e.g. questioning whether black Africans were of the same species than Europeans, the 17th century 'scientific' explanation was that black African people were produced by the sexual union of a chimpanzee and a human being and therefore they're not really human, but half animal

* with Oliver Cromwell and the growth of the empire, the English start perceiving themselves as part of a superior white race

After that we looked at racism today, with no slavery, is school racist? and re-education.

On the news we can see how these issues are still very much alive today:
Black pupils 'are treated worse'
'Double blow' for autistic pupils

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Thoughts & Links

Yesterday I went to a Buddhist talk on the conducive conditions for developing concentration, considered crucial to the development of understanding and wisdom, and it struck me how our home environment, by meeting so many of those conditions, is so conducive to learning.

It is kind of obvious that we need to focus our attention on different aspects of a particular object in order to get to know it. However, in order to be able to do this, we need, first of all, the right environment. What also struck me was how schools simply do not provide such concentration-friendly environments - nor ASD friendly, but I'm assuming we all know that by now...

So I sat there, listening to how we need a calm and quiet place, where there’s no noise, where you can easily get water and food and your other bodily needs easily met, a place that's free from dangers... sounds just like aspie's paradise! And yet, this is precisely what we get at home.
At home, children can drink when thirsty and eat when hungry. They can go to the toilet as often as they need to and for as long as they need. At home, children are free from sensory overload, bullying, and intellectual abuse. At home, children are free to focus on the things they are naturally interested in.

Other conducive conditions to concentration are access to people who share your interests, and not getting involved in frivolous socialising! Hmm, I'm now starting to see Buddhism as an aspie friendly philosophy.

With corporations busy creating the next generation of consumers and making the most of all the advertising directly targeted at children, no wonder most of them have their interests dictated by such sources. If you're not interested in frivolous socialising or playing the consumer game it can be difficult to find people who share your unique interests.

It's also interesting how our values are culturally specific. For example, the Tibetan monk, who was giving the talk, told us how whenever they have free time Tibetans like to just relax, in sharp contrast with Westerners who enjoy getting out and about and generally busying themselves with all sorts of activities: doing rather than being.

Our views of normality are also culturally specific although some 'experts' and 'professionals' seem to be unaware of this; maybe they're blinded by their faith in their sacred scriptures - holy books like the ICD 10, the DSM-IV, and so on, which tend to be interpreted literally. Maybe this is why new evidence and research is often discounted until it is finally gets its way into the holy book...

Anyway, I'm talking too much again!

Today's Quotes

"Normality is always relative to the particular culture or subculture in which the person lives...normality is also relative to status, age, and type of personality" Maslow and Mittelmann (1941)

"Behavior is abnormal if and only if the society labels it as such" Ullmann and Kranser (1969)

Some Links
NAS Online Talks

On Video Google
Money as Debt
The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community
The Trap: What Happened to Our Dream of Freedom
Black Gold: Wake Up and Smell the Coffee
The Cola Conquest

Saturday, April 14, 2007

VisualDNA widget

News & Quotes

On the News
School's Out, for ever!
"You don't have to be rich or a hippie to educate your children at home. Spurred on by fears over standards, more and more parents are abandoning the school system..."

Advice spells out the right kind of discipline
"Teachers have the right to use physical force against violent pupils, according to the new guidance released this week...In addition, they have the right to keep pupils after school or for Saturday detention and do not have to obtain parents’ permission."

Thinking out loud...
How does compulsion and coercion in education fit in with the so-called British values of liberty and freedom? How can you give a lesson in freedom to pupils who are forced to attend and punished if they don't?

And how come the Young Person's Entitlement Charter from the Association for Careers Education and Guidance states that:

"In a free society all young citizens must be able to make their own decisions relating to their future and ways of achieving independence. They must be free to choose, at any and all stages in their development, in line with their abilities, talents, needs and aspirations...without compulsion or coercion"

Wherever I look I seem to find ignorance, confusion, mixed messages and total denial. All this reminds me of something I read here recently:

"In the context of coercion education is nothing but the manufacture of subjection,and cannot in spite of any good intentions be otherwise. By interfering in education the government teaches that people do not belong to themselves but that they are subjects of the State. This lesson is learned implicitly, whatever the stated aims of education are... if there is compulsory schooling, if there is a State monopoly of schools, if children are denied human rights, then the real lesson of subjugation is learned."

Today's Quotes
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)

It is indeed probable that more harm and misery have been caused by men determined to use coercion to stamp out a moral evil than by men intent on doing evil....if we wish to preserve a free society, it is essential that we recognize that the desirability of a particular object is not sufficient justification for the use of coercion. - Fredrich August von Hayek

Whenever 'A' attempts by law to impose his moral standards upon 'B', 'A' is most likely a scoundrel. - H. L. Mencken

Friday, April 13, 2007

Carl Rogers

I think my deepest criticism of the educational system at that period [junior high and high school], and that also applies to other periods, is that it's all based upon a distrust of the student. Don't trust him to follow his own leads; guide him; tell him what to do; tell him what he should think; tell him what he should learn. Consequently at the very age when he should be developing adult characteristics of choice and decision making, when he should be trusted on some of those things, trusted to make mistakes and to learn from those mistakes, he is, instead, regimented and shoved into a curriculum, whether it fits him or not.
Carl Rogers in R. Evans Carl Rogers: The Man and His Ideas

All sorts

Geography: DJ is learning lots from Voyage Century, like all the names of every port city in the Mediterranean, and so on. The game is also really good for learning about body language.

Religion: Done a bit of revision on Buddhism and watched Making of a Monk, which briefly covered the four noble truths, taking refuge and the three jewels.

Resources
Hands-on Activities
Planet Science for Teachers

On the News
Pupils 'in makeshift classrooms'
Long school day 'risks families'

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Geography & stuff...

Geography: Today we have been looking at geology, geography, and earth science of the United States, covering all sorts from tectonic plates to erosion. At the end DJ did a quiz.

Languages: we talked about the problems with literal translations and using google language tools.

Science: thanks to by other means, we've found out about this KS3/4 Science video about the Periodic Table. The periodic table is used to explore some of the elements and find out why some are more reactive than others.

On the News
In Portugal Ensino em casa ganha adeptos.
In the UK, A-grade pupil banned from dance "because her parents refused to allow her to attend extra revision lessons... the school insists the tough line on extra study benefits pupils."

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

UN Human Rights

Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to education, Vernor Muñoz

62. According to reports received, it is possible that, in some Länder, education is understood exclusively to mean school attendance. Even though the Special Rapporteur is a strong advocate of public, free and compulsory education, it should be noted that education may not be reduced to mere school attendance and that educational processes should be strengthened to ensure that they always and primarily serve the best interests of the child. Distance learning methods and home schooling represent valid options which could be developed in certain circumstances, bearing in mind that parents have the right to choose the appropriate type of education for their children, as stipulated in article 13 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The promotion and development of a system of public, government-funded education should not entail the suppression of forms of education that do not require attendance at a school. In this context, the Special Rapporteur received complaints about threats to withdraw the parental rights of parents who chose home-schooling methods for their children.

as seen here

ASD e-petition

e-petition: We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Make Autism training COMPULSORY for all teachers. As it currently stands teachers are OFFERED the chance to take up Autism specific training often either in school hours (when headteachers are reluctant at best to give up the time) or in their own time which many will not give up. Surely in this day and age when so many children are affected by this lifelong condition and we are being told by the Government to send them to mainstream schools (because there are less and less specialist schools) then these schools should know how best to help these children instead of just expecting the children to fit into their pigeon holes. Better for all the children (not just the children with Autism) and also teachers and parents at the end of the day!
Sign it here.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

All sorts...

Easter has been a busy and happy time: eating far too much chocolate, seeing friends, sleepovers, playing, gaming, chatting, watching films... DJ fell asleep before 8pm! Strange but true!

For me, a couple of encounters resulted in sharing and reflecting about my home-education experience so far, which has been interesting. Might post about it one day...

ICT Resources
HTML Tutorial
Full Web Building Tutorials

On The News
Education failures are a national tragedy
"Many violent teenage disputes - there have been 7 murders over the past 11 weeks in London alone - have their origins at school... Parents understand this and are increasingly educating their children at home... No wonder. In this environment, the idea of teaching and learning is laughable."

Today's Quote

“[an] important and indeed essential social function of Schools is ranking – that is, grading and labelling, putting children into pecking orders, dividing them into winners and losers. All modern societies, like most societies in the past, are organized into a few winners, and a great many losers, a few “decision-makers” who give commands and many who carry them out. It is of course not always easy to tell where the line is between winning and losing. The line is in the mind… those who feel like losers are losers” - from Instead of Education by John Holt

Monday, April 09, 2007

Schome & News

Reading A second look at school life, I've just found out about Schome - not school, not home, but schome, "a project led by the Open University to develop new education systems in both real and digital worlds." Basically, it is about using massive multiplayer online games as virtual classrooms. You can find out more here and watch an introduction to Shome Park at Second Life, available on YouTube, here. Or you could check the schome website...

On the News:
Scared of school
Stressed teachers 'taking drugs'
Schools may fingerprint six million children

Word Cloud

Sadhguru

"The Isha Home School is not designed to impose education on the child. There is a natural longing, in every human being, to know something. What is it that he wants to know? To discover that and support that is the teacher's business. Anything that you pursue you will always remember. Anything that's imposed on you will never add to your life. This is the basics on which the school is structured. Anything that the child pursues with interest, he will always remember this, it will always become a part of his life. Anything that is heaped upon him, it doesn't matter how valuable it is, he tends to reject it. And so, enforcing that all children study everything else is causing huge damage to the child. Somebody may be good at one thing and not so good at another thing. When he's compelled to do it at the same level of another child, if he has any genius in him for a particular aspect of life, his genius is just generally lost.

Today the world education scientists are saying that if a child goes to kindergarden school and goes through twenty years of formal education, lets say he comes out with something like a PhD or whatever, they're saying 70% of his intelligence is irrevocably destroyed. That means he's coming out with the knowledge of an idiot and he will not be truly competitive at anything. He will try to survive on his two alphabets he has gathered next to his name. So I want the children to grow up in such a way that if tomorrow your qualification has no value, still, you survive. You survive because of your capability not because of your qualification. This is education for knowing and become capable. This is not education just to, you know, decorate yourself with something."

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Unschooling

What is Unschooling?
This is a casual discussion about Unschooling by advocate, public speaker and writer, Dayna Martin

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Gaming

The Games Children Play
Computer games enter the classroom as learning tools. This programme features two leading academics who support the use of games in education.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Bits & Bobs


On the News

Tests 'stopping children playing'
With lessons geared towards assessment, children are bored from the moment they begin formal schooling. Alison Sherratt, teacher, said: children in Year 1 felt "ruled by the bell". This was a "good model for how to switch children off and create failure."

Today's Quote
"I've come to believe that genius is an exceedingly common human quality, probably natural to most of us... I began to wonder, reluctantly, whether it was possible that being in school itself was what was dumbing them down. Was it possible I had been hired not to enlarge children's power, but to diminish it? That seemed crazy on the face of it, but slowly I began to realize that the bells and the confinement, the crazy sequences, the age-segregation, the lack of privacy, the constant surveillance, and all the rest of national curriculum of schooling were designed exactly as if someone had set out to prevent children from learning how to think and act, to coax them into addiction and dependent behaviour." – John Taylor Gatto

Links
Derbyshire Council: Educating your child at home

Something to Watch Online: An alternate education school set-up in South India that allows the natural blossoming of the child.
Isha Home School - An Intro - Part 1
Isha Home School - An Intro - Part 2

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Christopher Titmuss

"I was lucky enough to leave school at the age of fifteen and never to go back. I left school without a single qualification. It seemed to me then that school endeavoured to minimise one's enjoyment of life, of fun and play. It wasn't worth the sacrifice.

I still have the sympathy for that expression of extreme thought which says we only stop learning when we go to school. I greatly appreciate the immense significance of education... Education is a marvellous and indispensable tool for inner development but I believe it still remains often out of touch with the depths of inner experience and the wisdom of the heart. The Latin word educat means 'to lead out', 'to bring out'. Whether schools truly fulfil that mission is questionable.

It was rather ironic that thirty years after leaving school, I was invited to speak at a conference on the Philosophy of the Future of Humanity at Cambridge University. There I expressed the view that 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 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."
from Light on Enlightenment

Videos on Aspergers

Day With the Experts

Asperger Syndrome
Mirror Neurons & Aspergers Syndrome
The Electric Shock of Asperger's Children for Fun or Profit?

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

A poem

THE RELIGION OF SECULARISM by Christopher Titmuss

1. Science is the God of secular religion. Science has the power to solve all problems and has the potential to answer to all prayers.

2. Secularists worship career, money, pleasure and sex. Nirvana is getting what I want whenever I want. 'I' 'me' and 'my' matters above everything else. Secularists believe they are living in the real world.

3. Recreational drugs and alcohol are the bread and wine of secular beliefs.

4. Self-help books are the Bibles and Koran of secular culture. Psychotherapists, counsellors and astrologers are the priests of the religion of secularism. [Here I'd say: so-called experts and professionals are the new priests!]

5. Entertainers, fashion models, film stars, and sports stars are the Gods and Goddesses of secular religion. The television set is the sacred shrine at home to watch in attentive silence.

6. The faithful gather to worship their Gods and Goddesses at concerts, cinemas and sports stadiums. The faithful revere the Chosen Ones of secular religion.

7. The followers of secular religion make their annual pilgrimage to exotic resorts to worship sun, sea and sand.

8. The shopping mall is the Kingdom of Heaven. Money is the way to the Kingdom of Heaven - homo shopiens instead of homo sapiens.

9. The university is the Temple of Knowledge - the way to the Promised Land of personal success and prosperity. Knowledge, sustained effort and a competitive attitude are the means to success.

10. Secularists believe production, consumption and collection of goods is a primary reason for existence. Secularists believe in ownership and wealth as the great goal of existence – human having instead of human being.