Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Reflections

I've been translating a text recently which got me thinking about the importance of being at peace with all of our life's history, including any time-wasting, negative or downright harmful schooling experiences that we, or our children, might have had.

The idea was that when we give up something and adopt another, which is what got me thinking about schooling and home education, we sometimes focus on the negative aspects of whatever we're moving away from and develop a negative attitude towards it.

The problem apparently is that, as we all need a sense of self-worth, which is in turn dependent on a sense of loyalty to our past, when we choose to follow a different path, the unconscious tendency is be to remain loyal to the negative aspects of whatever it is we're letting go of.

How can we then make sure we don't throw away the baby with the bath water? I struggle with this one... According to the theory, in order not to develop a "destructive form of loyalty" to our schooled past, we need to acknowledge its positive aspects; otherwise we're in danger of unconsciously reproducing its worse aspects.

Maybe we could ask ourselves the following questions:

What are, in my view, the worst aspects of mainstream education?
[Make a list of them]
Looking at the things I do and say, am I in reproducing any of them?
If yes, in what ways and with whom?

Let me know your findings!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Home Ed and Socialisation

The following quote was taken from a US news article, as seen here:

"The old worn-out adage that home-educated students suffer from lack of socialization just does not hold water. On the contrary, home-educated students have been found to be just as active, if not more so, than their public and private educated counterparts. The idea that good socialization can be learned in a classroom of peers is somewhat of an oxymoron.

Many would argue that instruction and learning should be the purpose of public education and not socialization. Socialization is often best developed in an environment where students learn to relate to individuals of different ages, including adults who have developed their own social skills."

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Downloadable books

Click here for books on democratic education.

Home Ed Australia

Footage of Camp With Wings 2007, a week long camp for home educated teenagers.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Home Ed Research

The NFER received £49,786 from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation "to identify the support needs and provision for home educated children and their educators, from the perspective of home educators and other interested parties." The money went "towards staff costs, travel, focus group and office costs."

The Esmée Fairbairn Foundation funding priorities cover New approaches to education and Hard-to-reach learners. I don't know whether, in order to get their grant, the NFER argued that the Home Ed community is pioneering new approaches to education or whether they convinced them that our children fit into the 'hard-to-reach learners' category. I was curious so I asked NFER's Media & Communications Manager. She didn't know the answer and wasn't sure who'd know... But she has offered to ask around. I'm waiting for her reply.

Home ed and LAs

The National Foundation for Educational Research new report on Support for children who are educated at home is now available online.

In relation to local authorities it acknowledges that:

"There was evidence of inconsistencies amongst local authorities in their approach to home education. There was a concern that many local authorities lacked sufficient knowledge about home education (particularly its legal status) and were often unsympathetic, rendering any contact a negative process. A more consistently understanding approach to home education was advocated.

Some negative experiences were described... a number of parents chose not to access such facilities for fear of becoming known to their local authority. This may indicate that, if local authorities acknowledged the parents’ right to educate their children at home, the potential for supporting home educators might be greater and the children’s education enhanced.

In addition to their lack of awareness with regard to the legal facts about home education, home educators believed that some local authorities were reluctant to acknowledge the legal right of parents to home educate for fear of promoting home education over school education. Legal matters were raised as an area where home educators could require further support.

Home educators’ experiences of local authority (and school) contact varied. Some had negative experiences themselves or were aware of the negative experiences of others, making them reluctant to engage with their local authority. There was a view that local authorities could be lacking in knowledge and narrow-minded in their approach to home education."

Here's the links:
Summary
Full Report

And here's a funny quote:
Do not walk behind me, for I may not lead.
Do not walk ahead of me, for I may not follow.
Do not walk beside me either.
Just pretty much leave me the hell alone.

Home Ed on the radio

Link to listen again phone interview with Fiona Nicholson from Education Otherwise on NFER/state funding for home ed.

Use buttons to fast forward 2 hours and 19 minutes into the piece.

New agenda for schools

As you know, I don't believe in compulsion and coercion and therefore was shocked to read that the government's favourite think tank wants to force children to do after-school activities. Shouldn't be, really... after all, they've been busy painting an ugly picture of our children and "suggesting there should be no bar to the private sector provision of any public service, from teaching to hospital care." [quote from here]

Anyway, that got me wanting to find out more about IPPR, as their work is having a huge impact on our children. They want to be perceived as "the UK’s leading progressive think tank, producing cutting edge research and innovative policy ideas for a just, democratic and sustainable world." Between all sorts of other things, they came up with the New Agenda for Schools.

Here's some files from their website:
Beyond the standards agenda
The Aims of School Education

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Aspie rights, Human wrongs

The following is from Joshua's blog:

"I read a story today, about a young woman, 21, who has mild Asperger’s Syndrome. When she was at school, they apparently had to fight tooth and nail just to get it aknowledged that she had Special Educational Needs. And this woman was pregnant. Part way through the pregnancy her local council placed the unborn baby on the “at risk” register. Why? Apparently because the mother has Aspergers Syndrome and according to the press report, the mother may be at risk of Post-natal Depression. Now I wont deny, that Aspergers Syndrome can come along with other related problems, and depression is sometimes one of them. However, putting the child on the “at risk register” seems WAY too extreme to me. You could argue that because men have a shorter life expectancy, we should be forced into 24 hour assisted living and eat through a straw as soon as we turn 65.

Soon after the baby was born, the baby was taken away into care. This was supposed to be one of the best days for the family. And it became the worst. Any developmental psychologist will tell you that it is crucial for mother and baby to bond, the baby to familiarise itself with the mothers scent. Learn how to suckle. Instead, it was exchanged for a handful of legal documents full of council babble, and incredible heartache. And it seems from the press article that this was just because the babys mother had Aspergers Syndrome."

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Monday, July 23, 2007

On The News

Head accused after death of pupil

Child depression drug use soars
"The number of prescriptions handed out to children under 16 for depression and mental health disorders has quadrupled in a decade. GPs in England wrote more than 631,000 such prescriptions for children in the last year, compared to just 146,000 in the mid-1990s."

Schools get rules on biometrics
"[The guidance] is very weak as it neither requires schools to seek parental consent nor recognises the serious issues at stake with schools fingerprinting children simply for administrative convenience." says Shadow Schools Minister Nick Gibb. In the House of Lords, Baroness Walmsley said that the "practice of fingerprinting in schools has been banned in China as being too intrusive and an infringement of children's rights. Yet here it is widespread".

Paediatrician's ban is extended
After accusing innocent parents of killing and harming their children...

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Watch Online

The Drugging of our Children
Gary Null; SSRI drug dangers; Columbine shooting
Do No Harm?
Medicine and Ethics on the Anniversary of the Nazi Doctors

Thursday, July 19, 2007

NAS Campaign

Got an email from the National Autistic Society regarding their campaign to help young people with autism to ‘move on up’.

According to the “Moving on Up?” report, only 15% of adults with autism are in full-time employment and 49% of adults with autism still live at home with their parents.

Our Killing Schools

Our Killing Schools: A Political Philosopher's Perspective
Researching the problem of school violence
Lecture by C. Bradley Thomps [1hr 4mn]
Listen here.

Towards the end, during Q&A time, he talks about the wonders of home education.

Forgive me, children

Forgive Me Children, For I Have Sinned…
By Jen Schwartz, founder, Sego Lily School

I have wasted hours and hours of children’s lives by having them stand in lines, wait for bells, and do word search puzzles while other children “caught up.” I have taken away recess as a “punishment” for unruly second grade boys, leaving them with no outlet for their energy, or their natural desire to move and play. I have told children they would need to wait until after the spelling test (or other activity) to use the bathroom, thereby taking away a most basic human need for the convenience of order.

I have administered standardized tests to hundreds students, instilling them with fear that they must perform well in order to prove their own worth and intelligence. I have imposed reward systems in classrooms of children, replacing the intrinsic joys of learning with points, plastic prizes, shiny pencils, and attention. In addition I have set up systems in which only “good” children would ever meet their goals, while those who needed support and attention were left to feel more and more defeated.

I have drilled seven and eight year olds with math facts and spelling words, trying my best to “make them learn”, leaving little or no time for them to explore the world around them or delve into their own interests. I have assigned hours of homework, forcing children to continue their school day even after returning to the safety of home.

I have sent children into the hallway to maintain classroom order, isolating them from the community they so desperately want to be a part of. I have silenced children who talked at the wrong times, when all they wanted to do was practice their communication skills and connect with other human beings.

I have made the rules with which to govern, keeping children from creating their own methods of self control. I have upheld curriculum guidelines and adult imposed school rules, never allowing children to be responsible for their own educations, let alone their own actions.

I have sent children to the principal’s office, instilling in them a fear of adults and authority. I have sat with parents, assuring them that their children were doing just fine, when a part of me, deep down, knew that this just wasn’t working.

I have been a school teacher.

We have been educating our children this way for over a century, and most of them turn out “just fine.” At least that is what we often hear. Yet, when looking at our society as a whole, we can see many areas that aren’t just fine. Take voter turnout, for example. Why is it that people don’t vote? Maybe a large reason is that we exist in a school culture in which our voice does not matter, our opinion doesn’t count, and an ultimate authority decides everything for us. Then we turn 18 and are expected to become “responsible members of society”, when we have little or no practice being truly responsible (i.e., self-generated responsibility), let alone practice operating in a democratic society.

Here’s a novel idea. Let’s stop thinking about children as something less than adults. Let’s stop pretending that we respect children, and actually show them the respect that they deserve. Let’s make available to them the same rights and responsibilities that are available to adults, and allow them to take on those rights and responsibilities when they feel ready to do so. And let’s educate them in a system that gives them the choice to take on those rights and responsibilities.

Staying Safe

I've been responding to the DfES Staying Safe e-Consultation. Reading their blurb, my attention was caught by the following:

"Most children and young people, when asked about their safety, do not list abuse as a main worry, and feel safe from abuse where they live."

"Bullying has been consistently reported by children and young people as their top safety concern. Mencap state that most children with special educational needs will be bullied and the National Autistic Society told us that its own survey found 41% of parents whose children had autism reported that the children have been bullied, with the figure rising to 59% for children with Asperger syndrome or high functioning autism."

"The most common forms of personal crime reported by children and young people were assaults without injury and personal thefts. Most assaults with and without injury reported by children and young people aged 10-15 take place at school. Children in this age group were most likely to tell their parents and friends if they had suffered an incident, and around a third of incidents came to the attention of their teacher. Where children aged 10-15 reported being assaulted and injured, this was most often by being grabbed, pushed or pulled, or being kicked. A range of injuries were caused, from minor to very serious."

From this information it is very clear that children feel safe where they live and most unsafe at school [due to bullying and crime]; and that they feel safer talking to their parents than with their teachers.

Despite this brief acknowledgement, the consultation questions reveal the government's assumption that parents are incapable of looking after their own children and that it has the right to interfere in the private lives of children and families.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

On The News

Girl charged over school stabbing
Not all going on a summer holiday
Welfare change for single parents

A poem to share

I came across the following poem at HE Special discussion email list and thought I'd share it with you.

General Certificate of Segregated Education

Dear Teacher,

Why don't you mark me on
My progress
Not Norm's?
Who is he anyway
And why should we all
Be like him?

I'm not Norm,
My way is as good as your way
Or Norm's way
It's just a different way
Nothing to be scared of
Plenty to be proud of

While I'm waiting
For my education
I label you with
"Teaching Difficulties"

Lindsay Carter, 2002

Dangers of obedience

Check out this short video on Milgram's experiment on obedience.
At 3.08 we hear:

"Psychologists have developed several theories to explain how people learn. One theory is that people learn things correctly whenever they get punished for making a mistake."

This reminds me of Orwell as the word learn is obviously being used in this particular context instead of the word obey:

"Psychologists have developed several theories to explain how people learn to obey. One theory is that people learn to obey correctly whenever they get punished for not doing what they were told."

Listen to the Milgram's Obedience Song


Today's Quotes
: Orwell

"War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength."

"Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind."

Buddhafield photos

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

On The News

School scans children's prints
Teachers question CCTV classrooms
Mothers in court for not sending their children to school

Kids privacy

The Prime Minister's Office has responded to the petition asking the Prime Minister to "Stop schools taking children's fingerprints without parental permission."

Here's what the government said:

We received a petition asking: "We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Stop schools taking children's fingerprints without parental permission."

Details of Petition: "Fingerprinting is being introduced in thousands of UK Primary Schools as part of a subsidised library package called Junior Librarian that they have purchased, encouraged by central government. New schools are joining the scheme at the rate of around 20 a week. To date, more than 3500 schools and nurseries (manufacturer's official figure, given to the Daily Mirror) have fingerprinted and photographed 3/4 million children, ranging in age from 3 to 11; impressionable, trusting and naive. Involved companies have given premier partners with access to their SQL database AND a commercial arrangement for the reselling or endorsement or their products. This is always done without explicit parental consent, and even in some cases, without parental knowledge. Schools strongly resist sending parents the opt-in consent slips that are used for just about everything else. Some parents only find out AFTERWARDS."

Government's response
We are aware that growing numbers of schools are using biometric systems to help make school management systems run more smoothly (school libraries, lunches and attendance), and particularly because of their advantages over other systems such as smart cards. In response to this the British Educational and Communications Agency (BECTA) (new window) is producing guidance on behalf of the Department for Education and Skills (new window) on the use of biometric systems in schools, which parents as well as schools will find useful.

The guidance will advise head teachers on the practical and legal steps they need to follow should they decide to introduce biometric technologies, including engaging with parents or pupils as appropriate.

Schools need to collect personal information about pupils, including registers, home addresses and other data. Schools are legally bound to comply with data protection and confidentiality laws and have a duty to ensure that all the personal data they hold is kept secure, as part of their responsibilities as data controllers under the Data Protection Act 1998.

Schools have a duty as data controllers under the DPA 1998, to inform parents and/or pupils as appropriate of the personal data, including biometric data, they are collecting on pupils, the purposes for which this data is held, and how that data will be processed. They should also reassure parents and/or pupils that they will not pass biometric data on to any third parties and explain how the data used will be kept safe. Finally they should reassure parents and pupils that all biometric data will be destroyed when the pupil leaves the school.
Further Information

Hidden Curricula



Links to shorter videos:

* A teacher's thoughts on John Gatto's Dumbing Us Down
[watch part 1 & part 2]

* Sudbury Valley School
[A different model of education]

Monday, July 16, 2007

Games are good for learning

But Not Just Because They Are Games
Watch it here - 80mn video talk

On autonomy

I thought that the following, taken from a talk by Noam Chomsky, also applies to the issues of compulsion and autonomy in education:

Whatever does not spring from a man's free choice
or is only the result of instruction and guidance
does not enter into his very being
but remains alien to his true nature.

He does not perform it with truly human energies
but merely with mechanical exactness
and if a man acts in a mechanical way,
reacting to external demands or instruction rather than
in ways determined by his own interests, energies and power
he may admire what he does but we despise what he is.

For Humboldt then, man is born to inquire and create
and when a man or a child chooses to inquire or create
out of his own free choice
then he becomes on his own terms an artist
rather than a tool of production
or a well trained parrot.

Back from Buddhafield!



I'm back from Buddhafield Festival where I had a great time despite the rain. Once again I had the opportunity to learn more about Joanna Macy's work and the Great Turning Times. I've also had the chance to attend NVC workshops with Shanti and Christa. There was also time to attend Christopher Titmuss inquiry sessions, experience Shamanic journeying and have fun drumming, dancing [loved the Bhangra and Bollywood dancing workshops] and chatting with new and old friends. What else? Enjoyed all the live music, especially Seize The Day and bought myself a traditional Tibetan red dress from the Tibet Foundation.

Today's Link: Home education and special educational needs

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Lapbook fever!

Holiday Break

I'm off to Buddhafield Festival - see you all next week!

Aspies and schools

I was reading the latest Asperger United, a newsletter produced by and for people with AS conditions and I really want to share an excerpt from one of the articles, written by Andy.

"I always stood out as being different from the crowd at school, right from my first day and nothing really changed right until I left school eleven years later! I spent a lot of my time being bullied at school but I didn't really understand why. To me I was normal and everybody else seemed to do strange things that I didn't understand! It was a very lonely time in my life where I felt very isolated and began to feel very depressed.

The teachers could be just as bad as the rest of the pupils in my class as bullying goes and, however much I tried to get help for it, nobody really seemed that interested. [...] It's only now that I've begun to understand that half the problem was the fact that they didn't understand me or my problems...

The best day of my life was when my school days finally ended; I even remember the date: 17th June 2003! It's only now that I've left school that things have started to get better and I've started living life instead of just surviving."

I'd love to hear about the school experiences of other aspies!

Monday, July 09, 2007

Home Ed on the radio

Home Time - "Is school the best place to learn? Do teachers provide the best education? More and more parents think not. But home schooling is under attack. This month the government will introduce plans to regulate the 170,000 children whose desk is the dining room table. Author and broadcaster Janey Lee Grace teaches her own children at home and is putting her methods to the test. Like-minded parents, experienced teachers and critical experts mark her efforts out of ten. Listen to the results on the Five Live Report."

Part 1 Five Live Report 8.7.07.flv


Part 2 Five Live Report Ed 8.7.07.flv

[thanks to Su Matthan]

You can also read the whole transcript of Julian Worricker's Five Live Report on Home Education here.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

The English School


This photo was taken at Lady Margaret Hungerford Almshouses and Schoolroom, Corsham, and shows "a school interior 1672 from Hoole's translation of the Orbis sensualium pictus (1672 edition) which includes the following caption:

A school is a shop in which young wits are fashioned to virtue and it is distinguished into forms. The Master sitteth in chair. The scholars in forms. He teacheth, they learn. Some things are writ down before them with chalk on a table. Some sit at a table and write. He mendeth their faults. Some stand and release things committed to memory. Some talk together and behave themselves wantonly and carelessly; These are chastised with a ferula and a rod."

[taken from The English School by Malcolm Seaborne]

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Flash Earth

DJ discovered Flash Earth and has been finding our home and virtually travelling around the planet.

Friday, July 06, 2007

On The News

Do primary schools let boys down?

A teacher recalls one bright pupil with Asperger's syndrome:

"Some days he would not want to be with people so we would let him lie on the floor under the white board and let him get one with his work. He did really well and got into a grammar school but they couldn't cope when he got there."

A child clinical psychologist talks about many children with Asperger's having difficulties in the playground:

"Those with Asperger's have trouble with distractibility, they are rigid in their thinking and have difficulties with social skills and building friendship, misread social cues and have verbal outbursts. It is likely to be difficult for them to identify and process their feelings and emotions and manage their stress or anxiety."

She then points out that problems can't be sorted unless they are spotted and that they'll never be spotted unless regular teachers and administrators are aware of ASDs and understand the needs of ASD pupils. I was really happy to see her adding the following:

"I don't believe we should force children to interact with their peers if they don't really want to. Some children want to play alone and it causes them angst to have them to socialise as much as we may want them to or we see fit."


Maybe schools' obsession with conformity is the root of the problem?

[to read the whole article click on the title]

Thursday, July 05, 2007

ICT adventures

It looks like someone has learned how to upload stuff onto Youtube, which in turn involved learning how to use Windows Movie Maker.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Resources




























These are some of our resources; I'm into not accumulating things so I'm forever passing them on and letting go of any unused stuff.
We rely heavily on the internet: virtual resources suits us best.
The local libraries are quite good too!

Another HE e-petition

Another HE e-petition is out; anyone interested can sign it here.

"We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Change the currently laws which exclude home educated children from free access to G.C.S.E's. We feel that the government is failing home educated children by not allowing them free and easy access to G.C.S.E's, unless they attend full time government run establishments. This is denying a vast amount of home educated children their basic right to educational qualifications. We feel home educated children should be allowed to sit exams and have course work verified free of charge, like other children who attend school. We feel that forcing parents to pay for these exams is socially discriminating home educated children from the work place and higher education."

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Lorna Wing

To listen to an interview with Lorna Wing about ASDs click here.

On The News

Sowing seeds of outdoor learning
"Learning shouldn't just take place in the classroom - it takes place all the time, in the world around us," said Mr Knight, the Schools Minister

Learning Outside the Classroom Manifesto
"Learning outside the classroom is about... a powerful approach to learning in which direct experience is of prime importance. This is not only about what we learn but importantly how and where we learn."

Homeschoolers Are at Home at Harvard

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Buddhist Education

Some thoughts on education by Bhikkhu Bodhi:

Ideally, education is the principal tool of human growth. Yet everywhere today, both in the developed world and the developing world, we can see that formal education is in serious trouble. Classroom instruction has become so routinized and pat that children often consider school an exercise in patience rather than an adventure in learning. Even the brightest and most conscientious students easily become restless, and for many the only attractive escape routes lie along the dangerous roads of drugs, sexual experimentation, and outbursts of senseless violence. Teachers too find themselves in a dilemma, dissatisfied with the system which they serve but unable to see a meaningful alternative to it.

One major reason for this sad state of affairs is a loss of vision regarding the proper aims of education. The word "education" literally means "to bring forth," which indicates that the true task of this process is to draw forth from the mind its innate potential for understanding. The urge to learn, to know and comprehend is a basic human trait, as intrinsic to our minds as hunger and thirst are to our bodies. In today's turbulent world, however, this hunger to learn is often deformed by the same moral twists that afflict the wider society. Indeed, just as our appetite for wholesome food is exploited by the fast-food industry with tasty snacks devoid of nutritional value, so in our schools the minds of the young are deprived of the nutriment they need for healthy growth. In the name of education the students are passed through courses of standardized instruction intended to make them efficient servants of a demeaning social system.

A major cause of our educational problems lies in the "commercialization" of education. The industrial growth model of society demands that the educational system prepare students to become productive citizens in an economic order governed by the drive to maximize profits. Such a conception of the aim of education is quite different from that consistent with Buddhist principles.