Friday, August 31, 2007

Buddhafield Retreat

Poem by Richard Biddle

Between the silhouetted trees
A just-glimpsed moon
Shines its spectre-light
On the sacred shine

And the river flows on…

Within the mandala
Drawn in by the drums
People gather and absorb
The musicians’ cosmic energy

And the river flows on…

The drummers’ hands speed up
And smack faster beats
From their instruments
Causing jerks and jumps and jives
To break free from the captivated assembly

And the river flows on…

With a few flaps of his bird wing fan
A wizard draws a dragon-mantra
From the dying flames
And teleports its resounding power
Into the crowd’s heart

And the river flows on…

A man-ghost, a warrior and a host of coloured gods
Move towards the circle
They carry the ancient tales
On their painted bodies and perform myth

And the river flows on…

From the three tepees
That hold the unknown forces
A smoke cloud proceeding before him
The esoteric storyteller emerges

And the river flows on…

Now chanting the universe alive
Through magical tongue-symbols
The men, women and children
Reach forward, light incense
And permeate the air with awareness

And the river flows on…

Home Education News

School's out

A class of their own
Parents who educate children at home

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Recommend Homeschool

Another home-ed related e-petition is out:

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Allow teachers and LEA staff to recommend home schooling.

State school teachers and LEA staff (such as educational psychologists) are placed under a gag order by the government which prevents them from recommending that parents withdraw their children from the state school system.

If a teacher or an LEA employee advises a parent to withdraw their child from a state school because they are seriously unhappy or the school cannot meet their needs, then they will get sacked.

I therefore propose that this gag order is abolished and teachers and LEA staff are free to recommend home schooling if they feel that it is in the child's best interest.

Check it out here.

Education news

In the UK, school uniforms may get GPS tracking. Apparently, this is not just about children's safety but also about big brother strategy to reduce truancy.

Meanwhile, in Italy, the paramilitary, a tough force which until recently was stationed in Iraq, could be sent into schools to fight school drug abuse.

And in the USA, outrage is spreading regarding school deaths after four model students were gunned down in a playground: if the brightest and best are not safe, then who is?

Aspergers' News

An aspie teen has been brutally assaulted. The thugs cracked the boy’s head open with a bottle. He is usually a quiet boy who is wary of going out on his own. His family had been encouraging him to be more independent and he was coming back from a rare trip to the shops when he was attacked. His mum said: “He lacks confidence as it is, but this has really set him back and it’ll take a while for him to get over it." The traumatised teenager wouldn’t leave his bedroom after the ordeal. [Read it here.]

On the research front, Janet Treasure, a Psychiatry Prof., wonders whether anorexia as the female Aspergers.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

AS & Ed News

GCSEs 'not the end of the line'
If you bother reading the article, dismiss all the Connexions' propaganda and their attitude towards parents: "People who are too close, like parents, are not always the best."

Actually, thinking about it, the only thing worth noticing is that only 46% of 16-year-olds in England go on to do A-levels at school or college.
That, and this reminder:

"schools are great at making interesting things boring."

Getting back to the "aspie theme", this article about the educational success of an aspie teen claims that "individuals with Asperger's commonly have an inability to focus intensely on areas of interest."
I won't even comment on that!

Finally, one last article: 'My son is a monster with autism'
Make of it what you will...

Relentlessly social online gamers

Here's some more news for you:

"A good news day for gaming: a report from Nottingham Trent University reveals that online gamers are relentlessly social, with 81% playing in the company of friends and family, and around 75% forming firm friendships - or even falling in love -with the people they meet online. Why good news? Because the research finally dispels any myths of online gamers as asocial, introverted loners."

From BBC News

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


A video on Aspergers and Home Education

Monday, August 20, 2007

Asperger's student

The 'highest A-Level achiever'

An 18-year-old Asperger's Syndrome student from Solihull with 10 A grades is believed to be the UK's highest A-level achiever.

The teenager, who taught himself many of the A-level subjects at home, said: "I am pleased but I expected to get all of them."

Read the article here.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Fleeing from the school

What follows is part of an article that can be seen here.

Austria's Chancellor offers personal help where the German democratic state has failed: Parents want to protect their daughter from enforced school attendance in Germany

Madeline suffered severe brain damage as a result of oxygen deprivation at birth, which consequently affected her motor function. In spite of her severe handicap, the five year old must start school in September. "She wouldn't be able to endure the monotony of the school day," warns her paediatrician, Olaf Marzian. This has been confirmed by several other doctors.

Because the officials are insisting on compulsory school attendance, the family has no other choice but to flee to Austria. Here, in particular, they have the option of home education instead of school attendance - something which is not infrequently practised in Austria. There are 300 home educated children just in Vienna. "We never ask for the reasons," says an employee of the Vienna Schools Inspectorate.

This alternative has only existed up to now in Germany in exceptional cases. "We have spoken with various German ministries and they have all told us that Madeline must attend school in Autumn in any event - even if she has to be brought in an ambulance," says Matthias Zeppich.

Because their father has his hands full looking after Madeline and her little brother, Marvin, he does not want to become embroiled in a drawn-out legal battle with the authorities. Thus, the family asked for help in Austria - and received it, at the highest level. Austrian Chancellor, Alfred Gusenbauer, has personally ordered the Citizens' Service to support the Zeppichs in their new homeland.

Madeline, who currently falls under the highest care level, will not be receiving the support of the German social welfare once the family has moved. The Austrian Republic must step in, where the social services of their neighbouring state are clearly malfunctioning.

Friday, August 17, 2007

How exams are marked

What follows is an excerpt from a guardian article:

"Alastair Harper has no experience of teaching. But that didn't prevent him taking a job marking this year's GCSEs.

[Other] markers admitted they had quickly gone from a thorough weighing up of a candidate's merits to a read-through of opening and closing paragraphs, with the bulk of the response barely glanced at. In some cases, questions were marked entirely on the quality of the handwriting. The person employing the latter method spoke proudly of how he could get through one every ten seconds.

I decided it was best to believe one boy was guilty of exaggeration when he said he gave a mark solely based on how much he was enjoying the current track on his iPod Shuffle."

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Channel 4 Media Enquiry

"Channel 4 News is currently undertaking a survey of home-education in each local authority area. Initial findings suggest home education is becoming more and more popular. We are interested in speaking to any families who have decided to follow this option to educate their child/children. This can just be an over-the-phone chat; or maybe even involve some filming. If you can help please contact reporter Lewis Hannam on 0207 430 4234"

EO's Media Coordinator Ann Newstead reminds us that "engaging with requests from the media can be great but may also have complications: remember YOU don't control the process and what's ultimately presented. Think carefully about how it might affect you, your children and what impression it will give of the HE community."

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Back to school

Parents concerned about knife crime are getting "slash-proof" school uniforms for their children. Seven teenagers have so far been stabbed to death in London this year. One parent said: "I think paying £130 is worth it for peace of mind. I think it is a good idea. You are not so much worried now about adults snatching kids, but about the other children."

From BBC News

Monday, August 13, 2007

Bertrand Russell

Men are born ignorant, not stupid. They are made stupid by education.

We are faced with the paradoxical fact that education has become one of the chief obstacles to intelligence and freedom of thought.

The majority of parents feel affection for their children, and this sets limits to the harm they do them. But education authorities have no affection for the children concerned; at best, they are actuated by public spirit, which is directed towards the community as a whole, and not merely towards the children; at worst, they are politicians engaged in squabbles for plums.

Another merit of home is that it preserves the diversity between individuals. If we were all alike, it might be convenient for the bureaucrat and the statistician, but it would be very dull, and would lead to a very unprogressive society.

An orchestra requires men with different talents and, within limits, different tastes; if all men insisted upon playing the trombone, orchestral music would be impossible. Social co-operation, in like manner, requires differences of taste and aptitude, which are less likely to exist if all children are exposed to the same influences than if parental differences are allowed to affect them.

Children who are forced to eat acquire a loathing for food and children who are forced to learn acquire a loathing for knowledge.

[lots more here]

Another quote

"To confuse compulsory schooling with equal educational opportunity is like confusing organized religion with spirituality. One does not necessarily lead to the other. Schooling confuses teaching with learning, grade advancement with education, a diploma with competence, and fluency with the ability to say something new. "

Wendy Priesnitz

Friday, August 10, 2007

Weapons of Mass Instruction

I was googling for Gatto's Weapons of Mass Instruction when I came across these here.

Thanks to the cartoonist!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Educational Conversion

I've just finished translating a text on religious conversion and was struck by the similarities to what we could call "educational conversion."

For example, tolerance of other faiths parallels tolerance of different educational approaches. Although in Britain some LAs [Local Authorities] seem tolerant of education other than at school, we could say that parents are continuously on the receiving end of governments' forced and subtle conversion campaigns.

Some countries, like Germany, wage holy wars against home educating families, while others rely on subtler methods of conversion, like the removal of economic incentives; the British government, for example, gives schools £3,500 to £5,000 per child per year whilst giving nothing [but hassle] to home-educating parents.

An even subtler method is that of conceiling information: most people aren't even aware of their right to home educate. In my LA's website, for example, you won't find any information whatsoever about Elective Home Education.

Accepting Home Education, however, is very different from converting to a Biblical faith, for example. Parents who choose to educate otherwise don't need to completely renounce their previous educational beliefs; in fact, some parents follow a very structured approach, some hire private tutors, some do 'school-at-home'.

Others, like myself, go through a deschooling process, the conversion period, where there is a gradual letting go of outmoded, obsolete methods and an opening up to the possibilities of new approaches. My conversion to the autonomous approach, for example, was through learning; the more I learned about learning the more convinced I became this was a better path for us to follow. And this whole learning process was self-initiated rather than something imposed.

Of course, methods in and of themselves are neutral; no method is inherently 'good' or inherently 'bad' - unless, of course, there's some evidence that they're harmful to the child. After all, what suits one child [and the family as a whole] might be totally unsuitable, even harmful, for another. Furthermore, what will suit a child at one time may not be suitable at a later stage. This is another advantage of home education; you can change and adapt to the ever changing needs of the child and the family.

The argument for compulsory schooling [and the government's actions to enforce it] as a method for children to become productive members of society is similar to forced conversion as "a method for saving sinners from falling to hell and for leading them to heaven." All forced conversions are, of course, supposedly for people's own good. The same goes for compulsory state controlled education; after all, a lot of people are working extremely hard for 'children's own good'.

Apparently the Buddhist method was to "engage proponents of other belief systems in philosophical debates." Some home educating parents seem to be following a similar approach, by trying to establish working relationships with LAs. Like the Buddhists, they seem to be aware that in order for communication to take place, it needs to be based on common ground; and so, home educating parents often find themselves learning LA educational jargon and all the policies they're busy implementing in order to be able to engage in meaningful discussion and, more often, to be able to protect themselves when dealing with ill informed staff.

When faced with this situation, of having to deal with unwanted interference from people who often follow different educational creeds, many parents may feel the urge to "convert" the inspectors. Well, maybe "convert" is a bit too heavy; maybe "educate" would be more appropriate here. Anyway, the Buddhist method would be to "avoid refuting the doctrines of their creeds, but show instead alternative ways of interpreting them." Interestingly, this is the method a lot of home educators seem to follow; they study the latest official guidelines and recommendations, compare it with what the law actually says, and keep defending their rights.

And finally, I was also left wondering whether there's any link between attachment to the idea of “One Truth, One God” and the state's promotion of his monopolised version of "One Compulsory Educational System, One Curriculum"...

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

DJ speaks!

DJ: "I used Movie Maker to split the movie in 3 parts, uploaded the movie to a file hosting website, sent the links to the person who runs the site and he put them there. To watch movies, get DX Codex, a program that allows you to watch things in very high quality. Oh, and I can convert MP4s to AVIs, a very common file format with Media Player. And I learned about ISPs!"

Friday, August 03, 2007

Home Ed petition

Here's another petition, this time submitted by Jacqueline Wood, of Natural Learning for Life:

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to ensure that all parents are informed of their legal right to Home educate their Children

At the moment it is a closely guarded secret that all parents have the right to Home educate their children. We would like to see the government informing all parents of that right. We would also like to see the government ensuring that the LEA inspectors of Home Educators are pro Home education and have a knowledge of the different ways in which Home education can be delivered by parents. We also want it recognised that children vary in their abilities and that there is no way to gauge when a child will be proficient in any one area of learning.

Sign here.

Parents Tao Te Ching

Words of Life

You can speak to your children of Life,
but your words are not life itself.
You can show them what you see,
But your showing and their seeing
are forever different things.

You cannot speak to them of Divinity Itself,
But you can share with them
the millions of manifestations of this Reality
arrayed before them every moment.
Since these manifestations
have their origins in the Tao,
the visible will reveal the invisible to them.

Don't mistake your desire to talk
for their readiness to Listen.
Far more important are the wordless truths they
Learn from you.

If you take delight in the ordinary wonders of life,
they will feel the depth of our pleasure
and learn to experience joy.

If you walk with them
in the darkness of life's mysteries
you will open the gate to understanding.
they will learn to see in the darkness
and not be afraid.

William Martin

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Buddhist teaching method

A quote from Alex Berzin:

The basic method is to give the student pieces of the puzzle. It’s then up to the student to put them together. And a skillful teacher doesn’t give us all the pieces of the puzzle at once. We have to ask for more. If we don’t ask for more, it means that we’re not really interested, we’re not really motivated. So if the teacher were to have given us more, it would have been a waste.

By presenting teachings in that way, it helps the student to develop enthusiasm, patience, hard work -- all those things that allow the teachings to take root in us. The Buddhist teaching process is not just one of making a copy of a computer file and transferring it to a blank diskette. It’s not just transferring information from a teacher to a disciple. The whole teaching process is one that’s intended to develop our personalities as students.

Home Ed on the news

"Louis left school at 11 for home tutoring after being diagnosed with dyslexia and has since concentrated on gaining qualifications in chocolate making."

Louis is now 15 and "supermarket giants Waitrose and Sainsbury’s snapped up his chocolates served in an edible chocolate box, with plans to launch them at Christmas."

Thank you Lucy, for the link.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Destructive loyalty

Following from my last post, to ensure that I'm not "destructively loyal" to any of the negative aspects of the schooling system I've left behind and therefore unconsciously recreating that which I find destructive, I'm trying to gain clarity around what exactly these negative aspects might be.

Paulo Freire came up with something I've found useful in my search for clarity; in Pedagogy of the Oppressed, he offers us a list of educational attitudes and practices that mirror our oppressive society as a whole. All I did was to replace the original words 'teacher' and 'student' by 'parent' and 'child'.

As we read through the list we can ask ourselves if, as home educators, we're holding on to any of the following attitudes and practices:

(a) the parent teaches and the children are taught;

(b) the parent knows everything and the children know nothing;

(c) the parent thinks and the children are thought about;

(d) the parent talks and the children listen — meekly;

(e) the parent disciplines and the children are disciplined;

(f) the parent chooses and enforces his choice, and the children comply;

(g) the parent acts and the children have the illusion of acting through the action of the parent;

(h) the parent chooses the program content, and the children (who were not consulted) adapt to it;

(i) the parent confuses the authority of knowledge with his or her own parental authority, which she and he sets in opposition to the freedom of the children;

(j) the parent is the Subject of the learning process, while the children are mere objects.

You'll find the original list on chapter 2.

When I think about all this, I start thinking about compulsion versus democracy in education, about the 'divide' between those of us who do 'school at home' and those who follow a more autonomous approach, about how to find a 'middle way' and avoid falling into extremist positions, about how to contribute to life... YES, before you ask, I'm into NVC!

I'll leave you with this quote, from Fromm:

"While life is characterized by growth in a structured, functional manner, the necrophilous person loves all that does not grow, all that is mechanical. The necrophilous person is driven by the desire to transform the organic into the inorganic, to approach life mechanically, as if all living persons were things. ... Memory, rather than experience; having, rather than being, is what counts. The necrophilous person can relate to an object — a flower or a person — only if he possesses it; hence a threat to his possession is a threat to himself; if he loses possession he loses contact with the world. ... He loves control, and in the act of controlling he kills life."