Tag Archive | politics

Catching up with what Home Educators already know…

Goodness gracious me! Are schools going to finally catch up with the thinking of home educators?

Here’s a report on the BBC website http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-26118581 making statements about children’s education and schooling which are amazingly similar to the beliefs of many home educating parents that; ‘there’s more to good education than exam results’.

Yay! At last – people are beginning to catch on to an idea that many home schooling parents have known for years!

The main point of the report suggests that educational focus should move away from concentration purely on academic results and include ‘personal development’.

Surely, this was always what education was about anyway!

The snag is that they want to build ‘character and resilience’ into the educational system which sounds decidedly worrying. What are they going to do? Start testing character? Will there then be a GCSE in character building?

Goodness gracious me!

That worry aside it looks like thinking is going in the right direction. Christine Blower, secretary of the National Union of Teachers also quoted in the article says that; education was “about skills and knowledge transmission, but also about personal development all round”.

“It remains the case, however, that the present curriculum and high-stakes testing are far too rigid,” she said.

“The personal development of pupils is very important. This will not be achieved unless the obsession with testing and targets ends.”

I think if there’s one overall reason why increasing numbers of parents are turning to home education it’s because they are concerned for personal development and worried about the destructive obsession with tests and silly objectives.

Because the most important point is that if you take care of the personal development of a child, high achievement is often what follows – naturally.

It works like this; if a person is taken care of, if they feel they matter, if they are given the respect of choice, if they are encouraged, stimulated and inspired, if they have the chance to explore and investigate life, to learn about and experiment in life, then they begin to see how achievement has value and begin to take it on for themselves.

Most children want to be grown up, want the skills grown ups have, want to follow their grown up mentors out into the world of work and pay and play and achievement. That’s all the motivation they need to develop and achieve. Just give them a good example and they’ll normally follow. As long as they are developed enough personally, in character, socially, intellectually (and that doesn’t have to mean academically).

It’s the personal bit that comes first.

Home educating parents pay attention to that personal development through the care, respect, stimulation and interaction they have with their children. That’s all it takes really. And they are breaking new ground in approaching the education of their young through this personalised approach and creating educational successes.

I wonder if one day the schools (or rather the politicians) will turn to them to understand better just how this is achieved!

Imagine mums running the country!

What would you do if you ran the country?

This is the premise of the novel ‘The Mummyfesto’ written by Linda Green. It’s a story about three mums who, despite challenging family dramas, decide to form their own new political party based around what mums think and need.

Couldn’t we just do with that!

It’s a great story and one that certainly gets you thinking – those books are the best!

They propose policies that are in the best interests of mums and children. Our politicians think that they do that now, but they are men, they are out of touch with real family lives lived at minimum wage level and as far removed from the needs of young people as I am from living in Number Ten.

These ladies propose a government not based in Westminster, where ministers’ elite existence is cushioned from reality, but spread out around the country and living in places the rest of us live in on a daily basis.

They propose prioritising those who are most vulnerable like children, the elderly, disabled, ill and invisible and taking better care of them.

And they want to create a fairer distribution of wealth. Is there anyone (apart from rich politicians) who wouldn’t want that?

Mums are really such a powerful force, we have incredible insight and intelligence, we work far harder than someone who just has a normal job all day, yet we are also some of the most invisible and unheard because we are also vulnerable in our mumhood, often financially, emotionally and circumstantially.

For example, it often happens that mums daren’t exercise their right to respect because they are dependent. They daren’t speak up about abuse in case it gets worse. They daren’t challenge school for fear of reciprocation on the child – we are vulnerable through our children as much as for ourselves. And mums often daren’t speak up about injustice because some would use it as an opportunity to call them weak or accuse them of nagging.

Yet mums are absolutely vital.

We are the ones who are in charge of raising the next member of society who could contribute something magnificent, maybe the next prime minister, maybe the next scientist who finds the cure for cancer or answer to climate change. Because it is mostly mums who do the raising!

Yet in our vulnerability we have to take what’s dealt us because men can manipulate us through that vulnerability and through a lack of women in power.

If I ran the country I would make sure there were as many women in power, making political decisions, as men.

If I ran the country I would make policies that respected mums’ work, instead of demeaning it, you only have to consider the attitude to breast feeding in public to see how little it’s respected.

I would make sure women were catered for in the workplace if they have children.

And I would see that mums are financially independent, with fiercer rules about fathers contributing to the keep of their own children. There are so many absent fathers and single mums struggling to feed their kids.

But what would you do if you ran the country?

(Look out for more writing on the value of ‘Mumhood’ in my new book coming soon)

Weeping for change…

Back in 2010, when I first wrote about this, I thought things would improve. But with the constant education shambles I’m still weeping.

Weeping for the young people who have been let down. Weeping for the kids who started life as bright, motivated, interested children, who become disengaged and apathetic because of schooling.

That’s what I see happen to so many youngsters after spending their youth shut up in institutions.

That’s what I see happen to so many youngsters in areas where you cannot buy the kind of stimulating education you get in fabulous private schools and where the large proportion of kids who disrupt learning, probably because they’re bored, taints the experience of the rest. Where the enthusiastic teachers leave or become sullied by the challenges of pupil behaviour. Where the problem of building the right educational experience for these young people still has not been overcome.

When we started home educating right back in 1999 we doubted we were doing the right thing – course we did. And many of the parents around us did too suggesting that our kids needed to be in school where they would get decent teaching, revel in the relationships there, gain the grades. We lost friends over it.

Now, some of those parents see it differently as they see the damage to their bright young sparks school has made. They see that our kids didn’t need to be in school to learn. They see that the relationships in schools are not always good ones.  They see a system that doesn’t work for many of them, that fails to accommodate the needs of many and makes them into failures. And even in some cases treats them like criminals.

If there is anything criminal here it lies at the door of system that fails to do what they are supposed to do; support young people’s educational development.

I know teenagers are not without their blemishes. Children are not angels or perfect. And other circumstances play a major part. But given all that, given that circumstances are as they are, I would have thought that the first duty of any school was to provide what a kid needed to successfully learn. To provide for the child’s learning, whatever the circumstances or difficulties may be.

But the ethos of schooling seems to be to manipulate the child into acceptance regardless of what’s been offered. To make kids learn what adults want them to learn however dull. To make them learn it in a systematic way that suits the institution however deadly boring that is or what children’s needs require. And it doesn’t matter how disrespectfully staff behave, some humiliating learners who don’t ‘fit’, the kids are supposed to take it passively.

Really?

All these years later the comments made to us about kids needing schools for an education are being retracted by those parents who used to have unquestioning faith in the system and the professionals in it. That faith has now been dashed.

All those years ago these parents had bright eager and motivated kids. That changed as they struggled to just exist in the system, let alone be motivated by it.

And these families no longer believe that schools do the best for the child. They know that schools do the best for the politics; they have to, to survive. I hear damning examples of that scenario from both parents and professionals.

Some of these parents now believe something different after their children have experienced schooling. They believe many schools have no interest in kids who won’t get them the good grades that improve their league table position. They believe politicians make policies that will win votes, not enhance a child’s educational experience. And like me, they see masses of disenchanted teenagers who have no interest in learning because the learning on offer is as far removed from their lives as eating cow poo is from mine.

You may think this is a cynical picture. Perhaps unbelievable to those of you for whom the system works well, whose kids achieve well because they happen to tick the right boxes. But whilst we home educated, and our children and the other home educated children around us have retained their lust for learning whilst some of those other families went through schools who failed their kids miserably, we see how it is more truth than imaginary.

It is a true picture for thousands of families in less well off areas, tucked away out of sight as far removed from Westminster as the afore mentioned cow poo is from politicians shoes!

It’s not only youngsters who are disengaged; it is the politicians from reality.

Sad days of sheet ticking

DSC_0592 My blood pressure was high but I could see the nurse’s rising like red mercury in her face as she turned to the computer.

“We’ll let your pressure settle a bit and do another check in a minute,” she said. “I’m sorry but I have to ask you all these questions now when you come for your BP check”. She gave me a kind of sideways look; the sort you give to indicate hypocrisy.

She squinted at her form on the computer, sighed, and read me a load of drivel asking on a scale of hours how much running, skipping, aerobics, etc, did I do per week?

She looked at me. I looked at her rising red face.

“None,” I said, “I do other things”.

“But I haven’t got to that yet” – I wasn’t on her sheet. I was never one for fitting into statistics.

After another deep breath she went on; “On a scale of ….. how much …..”

It took ages to get it all read. We pressed on patiently. We both felt it was becoming farcical. Then she broke away from her form in a little rebellion.

“The thing is,” she said holding her hands out in agitation, “I’m spending all this time looking at this computer, filling in forms about your fitness instead of looking at you. By looking and listening to the patients I can soon assess how they’re doing.”

Sounded exactly like teachers and pupils to me. I totally sympathised.

More questions; “Now, about your work, on average do you sit….”

My work’s changed recently. I used to be on my feet with kids all day doing crazy things like searching for creepy crawlies in the undergrowth or going on adventures. Now I tend to sit and write about it.

I told her this. She silently went on filling in her statistics.

I thumb twiddled until she came to the end – ages later.

“Well … according to this you’re only moderately fit.” She made ‘moderately’ sound like an irresponsibility and I should be doing more to take care of myself.

“But I do yoga at least three times a week.”

“That’s not on my sheet.”

“So despite the fact that I walk for at least 30 minutes every day, cycle regularly, and do yoga your statistics suggest I’m not really fit?”

She looked miserable.

“Yes, according to this. And I know that’s stupid because from looking at you I can see you’re fine but that’s what the government is doing to health care. It’s preventing us from doing the real work of caring by keeping us busy collecting data that’s inaccurate and totally useless.”

But no doubt useful for the government to be able to quote for political purposes, I thought. Definitely like education. It seems it’s not only the teachers’ time that’s being wasted by sheet ticking.

And after all that, when she took my BP again it was even higher. Goodness knows what hers was with all this frustration.

I got on my bike and cycled home so stewed up I could feel my pressure rising all the time.

Is this what our caring professions are being reduced to? Nurses and teachers so busy taking care of sheet ticking they don’t have the time to care for the people!

Sad days!

Curriculum, corsets and a vintage education

Is it just me or does anyone else think that we have a bit of a vintage approach to our kids learning?

Have you read recently what they’re doing to curriculum now? Read it here.

We stopped using slates in schools for the kids to chalk on, graduated from pen and inkwell to Gels, but some still think it’s more important that kids can write than use a keyboard, when almost everything they do in life beyond school requires keyboard skills.

We might have stopped using an abacus yet we’re still teaching the laborious and lengthy approach to long multiplication by hand and now fractions to four year olds, according to the new curriculum plans, when in employment we need to be able to use all kinds of electronic devices to do quick calculations. And out in the real world we need to know how to handle our mortgages, understand percentages, phone contracts and loan repayments. Far more important than algebra or fractions, unless you’re specifically heading in a direction that requires that sort of maths.

The curriculum also suggests teaching all kinds of ridiculous English grammar which is as useful to kids as corsets, yet we have children who cannot string a sentence together for an application or a personal statement. Or talk to one another without “yea but…no but…yea but…like…” in the style of a certain caricature we all know and love – but laugh at!

We are coaching kids in test passing skills but they don’t seem to have the skills of conversation, opinion, deliberation, personal presentation and assertiveness needed for interviews and in the workplace. Neither do many seem able to form judgements about what’s appropriate, be adaptable and flexible within an ever changing working and living climate.

They have the skills required to survive in a school culture where everyone in their group’s the same age as them and has the same underdeveloped social skills, but seem to have no idea how to interact with adults on a professional and personal level with the confidence required to be outside their own age group. Like in work.

What use is this?

I’m not saying we shouldn’t be able to write longhand or understand the concept and application of number or use language effectively. But you can use language and maths effectively without knowing grammatical rules and all that other outdated rubbish which is putting kids off because of its irrelevance.

We need to face it – life is progressing! Schooling and curriculum seem stuck in those antiquated corsets.

We don’t need a curriculum that delivers this kind of stuff any more. We need an educative experience that develops skills and understanding, increases a broader intelligence and confidence and sense of self discovery.

We don’t need a style of learning that so suppresses our kids they never get the chance to develop the ability to think personally, to grow as a person and find their real strengths. We need an approach that allows kids opportunities to make decisions, blossom and develop character and individuality. Individuality will win jobs over others who are all the same. Strength of character will find other forms of purposeful work when jobs are scarce.

We need a learning environment, not a curricula imprisonment. We need an educative process which reignites children’s natural passion for learning, experimenting and discovery rather than kills it with rules. We need kids to practise talking and questioning not be told to shut up and sit still. We need teachers who are free from the rack of Ofsted to inspire kids to want to know more and go further, not train them to stay in the education-numbing confines of curricula outcomes.

We need to move on.

Vintage may be fashionable in some walks of life. But surely this vintage style curriculum is suffocating our children’s potential for progression into this progressive world.

(If you want more on curriculum check out another post I did on the Tutorhub blog; http://blog.tutorhub.com/2013/07/09/another-view-of-curriculum-do-we-need-it-anyway/)

Less of a freak – thank you Rosen!

Isn’t it wonderful, when you’ve felt like a freak for years because of your weird and radical thinking that no one seems to get, about an issue fundamental to all our lives that no one seems to want to think about, to suddenly find a like mind!

This is me with education. And it seems like Michael Rosen thinks pretty much the same. Watch and listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=DOrd-VaLy7A

(Thanks Michael for making me feel less like a freak).

He’s been speaking out about the increasing flaws in our education system for ages, identifying, like me, the way in which so much of it is failing to provide what was supposed to be a universal education for all.

As he says, it no longer is a universal education; it is one that is divisive and discriminative.

This happens because its focus is now on league tables and competition between schools. Therefore many schools are reluctant to take learners who will not make them look good result-wise, or who need a less result-orientated approach to achieve and they are segregated off into other institutions and labelled. This system is making ‘failures’ of pupils, parents and teachers and belies the obvious truth that if there was a ‘universal provision’ for all needs maybe there would be no failures at all.

It is NOT children and teachers who are failing, it is the other way round; the system which is failing them.

We’re also getting it completely wrong in terms of curriculum. Instead of curriculum being a democratic provision of whatever our children need to live life beyond school it has become a dictate of subjects which are useful only in that they can be measured – but which are not particularly useful for life. And they are decided upon by a dictator who has no experience of educating children and who disregards the advice of those who have. Does that not seem bizarre to you?

And another valuable aspect of education that is disregarded in this commercial race for league status is the fact that it is NOT the results that make an education, it is the PROCESS and APPROACH. Education for results is an education quickly forgotten. An uplifting, creative, explorative, investigative process of learning brings a learner understanding. And it is understanding which makes a person educated – understanding how to apply education – not just results.

Education is of no value whatever results you have if you don’t understand how it’s applied to living. And it is within the process of learning that this understanding happens. The system is prostituting the approach (and consequently the needs of kids) in a greed for competitive results. And politics.

Michael Rosen can see this. I can see this and have done for years, right from seeing it beginning to go wrong in the system when I was teaching years ago with the first nail in the coffin; the National Curriculum. Many, many teachers and heads can see this. Many parents can see it and believe it so strongly they are abandoning the system and home educating very successfully through an approach to learning that equips children with the skills they need to live their lives later on.

It seems the only person who can’t see this is the minister who is doing the dictating. Which leads me to believe that his narrow and elitist education – which he’s trying to push onto every other child regardless of whether it suits them or not – didn’t educate him at all!

Educating the elite and doing sod all for the rest…

I’ve been in contact with a few home educating friends lately who have teens doing such entrepreneurial projects. Projects that give them purpose, that inspire and motivate them, with possibilities they could take forward in the future. Like little business. Writing and networking on the Web. As well as pulling in a few qualifications alongside.

And I can’t help thinking that these kids will make a success of their lives because they have so many diverse ideas and valuable skills gained from being in a home educating environment. Because while you’re at home you’re living life and living life gives you life skills and that’s what they’ll need for their future in today’s economic climate.

Schools aren’t big on ideas and life skills – not if they can’t be tested. Schools have become just too outdated in the way they educate; they’re still educating like they did when schooling began.

When schooling began, and information was scarce and academic skills were confined to an elite few, school was a place where you could transform your life with knowledge and ideas.

Now it seems a place that conforms your life into a no-ideas mediocrity. Except for the privileged few of course.

In this new age of no jobs I’m not sure how this is going to help.

Kids are going to have to rise above mediocrity. They’re going to have to have ideas in order to generate an income. They are going to have to think beyond the standardised boxes schools try to keep them in through grade obsession. Think flexibly and be adaptable, not stay in one tight and narrow framework like schools con them to do.

What we need to do is stop mass producing kids towards one outcome – mostly political i.e. for grades and league tables. And start thinking about how best to educate them to be able to live their lives in thoughtful, purposeful and independent ways, whatever form, that will enable them to support themselves, maybe create businesses, find incomes through a diversity of routes rather than a single track. Because the single track to single job prospect looks a bit bleak.

Politicians don’t seem to get the fact that they are just an elite few with elite lives. Yet they’re still making educational policies which make them even more elite whilst doing sod all for the rest.

The MAJORITY of the population leads lives that are very, very different from elite, which are full of challenges and mountainous obstacles and for some enormous poverty and non-employment.

What’s the good of more grades in that scenario?

Schools need to stop selling grades like they were a magic bullet. And start educating for life skills and ideas.

We once needed grades to prove we had knowledge and get us a job. Now kids need ideas to help them overcome the biggest challenge they’ll ever have to face; possibly no job!

What’s the best way to educate for that?

Thatcher bites the dust…

No one can divide feeling like Maggie.

Don’t know whether I feel more divided about her than I do any politician – just suspicious of their motives, as always.

I admire the fact she was the first of her kind; I hope she’ll be the last.

How pleased I was for women when she got in – not so pleased after a while. She didn’t represent real women at all. She was just like a man with a handbag.

How chuffed I was that a woman actually got an important role for once.

Not so chuffed about the fact it probably destroyed any faith in women in that kind of role and probably has ruined it for all women politicians who follow on.

We thought at the time a woman and a mum at the head of the country might do something important. With sensitivity. I think she had the sensitivity of a rampaging bullock, even if one with a full set of balls. And a handbag.

But perhaps she had to – to survive.

But I feel no more for her than I do for any politician and that is; a deep lack of trust, a sense that they have a personal and mercenary agenda that’s not going to do the rest of us a hell of a favour, and that they all tell us terrible lies. The word corrupt springs to mind. They are as genuine as fake Gucci.

Whilst she wore her flash shoulder pads and pearls people went hungry, homeless and jobless.

Today, whilst politicians flash about with disgusting incomes, creating cuts that people other than them have to bear, we bleed as a result. Some hungry, homeless, jobless.

No difference really.

Another one bites the dust – who cares. Except that, as always, it’s the commoners who bite the bill.

Gove’s ghastly discrimination against non-academics

If Gove can disregard professionals telling him that he’s making a big mistake with the curriculum, what the hell effect can I have? (see this article)

But I can’t be silent; his blinkered approach to what’s needed in education is too dangerous to ignore.

When he says that kids need more academia – which kids is he talking about? The kids of the elitist upper classes like him or the rest of our children?

We used to need academia. Back in the dark ages when peasants couldn’t read, write or understand numbers beyond bartering.

But we have a different culture – with Internet now – has he noticed? Has he noticed that the destructively prescriptive curriculum is the very reason that thousands of parents, teachers, other professionals and children, are leaving the system?

And he thinks making it more prescriptive is going to help? Ask any teacher – he’s got it so wrong.

By forcing more academia on kids we are failing to address their wider needs as real people, not elite people. The world is full of very real and ordinary people making extremely valuable contributions, living their lives in hard working, moral and principled ways, managing to be independent, house and feed their families on an income too small for politicians to even imagine. For many of them, academia played no part and their children are probably not interested; more of it will drive more from education and we’ve enough disenchanted youngsters already.

And anyway is education only about academia? Because if it is, then it’s extremely narrow and disrespects and even discriminates against all those who lead lives through other approaches.

Not everyone needs academia to go forward to a fulfilled and productive life. But of course, that depends on your definition of a fulfilled and productive life. Is the only life Gove sees as worthwhile the sort of elitist, academic life that he leads?

There are youngsters who go on to lead fulfilled, productive, wage earning lives that are equally valuable and contribute something without academia. Who live these valuable lives without being posh, rich, academic or political.

Did the people who do valuable work like emptying Gove’s dustbins need academia? Because they are doing relevant and important jobs without it. Did the people who care for the elderly, clean hospitals, build roads, produce our food, cut cabbages in all weathers, work on production lines – did they need academia? Or those creative people who build new businesses? Not everyone needs or wants academia to lead valid and fulfilling lives.

Not everyone needs curriculum either.

So what do youngsters need?

They need experiences. They need to be inspired.

They need to feel what it is to be motivated. They need to understand that their world is such a rich and wonderful place it is inspirational to learn about.

Do they feel that now? Is more academia going to help? Doubt it.

They need to experience what it’s like to be fulfilled by what they do. They need to feel what it’s like to create life by their own hands and their own work. They need to find their strengths through a broad range of experiences that give them confidence, courage and self esteem. They need to understand how vital are good connections with others.

You don’t get any of that through contrived and disempowering curriculum.

Our young people need respecting for not wanting to be academic if they choose. Through respect they learn respect. Not through a curriculum that disrespects the fact that we are all different and makes failures out of those who don’t fit.

Academia as a basis for education is past its sell by date. What we need for our kids now is to ignite them and show them how they can make a valid, productive and rewarding contribution, whoever they are, academic or not.

The point is proved by the thousands and thousands of families now opting to educate their children outside of schooling and some without curriculum too. Very, very successfully. And many teachers are home educating too, not because as teachers they can teach – as teaching isn’t always required really. It’s because these teachers have seen what damage an overly prescriptive curriculum does to kids – it switches them off to learning.

Education will continue to be poor as long as it is governed by politics and politicians far more concerned with winning votes, and using children as pawns to do so, than the development of the young.

Until we make education politics-free and bring it back to a humane level – i.e. the development and nurture of human beings and all their idiosyncrasies and needs – it will continue to worsen until we have squeezed all the good professionals out of it and squeezed the last droplet of enthusiasm for learning out of our children.

It’s time to stop using education as a means to produce vote fodder through a prescriptive process akin to factory farming. And start educating in a broad experiential way that heralds what it is to be diversely human, academia being only a very small part.

Let’s shut our kids up…

Let’s shut our kids up and stop them thinking for themselves. Let’s mass produce them to think what we want them to think and regurgitate it on demand and call it qualification. Lets disregard their need to express themselves in physical, creative, original and independent ways and tell them that they need to do what they’re told. And let’s disrespect them so severely we can make them believe that they have nothing of worth to offer and the only thing of value to know is what we tell them to know. Let’s make them all the same, think the same, dress the same, mould them towards the same outcomes, like products on a conveyor belt, even though they’re all different. And lets keep them stuck inside an institution that bears no relation to the social, cultural and working practises of the real world whilst we do it And let’s tell them they’re wrong to question it even though they may be right.

Oh – I forgot – we already do. It’s called schooling. And it’s about to get worse.

Professors, parents, teachers all say that an over prescriptive curriculum is ruining education. And what does Gove do? He makes it even more prescriptive, completely disregarding those who know about it when he doesn’t.

See this article in the Independent.

Can you tell I’m a bit steamed up by this idiot and his ideas? He’s prescribing what kids should learn and he fails learn himself; learn from all those who know better than him because they work in the field.

It is beyond belief. It is beyond any more words. It makes me ask; is there no hope for our kids’ education?

Well, only through home educating!