Tag Archive | politics

Take back learning from the bureaucrats!

Education is important. I guess all parents would agree.

But how many of you, I wonder, have really thought what education is? How many are not thinking about education at all, but are thinking instead about schooling and qualification. About the systematic and mechanical process in schools that bureaucrats tell us education is.

The majority of people I suspect. But this is not true education and it’s having a disastrous effect on the children. It’s also making education, which should be a broadening, developmental, personal experience, into a tightly mechanised priming of kids for outcomes outside the personal – like school league tables for example.

We can never truly predict the outcome anyway, for kids are never finished – and isn’t education about the kids! And without the development of personable skills, test results and qualifications are useless. Useless to the learner. A bane to teachers. And are stunting our children’s wellbeing, as more and more are heaped upon them. 

Listen to some of Ken Robinson’s talks on Youtube. Here’s one. He doesn’t want reform of the old model we already have – he wants something completely different – something more personal – as our kids need. As our world needs.

And it’s time we demanded things to be different, time to make the bureaucrats listen.

Parents could make different decisions about their child’s education.

Not every parent can home educate, but every parent can vote and make their feelings known about the things that concern them in the system.

You could demand that all this testing should stop, for a start, or boycott them. Like this brave head teacher who decided not to do the SATs. Knowing as she does that SATs have little benefit to a child long term, but can be damaging to their generic educational experience.

You could think about what kind of educational experience is important and what you want the outcome to be – in your child, not in terms of qualifications. But in terms of their talent. Speak out at schools. Speak with other parents.

You could tackle your local MP and raise your concerns. Go talk to them at one of their surgeries. Write to the education minister. Join a petition for change.

And you could take a look at your political party’s educational manifestos before you vote.

Stop being so desperate about qualification and ask what qualifies you for a happy life?

Parents have an extremely powerful collective voice. Make your concerns known and take your child’s education and wellbeing back from the bureaucrats.

For most of them don’t understand children’s – or families’ – needs at all.

In sympathy for peace

A picture for peace and empathy

I received my daughter’s text around 2am.

‘We had a good time and we’re SAFE’ it read.

Big relief!

It would be this weekend she chose to be in London for a big gig!

Luckily I hadn’t watched the news before I went to bed last night, otherwise the restless, sleepless, hyper night I occasionally have (hence how I saw the text) would have turned into a living nightmare of worry – my own piece of terror – as the events of the attacks unfolded.

I cannot begin to imagine the intensity of the grief parents feel – anyone feels – at losing loved ones in these horrnedous attacks in London and Manchester recently. It must be well nigh impossible to come to terms with the injustice and brutality of the needless loss of those who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or understand how anyone can have such disregard for the innocent?

The loss and desperation families must feel is too great to conceive. Their sorrow too huge to contemplate.

Whilst I remain almost guiltily grateful we have been spared, I feel the collective grief and sympathy towards those who were not. Mine, though, must be miniscule in comparison.

How crass and irrelevant it seems to even be thinking about things like blogging, or the election, or education for that matter. Except that you hope that through these means of communication and change we are able to build a better world.

Raising and educating our children in the ways of peace, non-violence, care, love and empathy for others each and every one, regardless of race and beliefs, and for the earth on which we all depend despite our creed, must surely be the abiding core of everything we teach, everything we believe, and above all we practise.

And surely, this practice must be a commitment that is greater than any curriculum, any religion, any political party, greater even than ourselves.

The way we parent and educate is where it starts. There is nothing more important to teach than that.

Something to consider when we vote!

I’ve been looking back at some blogs written a while ago now – wondering if I’d changed my mind about schooling!

But when I spotted this I realised that, as more and more parents turn to home education seeking an alternative to what’s described here, I sadly feel just as cynical. It was written when I went back into school for a little while as I missed contact with kids. And also wanted to see the workings of a classroom again after all these years; maybe revise my rather cynical view. Did that happen?

Sadly not – this is what I see: –  we take immature little beings who are still developing a delight in their world and are keen to learn about it in explorative and experiential ways. We remove them from their self motivated investigations and tell them that way of learning is invalid. We stick them in a structured institution which disregards their desire to learn about the things that interest them and tell them what we adults want them to learn which we misguidedly think will make them cleverer. We enforce learning tasks upon them in such a way it takes away all the delight they had in learning thus destroying their motivation. We heap far too much over complicated, prescriptive and academic stuff on them far too soon, when they are far too underdeveloped to get anything from it. And we do this in the confines of such a rigid timetable that they don’t have time to formulate understanding, reinforce knowledge, or develop skills. Thus setting many of them up to fail.

Then, when they do fail, which in these circumstances many of them are bound to do, we tell them it’s their fault because they are stupid since they seem to have a difficulty with learning.

Cynic? Moi?

Now I know schooling works well for many, but for others not only does this too-much-too-soon scenario destroy our children’s potential for learning, it also destroys things that are much more precious and life damaging; their faith in education, their self belief and their aspirations. There is nothing to be gained except for a select few who can cope. But it’s at the expense of many.

Of course, the politicians gain. Forcing too-much-too-soon and winning a few academic points for the more able kids wins votes for the politicians. They can say they’re making children cleverer. But they’re not; as they sit in their elitist little empires making policies for people whose lives they know as little about as I do the queen’s, they’re switching many kids off to learning anything.

Meanwhile in schools teachers despair of not only having the finger of blame for academic failure pointed at them, but also at having to deliver an inappropriate curriculum and force inappropriate learning targets on the children in their class. And parents despair with worry as to why their child is not ‘achieving’.

So as I try and help some poor little eight year old understand a grammatical concept that’s so hard it used to be on a GCSE paper I wonder what is to be done. The only way I can see it changing is for both politicians and parents to put a stop to this enforced, dull, academic hothousing, and start demanding a more personal and developmental education for the sake of the individual and not for the sake of the politics.

Here’s a piece that sets you thinking about how that might be achieved; https://www.self-directed.org/tp/what-does-it-mean-to-be-educated/  by Blake Boles the author of ‘The Art of Self-Directed Learning’

And a little clip from it to watch – I’m not advocating summer camps – aren’t they just another institution? But this holds some valid ideas for education. And some things to think about when we vote!

Wish we could get the heart back into learning

I miss having children around. I miss being able to show them things and take them places and those quiet little cuddles at any time.

The former village school – now a nursery

It was wonderful watching their amazement as they learn and enjoy the world and grow. In fact, I’ve even missed them so much I’ve thought of returning to teaching.

Then I come to my senses when I remember.

I remember all the reasons why I left. Like my unhappiness at having to force kids to do stuff that didn’t seem appropriate or relevant or worth anything. Like having to drive and pressurise and push until they got the required points. Like having to teach stuff in certain ways when I could clearly see it wasn’t what the child needed. Having to implement stupid policies devised by  some idiot who knew little about the needs of kids. And worst of all, watching their keen little faces glaze over with apathy as another boring objective is confronted; practices that just made kids feel bad and switch off. And worse still, giving them the blame for their failure instead of acknowledging that the fault lay with the approach not the kids.

And that was years ago – it’s ten times worse than that now.

I used to think I was just a cynic. But current remarks from parents and colleagues and recently one new young teacher who was so unhappy because what she felt she was required to do to kids wasn’t really ethical, let alone valuable, make me think I have a cause to be so. And some of the articles on the Secret Teacher site support that cynicism. They make for grim reading.

I used to teach in a small village school, where we all knew all the kids, where everyone functioned for the good of everyone else, where the climate in a school was one of care and nurture directed at the children And their happiness and enjoyment was important.

I don’t sense that about schools any more. I only have to walk in one and something in me shrivels. But thankfully I feel it among the home educating community.

The home educating community seem to base their educational provision on something that all educational provision should be based on: a love of learning. They at least are putting the heart back into learning.

Kids come into the world already programmed to learn – it’s as natural as survival and part of it. But schools change learning into something else – into point scoring, usually for the good of the school.

Keep a child’s love of learning intact and education follows naturally. It’s so sad that the educational system has completely lost sight of the pleasure of learning as they turn it into big political business.

So I’m sure glad to know so many wonderful parents who are brave enough to follow their hearts to learning, rather than the politics!

Will harmony and peace be well and truly Trumped?

A picture for peace and harmony

A picture for peace and harmony

It takes much tolerance to live together. Anyone who is living with others knows that. Family life is a bit like negotiating sea changes; sometimes it’s smooth, sometimes it’s choppy.

All parents know this. Couples know this. Families know this. In fact, my single friends know this too, as they listen to my dilemmas and family challenges and count their single blessings.

But I know my own blessings come family shaped. And when my two delightful family shapes are home again, as they recently have been, my blessings are rich despite the inevitable choppy bits.

These take some negotiating. There’s times I’m trying to calm rippled feelings and no doubt times I’m causing them! Mostly though, they are just ripples of laughter that permeate the house.

This is what family life – in fact all life with others – is about; storms, ripples and rainbows as we accommodate living together, whether that’s on a family scale, a friend and colleague scale, or population scale. In order for us all to live together we have to tolerate each others differences, learn to give and take, build understanding of and empathy for those with different ideas from our own, educate ourselves to be compassionate, curious, considerate and kind. Above all practice respect for one another.

So I rather fear for peoples when we have someone in charge of a major populace who lacks most of those characteristics, instead who openly practices racism, sexism, bigotry and a disrespectful style of communicating with others he fails to understand.

Is that the family climate Trump grew up in? And is it the kind of global togetherness he endorses?

I have to not concern myself too much with it; it’s too depressing a thought.

What I can concern myself with instead is the practices which I believe perpetuate love, respect and togetherness, as we all can. Right from our family doorsteps, throughout all our relationships, both online and in the flesh, so that these actions spread out from us and make our world a more loving and inclusive place.

I believe that always starts at home. With our relationships at home. It certainly should be part of our parenting and education.

Learning to love and live well together is the most important part of our human existence. You can look up any knowledge on Google – you can only learn about love and peace through experience. It should be the most important part of family development, education and politics – but I don’t bear to think about that right now.

I’ll just continue to go on loving and respecting my precious family shapes so they can in turn pass that on around.

Surely not grammar schools again?

I’ve got a heavy heart this morning. This is because of the recent news about the government’s desire to take us back into the darker ages of divisive education again, via the grammar school system.

Pupils at Altrincham grammar school for boys.

Can Grammars ever be inclusive? Click on the pic for article.

If ever there was anything so segregating then this is it. I cannot see how it is of any benefit to learners. Only of benefit to those who would be elite – feeding the adult snobbery surrounding education that I’d hoped we were moving away from.

Read the articles here; http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-37311023

For children to learn and succeed they need to be comfortable, encouraged and inspired. That should be happening in all schools. All schools should offer the opportunity for children to flourish whatever background they come from, whatever home, street, cultural climate. Anyone at any time should be able to facilitate the learning they need in order to achieve the ‘social mobility’ they desire, whatever school they are in, whatever part of the country.

Some children are academically able. Some are not – they have other skills and attributes. But are no less intelligent. This is harping back to the days where we didn’t acknowledge these differences and will widen the divide between the academically elite and those whose strengths lie in other skills. I see this as no better than clustering all those with skateboarding skills together in elite schools, just because they have skateboarding skills, and disregarding all those with other skills – it’s as narrowing as that. Put like that you can see how stupid it is. Academic skills are just one set of skills and not the only ones necessary for leading a successful and happy life. We need a range of skills – particularly practical skills – and all skills should be equally appreciated.

All schools should be equal. That should be a given. Area, wealth and circumstance are already vastly unequal – we all know that. Surely, surely, all institutions of education should be places where that’s not relevant, where children will all be treated to the same opportunities for growth.

I see the elitist politicians, living in their elitist enclaves, untouched by the challenges the majority of the rest of us face and I recoil in the face of their ignorance and oblivion and their decisions based in their elitism.

This is just another blatant example of that.

Sad, sad times!

The shite surrounding Home Ed registration!

The issue of registration is back in the news again. I sense the whole of the home education community cringing in response.

Not necessarily cringing at the thought of registration – that’s not the real issue. Rather, cringing at the barrage of inevitable accusations about us failing to provide ‘adequate education, or potentially abusing our kids, or generally neglecting their progress by not giving them tests every five minutes.

In other words all the lame and totally inaccurate and ignorant excuses those in high places trot out each time as justification for trying to regain control of what is a fairly uncontrolled but nevertheless SUCCESSFUL approach to educating thousands of children in this country. Children who are turning out to be intelligent and productive members of society; the graduating home educators are proof of that.

So why do we need to control home education if it is already working? Other than for state dictatorship of course!

The ironic thing is, home education is working well exactly because it is not controlled; not controlled by idiots in councils and parliament who are ruining education in schools by their obsessive, stats-driven desire to monitor, measure and standardise and present league tables. The success of home schooling is based in its flexibility, one that’s in tune with the child’s learning needs, needs often neglected in the system.

According to this recent report  Local Authorities are calling for laws that make it compulsory for parents to register their home educated children, citing safeguarding as their main concern and suggesting that parents who don’t want authorities to know what they’re doing should be watched.

In my experience it is not that home educators particularly want to keep what they’re doing from the authority; most of the genuine parents who choose home education instead of school are open and deeply conscientious about their child’s welfare and education.

However, what they’re trying to avoid, by being shy of the authority, is the type of interference from the dictatorial approaches to education that is ALREADY RUINING IT IN SCHOOLS. That is clear from the constant flurry of articles from those in the profession like this one which says that children are treated as statistics.

And this one that suggests the child is the lowest priority.

And this one which illustrates teachers’ feelings that testing is so inappropriate we should boycott them.

Further irony surrounds the fact that the practice that’s doing the ruining is exactly the one Local Authorities want to put in place via registration: the monitoring.

But monitoring Home Ed would be a disaster, for who’s going to judge and what? And how are they qualified to judge if they have no experience of home schooling from beginning to end? And on what grounds will they judge, with what benchmarks? And how can ‘standards’ be applied to the individualistic and SUCCESSFUL range of approaches home educating families use to facilitate their children’s learning? You have to have done it to understand. It would be like trying to monitor and grade the diversity of parenting – of course that may be next!

I am totally convinced that the call for registration has LITTLE to do with the good of the children, just as the teacher in the article suggests children in school are little more than useful statistics to LAs and politicians. (No disrespect to the hundreds of caring teachers intended here – it’s just I know your hands are tied).

The call for registration is instead all to do with authorities gaining control over something that is beyond their comprehension, because most are ignorant, blinkered, institutionalised pawns, who have no first hand experience of home education, and who are subservient to the bigger establishment. An establishment that is becoming increasingly afraid of home educators because they indirectly challenge their failing policies by their very success in choosing to do without them.

The monitoring, measurement and testing of children and schools is RUINING the educational experience for many – children and teachers – that is increasingly clear. It may work for some, but not for all. Thankfully there’s the option of home education for that minority. But if we try and measure home education with the same benchmarks that’s ruining schooling, we’ll ruin that too.

No wonder home educators don’t want that.

Most home educators are intelligent people – we can make assessments for ourselves and see beyond political manoeuvres and don’t want our kids used as pawns in a political game. We care deeply for our kids – why else would we opt for such a demanding choice – has no one thought to ask that question?

Einstein is often quoted as saying that ‘if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will live its whole life believing it is stupid’, an image that marries so well with the system’s monitoring systems. 

Apart from the wider issue of the state wanting control over all we do, this is what the registration and consequential monitoring of our kids would do, as it is doing to children in schools, where many come away believing they are stupid not because they are, but because of the system’s stupidity in measuring every differing individual’s ability with a benchmark as singular as climbing a tree.

And this is exactly why many home educating families want to choose an alternative. And in most cases like to remain private about it.