Tag Archive | special needs

Rescue us from norms!

It must have taken a lot of courage for Richard Macer to make the documentary about his son’s Dyslexia. (Hoping it will become available again soon) Especially at a time of his learning life when his future seemed to hang in jeopardy upon his SATs results. (A ridiculous practice I’ve condemned before – and which some schools and teachers are beginning to boycott) The family’s feelings were hinged on it. My heart went out to them.

Richard and son

In the programme they described some of what it’s like for a dyslexic in school, how inhibiting it can be in terms of academic progress, how their son’s brain seemed to work differently to others, as did dad’s, how this could be perceived either as a set back or a potential gift.

And I was screaming at the screen; ‘it doesn’t have to be like this’! No one’s future should be the result of performance in one moment of time at 11 years of age. It’s preposterous. And preposterous that the system has been set up like this and causes so many families so much distress. particularly families of dyslexic children for whom schooling fails so miserably.

Towards the end of the programme, after tears and relief that the son did okay in his SATs, dad made a comment about his son’s ‘faulty’ brain and I was really saddened to hear that. Because dyslexic brains are not ‘faulty’. And no one seems to be saying what’s glaringly obvious to me: That they are only ‘faulty’ within the context of schooling. Take the dyslexic out of school, take away the label Special Educational Needs, and meet the child’s individual needs in alternative ways (which should be open to everyone instead of the single track approach of academic practise that schools use) and the child can learn and achieve. Those dyslexics within the home educating community are proof of that.

The trouble with the system is that it measures to norms. It proposes a pattern of normal and then tries to make each child fit. Those that don’t fit are deemed as ‘behind’ or ‘failing’ or SEN. But what the heck is normal? And heaven preserve us from fitting it, for it is often those who don’t who go on to do great things; invent things, find cures, have ideas, create solutions. In fact a wonderful piece towards the end of the programme looked at a body of research to uphold the idea that our survival as a species is dependent on those abnormalities, dependent on those who can see beyond the norms and continue to diversify. It’s diversification we need for perpetuation – not normal!

So rescue us from norms, I say, celebrate those who are different – dyslexics among them, and see the limited schooling system for what it really is – the cloning of diverse intelligences into sad souless sameness.

And all the best to father and family.

 

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But – Could I really home educate?

It’s a bank holiday weekend. Who wants to think about education?

Of course, if you’re a home educator there is little distinction between education, learning and life. Which is really as it should be.

If you’re not a home educator and you’re perhaps considering it you might be interested to discover that there are thousands who are not going back to school after the summer but are continuing their learning life out of it – and much of it isn’t at home anyway!

Many parents think they couldn’t do it. A few are right – it takes a certain kind of parent, a certain kind of relationship with your children, and most importantly a mind that’s open to different ways of doing things.

But there are many parents who think they couldn’t homeschool who possibly could, with a little research and altered ways of thinking.

If you’re one of those I thought it might be helpful for me to repost my YouTube talk here to see if it might change your mind!

Click on the picture!

For more information and increased understanding of how home education really works see my books; ‘Learning Without School Home Education’, ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ and ‘A Home Education Notebook’. Details and extracts on the My Books page.

The Home Education Bill – a brilliant response

Rachel and her two lovely boys

Last week I read an absolutely brilliant post about the proposed Home Education Bill on the blog; Mini Man’s Home Ed Adventures. Since the author, Rachel Evans, writes far better than I could on the subject, I immediately contacted her to ask if it would be okay to copy it here to help spread the word a little further and was very happy to receive a ‘yes’!

So here it is. I know it’s long but it’s well worth setting aside some time to have a read as it explains everything so well:

Many of you will be unaware that a private members Bill is currently making its way through the House of Lords, proposed by Lord Soley (Labour Lord), regarding home education. I have read and reread the entire transcript of the second reading of the Bill a number of times. Before I even start addressing the points made as regards the Bill, I have to say I have been utterly appalled and aghast by the attitudes of all but one of the Lords who responded. The exception, Lord Lucas, showed great understanding of the situation and called for an evidence based Bill rather than an opinion based Bill.  Between the rest of the Lords, for me, they have displayed a frightening lack of understanding of education, home education, SEN, child welfare and the realities of life for ordinary people. In fact, Lord Soley himself actually acknowledged that he had “not had a great deal of involvement in education and do not claim to have that much knowledge of it”. I am perturbed that these unelected Peers are proposing, influencing and making laws/decisions that affect all of our lives, whilst displaying a total disconnection and distrust of real people. They have shown, in this case, that these proposals are based on their own opinions and views of life and not any evidence at all. In fact, and most worryingly, they appear to not actually be interested in the evidence or reality. They are displaying a shocking level of ignorance and arrogance in the power and stance of the State . This is something that I had not really appreciated until really looking into this, and something I feel we should all be concerned about.

So firstly, a quick foray into the legal definition of education and where educational responsibility lies. The legal responsibility for the education of a child lies wholly and squarely with the parents of the child, both in UK law and within European Convention of Human Rights. The Education Act 1996 states “The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable— (a) to his age, ability and aptitude, and (b) to any special educational needs he may have, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.” Schools must provide a “broad and balanced” education because it is providing education to thousands of children. The education parents provide is regarded as suitable providing it;

“… equips a child for life within the community of which he is a member rather than the way of life in the country as a whole, as long as it does not foreclose the child’s option in later years to adopt some other form of life if he wishes to do so.”

Schooled education is set up in a way that makes mass education easier to administer. Teachers do not have the time, staff or resources to find the optimal learning pace, style and preference for each child. Neither do teachers have any real flexibility to provide education individually tailored to the age, ability, aptitude or SEN of every child. National Curriculum dictates content, methods and standards irrelevant of actual age, developmental stage, ability, aptitude or SEN of a child – it is a one standard fits all system, where anyone or anything outside this is classed as substandard/failing. In contrast, home educators can provide educational content and methods perfectly balanced to their child’s age, development stage, preferences, learning styles, pace and SEN.

So in essence, what does the Bill entail? It would mean as a home educator you would be compelled, by law, to register all home educated children, you would be compelled to give access to your home to Government officials, at least annually, to determine whether your child is being abused, radicalised, whether they are being home educated against their will and to monitor educational standards (these standards have not been specified but I assume they would be National Curriculum levels). You could be compelled to allow your child to be interviewed by a Government official, in which you as a parent, you would not allowed to be present. The Bill, as it stands, means you would also be compelled to allow a Government official to assess the physical and emotional development of your child, at least annually (although during the second reading Lord Soley did concede that this was “unrealistic”). If alarm bells are not ringing for you already, let me explain why you should be very concerned over these draconian measures that are being proposed in the “best interests of the child”.

Compulsory registration

In UK law, as I have said earlier, parents hold ultimate legal responsibility for their child’s education. The default position is home education, if you do not wish to fulfil this responsibility personally, you opt into the school system by enrolling your child for a school place, then OFSTED oversee the quality of this on behalf of parents. Local Authorities have a responsibility to provide school places for those that wish it,  to identify children missing in education when on school roll and for identifying those children in home education who do not appear to be receiving an education. I can’t think of any other aspect in life where you have to register with the Government, when you rightfully and legally choose not to opt into something.

Compulsory access to your home

Some Local Authorities already cite that access to your home is compulsory. This is currently illegal under English law, it contravenes the UN Convention of Children’s Rights (which although never adopted into English Law was ratified) and human rights. Even the police and social workers need a reason and justification to enter a home. The Bill, as it stands, would nullify the these laws and rights for one subset of the population – which is discrimination and also illegal. This Bill would compel home educators to allow access to their home by the Government annually, so that they can speculatively look for evidence of law breaking. All this, because a family has taken the rightful and legal decision not to opt into the state school system. Are you worried yet? If not, you should be. Looking at another human right, the right to the presumption to innocence until proved guilty. This Bill runs very close to riding a coach and horses through the presumption to innocence.  Almost putting home educators in the position of having to prove they are not wrong doing. The Bill also contravenes the parental presumption to competence which is accorded all parents in England. The role of the State is as a 3rd parent, where it is proved the parents have failed.  If you are still not worried, then just consider how you would feel being compelled to allow Government officials into your home for them to speculatively look for evidence of wrong doing. And for those of the “nothing to hide” persuasion, there are plenty of blogs, articles and resources explaining why this is a dangerous position for everyone.

Interviewing of home educated children without their parents

Even the police need a reason to interview a child, and whilst this can be done without a parent present, they have to be very careful not to influence or intimidate the child. Yet this Bill wants all home educated children to be interviewed annually, without parents present, to see if a wrong doing may have occurred, presumably they hope to achieve this without influencing or intimidating the child. Given the disproportionately high percentage of SEN children in the home education population, many of whom are on the autistic spectrum, the very thought of an authority stranger demanding to speak to them in itself would be extremely traumatic. Baroness Deech, was particularly concerned that a home educated child, that was not subject to annual inspection, would be “muffled and unable to say whether they would like to be elsewhere”.  By the reverse logic I wonder if they are going to abide by their own standard and allow home educators to interview all schooled children, without their parents or teachers, to ascertain whether they wish to continue in school or be home educated instead. I don’t know, but I’m guessing not, which implies State muffling of a child’s voice is acceptable.

Radicalisation

Lord Soley suggests people are using the home education laws to deregister their children to radicalise them. A freedom of information request on all Local Authorities showed that not a single case of home educated children being involved in extremist activity has been recorded. Even if the Bill was enacted, compulsory annual inspection would hardly reveal this. Radicalised school children who have school contact for 1170 hours (6 hours x 5 days x 39 weeks a year) a year go undetected. There is no evidence that home educated children are more likely to be radicalised than their school peers.

Illegal and unregistered schools

Lord Soley claims he needs this Bill to prevent children being deregistered to be put into illegal and/or unregistered schools. I think the clue is in the name here – OFSTED has the remit and power to identify, inspect and close illegal and unregistered schools. They do not need this Bill to do this, they simply need to use their existing powers.

Abuse

Lord Soley claims that home educated children are deregistered so that abuse can be covered up, and that the Bill would prevent this. To the best of my knowledge, there has only been one case of child neglect that has been linked in any way to home education, and this was Dylan Seabridge in Wales. However, as Lord Lucas pointed out at the second reading of the Bill, concerns about Dylan were raised a year before he died and the authorities did not see fit to act – a failure of the State not of home education. Creating a compulsion to register all home educated children with the Local Authority would not prevent abuse. Those intent on abusing their children would presumably be unlikely to present themselves for registration, and hence not be available for inspection.

On the subject of abuse. One of the most prevalent reasons for deregistering a child from school is due to bullying, which is rife in schools. I have heard so many stories of concerned parents being told their child was “too sensitive”, “needs to grow a thicker skin”, “has to learn to deal with it as part of life”.  And sadly, bullying is not the preserve of children either, I personally know of children removed to home educate due to bullying at the hands of teachers, some of these children now suffer PTSD as a result.

I would suggest that tackling abuse and bullying in schools would reduce the numbers in home education in the first place over which he is so concerned.

“Disappearing” children

Lord Soley expressed concern about children “disappearing” once deregistered from school. Any child deregistered from a school has to be reported to the Local Authority by law by the school, so they are already “known” to the authorities, they have not “disappeared”. Children who have never been opted into the system are still known to authorities – they were registered at birth. Children are still registered with the NHS, doctors, dentists, opticians, libraries, child benefit etc. Home educated children are within their families, friends, community, home education community, at events etc. If a person really wanted to “hide” a child then this Bill would not prevent that, these people would be unlikely to come forward to declare their home education status with the Local Authority.

Off Rolling

Baroness Morris of Yardley was one of a number of Peers rightly concerned about “off – rolling” of students. This is where pressure is brought to bear on parents by schools to remove their child into home education, under the guise of being best for the child and largely against the wishes of the parents who feel forced into this. This can be due to the school feeling unable to meet SEN needs, the child about to be permanently excluded and/or the possibility of the child’s assessment results being detrimental to the school performance. This is a concern shared by many in the home education community. As soon as a child is removed from school roll the school must inform the Local Authority by law. Therefore, the current system captures this information already and therefore the Local Authority has the opportunity to intervene. The proposed Bill would make no difference to this at all.

Concerns of most home educators providing “substandard education”.

Many Peers raised concerns about educational standards within home educating families. Lord Addington said children were disappearing “into very substandard education”. He did not provide any evidence of this or what he felt the standard should be, one presumes the National Curriculum.

Whilst National Curriculum appears to be held as the holy grail of “standards”, I would like to ask the question of who sets the National Curriculum. Given the legal definitions and responsibilities outlined in my opening paragraphs, one would assume that parents, communities, teachers, children, business and workplace communities would be key contributors, as well as child development experts. However, given all the recent curriculum changes pushed through by successive Educational Ministers, against the advice of teachers, head teachers, parents and children, it would suggest that politicians are the drivers. There has been much debate and many articles written about suitability of National Curriculum, in particular its impact on childhood mental health. The Government’s own appointed adviser on childhood mental health found herself out of a job when she pointed the finger at the education system. There has also been much discussion on whether an education system designed in and on the principles of the industrial revolution is fit for purpose in today’s environment. Sir Ken Robinson explains this perfectly in his RSA Animated Lecture on Changing the Educational Paradigms.

Many home educators feel that the National Curriculum and school environment do not provide good quality education for their children, particularly if they have a child who is gifted and/or has SEN. They want a “curriculum” based on other things they consider important e.g. self motivation, curiosity, ability to self direct, evaluate, challenge, follow passions, ask questions, specialise. They see education in a more holistic way than simply cramming knowledge, being tested on it, forgetting it and then moving onto the next test. They see education as learning HOW to learn not WHAT to learn. Once a child knows how to learn, they can learn anything, at any time and anywhere. Many home educators feel that true learning does not happen to a Government dictated timetable, formula and process, at set dates, in set subjects and batched up with children of identical ages. Just because home education is not measurable does not mean it is substandard. And indeed what should the standards be? On the continent formal schooling often doesn’t start until 7 years, so a child unable to read at 7 years is the norm. In England, a 7year old child with no reading would be classed as “failing”. Given increasing evidence that we are pushing children with too much too young and that this is a significant factor in childhood mental health decline, then really it is National Curriculum that should come under scrutiny not home education. On a slightly flippant note when it comes to standards and appropriate education, I am finding it hard pressed to find parents, teachers, students and business leaders who feel that vital life knowledge for an 11 yr old consists of the intricate workings of subjective conjunctions and fronted adverbials. In fact, I suggest anyone agreeing that it benefits school childrens’ written English, should take a few moments to listen to Michael Rosen (Children’s Laureate June 2007- June 2009) on the subject.

Many home educated children take different qualifications, different paths to their careers rather than the school system of GCSEs, ALevels etc. But for those that wish to take this route it can be difficult and expensive. If Lord Soley really wished to help, then maybe pressuring the Government to make it easier to access these exams externally would be prudent. Once you deregister your child from the school system, you take on the full cost yourself, including the cost of entering your child into examinations. There are few exam centres, which are often hours away that take external candidates and often the cost runs to several hundred pounds per subject.

Special Educational Needs (SEN)

On a more positive note, there was some acknowledgement by the Peers that a number of children were home educated due to unmet SEN needs by the state school system. From my experience a great number of children in home education are there due to unmet SEN. This is a systematic failure of the State to provide a comprehensive SEN strategy and resources. A significant number of these failed children are autistic children who are too academic for special school but too autistic for mainstream school. Schools do not have the training, expertise, experience or resources for these very complex children. But this is a separate discussion. However, Lord Soley suggests help should be made available to families of SEN children. What this consists of and who was going to pay for it he didn’t outline. As a battle weary SEN parent, who is well aware of the reality of Local Authority “help”, I remain sceptical until I see it. School budgets are being cut, Teaching Assistants removed, SEN support dropped, EHCPs routinely rejected or providing very weak support, Local Authorities telling parents that they forfeit NHS Occupational Therapy, NHS Speech and Language therapy when you home educate (this is a lie by the way), Local Authorities refusing to give parents EHCP Personal Budgets and blocking access to help and provision at every turn (I have personal experience of this), NHS budgets cut, NHS service access thresholds so high very few can access them, practically non-existent CAMHS service provision in many parts of the country … I could go on and on. Given this backdrop, I somehow doubt the Local Authorities are suddenly going to be able to fund the “help” alluded to by Lord Soley.

There were a multitude of corkers by various Peers regarding home educating parents, including but not limited to “there are inadequate and disorganised parents who simply cannot get their children ready in time to go to school” this by Baroness Richardson of Calow.   Another of my favourites is by Baroness Garden of Frognal who expresses concerns that home educated families may not be able teach children to be “part of the community”. Home educated children are learning IN their community. They are developing personal and social skills that cannot be learned in schools when merely surrounded only by identically aged peers and authority figure adults. In fact, home educators worry about what passes for socialisation in schools. A perfect example, a local man here runs parkour groups for home educated children and schooled children. He informed a close home educating friend that in home educated groups he can mix all the age ranges (5-15 years) as they are all very supportive and encouraging of each other. In groups of school children, he has to split by year group because the older children belittle and mock the younger, less able ones. I could carry on giving evidence of patronising, ill informed and ignorant comments by some Peers but I will stop there as you likely get the drift.

The real questions …

Lord Soley acknowledges that the numbers of home educated children has risen dramatically over recent years. I don’t think anyone is going to deny that. This surely is a perfect time to ask the question WHY. Why do so many people feel so strongly as to remove their child from state education, lose an income, radically change their lives, take back educational responsibility and take on the financial burdens of home educating their children? Why are teachers leaving the system? Why is the Government struggling to recruit teachers and then retain them? Why are parents voicing concerns over relentless testing? Why is there rising childhood mental health issues? Why are SEN parents removing their children in droves? Why do teachers choose to leave their profession to home educate their own children rather than put them into the system? Why are businesses struggling to recruit staff with the right skills? Why ARE an increasing number of parents choosing to home educate?

Rather than address these issues, Lord Soley has focused on registration and assessment of home education on the basis of standards of education, radicalisation and child abuse. There is no evidence that these are even issues. He is advocating sweeping away the human rights of one subset of the population based on his own ill informed fears and suspicions. As Lord Lucas points out that if we [government] “lived up to our obligations to these parents and children under existing legislation, I do not think we would have a fraction of the worry and problem we have”. He went on to say “A lot of powers are not used because of lack of money or lack of quality of staff”. There are examples where Local Authorities work proactively with the home education community and within the law to great effect. This proves that when exercised well, the existing powers are fit for purpose. There really is no need for this discriminatory and costly Bill, which will not actually address the issues it proclaims it aims to solve.

Thank you very much to Rachel for such a thought provoking piece.

Anyone who wants to get involved further there’s a Facebook group here https://www.facebook.com/groups/stophl11/ 

 

Two books:

I thought these two little books that came my way this summer might be of interest.

The first is The Music Man’s Songbook by Jon Lawrence. This is a charming little book of song scripts, with a CD to go with it, that will get the children learning, thinking, moving, counting and finally sleeping! They can use it either with mums and dads or on their own. The author says that he was particularly interested in getting the children moving and the songs are open to as many physical interpretations as you like! Anything to get the kids active! It’s published through Bird’s Nest Books and is available directly from them or through Amazon. Find Jon’s website here.

The second is Katy Elphinstone’s book of advice for parents of autistic children: ‘Dos and Don’ts Autism and Aspergers, Advice for Parents and Carers’. Having read it through I find it full of common sense for parents of any children as well as those on the autistic spectrum. It’s contains the most down-to-earth ideas; ideas that we sometimes completely forget when in the throes of dealing with difficult challenges. A short book, well worth dipping into. You can find more about it – and buy it – here; http://www.dos-and-donts-autism.com/ and on Amazon.

Katy is another home educator, finding it was the best choice for her children and is going to do a guest post here in a little while. The illustrator is Matt Freidman of Dude I’m an Aspie fame.

How home educating helped our autistic son

A little while ago Gina commented on a post on my blog.

I was so moved by her remarks that I thought her story needed a post of its own. Her comment related to a post about Daniel Radcliffe (read it here), who was also told he was stupid, which prompted her to write this about her autistic son:

Gina’s two happy boys!

I have an 11 yo whom we removed from school in the first term of year one. He was six and had picked up the idea he was stupid and didn’t try hard enough. 

They had stopped teaching him anything but social skills so he would be prepared for the local special school and he was allowed to play and do what he wanted all day.

They gave up on him because he was ticking none of the horrendous Ofsted boxes. I am sure they wanted to do it differently with him but there was no time for all (or any) of his needs to be met.

They told us to concentrate on his life skills so he could aim for living in a group home, that was the best we could hope for. They really didn’t like us much and I think us constantly trying to support our child in a system that essentially had no room for him did not improve their willingness to try.

Within weeks of taking him out of school as a child who could not recognise his letters he read a chapter book, by eight he had read an entire adult spider encyclopaedia. Most importantly he was happy and had stopped crying. He has recently learned how to join in with games and speak to his friends. Two days ago he played with a strange child in a playground with other friends. This is a huge milestone and totally unexpected.

He becomes kinder, braver and happier all the time away from school. Like Daniel Radcliffe said my son was also labelled and would have been discarded had it not been for home schooling. He loves learning and life now.

When Gina related to me a little of their family background it contained several other appalling instances of the treatment of their children in school, details of which I won’t go into here except to say they’re sadly very familiar; bullying, disregard of child’s special needs, blatant lying on the part of the school, which all culminated in them making that choice to home educate.

She went on to tell me:

We haven’t looked back, they are just over five years out of school and thriving. The stomach issues he had at school cleared up when they stopped going. They are in groups, making friends and just happy, life is good now.  They remember school and don’t want to go back and feel really sorry for school children who get stuck in doors all day every day!  They still have issues related to autism but we can deal with that as a family at home.  There is time and space for that. 

As a family we are a bit nerdy! We love Star Wars, Harry Potter and Dungeons and Dragons, we make loads of things and we love science experiments – especially with explosions or fire.  They seem a lot less worldly than school children we know and are able to play longer and use their imaginations so much more.  They’re just growing at a slower and more gentle pace which suits their needs better. They live the stories they read and movies they see through their games.  We make sure to build boredom time into the day so they have to go and find something to do, even if they need help.  We also make sure there are at least a couple of hours for just playing.  They have chores, we cook and clean together and we play together. 

We are looking at maybe doing Forest School with them once a week.  They do sports, trips, play dates, crafting, drama and Parkour with their friends; friendships they have been building for a very long time now.

We are really close and I think that is one of the very lovely side effects of home education. 

Many, many thanks Gina for sharing this with us. Wishing you continued happiness.

Even Celebs are choosing to Home Educate!

Nadia and her lovely girls

Earlier in the week there were several papers covering the news about Nadia Sawalha revealing that she was another parent who home educated.

It was lovely to have some positive coverage among the ignorant dross that’s usually trotted out by people who’ve no experience of home schooling. (Like the other presenters on ‘Loose Women’ who discuss it here all of whom are under the usual misconceptions like; kids who haven’t been used to getting up in the morning won’t be able to go to work!)

But it will help to raise awareness of this option for families whose children are not thriving in school.

And there are all sorts of reasons for that; for not thriving. Most of which generally have nothing to do with learning and education, and much to do with the school climate, the prescriptive nature of enforced learning matter and means, the obsession with testing and measurement – not particularly helpful to the learner themselves, and the neglect of individual intelligence in favour of a generic cloning.

And another thing – many, many of us would not thrive or reach our potential in a school atmosphere with masses of others where we feel threatened and put down, where despite government promises needs are not met. They can’t be, simply because of the corporate business that a school is, with so many to cater for. And the vote hungry politics which makes it so.

What’s so deplorable about this is that parents are made to feel there’s something wrong with children who need a different kind of atmosphere from that horrid hubbub of school in which to learn. School is fine if it suits – horrendous if it doesn’t. These kids are not necessarily cowards, softies, introverts or ‘special’ as they’ve been called – they are discerning! And many of the home educated kids who I know, who were removed from school because they hated it for that very reason, have gone on to be productively working adults with better social skills than many school grads.

After watching the Loose Women clip, particularly the suggestion that kids without structure won’t get up in the morning, my youngest who was home educated from the age of 6 commented that it was always the school kids who were late for college or lectures at Uni where she was always punctual despite this ‘lack’ of schooling structure. As Nadia said; home educated children take their learning on board for themselves unlike than those who’ve had it imposed on them and have therefore no idea how to be independent.

What I find most interesting about the idea of celebrities choosing home education (Emma Thompson another one) when they could presumably afford a ‘really good’ private school, is that whatever a ‘really good’ school may be these parents find their children need something different from a school experience. And it is the schooling that most want to get away from. Usually so they can get on with the real business of learning in an uplifting, inspiring and life-enhancing way.

Which is fundamentally what education is about.

Searching out wild spaces for the good of the children

My friend has a wild weedy bit with overgrown trees, ivy and stumps at the bottom of her small narrow town garden. This only leaves a bit by the house in which she can have beloved flowers and plants and bit of lawn to lie upon.

A wild playground

A wild playground

This was originally left for the four boys she raised there to build dens, go hide in a jungle, hunt for creepy-crawlies, or collect snails or acorns, bits of bark or other such treasures down among the roots.

Now the boys have been replaced by four grown up young men who no longer live there and she could reclaim some of that jungle for her garden again. But both her and they still want it left, for they all feel it wouldn’t be the same without that bit of wildness to hide in. Something in their souls tell them they still need it.

She did good!

According to George Monbiot‘s book ‘Feral. Searching for enchantment on the frontiers of rewilding’, all children need this bit of wildness in which to play. And it is something that is denied most of today’s children. They are denied the innate need to explore in unstructured places in unstructured ways, as we used to. The woods, streams, logs, uncultivated fields many of us played in, provided imaginative kids with the chance to build physical skills, a connection to nature, and confidence as they improvised dens, climbing ‘frames’, had contact with mud and mini-beasts. It has now all either replicated in plastic or in controlled tarmacked and manicured environments.

It’s not the same. And it doesn’t have the same impact on our children either. Apparently the lack of freedom to play in wild places, now mostly claimed in the name of housing, agriculture, farming or misguided attempts at conservation (according to Monbiot), has been linked with the increase in disorders in children like hyperactivity or inability to concentrate. Playing among trees and plants helps settle children down where playing on concrete or indoors has the opposite effect.

It’s actually the same for me. The same for most people, I suspect, if they just recognised it.

Monbiot acknowledges the need for housing and for food and farming and battles rage constantly over the political issues which balance these against the preservation of wild spaces.

But whilst these battles and political agendas continue, the children are increasingly denied health giving opportunities to be really wild.

So us parents are going to have to work harder not only to get the children outside away from insidious indoor comforts, but also to find the wild spaces where they can return to something like their roots.