Friday, 31 August 2012

Home education; individual or group



Perhaps the most valuable aspect of home education for me was the spontaneity; the ability to drop everything and focus on something that the child actually had an interest in at that moment, rather than expecting her to study what I felt she should be doing at that moment. In 2006, for example, she was working hard at calculus, when the news came that a whale had become stranded in the Thames in central London. We dropped everything and raced off to see this. Spur of the moment acts like that are seldom possible if you are responsible for a class of thirty children! Not all home educators feel that way, of course. Some are happier working in groups and planning things weeks or months in advance. This was brought home to me by a couple of comments made on the previous post here.

Here is a genuine question for readers. You and your eight-year old home educated child are visiting a zoo and  a group of schoolchildren are being given the chance to stroke an armadillo. Your child is fascinated by this and wistful that she cannot take part. Do you (a.), slip into the area and mingle with the school group, thus enabling your kid to do something educational that she really wants to do right this minute? Or would you, (b.),  ’have arranged a group HE visit with them‘ at some unspecified future date, assuming that it proved possible and that your child was still excited about armadillos a month or two down the line? Most of the parents I have known, would have chosen (a.), but somebody commenting here suggested (b.). I found this very odd.

I have an idea that some parents who take their children from school do not feel easy about assuming sole responsibility for their children’s education. Far better to continue fixing things up in groups, just like school. Fancy only thinking of your own kid’s education; surely education is a group activity! The same person who would not have dreamed of nipping in and joining a school group, because it might have been against the rules, said, ‘You're happy to have taken advantage of opportunities for yourself but couldn't care less about all those who might follow you into that situation?’ Well, I wouldn’t have put it quite that way, but certainly my primary aim was to provide my child with an education that suited her. Why on earth should I have assumed that anybody else’s child would happen to be mad keen on armadillos at that moment and be desperately anxious to stroke a real one? This honestly does not make sense to me.

I suppose that many parents do have a superstitious reverence for rules and regulations. I had an idea that this was more common with those who sent their children to school than it was with home educators, but perhaps I am wrong. The current fuss about the National School Film Week is a case in point. If we were still home educating I would guarantee to get us into a showing of any of the films which are on in October. I can think of half a dozen methods offhand. All of them would involved individual action and breaking rules, which would apparently not suit some home educators. If the aim of parents is to make a fuss and draw attention to themselves, then they can of course continue to flood the comments at the Film Education Facebook page with angry remarks about justice. If their aim is to get their kids in to see the films though, they could try either of the following ideas.

First, you could turn up at the showing and simply ask one of the teachers if you could join their group. Since many of those people will have booked up ten seats and only have five kids, you could explain about the £50 fine that they were likely to incur and make out that you would be doing them a favour to boost their numbers. Or you could just trust to luck and walk through into the cinema and bluff it. The cinema staff are unlikely to care who watches the film! A more reliable way would be to create a hotmail account in the name of a fictitious school and try to book up ten seats in that way. Ring up the  National School Film Week and just act as though you are the secretary of this school. They are unlikely to have a master list of all the schools in the United Kingdom and even if they do, just say that you are a new academy school and that is why there is no record of you yet. Book ten seats and away you go.

I am frankly amazed at the behaviour of those parents who are currently cutting up rough about the National School Film Week. Not just because they are queering the pitch for those parents like me who would simply have got round these new rules and attended the films anyway, but because it suggests to me that they are humourless types who don’t really live in the real world. Of course organisations set up with schools in mind are not going to care overmuch about the interests of eccentric parents whose children don’t go to school. So what? If your aim is actually educational, that is to say if you want your child to see one of these films, then there is no problem; just work your way round the rules as best you can. It is a stupid rule, why not break it? If on the other hand you prefer to waste time that you could be spending on your child’s education by engaging in fruitless dialogues with idiots, well then you go right ahead and do that. I have an idea that many genuine home educators will be carrying on as I have suggested above and simply making the necessary arrangements for their children’s education. Why go out of the way to make life difficult for yourself and others?

21 comments:

  1. "slip into the area and mingle with the school group, thus enabling your kid to do something educational that she really wants to do right this minute?"

    That's fine if you have one child who happens to look around the same age as the group you attempt to mingle with, who in my experience are invariably a single class or year group and are all the same age. Also, it's helpful if they aren't wearing school uniform or some other identifying band or maker. But it's a little more difficult if they are 9 and you have an 7 year old, a 5 year old and a 2 year old in a buggy. Most home educating families we know have more than one child. In fact, I'm struggling to think of any in our local group with only one child.

    "Most of the parents I have known, would have chosen (a.)"

    Did they all have only one child?

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  2. Well, yes, if I was only home-educating one child I'd turn up at the cinema on the day and chance it, too. But most of us have more than one, over a fairly wide age range, so the logistics are a lot more complicated. If I'm taking one or two to the cinema, then my other half needs to take the day off work to look after the others, or I have to arrange something with another home educator. It's an awful lot of hassle if we're not sure we're going to get away with sneaking in.

    There'll be a way round the new rule, of course there will, but it's a completely pointless extra hassle.

    I share your irritation with all the self-righteous comments about "discrimination" and so forth but surely you can see that other people are affected by this in ways that you might not have been?

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    Replies
    1. And it must be very dissapointing for a child if you fail to get in to see the film.

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  3. "Not just because they are queering the pitch for those parents like me who would simply have got round these new rules"

    I would think that getting 'chucked out' when attempting to join in with school groups risks 'queering the pitch' for other home educators at least as much since people tend to tar all of a group with the same brush.

    You seem intent on playing the rebel over this minor issue yet complain when other parents ask (often successfully) local colleges to bend admission rules and seemed content to follow societies 'rules' with regards your daughter aquiring GCSEs. Not so long ago you were also all for the introduction of lots of new legal rules for HE. You're sending mixed messages!

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  4. Yes, I do think your experiences Simon, are coloured by the fact you were home educating 1 child- for anyone with a larger family, advance planning is the only way to manage!

    Also home educators are a very diverse bunch - you should know that by now.

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  5. Hmmm, I'm not sure that the fact that I was only home educating one child for much of the time has all that much bearing on the case. Because her sister is five years older than her, trips to the cinema were often divided up anyway, because they often wanted to see different films. From that point of view, a trip to see something for the National School Film Week would not have been any different. I honestly don't think that getting two or three children of different ages into the cinema would present any greater challenge. I am sorely tempted to collect a few kids from friends and give this a try in October. I would put £100 on being able to pull it off with three children of widely differing ages. Where is your sense of adventure; this is half the fun of home education!

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  6. Perhaps part of this is a male-female thing. My wife used to cringe with horror at the way that I would disregard what seemed to me to me to be petty and pointless rules. This was nothing in particular to do with home education. For instance in 2000, we visited Stonehenge.

    Forty years ago, one could wander freely among the stones of Stonehenge; admiring them from close up, even touching them. After all, they had been there for thousands of years and as long as nobody attacked them with a hammer and chisel, there could be no possible harm in it. When we went in 2000, a rule had been introduced that nobody could approach the stones any closer than twenty five yards. This was a completely mad and pointless rule. I accordingly told the girls that they could hop over the barrier and walk right up to the stones and look at them as close as they wished. Why wouldn't I have done so? What possible harm are a seven and twelve year old going to do to those mighty megaliths?

    As I say, I think that this has less to do with home education per se than it does with being prepared to ignore silly rules and balance the educational prospects of your children against slavish adherence to rules for which there is no reason.

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    Replies
    1. Simon said,
      "a rule had been introduced that nobody could approach the stones any closer than twenty five yards. This was a completely mad and pointless rule."

      I think the main issue was ground erosion caused by hundreds of thousands of visitors. From elsewhere:

      the archaeology in most normal sites is about 6 foot under; at Stonehenge erosion has meant the level is 6 inches under instead. Not only could fragile archaeology be damaged on the fairly small interior of the circle, stones themselves could eventually be undermined (many of them were wobbling dangerously in the 1800's due to erosion, treasure hunters digging around them etc.) The erosion of the outer bank was and would be a great problem too if people were allowed to wander freely about--people often forget about this feature, but it is actually the oldest bit and STILL contains human remains of over 100 people.

      However, you can book a private viewing for the same cost as a normal visit which allows you to go inside the stone circle and also gives you normal access to the site for the day when it opens to the public.

      "After all, they had been there for thousands of years and as long as nobody attacked them with a hammer and chisel, there could be no possible harm in it."

      Vandalism has also been a problem. "There is carved modern grafiiti on the stones and areas where huge spraypainted graffiti has been removed, leaving visible damaged such as bald spots in the protective lichen and the letters 'DI' which are over a foot tall!"

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  7. Simon

    You say in ‘National Schools Film Week’

    ‘See what happens when you try to get home educators to follow exactly the same rules as everybody else?’

    ‘The rules never apply for them. Whether it is attending free cinema performances, provision of which is now being treated by some of these clowns as some sort of human right, or getting places at a further education college; they must never be expected to conform to the same standards as the rest of the world.’

    Yet you are happy to flout the rules that Stonehenge have regarding getting near the stones. Shouldn’t you follow the Stonehenge rules that applied to everybody else? A bit hypocritical possibly?

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  8. Simon said,
    "As I say, I think that this has less to do with home education per se than it does with being prepared to ignore silly rules and balance the educational prospects of your children against slavish adherence to rules for which there is no reason."

    Exactly our view when our children applied for college places (successfully) without the 'required' qualifications.

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  9. Looks like the negotiations paid off. There is no need for home educators to sneak into National Film Week showings as per Simon's suggestions above. They can now book online and go legitimately.

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  10. 'Looks like the negotiations paid off. There is no need for home educators to sneak into National Film Week showings as per Simon's suggestions above. They can now book online and go legitimately.'

    That rather depends upon what you mean by the negotiations paying off. Below is the text of a message that may now be seen by every visitor to the National School Film Week site:

    'In closing, I must also refute the accusations made by a small minority of home educators against Film Education and members of its staff, that we are deliberately discriminating against home educated children and young people. We are prepared, if necessary, to take appropriate action to protect our staff and our organisation from such unfounded accusations'

    Does anybody think that this gives a good overall impression about home educators? That they must talk in terms of protecting their staff and organisation in this way? I have an idea that if people had just followed my advice, it would not have resulted in this negative publicity for home education!

    Simon.

    '

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    Replies
    1. I agree that some people approached the problem in the wrong way, but at least they realise that it's a small minority who behaved in this way. Unlike some who seem happy to tar all home educators with the same brush.

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  11. Oh blimey! HE'ers have got their way at what cost! I sometimes think we are our own worst enemies! I couldn't give a stuff about National Film Week. It's just outdated films we've already seen. It's hardly educational. I would be surprised if many people used the educational resources that are available with the films.

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  12. Those are really great points, Simon. Thank you for sharing your experience.

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