Thursday, 21 March 2013

How to irritate over 99% of parents


One of the things which I notice time and again is the way that many of the more vociferous home educating parents do not give a brilliant impression to the rest of the world. A small number of such people patrol the internet, supposedly defending the practice of home education, but in reality putting up the backs  of thousands of people who have before this been quite indifferent to home education. This can be a problem for the more normal type of home educator, those with no axe to grind and who just wish to get on with educating their children.  The militant characters who start rows on the internet are usually those who have had bad experiences with schools and so could be said to have chips on their shoulders about the school system. The latest example of this sort of thing has happened on the Cbeebies face book page:

http://www.facebook.com/cbeebies?rf=108218902539318&filter=2



There is a new ten minute slot on cbeebies, called ‘What’s the Big Idea’ and they were foolish enough to talk about school. You can see the programme here:


http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01rh5ww/Whats_the_Big_Idea_Why_Do_We_Go_to_School/


 Obviously, this programme is aimed at under fives, over 99% of whom will be going to school in a matter of months, so it made sense for them to talk about school as a place where the children would learn. This was a big mistake! Dawn Todd said:

‘The adverts for the new show "what's the big idea" say the programme will cover the question "what does it mean to learn something?" Please tell me that will be covered in a future episode, as today's offering, about school, displayed a very narrow understanding of "learning". (Not to mention the factual inaccuracies around why children "have to" go to school’

Here is Danyele Hidderley:

‘ I thought it was awful. It didn't really explain what learning was. It lied that you 'have' to go to school to learn because 'that's where the teachers are'! What about the best teachers (IMO) the parents? You cant learn unless you go to school? And if you go to school you will get a good job. What if you learn elsewhere? I thought it totally excluded home educated children who may have been watching.’

Here is Dawn Todd again,

‘very few people "have to go to school". Is this programme intended only for people who have been issued school attendance orders? ‘

Rachel Yarworth is concerned that in ten minute programme aimed at three and four year-olds, the BBC did not explore the legal situation in more depth. She said:

with more and more people choosing to home educate every day, isn't it about time CBeebies recognised that as a legal and valid choice? ‘

I could go on, but I urge readers to check this out for themselves. The producers responded to the complaints of home educating parents by explaining, quite reasonably, that they had simplified things a little because of the under fives age group at which the programme was aimed, but this only provoked more anger. Morag Davidson said;

‘Simplifying to the point of lying isn't doing well by anyone's standards…it doesn't meet home educators standards. Might be good enough for schools though I suppose. ‘

It should of course be mentioned that when a  child says, 'I have to clean my teeth' or 'I have to go to school', he is not really talking about a legal duty; merely that he is being compelled to do something. Clearly, this escaped those whose comments I quote above. Nobody watching this programme would really think that the child featured was under a legal obligation to attend school; it was more that he was being made to go by his parents.

The overall impression left here was of stuck-up and bad tempered people who do not know how children use language.  This was certainly how the other, non-home educating parents, saw them. There were ratty remarks about the home educators and I don't blame them.  Most people come on that face book page to chat about the programmes and talk about the bits their children enjoyed. Here were a group of aggressive and opinionated people clogging the place up with sarcastic remarks about the lifestyle chosen by the vast majority of parents. Most parents send their children to school and remarks such as:

‘I'm amused that school educated children need to be encouraged/taught to develop critical thinking and discussion skills. HE families do this instinctively all the time’

just sound snotty and superior.

     This is only one example of this happening.  We see the same type of home educators commenting on the online editions of newspapers, on blogs and elsewhere on the internet. It is easy to spot them, because they are usually angry and almost invariably have the air of people who think that they care more for their children than other parents do.  No wonder that some people have a poor idea about home educators and get irritated at the mention of home education!

29 comments:

  1. This is a spot on blog post today, Simon!

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  2. They are total nutters and possibly even autonomous educators.

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  3. Simon is right, these people give a distorted view of home educators. A couple of my favourite comments...

    Oh No! What have I missed? A Cbeebies show, guess that's cos I was out with the children hanging out with a load of HE families and we had Fun! It was all a bit social but don't tell the children we were all learning:-)

    I don't watch CBeebies, neither do my kids - we're too busy living life to the full and learning from our experiences

    Someone said 'home education is not and never will be school! Also it takes place 24/7' why do home educators presume that children who go to school stop learning when they leave the school gate?

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  4. 'why do home educators presume that children who go to school stop learning when they leave the school gate?'

    This is something which has always puzzled me. It is true that home education gives plenty of time for purposive conversation and informal learning, but then so too do the evenings, weekends and school holidays which schooled children spend with their parents. Some parents feel that having a mixture of this type of learning and the more formal education at school, is an ideal balance. I did not think so, which is why I did not send my kid to school, but that does not mean that those parents who think like this do not have a point. One sometimes gets the feeling that a certain kind of home educator who is always banging on about how great it is for children to be learning at home, does not really believe that this happens with all children; whether or not they are attending school.

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  5. Agreed. I came to this site looking for information for a friend who wished to home educate as they lived in the middle of nowhere and an illness prevented her from driving. I liked the discussions on here so I visit now and again. My kids go to school. One of them is interested in steam engines, not something they teach at school so we bought a model of eBay and rebuilt it. We visit railways and steam shows and we talk to the owners. Another son loves languages he does French and German at school but learns mandarin at home and we meet up with a mandarin speaker now and again. They all love art galleries and we go and argue as they will not accept that most modern art is rubbish. We discuss but they make their own minds up. They all have interests that school does not cater for and we follow them at weekends and in the evening. I have no gripe with those who educate their kids at home but those who suggest that my kids aren’t being educated or even that they love their kids more than I do are beginning to get on my nerves. Sadly the minority speak louder than the rest who just get on with quietly home educating their kids.

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  6. Then maybe the non vocal majority, of whom I used to be part, need to start actively redressing the balance by making a point of being polite and reasonable even when they don't agree with the views being expressed?

    After all, freedom of speech includes freedom to disagree, and I'm sure the BBC get far odder messages each day than anything any of us can come up with.

    Atb
    Anne

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  7. Anne

    Your comments always appear polite and reasonable. The issue is those parents who are at the other end of the scale in their views and cannot or will not accept an alternative point of view.

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    Replies
    1. people wont be polite if they believe threats are being made to the way they wish to home educate such as the threats by crazy old Badman fully supported by Webb and his daughter

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  8. It's ridiculous to get all het up about this. They should save their ire for when CBeebies DOES get round to showing HE in one of their shows. No one will agree with how they do it. ;-)

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  9. People should be educating their children during the set hours of 9-3, shouldn't they? I can't understand how they have so much time on their hands if they are teaching their children full time. Instead they spend their days and nights commenting on Facebook feeds and blog posts and arguing with people who have the audacity to send their children to school where a real education takes place!

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    Replies
    1. people who home educate can and will spend as long as they want on Facebook or blogs and will not keep to 9 till 3

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    2. The EHE guidelines make it clear that EHE isn't delivered during set hours, so no to 9 -3. Even doing IGCSE and KS3 we find that working HARD (and I mean working, not looking out of windows or finding good reasons why you shouldn't have to do something) means you can clear the sit down part of the day in around 3 hours, leaving the rest of the time free for reading, seeing friends, doing craft etc.

      I tend to do my posting during the times when my 2 are working because they like to have me around in case they have questions and I like them to do their work without needing me standing over them. Then I do my own work in the evening when they're in bed.


      Btw, what do you consider a real education? I'm not being snippy or point scoring, but genuinely curious, because the hardest question I had to answer when we were working out how we'd home educate was what I actually meant by the word 'education'and I'm still not sure I've got it sussed now. And if Simon's reading this, then would that make a good theme for a post?

      Atb
      Anne

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    3. A real education is one that covers the main subjects like English, Maths, History, Geography and Science and is taught by specialists in their subject. Parents cannot possibly specialise in each subject.

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    4. You've fallen rather badly at the first hurdle - failing to distinguish important subjects such as Physics and Chemistry and bundling them into Science - but that's true of a great many schools.

      Very few school teachers are truly competent specialists in their subject; I'd like to see them spend a decade or two earning a living by using their subject outside of school before letting them think they are such specialists.

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    5. Does that mean that primary school isn't a proper education then? As far as I can see from the DfE website, the basic qualifications for primary school teaching are Maths, English and a Science at Grade C and a degree in just about anything.

      As a horrifying thought, with my qualifications, I could go straight into a school tomorrow under the School Direct Training Programme. I don't know who'd be more terrified of the idea. Me, the school, or the poor children I'd be inflicted on.

      Atb
      Anne

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  10. I cringed, too, at many of the posts on that page, but have you actually watched the programme in question? By sheer coincidence, my youngest asked to watch it in iplayer last night, so I thought I'd do the responsible thing and watch it with him, open for a discussion... I was a little taken aback at quite how extreme it was. I'm sure it was an honest mistake, and that the writers had simply never heard of home ed, but all the comments talking about it as "goverment propaganda" sound a lot less paranoid if you actually watch the show!

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  11. 'A real education is one that covers the main subjects like English, Maths, History, Geography and Science '

    I agree with this entirely, although the second past of this comment is open to doubt:

    'taught by specialists in their subject. Parents cannot possibly specialise in each subject.'

    I am no teacher, nor am I a specialist in anything, but that did not prevent my child from gaining eight A* IGCSEs in physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics, English language, English literature, history and religious studies. Nor did it stop her passing Grade 2 piano, Grade 5 classical guitar and Grade 6 Acting. This is not unusual among home educating parents. So while I agree with what you mean by a real education, I cannot agree that a parent is unable to deliver this.

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  12. 'I was a little taken aback at quite how extreme it was. '

    I agree that the thing is a little creepy and puts one in mind of the conditioning in Brave New World, but I think that it was well meant. Almost all children will go to school and anything which reduces anxiety about it is probably a good thing. The programme made it clear that parents, siblings, computers, comics and games also teach things. At the end, the children were invited to consider if learning ended when children stopped going to school which was a thought -provoking idea for young children.

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  13. 'And if Simon's reading this, then would that make a good theme for a post?'

    No definitive answer to this question was ever reached in the Webb household. I think that home educating fathers often have a different view on this to mothers. This can lead to problems; see John Stuart Mill and Ruth Lawrence!

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    Replies
    1. That's the problem, isn't it, Simon? So many people want to define something that can't be defined.

      'All' I want from their education is for them to have a set of skills to take them anywhere they want to go, be they academic or life skills.

      If I manage that then I thought once they've grown up I might have a go at world peace and a cure for cancer.

      Anne

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  14. "I think that it was well meant"

    I don't doubt it, but funnily enough, that's also true of a great many things that turn-out very badly. I suspect very few things are meant badly, at least in the beginning.

    The road to hell...

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