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?

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

National Schools Film Week

Like many home educating parents, I frequently used to muscle in on school activities at museums, zoos and anywhere else I could manage. Lectures, handling sessions, behind the scenes tours; you name it and I would be there, tagging along with my young daughter and trying to look like all the other teachers. Sometimes, we would get chucked out, often nobody had the nerve to challenge us. Those were great days! There were events organised with schoolchildren in mind to which only a few home educators actually turned up. I remember with particular pleasure the Zimbabwean sculpture workshop at the Natural History Museum in South Kensington. The idea was to make the museum more accessible and attractive for black schoolchildren and so they engaged three Zimbabweans to teach the kids how to carve soapstone using traditional, African methods. They had budgeted for thirty schoolchildren; in the event, nobody at all turned up, apart from  five home educating parents and their kids, all of whom were white. This meant that my daughter had virtually one-to-one tuition in sculpting stone for a whole afternoon.

I have been thinking about all this because of the fuss going on on various home education lists and on the Facebook page of the National Schools Film Week. As some home educators will know, this offers free showings of films at cinemas to schoolchildren. Not just schoolchildren, of course, home educated children can also go along if they want; we did ourselves when my daughter was younger. The details of this event may be found here:

Now because this is aimed primarily at schoolchildren and is free, many teachers book up parties of kids to go to see films and then don’t bother to turn up. This is precisely what happened with the Zimbabwean sculpture workshop which I mentioned above. The result might be a cinema opening and showing a film for just three or four children. To prevent this happening, the charity behind this, Film Education, have decided that they want at least ten children at each showing, just to make it worthwhile for everybody to turn up and run the projector and so on. They are also threatening to ’fine’ schools £50 if they book up a sessions and then don’t turn up. Anybody see anything wrong with all this? Of course not, it is perfectly reasonable. Cue the sort of mad response in which some home educators specialise. This is ‘discrimination’ and ‘bias’ against home educators. It is outrageous, how dare they try and prevent home educated children from joining in this event!

See what happens when you try to get home educators to follow exactly the same rules as everybody else? The comments on the face book page are now boiling over with rage and people are threatening legal action against the charity. You couldn’t, as they say, make it up! On the HE-UK list, people are being urged to bombard the charity’s website with angry messages. There is also a bizarre suggestion that the Charity Commission should be contacted. Let’s see what the stated aim of the charity is, according to the information which they supplied to the Charity Commission:


See the mention of teachers and schoolchildren? This is because the charity is really concerned with schools. They don’t mind home educated children joining in the activities, but on the same terms as everybody else. Which is of course sheer anathema for many home educating parents…

It is idiots like this who give home education the bad name which it has with many ordinary people who might otherwise feel well disposed or at least neutral towards the idea. Instead of just jogging along and working the system like everybody else, they always seem to need special consideration. 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. No wonder so many people grow weary of their antics and get the impression that all home educators are either bloody-minded barrack-room lawyers or else frankly just raving mad.

Monday, 27 August 2012

The trouble with ALAN

It is not uncommon to read or hear statements by home educating parents to the effect of, ‘we have decided not to do GCSEs’. Since it is usually parents who possess both the money and knowledge to arrange the things, this may be better translated as, ’I have decided that my child will not be taking any GCSEs’.

I have discussed before here the disadvantages for home educated children of not having GCSEs. These range from difficulty in getting a place at college when they are sixteen to limiting the choice of university at eighteen or nineteen. Still, as I have been reminded, not everybody wishes to go into further or higher education. Some young people are eager to enter the world of work at once. Here too, problems can arise form the decision not to sit GCSEs. When over 99% of children in the country are taking GCSEs or IGCSEs, those without a single one to their name do tend to stand out somewhat and not in a favourable way. The news that a sixteen or seventeen year old has not attended school for some years and has no GCSEs suggests to many potential employers that he has either been excluded, has learning difficulties and/or has feckless parents. This is an unfortunate impression to be creating when looking for work! Not everybody is familiar with home education and even those who have heard of it can have difficulty working out whether or not a child who has been subjected to this experimental procedure has the necessary skills to make him a valuable member of the workforce. In short, how does the employer know that this young person can read and write, carry out arithmetical operations and so on? For many parents , the answer is for their  child to sit adult literacy and numeracy tests.

Here is some information about adult literacy and numeracy tests or ALAN for short:

These are pretty popular with home educating parents as a way of proving that their child is literate. They are supposedly the equivalent of a GCSE, although in reality they are nothing of the sort. They certainly demonstrate that a teenager can read, write and do simple sums, but that is about it. Still, surely this is better than nothing? It at least provides some evidence for an employer that an applicant is not utterly lacking in academic skills. Sadly, these things are not a brilliant advertisement for children. The very phrase, ’adult literacy’,  brings forth images and associations to the average mind which would better be left untouched.

For the ordinary person, the expression ’adult literacy’ is connected with ’illiteracy’. Adult literacy courses, adult literacy qualifications and so on are widely thought to be remedial activities undertaken by adults who did not learn to read and write while they were at school. This is not at all the impression that one hopes to make when applying for a job; that one was until recently illiterate! Most employers glance at educational qualifications and want only to see five ’good’ GCSEs. Anything less than this marks an applicant out at once and not in a good way. The thought that somebody has not attended school and as a result has taken adult literacy qualifications is not really a good start.

Parents might think a little carefully about how their child will present to the outside world in later years. It is all well and good that home educated children are, at least according to their parents, cleverer, more sensitive, spiritual, creative and compassionate than other children. None of this will be much use if they look to outsiders like hopeless dropouts that have been learning to read and write at remedial classes!

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

The fight for children’s rights

The struggle to provide children with rights and end their status as mere chattels or belongings of their parents has been a long and bitter one. At every stage, the cry by parents has been the same; ‘The state has no business intruding in family life and is harming the rights of parents by doing so.’

In the 19th Century, many children were forced to work down mines and up chimneys from an unbelievably early age. They had no rights in the matter at all. Each time some piece of legislation prevented, for example, children under the age of ten from going down coal mines; there was outrage, principally from parents. How dare the state dictate to mothers and fathers what their children should or should not do? This was an assault upon the rights of parents and indeed the very institution of the family. If a father could sell his eight year-old son to a chimney sweep for £5, what on earth business was it of anybody else?

Nowhere was this outrage more indignantly expressed than when the government tried to secure the right of children to receive an education. The 1861 Newcastle Report into the State of Popular Education in England summed the case up neatly. It said:

Any universal compulsory system appears to us neither attainable nor desirable. An attempt to replace an independent system of education by a compulsory system, managed by the government, would be met by objections, both political and religious.

Wiser counsels prevailed and in 1870 the Elementary Education Act was passed, popularly known as Forster’s Act. A decade later, education was made compulsory for all children between the ages of five and ten and there was a huge uproar. Parents led the complaints, comparing the British government with that of Prussia; a grave insult indeed! The crux of the matter was that this was an erosion of parents’ rights to raise their children as they saw fit. Compulsory education was an attack on the family. In the ten years following the making of education compulsory for children, prosecutions of parents for the non-attendance at school of their children were running at over a hundred thousand a year. It was the commonest offence in England, apart from drunkenness.

Every single attempt to increase the rights of children, which of course means giving greater duties to their parents, has been met by strong opposition by parents. The governments of the day have had to lead the way, fighting apathy, sloth and reactionary parents in order to furnish children with more legal rights and protection under the law.

In recent years, we have seen two examples of this tendency. One has been the efforts of the legislature to make it a criminal offence to strike children. This has met with only limited success. Parents have fought ferociously to retain their right to beat children. Incredibly, even now in the 21st Century, there are those in this country who feel that they should enjoy the ’right’ to hit their kids! Any attempt to abolish this ’right’ is met by howls of protest and the familiar claim that the state is intruding where it has no business to be; that is to say into family life.

The other recent example of this reactionary and backward-looking trend is of course the campaign by some parents a few years ago to force the state not to enquire to closely into whether or not children were receiving a suitable education. Again, parental ’rights’ were cited and the government was told that any move to check up if children not attending school were actually being educated was an attack on the family by the state. Just as when the 1870 Elementary Education Act was being planned, the case of Germany was brandished by parents fighting against any diminution of their supposed rights. That this was essentially about the rights of parents and not of children can easily be seen by the language being used. The right of children to an education was scarcely mentioned, it was all about the ’right’ of parents to home educate.

Although the calling of a general election in 2010 ended the hopes for this latest extension of children’s rights, the cause is not entirely lost. A first step would be at the very least the registration of all children who are not attending school. Such a move is now planned by Wales and there are signs that Scotland too has such a scheme in mind. If this happens in those two countries, then introducing such registration in England would be merely an exercise in bringing this country into line with what is happening elsewhere in the United Kingdom. As has always happened throughout history, the reactionaries will howl their protests, but we must hope that this time they do not get their own way and that one more step is taken in ensuring that the most vulnerable members of society are properly protected and furnished with the rights that they deserve.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Ostensible and real motives for home educating

Something which I have begun to suspect in recent years is that those who choose not to send their children to school are generally  motivated by something a little deeper than the reasons which they give to others. This is certainly the case with me and also with many of the home educating parents who open up about their past lives.

I was looking again at the blog written by the mother who left this country to avoid trouble with social services about her children’s welfare. One entry is written in the third person about a child who, I gather from the comments, is actually her. She says:

Once upon a time there was a 6 year old school-girl...
She was skinny & freckly & a little bit plain & awkward.
She hated school & had few friends. She was always much happier at home.
Sometimes she would be picked on by the other pupils for not being 'typical' or conforming to the 'norms'...

One of those commenting on this, also a well-known British home educator, says,

That could have been me, although they did not know I was bright they criticised all the time and I got two years of the bitchiest teacher going, she picked on and exposed the shy ones

Now neither of these two women have said in the past that they decided to home educate their children because they were themselves unhappy at school. In fact I have never seen or heard of such a claim anyway being made by a home educating parent. It is just that when we do hear home educators mentioning their childhood experiences of school, certain patterns seem to emerge. Typically, these include being unhappy at school, having few friends, being isolated and teachers who fail to recognise genius or at the very least talent and high ability. I am not about to name names, but this constellation of life events has been observed in very many high profile home educators, as well as an awful lot of others.

It is fascinating to relate this to my own experiences and apparent motives for home educating. Now I have often said that I was motivated by the realisation that I could give my child a far better individualised education than she would receive at school. I have also said that I believed that God has given us a duty to direct our children’s upbringing and education. Both of these motives are perfectly true, but they are in a sense ’cover stories’. The fact is that I hated school and did not feel inclined to inflict upon my own daughter something which I found so loathsome and distressing. I have noticed just this same phenomenon in so many other parents. You learn that they took their kid out of school because she was being bullied or had some obscure special educational need that was not being effectively catered for. Then, some time later, it comes to light that the parent herself hated school and was very unhappy there.

The truth of the matter is, I think, that so ingrained in our culture is sending your children off to school, that it takes a little more than a calm and balanced decision to break with the tradition of schooling and decide to go it alone. Very many children are bullied, many are on the autistic spectrum or have school phobia; very few of the parents of these children take the step of removing their child from school entirely as a remedy for the problem. It takes something a little extra to prompt such an eccentric move and this is often provided by the flashbacks suffered by the parent about her own school days.

I would be interested to hear what readers think about this. How many thoroughly enjoyed their time at school and who was unhappy; did anybody feel that her ability was overlooked by the teachers? I am not, as I say, going to give names, but I have collected a huge number of personal reminiscences from different sources which cover practically every well-known home educator or researcher of whom most of us have ever heard. All tend in this   same direction.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

On the nature of rights

Readers are probably aware of the home educating parent who fled the country a few months ago, with the assistance of Maire Stafford, Neil Taylor and others. She is now settled in Ireland, from which country she writes a blog detailing the persecution which she claims to have suffered in this country. Reading this provides a perfect example of the sort of disordered thinking which afflicts so many British home educators. Here is an extract:

You may THINK you have the right to freedom, privacy, autonomy of thought & deed... water, food shelter... a vote, equality, peace... education, heath care, social welfare, free speech... to not be victimised or offended or endangered or killed... but the 'rights' you believe yourselves to have are not written in stone... & I actually gravely doubt the reality of many of them... they are but a mirage. They are merely privileges accredited to us by others... they are hard won & can be easily lost.

Now there is nothing actually wrong with this; it is more the construction that she places upon the facts that is a little out of kilter. We will leave aside the idea that any of us have a right not to be offended, surely a strange idea, and examine her surprise at the possibility that the ‘rights’ which we are accorded might change over time. This is clearly of course a cunning piece of special pleading. Like so many home educating parents, she believes that she is possessed of a ‘right’ to educate her own children and believes that this ‘right’ could be under threat. It might help if we considered the general idea of rights.

‘Rights’ are not of course a natural phenomenon like gravity or light. It would be absurd to talk of an oak tree’s ‘right’ to water and light. Rights exist only in the human world and are something devised by humans. That is the first point. The second is that ‘rights’ are constantly changing; some appear, while others vanish. So far, I agree with the exiled home educator whom I quote above. Where I differ from her is that she seems to regard this as some alarming discovery to which she must draw our attention so that we can join her in being opposed to the situation. To me though, this continuous varying of rights  it is a very  proper activity. Why is it a good thing? Let us consider a couple of rights which, thankfully, no longer exist.

Until 1991, a wife could not be raped by her husband. A man had a ‘right’ to have sex with his wife, even when she withheld  her consent. This had been tested a number of times in the courts and upheld. I wonder how many readers were sorry to see the loss of that ‘right’? Helping a slave to escape in this country was as one time a violation of the ‘rights’ of the owner of the slave. It was tantamount to theft of his property. Here again is a ‘right’ which has been abolished. Most of us are glad about this. The right to an education was only guaranteed by law to children in this country in the late 19th century. This right has been modified in the past, with regard to school leaving age and other things and will certainly be changed in the future.

I have remarked before, that many home educating parents in this country are reactionaries in this question of rights. They are fearful of change and see any change in rights as being a bad move and one likely to harm their interests. I am sure that slave owners in the 18th century felt just the same when their ‘rights’ were under threat! Those of us with a more open view of the matter are glad to see change and recognise that rights and duties in a society are always fluctuating in this way; some increasing and others diminishing. New laws about education, immigration, work, social security and many other things will confer new rights and remove others. This is how history progresses. It seems to me that a lot of home educators, like the one in Ireland mentioned above, wish only for things to remain as they are. If they had had their way and a change in the law had been resisted by interested parties, then the 1991 judgement which had the effect of outlawing marital rape would not have taken place. At every touch and turn, they oppose change and ask nothing more than for the current collections of rights to remain fossilised. You will observe that she expresses regret that the rights which we now have are not set in stone. Nothing would be more terrible than for this to happen.

The rights of parents and children with regard to education are not a special catagory which should be immune from change. Sometimes they are extended and at other times restricted. Each change is advocated by some and resited by others. There can never be unanimous approval of any new right or abolition of an old one; the best we can hope for is wide agreement, following which those of us who differ in our view of the matter must go along with the majority.  Instead of digging our heels in and stubbornly fighting against any extension to children's rights or diminuation of the rights of parents, we should  ask ourselves only what best enhances the rights of the vulnerable party in the case. To give one final example, until fairly recently parents had the 'right' to beat their children. This right has now largely been removed. I think that removing this parental  'right' was a good idea, because it had the effect of increasing the rights of children. This is precisely how I see the current debate about home edcuation; as an attempt to decrease parental 'rights' and increase those of their children.

Friday, 17 August 2012

'Cruelty to children

One of the less attractive features of the campaign against Graham Badman’s proposals becoming law, was the psychological cruelty inflicted by a number of parents upon  their children, some of whom had special educational needs. During my own daughter’s childhood, I always conceived it to be a major part of my duty,  to protect her from distress and shield her from worry. To reassure her, in fact, that she was safe and that there was nothing to worry about.  This was not at all the line taken by some home educating parents in the run-up to the passage of the Children, Schools and Families Bill through parliament! For them, this was a golden opportunity to make their children anxious and in some cases hysterical with fear; simply so that they could claim that their children were being harmed by the very discussion of increased regulation of home education.

This is not a history lesson and if this sort of cruelty had ended with the abandonment of the CSF Bill in 2010, there would be little point in raking over the ashes. Unfortunately, it has not and there are still parents who are determined to exploit vulnerable children in order to make political capital of them. Consider this, which was less than three months ago:

Look at the advice given in the above post:

Always tell your children how much you love them and how, if ever they were taken from you, you would never, ever stop looking for them. Encourage them to respect their instincts and always to question the morality of authority. Make sure they learn their personal details as soon as they are old enough and tell them that wherever they are and whatever the circumstances they can always contact you.

I can imagine nothing more likely to terrify a young child out of her wits than to suggest the possibility that she might be snatched from the security of her family. It is the sort of thing which would cause most children to lay awake at night in terror, waiting to be taken. Why would you do that to your child? The answer is that you can then use your child’s response to brandish at local authorities or other people who wish to discuss a change in the law. ‘Look,’ you can tell them, ‘You have upset my child and she is now nervous and clingy, because she is frightened that social workers are about to snatch her away from her family.’

This was done by quite a few parents during the aftermath of the Badman Review. They used to boast about it on various lists. One mother announced that her son, who had developmental problems and was on the autistic spectrum, had had a ‘major meltdown’ when she told him that the authorities would be able to take  him away from her for interrogation alone! I had hoped that mistreatment of this sort had ended, but judging from some of the things I have been hearing lately, it has not. There are still parents frightening their children in this way and warning them that the government wants to enter their homes and perhaps take them from their families.

I am expecting to see more of this sort of thing when the enquiry starts in Wales about the possibility of registration of home educated children. Incidentally, despite Alison Sauer’s irritation at my mentioning the proposals contained in the bill which the Welsh Assembly hopes  to pass in the next year or so, I observe that others have picked up on the thing since I posted about it here. As I suspected, few people knew of it, but this has now been remedied. I am all in favour of change in the law, but I certainly believe that it should be discussed openly beforehand.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Our opponents…

On one of the major home education lists recently, somebody commenting referred to ‘our opponents’; meaning those in the government and local authorities who seek to introduce measures such as the registration of home educators. This casual remark was revealing in the extreme, because this is just precisely how some parents educating their children at home view the ‘authorities’.

For over twenty years I had professional dealings with local authority officers in various capacities. My wife is a social worker and most of our friends are either social workers or teachers. I can truthfully say that I have never in all that time encountered a single local authority officer or social worker who was opposed in principle to home education. A few teachers are, but that is only to be expected. Having spent years training for what they believe to be a profession, it is irritating to see a bunch of amateurs undertaking the same kind of work with no training. Their reaction is pretty much what you would expect of a federation of plumbers if they heard of a movement which encourage people to carry out their own repairs on pipes. They don’t like it and predict that it will end in disaster!

As for everybody else, all the professionals apart from teachers, many of them  certainly want extra safeguards and checks, but nobody is opposed to home education. I spoke to Graham Badman three years ago and I did not get the least feeling that he was opposed to home education either. I have also met some of the more notorious figures from home education departments in various parts of the country, individuals like Myra Robinson and Tony Mooney. None of these people are ’opponents’ of home education.

The rules, regulations and laws regarding practically every activity known to humanity are changing all the time. This is the case whether we are talking about forestry, smoking in cinemas, commercial kitchens, driving, education or anything else you care to think of. It strikes me that many home educators are having difficulty with the concept of change. They are reactionaries, who want everything to remain just as it has always been in the past. This is not a realistic wish; all things are in a state of flux and nowhere is this more true that of human society and institutions. Instead of treating those who want the law to change as enemies, we would perhaps do better to work with them to hammer out a new set of arrangements which, while not fully satisfying either side, might perhaps be just about acceptable to all. Thinking of those who seek change as ’opponents’ is singularly unhelpful and will, in the long run, prove damaging to the best interests of all home educators.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Conformity and orthodoxy among well-known home educators

I have remarked before that an awful lot of the more well known home educators seem to conform to a fairly rigid stereotype. They tend to be left wing politically, often opposed to vaccination, prone to conspiracy theories, in favour of organic food; that sort of thing. I could draw up a profile of the typical high-profile home educator without too much difficulty. I have come across two recent examples of this tendency to conformity. The first is  that mother who was, allegedly, forced to flee the country in order to protect her children from social services involvement. I am sure that most of us remember the appeal which was circulating on the forums and lists three months ago, beginning;


A well-known member of the HE community and trusted friend needs our help. The person's family is facing a possible court order and they felt the need to leave the country very quickly in order to protect the children from unfounded interference based on home education as a risk factor.

It was signed by many of the usual suspects, including Maire Stafford, Barbara Stark, Alison Preuss and Neil Taylor. Readers will be relieved to hear that this unfortunate and persecuted woman made it safely to Ireland. What precipitated her flight? Let her tell us in her own words:

A few months ago I shamefully attended a meeting about how to obtain Organic Food, leaving my young children in the care of their 17yr old brother, when I should have been at home washing the clothes... This led to scrutiny from 'authority' figures & caused me to commit a further sin of defying that 'authority' when it sought to persecute myself & my family for my wayward ways, particularly my disgraceful choice to educate my children outside of the state system or allow my parenting, educational provision, or moral scruples to be inspected & dictated by dubiously qualified 'experts'

It just had to be a meeting about organic food! Mind, one feels instinctively that there is more to the case than meets the eye. Leaving a seventeen year-old babysitting is a fairly common thing to do; how did the ‘authorities’ even hear of this?  The whole of this explanantion appears to be written in code. I have heard of local authorities wishing to check on educational provision, but when was the last time you had a man from the council knocking on the door because he wanted to inspect your 'moral scruples'? It would be interesting to know if anything happened to any of the younger children being looked after by the seventeen year-old and how this family first came to the attention of social services in the first place.

The other well-known home educator whose views are exceedingly orthodox for this type of individual is Alison Sauer. While idly looking at her Facebook page, I noticed that her interests include attachment parenting and support of Dr Wakefield; the maniac who started off the whole autism and vaccination scare. Alison Sauer, needless to say, thinks he was right and is opposed to the triple vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella…

As others have pointed out here before, we cannot judge all home educators by those whom we see on the Internet; for which I thank the Lord! However, these people are influential and thousands of people belong to lists and forums where their views are propagated. Their bizarre thoughts and weird belief-systems therefore have a way of filtering down to other home educating parents, via groups composed in the main of normal people. It only takes one of two evangelical mothers who spend a lot of time on Home Ed Biz or HE-UK to spread alarm about things from a particular slant in an ordinary home educating support group. It is certainly worth keeping an eye on the ideas to which many of them subscribe, for this reason alone.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

The Christian connection

I hope that readers will forgive my dropping out of sight for a few days at a time when things get really busy on the writing front. I habitually write more than one book at a time theses days, which can make things pretty hairy as deadlines approach

I observed some rather virulent ant-Christian comments on a recent thread, which is interesting. Whenever a group like the Home School Legal Defense Association tries to get a foothold in this country, there are cries of protest from some British home educators. The general basis for those the objections is that the HSLDA are mad Christians who believe in Adam and Eve, hate gays and beat their children. Such people are contrasted unfavourably with our own liberal and progressive home education movement. Why, you only have to look at the terminology; home ‘school’, indeed!

I find all this curious, because of course home education in this country is also packed to the gunwales with Christians on all levels. This Christian influence is evident from top to bottom in the main organisations and is also pretty obvious at a local level too. To give a few random examples, the Chair of Education Otherwise is a very devout woman who is closely involved with her local Congregational chapel and Mike Fortune-Wood of HE-UK was until recently married to an Anglican priest. On a regional level, home educators in one southern English county have a strong and productive relationship with their local authority. Arrangements are made in this way for children to take GCSEs if their parents wish them to do so. All this is largely the work of two women; one of whom is a Jehovah’s Witness and the other a staunch Calvinist.

Not all Christians make a song and dance about their faith on the lists and forums and sometimes it only comes to light in passing that this person or that is religious. There are of course many home educating parents who have no dealings at all with the Internet groups and Christianity is often a strong feature there too. In my own county of Essex, for instance, there are probably more home educators who do not attend home educating groups or hang around on the net than those who do. Up near the port of Harwich there are many Witnesses who educate their own children and there is also a community of Hutterites living out in the sticks whose children never go to school.

I have a strong suspicion that Christianity is as powerful a motive for home education in this country as it is in the USA. Perhaps because church going is not as common in the United Kingdom, some of these parents do not make quite such a production of their faith as many Americans are apt to do. At any rate, I think it would be a mistake to assume that home education is mainly secular in this country and to contrast it in this way with the situation in the USA.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Home educated children being registered at a school

As with so many ideas that we in this country adopt, the idea of home educated children being enrolled at a state school has been operating in the USA for some years. Here is a piece about this:

A quick reminder about Alison Sauer's guidelines

This will be the last time I mention Alison Sauer and her guidelines, but I feel that it is important that we recall just what was so terribly wrong about the things and how they would have been a disaster for home education in this country. Many home educated children in this country have special educational needs of one sort or another.   The guidelines produced under a Alison Sauer's direction stated bluntly and unambiguously;

A Local Authority is responsible for any child of compulsory school age that has been brought to their attention as having, or probably having, special educational needs'

In other words, had these become the statutory guidelines, they would have created a situation where if somebody told the local authority that she thought your home educated child was  'probably' dyslexic, then responsibility for his  education would have passed to the local authority. This was either bungling on an industrial scale or a deliberate attempt to transfer parental responsibility for education to local authorities. And with that, I leave this unhappy subject...

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Another Serious Case Review about the death of a home educated child

It is often claimed that the review of home education by Graham Badman was triggered by the death of Khyra Ishaq. It is true that this rather spurred people into action, but it was only the latest in a series of  cases involving children being educated at home which were causing concern in the years prior to Badman being asked to look at home education. Here is one of the other cases which made people think that something needed to be done:

On living an unconventional lifestyle

One of the great things about this country is that one can follow an eccentric way of life without anybody much minding. You might get the occasional funny look or the odd raised eyebrow, but generally speaking if you want to sit around drinking whiskey all day or not get out of bed until three or four in the afternoon or refuse to send your child to school; nobody will care. Why should they? It is nothing to them if you develop cirrhosis of the liver or end up with an uneducated child. As long as you don’t expect them to pay for the whiskey you consume, most people will be happy for you to get on with it. The problem arises when you wish to pursue an unconventional lifestyle and also expect others to subsidise it. Under those circumstances, some people are apt to get a little ratty about the whole business! Before going any further, I should perhaps remark that at various times in my life I have spent all day drinking whiskey, not risen from my bed until the late afternoon and also refused to send my child to school! I am not censorious about anybody else's way of life.

Every time there is a change in the regulations governing social security, some home educators get cross,  claiming  that it is not fair and that they will be forced to send their children to school as a result of what is happening. In other words, it is felt that they should not only be free to pursue a course of action that many people regard as being very strange, that is to say not sending their children to school, but that other people should pay for them to follow this lifestyle by giving them some of their taxes!

At various times in the past it has been both easier and harder to claim benefits. In the 1930s, it was very difficult. In the 1970s, it was very easy. It is currently fairly easy, but getting harder. There are still people who are indeed drinking whiskey all day and being subsidised by other taxpayers , but this is coming to an end. I am referring of course to those unfortunate folk who suffer from the disability which was once known as dipsomania. The changes taking place have nothing to do with home education and most ordinary people would approve of a situation where parents who do not wish to send their children to state schools should fund the alternative provision out of their own pockets.

I am guessing that as the Universal Credit system comes into operation, this is going to be a great cause of complaint in the coming months and years. It is a complete nonsense. Those who do not wish to avail themselves of the maintained schools in this country are free to reject them. What they are not free to do is call upon the public purse as a matter of right to help pay for any alternative.

Home education conference

Somebody remarked wryly that this conference in Wales on home education has only one Welsh home educating parent speaking. The rest are either professionals or people from outside Wales.

Interesting to note that while both Fiona Nicholson and  Louisa Haywood-Samuel are happy to acknowledge that they are home educating parents, Alison Sauer carefully avoids mentioning this; the reason being that she wishes to present herself as a professional and not a parent. Precisely why she is taking part in this conference when she does not live in Wales is a question which several people have raised in emails to me! I am beginning to see why she was irritated at my mentioning home education in Wales on this blog; she thought that I was poaching on her preserves.

Another Serious Case Review involving the death of a home educated child

A few days ago I posted details of a Serious Case Review from Barking and Dagenham which involved the death of a home educated child. Here is one from Wales, which apparently has some bearing on the decision of the Welsh Assembly to look at the compulsory registration of home educated children:

Monday, 6 August 2012

New incarnation of company concerned with home education

Puzzling over Alison Sauer's massive, and on the face of it inexplicable, irritation about my blog post on Welsh home education caused me to poke around a little and look at her business interests. I find that she is now running a new incarnation of the old Sauer Consultancy company. Details may be seen here:

The emphasis of this company seems to be flexi-schooling. See this group for a little more insight into Alison’s work in that field:

Here are a few recommendations of Alison’s new company;

“Flexischooling has enabled us to develop true

partnerships with the parents. They contribute to the

curriculum and are involved in forward planning for

the school. There is no division between the children

in the playground. In fact, the only difference is that

the fl exischooling children want to fi nish their work

and not be restricted by the bell. I’d say that’s a good

thing.” Simon East, headteacher, Erpingham Primary

School, Norfolk

“Flexischooling has lead to us widening the horizons

for education provision. We even have one high

functioning autistic child on roll who will shortly

have a teaching assistant regularly attending

the home because we can fund it through the

fl exischooling model.” Janette Mountford-Lees,

headteacher, Hollingsclough School, Staffordshire

But hey, it’s not just head teachers who are so keen on Alison Sauer and her  company. Here is a ringing endorsement from a crony of Roland Meighan;

‘. Alison is doing amazing work across the country and working in close contact with the DfE‘

Working in close contact with the Department for Education? I bet she is! Readers might recall that a few weeks ago I drew attention to the draft of the new guidelines on home education, drawn up by a group led by Alison Sauer and including Mike Fortune-Wood. I noted that the members of this group were on first name terms with the MP who is currently chair of the Education Committee and had written on the draft various peremptory instructions to civil servants at the Department for Education. Things like;

‘This section needs completing by someone in the DfE with more knowledge than I have of the process’

‘I’m sure you can find someone to do this one Graham!’

Since Alison Sauer is ‘working in close contact with the DfE’, this is not at all surprising. Mike Fortune-Wood’s involvement is a little more curious and slightly suspicious, since for months he flatly denied having anything at all to do with the project. I am interested to find Alison Sauer, Mike Fortune-Wood and an organisation connected with Roland Meighan; all apparently on the best of terms with the Department for Education. I shall have more to say about this soon.

Home education in Wales

A few links so that those interested in the subject of home education in Wales can find out a little more.

Beware; dangerous and inflammatory!

I must warn readers that they are about to read something which is inflammatory, perverse and conveys a sense of urgency and danger. Brace yourselves against some heavy piece of furniture and prepare to be alarmed. Ready?

Just on the offchance that nobody else has noticed, I thought that I would mention that next month a bill will be introduced in Wales which will require home educators to register with their local authority.

I must apologise to those who found this something of a damp squib, but commenting here yesterday Alison Sauer was most disturbed by the thirty six words above. So disturbed in fact that she had over seven hundred words of her own to say about this brief post! She had a number of objections. The first was that instead of stating that the bill would be introduced next month, I should rather have said that it would be announced next month when the Welsh Assembly meets after the summer break. Mrs Sauer also felt that I should have explained that just because a bill is introduced, that does not mean that it will be passed. I thought it quite unnecessary to mention this. Surely, since the Badman debacle, there can be few home educators who are unaware that introducing a bill and getting it passed are two very different things?

Before going any further, I might mention that apparently some people did not know about all this until I posted about it here. Within hours of my post, the subject had appeared on various list relating to home education. It seems that I was right and this one had slipped past many people's notice. This makes Alison Sauer's irritation all the more difficult to understand. I may not have phrased it as precisely as I could have done, but surely she would be pleased for home educators to find out things like this that they did not know about?

Other objections to this short post made by  Alison were that it was inflammatory and designed to convey a sense of ‘immediacy, danger and urgency’. I am sorry if any readers were inflamed by reading it and apologise to those who felt that they were in immediate and urgent danger as a result. Perhaps in retrospect, it was a little thoughtless and irresponsible of me not to have chosen my words better. I must ask those who really were inflamed by this post to calm their passions. I am worried now that last night might have witnessed scenes in Cardiff like those from an old horror film, with  a crowd of yokels carrying flaming torches and armed with pitchforks attempting to storm the Welsh First Minister's home as consequence of reading my inflammatory post. The last thing I intended was to stir up the Welsh population to mutiny and I would be most distressed to hear that I had been the cause of any unpleasantness.

Nor was this all that Alison Sauer objected to. She was concerned that I was using secondary, rather than primary sources in a blog post. Now of course as somebody who writes history books for a living, I am perfectly familiar with the concept of primary and secondary sources. I have never in all my life though heard of anybody criticising a blog post for relying too heavily upon secondary sources. The explanation is of course that Alison and her husband are both history buffs. They read a lot on this subject and so it would be natural that they might seek to apply the tools of scholarship to a casual, thirty six word, personal blog post. Alas, to the rest of us, this might seem barking mad. Still, that is what it is like when you are absorbed in a hobby of that sort. So keen on history is she, that Alison Sauer dresses up at weekends to enact battles with the Sealed Knot. Those interested in such things can easily unearth  some charming  photographs of her on google, dressed as both  a Victorian barmaid and a 17th Century camp follower. No harm in that of course, but it does, as we saw yesterday, give one a rather skewed perspective when reading things that are not history books. Primary and secondary sources in a blog post, indeed!

One final point is that I was very puzzled about just how angry Mrs Sauer seemed to be about this little post. She was careful to point out that, ‘This is all I know and I have no involvement other than as an observer.’ Since that went without saying, I could not help but ask myself why she would tell us that and just why this business mattered so much to her. I did a little digging around and found that one list was saying that one person was already involved in the proposed consultation over the proposal to register home educators in Wales. This person ended by asking , “Guess who that is?’ I wondered if this was a hint about Alison Sauer.  I was curious and asked Alison if she had any particular interest in the thing. She says she does not.

I hope that this has reassured any readers who were inflamed or put in apprehension of danger by my drawing attention to what is being proposed in Wales. I read the post over and over and still cannot see that it is anything from which I might gain, as Alison Sauer puts it, ‘a perverse joy.’ Without giving away to many details of my private life, I think that I am prepared to share with readers the information that there are things in my life which do furnish me with perverse joys. Blogging about the activities of the Welsh Assembly is not one of them.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Wales introducing registratation of home educators

Just on the offchance that nobody else has noticed, I thought that I would mention that next month a bill will be introduced in Wales which will require home educators to register with their local authority.

What did Paula Rothermel really say about the sociability of home educated children?

I mentioned yesterday a quotation by Mike Fortune-Wood, typical of many which supporters of home education make when citing Paula Rothermel’s research to prove their points. He said:

Home educated children have been shown to be highly social, balanced and to mix well with other children and adults. (Paula Rothermel’s work).’

I then suggested that the sample used to establish this by Rothermel was small and that the instrument used was not in any case an accurate way of measuring the sociability of home educated children. In fact, Paula Rothermel herself agrees with both points; although for different reasons than mine. I don’t want to get drawn into a long debate about the precise numbers tested. There are discrepancies in the figures used, but I want to forget that and adopt a wholly different approach. Let us begin by assuming that the tests used by Paula Rothermel were in fact wonderfully accurate and that the samples she surveyed were perfectly adequate. In other words, I am conceding, purely for the purposes of debate, that we should accept all the conclusions to which this research points. Where does that leave us on the question of how balanced and social the home educated children at whom Rothemel’s work was directed, really were? Let us look at what she actually said.

Here are a few quotations from Paula Rothermel’s findings that you will seldom hear being bandied about in home educating circles:

‘the home-educated children here emerged as mostly 'Abnormal' in terms of their 'Prosocial Behaviour'.’

‘Socially, the SDQ found 61% of the home-educated children to exhibit 'abnormal' social behaviour,’

‘the home-educated sample demonstrated more signs of aggressive behaviours than the schoolchildren from the Rutter et al study, particularly for home-educated girls where aggressiveness was at 22.7% as opposed to 5.3% for Rutter's girls’

‘Theft amongst the home-educated boys was substantially higher than for the schoolchildren’

‘A comparison with the home-educated sample's data and that provided by Ekblad (1990) relating to previous studies, revealed that the home-educated children were more aggressive than the norm and that the girls' levels of anxiety was higher than those found in other studies.’

What has happened of course is that those in favour of home education select bits and pieces from the research which support their own views. It is perfectly possible to do the same if you wish to use Rothermel’s research to denounce home education! For example, she found that a quarter of the home educating sample had behavioural problems; far higher than the proportion found in most surveys of schoolchildren. How Rothermel wriggles out of these uncomfortable findings is a wonder to behold. Having carefully chosen the tests, she then discovers, when the findings are not as expected, that it is the tests themselves which are at fault. Obviously, one cannot expect home educated children to behave in the same way as school children. True, the children came out within the normal range overall on the psycho-social tests, but on purely social aspects, there were found to be serious difficulties.

I said nothing yesterday that Paula Rothermel has not herself said about this research. I drew attention to the small size of the sample and she admits that the sample was small. I queried whether the SDQ would give an accurate picture and she says that it does not. I am busy today, but I shall be writing more on this topic in a day or to. In the meantime, readers should look once more at the quotations by Paula Rothermel which I give above and ask themselves why they are unlikely to see them anywhere other than this blog.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Home Ed Grows Up

I am always interested in hearing what becomes of home educated children in later life. Here is one such, whom we must hope is not typical...

The research shows…

No real research has been undertaken on home education in this country. That being so, those who defend the practice are compelled to fall back on some pretty feeble work and hope that nobody will notice how shoddy it is. When a couple of months ago Janine Ainsworth, Chief Education Officer of the Church of England, said that home education was not a good idea, Mike Fortune-Wood was quick to leap in with what he thought was some evidence which discredited Ms Ainsworth’s view. See;

As usual, Mike Fortune-Wood’s statement contained some unintentionally hilarious passages. When he said, for example, that, ‘Practically all Home educated children take an active roll in their local communities.’, I don’t think that he was really suggesting that they tumble head over heels down hills, like so many Jack and Jills! Perhaps ‘role’ might have been a more felicitous choice of words. He went on to say, 'Home educated children have been shown to be highly social, balanced and to mix well with other children and adults. (Paula Rothermel’s work).' Which brings us neatly to the subject of feeble work and shoddy research.

It is astonishing how many people still trot out Paula Rothermel’s findings, under the apparent impression that they tell us anything useful about home education in this country. Let us see what they tell us about how social and balanced home educated British children are.

Reading about Paula Rothermel’s work, one often comes across large numbers. Thousands of questionnaires sent out, over four hundred families interviewed in depth; that sort of thing. The truth is a somewhat different. In February 1997, Rothermel sent out 2500 questionnaires to members of education Otherwise. A year later, she sent out a similar number, again only to members of Education Otherwise. Two hundred were also sent to religious groups and local authorities. A thousand were returned, of which four hundred and nineteen were chosen for further research. Already, we have run into a several serious problems.

The first difficulty is that this was a self-selected group, almost entirely from one organisation. (Twenty four out of twenty five of the questionnaires were sent only to members of Education Otherwise). Only a fifth of those asked, wished to take part by answering any questions. These are likely to be those whose home education was going well and who wished to tell others of it. In addition to this, they were people with high degrees of ‘document literacy’; those probably of a higher educational level than average. This is also suggested by the fact that a quarter of them were, or had been, school teachers. The final point to consider is that this was all fifteen years ago.

To sum up, the sample group of children tested fifteen years ago were self-selected members of a single organisation, whose educational standards were probably higher than average. Still, testing over four hundred children, even from an atypical group like this might still tell us something about home educated children. We now encounter two more difficulties which render the findings from this research project pretty well useless. The tests relating to social skills and the ability to get on with others were not administered to hundreds of children; not even a hundred children, nor even fifty. In fact the crucial tests about the ability of the children to get on with others and behave in a socialised way were only given to groups of twenty children. Not only that, but the parents did the tests, answering questions about their own children.

Here is one of the three tests used by Rothermel on twenty children:

Click on the one marked P4-16 to see it. Has anybody seen the problem with handing a parent a form of this sort and asking her to answer the questions about her own child? I wonder how many parents will admit that their own child often lies and cheats? Or whether the average parent is objective enough to admit that her son often fights with other children and bullies them? Parents are the worst possible people to ask about this sort of thing! We all stick up for our kids and gloss over their faults, even to ourselves. Nobody will get an objective assessment of my daughter from me and I suspect that other parents are the same. A much more reliable way of establishing this sort of thing is for teachers and nursery workers to fill out these forms based upon their observations of children.

As I say, this really important test, which has led many to make such extravagant claims about what research has shown about home educated children in this country, was given to only twenty children. The answers were all those given only by the children’s mothers or fathers. When people like Mike Fortune-Wood say things like the quotation above about research showing that home educated children are highly social, well balanced and mix well with other children, what they are really saying is this; ‘Fifteen years ago twenty parents of home educated children claimed that their children were sociable and well balanced’. That is it, the whole of the evidence for this often repeated assertion.

Intrusive local authorities

Those who complain about local authorities who are a little over zealous in their monitoring of home education might care to read this document;

To answer a few of the more predictable questions in advance; no, I do not think that home educated children are more likely to be abused than those at school, local authorities do indeed already have a range or powers which they seldom use and yes, I think it quite right that the primary responsibility for the education of children should remain with their parents.

It is still worth bearing in mind when dealing with local authorities who seem to be a little too eager to ask questions, that cases of this sort do take place and often put the wind up everybody as far as home education is concerned.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Teaching musical instruments which you do not yourself play

Somebody asked here a little while ago how it is possible to teach an instrument that you cannot play. I had to think a little about this, because the whole thing seemed so natural and obvious at the time that I was undertaking this aparently strange experiment. I am not very musical myself and so decided very early on that my daughter should be able to play at least two instruments and also appreciate music in a way that I do not.

Music is of course just another language, like mathematics or English. I have explained that at the age of two, I taught my daughter some written Chinese, but I might not have mentioned some other things that were going on at the same time. I had the English numbers up on her wall, but also Roman numerals, Chinese and Bengali. Getting her to grasp the concept of a notation for musical notes fitted into this scheme of things. The conventional letters assigned to notes are pointless, at least in the early stages and so I just gave her the sounds and taught her the notation directly. The sounds were produced by things like bottles partly filled with water, which I blew across. The note could be varied by adding water to the bottle. This also introduced the idea of music and sound as vibrations in air and led easily to the study of physics and the differing forms of transverse and longitudinal waves. Handy also for explaining the damage caused by earthquakes!

Having taught her the notation, getting her to manipulate a column of vibrating air was fairly simple. The recorder can be taught easily enough with the Usborne Book of the Recorder. I taught myself how to play the notes while she was in bed and then showed her how to do it the next day. Taking examinations with the recorder required a piano accompaniment and so we switched to the piano. Actually, we used an electronic keyboard, rather than a piano; the principle is the just the same. One does not need to be a music teacher to get the kid to play scales and simple tunes.

I then thought it would be interesting to teach an instrument of which I knew absolutely nothing at all; the guitar. For this, I decided against teaching myself to play the thing in any way, because I thought it might discourage my daughter. How much more exiting and satisfying for her to play something which I could not even get a single not out of! I bought a primer in guitar and then just supervised her learning. I might not be musical, but I can tell is a note is twangy or a chord not pleasing to the ear. I also can recognise if a scale is being played correctly. She was fascinated at the whole notion of learning something which I could not do and we worked at the guitar for seven years. She eventually passed Grade 5 in that and Grade 2 at piano.

At the same time, I was trying to get her to love music being played by others. I took her to concerts when she was still in her pushchair. Simple stuff first, Baroque and so on, but then as she got older I arranged for us to listen to some more complex and demanding things. When she was ten, we went see Das Rheingold when the ENO were doing it in London. Three and a half hours of Wagner with no interval! From this grew a love of opera and we then went on to see most of the popular ones such as Rigoletto, Aida, Carmen, Lucia, Die Fledermaus and so on. This became quite a hobby, in the course of which she developed a taste for some pretty unusual music. We did not stick to traditional stuff, but also saw things like Porgy and Bess and even, I am ashamed to admit, a couple of Gilbert and Sullivan pieces.

What is curious about this is that my first wife, who was Swedish, was a real opera fanatic and made me sit through a few. I hated it then, but when going with an enthusiastic child, I found myself starting to enjoy it. Of course, because she was only eleven or twelve at this time, I also took her to workshops run by the English National Opera on the things that they were currently doing. This was fun and also gave her an insight into the matter.

Inculcating a love of music, both playing and listening, is not that difficult in a small child. It requires a certain amount of single minded dedication, true, but then the education of the child was the business of my life. It was, quite literally, a full-time job and the eight or ten hours a week that were devoted to this aspect were only a tiny part of the whole. Her MP3 player is now filled with a mix of modern and old, with the music from Die Fledermaus being a particular favourite. It is vital as home educators that we ensure that our children are given at least as much opportunity to develop and learn as would be available at the best independent school. This means not restricting the education to things that we like ourselves or only teaching them  what we know. Music, drama and art are every bit as important as mathematics and chemistry for the child's development.  I have never been what one might describe as a cultured person, but that need be no handicap to teaching subjects like music.