Thursday, 22 October 2009

Home Education and Religion

Last week at the second select committee hearing, one Peter Traves of Staffordshire LA made a most incredible public faux pas. Or was it?

Mr Traves said:

"There are also parents who withdraw their children, I have to say, for particular religious view and wanted that religious view incultcating that child. It isn’t just about the rights of parents, it’s also about the rights of children…”

The implication being that to choose to home educate your child for religious reasons is wrong, and must not be allowed.

It seems it's hunting season for religious home educators, as even dear old Aunty have been getting in on the act too.

I don't suppose it would interest the likes of Mr Traves to know that in a recent diversity survey I conducted, of the 3.4% of home educators who said they did NOT include any information about other religions/life philosophies in their child's home education, 50% were atheists and 37% were agnostics!

As it happens, I am not a religious person. Indeed, having spent 3 years in a Catholic boarding school as a non baptised person, I have always been rather anti-religion. However, I have found myself in the position of defending people of faith in the last year or so, as they have come under ever greater attack from the system. This is particularly true for religious home educators. It seems that it is fine for a child to be *inculcated* with a state *religion* but absolutely unforgivable for a parent to want to pass on it's religious views and morals to their child.

This reminds me so very much of the DDR.

"While the DDR didn`t officially ban religion, it adopted social policies that had a devestating impact on religion. DDR policies hindered the free exercise of religion. East Germans who wanted to be profesionally successful didn't attend church. And the children in school, of course, were also observed what the parents wre doing. If a teenager wanted to attend university and persue a professional career, he could not be a Church member or attend Church."

We here in the UK seem to think that our history of freedom means we are immune from the encroachment of an authoritarian, fascist state. We wax lyrical about our grandfathers who fought against such outrages, as though their ghosts offer us protection.

We think that human rights acts will protect us against such outrages.

We think human decency will protect against such outrages.

The only thing that will protect us is people, ordinary people, such as our grandfathers were, standing up and saying enough is enough, and refusing to accept these outrages. If we are employed by government departments we must not fall into saying *but I was just doing my job*, because make no mistake, if allowed, history does repeat itself. Just because we are British doesn't mean we cannot fall under the jackboot of totalitarianism - read the newspapers, we're further along the road than you might like to believe. Where is your line in the sand?

Armed police on the streets?
Children removed from their families because they are *too fat*?
Your 5 year old being taught about masturbation in sex ed lessons?

the Fabian Society have plans for your children, regardless of what you or your child have planned for themselves.

What has this got to do with religion? It's simple really, and I know it's become something of a cliché but things become clichés for a good reason.

First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out - because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me - and there was no one left to speak out for me.

ETA: The unesco document incase the Fox News link is too biased go to pages 48 and 49.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

DCSF are just embarrassing themselves now.

Media Release from Action for Home Education

Media release from Action for Home Education, 20 October 2009

DCSF "just embarrassing themselves now"

Moments before the deadline, a home-educating parent reported that their submission to the latest consultation on home education had received the number 5340, an unusually large public response with the previous record for DCSF being only in the hundreds.

One of the respondents, JK, a fifteen year old supporter of Action for Home Education, declared today that Ed Balls and the DCSF are "just embarrassing themselves now" as he battled to understand how the government can be so short sighted about the opposition to the recommendations in the Badman Report on home education.

This rather gives the lie to Graham Badman's assertion to the Children, Schools and Families Committee (12 October 2009, Q2) that the opposition to his report comes from "a vociferous minority" that he can actually count. But "why", asks JK, "are they still not listening?"

Diana Johnson (to Children, Schools and Families Select Committee hearing 12 October 2009,) promised that consultation responses will be carefully scrutinised and taken into account before policy is made.

"But Ed Balls accepted the widely criticised Badman review in full immediately and dismissed out of hand the Cambridge Review, a long term academic study of education that suggested children should start school at six and sit fewer tests", said Barbara Stark, Chair of the AHEd group.

"We are watching to see if even the large number of responses is going to be taken seriously by Ed Balls who, so far, has ridden rough shod over the wishes and needs of home educated children to push forward his own ideas. We think that the review was not really independent and was used by Ed Balls to make up policy-based evidence biased towards a predetermined agenda to bully us and our children."

AHEd believes most of the consultation responses will have been from ordinary families who see big government threatening their way of life and their family choices.

Supporter Clare Murton said, "This government has lost sight of the distinction between public and private to the point where even our youngsters are mystified at their ignorance and arrogance.

"Many parents will recognise the frustration home educators feel with the shortcomings of the state schools, but not many will realise that, if they chose to decline the state's humble offerings in any sphere of life, not just education, they may be forced to expose their homes and children to close scrutiny."

Recently there have been attempts to screen, control, tax and register mums and dads who choose to share their child care arrangements, but things are now thought to be going too far. AHEd believes that Ed Balls and the DCSF have to be made to understand that normally peaceful home educators who just want to get on with their lives are drawing a line in the sand.

Ms Stark said, "The British public are fed up with such interference and we will tolerate it no longer. We will not comply with this disgusting agenda for us and our children. If necessary, many of us will choose to go before the courts to fight any criminal sanctions that government may introduce.

"Does New Labour really want to be remembered as the government that persecuted law-abiding parents doing their best for their families?"


For further information, contact AHEd.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Busy Busy

We are off to meet the SCI people on Monday, so busily preparing for that.

We've all just put in our responses to the consultation that ends on Monday. The numbers are well into the three thousands now, which is bloody fantastic! If you haven't responded yet, please do, ask your children, family, friends, neighbours, butcher, baker and candlestick maker to fill one in. It only takes a minute to JUST SAY NO!

If you are in any doubt about the importance of this stuggle, have a read of this from Mr Balls. It makes for disturbing reading.

A snippet for your *delectation*.

"But the Education and Skills Bill is a bill of responsibilities as well as a bill of rights.Because if young people fail to take up these opportunities, there will be a system of enforcement - very much a last resort - but necessary to strike the right balance between new rights and new responsibilities.Because when we say everyone will participate, that is what we mean."

Friday, 16 October 2009


Way back in May a fellow home educator and I were at a conference about informal education. During the lunch break we got chatting to a delegate who had attended the NASWE conference earlier that month. She told us how, at conference, Badman had presented his report to the delegates. (It was later denied that the report had been presented.) Interestingly though, one of the things that she told us was that Badman was going to suggest,was that the home educated child be interviewed on their own. My friend and I both laughed at the madness of such a suggestion, and the lady hurriedly told us she may have misheard. Clearly though her hearing was excellent.

The NASWE says this about Badman's speech:

Graham Badman CBE MA – Graham spoke about Elective Home Education and he expressed his concerns about the estimated 80-100,000 children in England who are currently not in any Educational setting. You might be surprised to learn that there are only 8,000 children officially registered with local authorities as being ‘home educated.’

If Badman didn't have an idea of a figure on Monday at the SCI hearing, how did he have one in May for the NASWE delegates?

NASWE made a submission to the original consultation but they refuse to release it to home educators, as does the DCSF.

But we can get an idea of it's contents here.

Now these are the people who will, no doubt, be doing the dirty work our Graham has planned. Interviewing our children alone, probably making the initial decision as to whether or not a parent gets their Home Education Licence, and indeed if they are allowed to renew one year on.

The NASWE website is rather interesting if you have the stomach to click through to some it's articles.

This one, for instance. The article is basically a battle plan for EWOs based on the battle plans of one Sun Tzu. Could this explain Badder's fixation with Oriental history? He expects Home Educated children to have knowledge of Oriental history [scroll to Q38], perhaps he means through experience of EWOs.

ETA: AHEd have a copy of the NASWE response to the guidelines consultation here and suggest that:

"Any guidelines that govt issue are quite likely to be (mis)informed by the information provided by NASWE (among others)."

Saturday, 10 October 2009

What's a SAHM then?

Why dear reader, a Subversive At Home Mum of course.

According to this article, the government sees women who put their families and communities first as... subversives.

Funnily enough I'm not surprised by this, after all this is the same government who likes to file responses from families, who are fighting to protect their way of life from the state boot as *a campaign*.

Subversive, campaigning, stay at home mothers.

Well here's a *campaign* message from one such subversive:

Hell hath no fury like a mother scorned, you would do well to remember that.

Just say NO to the DCSF.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Can You Explain?

Ok, so it's a very long time since I studied politics, and perhaps my grey cells have become a little withered with time, but would someone please explain to me how this scenario works:

*Democratic* Government decides that it wants to give the governed a say in how legislation is made, so it decides to hold consultations in which it asks for the opinions of the people. Now there are guidelines (opens PDF)which are supposed to be followed when consulting, have a look at number 1:

"Formal consultation should take place at a stage when there is scope to influence the policy outcome."

Ok, so, bearing this in mind, please can someone explain to me why the government department DCSF - known to us as the department of continued and sustained failure -has issued this when there are still 10 days left before a consultation into these matters finishes?

Apparently they are saying that the registration aspect will come into effect September 2011.

Democracy or dictatorship? You decide.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

select committee inquiry into HE announces witnesses

Three things:

"I wonder if, as a result of the supposed “harassment and vilification” Mr Badman is suffering from us home educators, he is planning to leave permanently the country where he was born and raised, to become a refugee, taking his family with him, to escape the persecution of a Government that chooses to see something that is his legal duty as an “anomaly” to be got rid of? No, I didn’t think so, but many home educators are doing just that. Because they have been harassed and vilified, you see, and persecuted and libelled against, by the Government and media of their home country."

"The list of witnesses contains no established researchers or authors on home education, for example, Paula Rothermerl, Roland Meighan, The Fortune Woods, or Alan Thomas? We understand that some of these people have also asked to appear as witnesses."

and this video

Great British Democracy in action - doesn't it make you proud?

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Home Made vs Mass Produced

We've been making the most of our abundant hedgerows over the last couple of days. Yesterday we took some fellow home educating friends with us, we all had a great time plucking the various berries. Whilst we were gathering sloes, a dog walker stopped to chat asking if I was planning on making some sloe gin. We had a bit of a chat about the methods and different recipes, and as she carried on her walk she said:

"Well I tried it once, but I don't think it was worth all the effort."

We've had gales here today, but when it had calmed down a little we all went out and spent a good hour and a half walking, talking, and stopping to pick berries. We saw a rainbow which prompted one of the girls to tell us about a conversation she had been having with a friend in an online forum about rainbows and how they are actually circular. I had no idea about that, but that's what life here is like - my children teach me an incredible amount. Anyway, that's by the by.

I decided to try making Pontac with some of the elderberries we'd collected yesterday, it looked so rich and delicious in the recipe photo that I just had to give it a try. It's quite a time consuming recipe, and I always knew that it would yield relatively little for the effort, but I thought it was worth trying, even if just once. I was very disappointed when I bottled the finished product and discovered that I had just over half the estimated 350ml that the recipe said it would yield. It's supposed to be best if left to mature for 7 years, but I decided that I would add a small amount to the spaghetti sauce I was making for tea. Oh my goodness! The children noticed a difference to the flavour and commented on how delicious it was. So I guess it was worth the effort and no doubt I will be making it again, but will make sure that next time I double or maybe quadruple the quantity.

As I was pulling today's haul of elderberries off their umbrellas, I got to thinking about what a labour intensive job this was, and about the comment from the dog walker.

Not many people seem to have the patience for making things from scratch any more. We find it easier to nip to the shops and buy things ready made. Yet take a drive and look at the signs outside pubs all shouting *Home Made Food Here* or one we saw on holiday which said *Good Home Made Food Here* as though someone might advertise bad! Watch a few adverts on the telly with Jamie Oliver extolling the virtues of cooking your own food with fresh ingredients. Read in the papers about the drive for more locally produced goods and the over use of that horrible buzz phrase *buy local think global*.

Home made is trendy - look at the success of sites like Etsy, and the many crafting blogs, books and magazines that are about now.

Home made shows that you've put some effort in. Your home made gift shows that you put your heart into making it, that you willingly gave of your time to create something especially for the receiver. That it was made and given with love.

And yet... the *home* in Home Education makes people suspect something not so good, something lacking in effort, something second rate. Why is that? The old saying *home is where the heart is* still rings true, doesn't it? So what has happened to make home suspect when coupled with education? I think it's about time we made more of the *home*. We like being at home, yes, we go out, we enjoy visiting other people and seeing other places, but we are not ashamed to say that we spend plenty of time at home. There is so much to be learned from the simple things in life, so much pleasure to be had, so much experience to be gained. Why do we rush out to be entertained, to buy experiences, why are we so quick to shun expanding a bit of effort?

"Happiness includes chiefly the idea of satisfaction after full honest effort. No one can possibly be satisfied and no one can be happy who feels that in some paramount affairs he failed to take up the challenge of life."

To me, home education is *taking up the challenge of life*. It is living fully, taking responsibility not shrugging it off. It's worth the effort, even when that effort seems awfully hard work for little return, you can guarantee that the rainbow moments are just around the next corner.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Home Ed Protest Song

We had a ball taking part in this - thanks so much to Allan and Imogen for all their hard work putting it all together!