Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Interesting articles and why David Cameron is short-sighted

Well I seem to always do my blog posts in spurts so here's another one.

The woman mentioned in my last blog did take offense and responded to the idea that my son learns what he wants, when he wants and how he wants by saying that was ridiculous but also that a teenager's complex social needs being dependent on parental organisation and/or supervision is unhealthy.

What I find confusing here (and yes it does have relevance to some of the articles I am going to post about) is when did society lose faith in our children?  When did we decide that these magnificent creatures, that learnt to walk, talk, control their bladders without any intervention from us, suddenly couldn't learn by themselves anymore?  If we are bringing up our children to be automatons then yes, they need to be herded, their inquisitive nature needs to be quashed ASAP but then why choose a partner with whom to procreate, why not just buy a kid off the shelf because that will definitely make life easier in the long run.  I want my kids to be themselves ALL the time and that includes when they socialise, when they are learning new things, when they are with their immediate family, when they are with their extended family or with their friends.  I also don't believe that my children's social needs are complex either (as suggested above.)  Their social needs they meet themselves with a little help from me as taxi driver or secretary (so it seems today as I have passed on the phone at least 5 times to my son.)  What complex social needs are there?  Why are teenagers suddenly complex but incapable of sorting themselves out?  Also isn't there a contradiction there?  On the one hand my son cannot learn himself because that is ridiculous but on the other he cannot be dependent upon me for his complex social needs.  Well which one is?  Can he learn himself and therefore not need me for his social needs or do I have to put him in school to be fed whatever happens to be on the national curriculum menu this week and his complex social needs are met by whom?  Kids all the same age as him? A few teachers who might actual notice he is there?  Who is it at school who cares about these complex social needs of his?

My son has absolutely fantastic friends who care about him.  Those friends have parents who care about him.  One such parent watched some of the youtube videos he makes and thought he was professional and clear in his explanations and was really impressed.  Neither me nor his father have had anything to do with his decision to do those videos.  He has an extended family who think he is the best thing ever, some of whom thought that home-educating was dubious.  When he wasn't reading at the age of 10 there were more concerns but it is difficult to be concerned when you see a child who is confident, eloquent  socially adept, caring, sensitive but confident to be who he is regardless of what people think about his clothes or his long hair.  I could go on but what in this scenario is cause for concern?  He is frequently socialising with people of all ages and he is learning the things he needs to learn to do the stuff he wants to do.  He also learnt to read when he was capable of doing so.  Where are the complex social needs that aren't being met and why is it ridiculous that he learns what he wants, when he wants and how he wants?  Isn't it those self-directed learning skills and varied social skills he will need for the rest of his life?  Ken Robinson seems to agree and suggests that we need to shift our perceptions of what our children need in order to live in this changing world.  This video is well worth a look if you are interested and if you like that one then watch his others too.

Another interesting and probably outside-of-the-norm idea is that of not teaching our children to share everything.  Here is a wonderful article about it and strangely enough this was one of the first parenting examples that went against my norms and therefore started me thinking about and investigating all the things that we 'do' to our children that are seen as social norms but are wrong or a mistake.  I would go further than this article and also say that there are also positive things to do with owning possessions which filters through to emotional well-being.  The old adage that 'you cannot love someone unless you love yourself' is very true.  A person needs to be feel whole and secure before they can healthily give of themselves to others, either as a friend or a partner and either of possessions or emotions.  This life lesson starts with children and how we treat them with regard to their possessions and associated feelings is paramount in how they grow into adults.

I wonder what David Cameron would think about that then?  David Cameron insinuates that stay-at-home Mums need to 'work hard and get on' i.e. get a job and leave our children in daycare.  That is the news today but only 15 days ago there was a presentation to MPs by a Swede coming to tell us that long days away from parents is not good for our children and it is turning them into tearaways.  Was Mr Cameron absent that day?  Or was he present but not paying attention?  Or does he just not care about the long-term ramifications of his plan to get us all back to work and what that will do to our children?

I find it interesting that all these bits of information have been brought to my attention over the last few days.  So all these things seem interconnected to me.  There seems to be a growing lack of respect for our children and so for ourselves.  There are judgments being made by those who haven't researched their facts properly or who just don't care.  The Government are trying to financially coerce or bully those who do care about our children (with insinuations about how 'lazy' we are) into becoming like everyone else and leaving the welfare of our children to others.  This behaviour is being mirrored by the general public and so our children are then paying the price and learning that this is to be expected.  Those children will then think it is oik to do exactly the same to their children and a new mistaken social norm is born.  I could take offense to the insinuation that I am 'lazy' but you all know by now that I don't agree with that idea so instead I say 'David Cameron pay attention in class' and 'how about doing some self-directed research into your proposals.'  But some feel on stony ground so I will continue sharing these insights with you guys.  And I will also share these things with my children so that they don't grow up thinking that they have anyone other than themselves to fall back on when times are hard and/or people are stupid (David Cameron - I'm talking about you).

It's a good thing my kids are good at teaching themselves and are learning to adapt to the various situations that they encounter as part of their varied lives LOL (see what I did there? - ended the blog by coming full circle - clever eh?  - ok I'll shut up LOL)


  1. Do you not think that a child, who follows the educational system there whole life has a better chance of having a better standard of living in the future? firstly they would have a more advanced education allowing for a better income, and through that education process would be integrated with a diverse group of people that could possibly become life long friends? this is not me questioning you as a parent. I'm sorry if this is how i have come across, i was just curious about your opinion on this.

  2. I would have to ask what you believe to be a "better standard of living." If you mean how much one earns then to my knowledge home-educated children fare better proportion-wise than educated children in getting well paid jobs. By that I mean that the percentage of home-educated children that go on to well paid jobs is higher than the percentage of school-educated children. I don't have statistics on that as I am not sure there are any but that is my understanding from the large number of home educated children I know of who are now adults as opposed to the stats I see about state school leavers. If by "better standard of living" you mean how happy people are being themselves and doing what they do whether it be hobbies or work then again I believe that home-educated children tend to find their place in life much easier than school-educated ones. That is because their whole lives have been about finding their passions and doing so in a free-range manner by observing their families and those around them. There are also those who are schooled but who have a solid and pro-active family life outside of school who also tend to fare better in this regard or so it seems to me. Again I have no studies to back this up. I also know that those home-ed children who go onto college later on tend to do much better grade wise because they have chosen to be there so they put more in and get more out. This has been proven over and over again in my experience and certainly where I live the local college lets home-ed kids in with less GCSEs because they know they are hard-workers and they want to be there. WRT to friendships my own experience and those of my friends most of us are not in touch with any friends from school (unless you count those connections on facebook LOL.) Of those I know who do it is because they have not moved very far away from where they went to school. Whether my children remain friends with their home educated friends or their friends on the street I cannot say. I do know they have a more diverse group of friends than the school children they play with because home ed covers all ages much more than school friendships do. Whether that stands the test of time I really cannot say. BTW I love that you have asked and I wouldn't write this stuff if I didn't want to know other people's opinions and thoughts, so thanks so much for asking. As parents we all want the best for our children whether schooled, home-edded or both!!! I would highly recommend watching the Ken Robinson video I posted or some of his other ones though to see the challenges that he thinks our children are going to face work-wise in the future and the down-sides of mass education. His kids went to school so he isn't biased in favour of home ed either.

  3. Thank you for your quick reply! I think your approach to parenting and especially your children's education is certainly interesting. The way in which i would define 'quality/standard of living' would be a persons happiness with their life. I don't think that a statistic that assessed the comparisons between home educated children and non-home educated children could be looked at accurately. The amount of children in education opposed to those who are home educated is massively more, this would make any statistics hard to make valid/accurate. The main thing i would like to hear your thoughts on is when you say things such as 'a child learning to read when they are capable to do so'. The majority of children learn to read at the same time in education, apart from some exceptions. For you to allow your children to choose when they think they are capable/ready to learn something as essential as reading surely is putting a lot of confidence/trust in them. Do you think you should teach them the essential skills such as reading and writing in an environment they are comfortable with such as the home, and then allow them to pursue their own ambitions such as art/computing. Do you not fear that they are falling behind in a sense academically when compared to a child aged 10 who can read and write to some degree. Again i am sorry if you are doing any of this, or if this is too personal a question. I find the idea of completely home schooling a child very hard to understand, it doesn't seem like an idea that is favored by modern day society. thank you.

    1. Oh I am sooo glad you don't need me to try and find statistics on some of this stuff. It is so easy to skew statistics to fit whatever scenario you want so I don't really trust them anyway. I do have an enormous amount of trust in my children and I believe we do our children a huge disservice by not trusting them. Our children learnt to talk by mimicking us and wanting to be a part of a society that communicates that way. Learning to talk is a much, much harder thing to learn that reading or writing so yes, I trusted that my children would learn to read and write in the same way. I have to admit I was a bit dubious that they could do it without major intervention on my part but my daughter starting reading at 4 and can now read books aimed at young teenagers (she is 8) and can be regularly found with her nose in a book and my son cracked reading about 2 months ago at 11.5 years although he has been able to read phonically for about 3 years. He is definitely a sight reader rather than a phonic reader and my daughter was much more phonically based so they are both totally different. I know of other families where the children have all learnt reading at various ages and using very different techniques. What you then realise is that whatever age children learn to read (and I believe the average age is between 3 and 14 but cannot find where I found that little nugget of information at the moment) is that by the time they are 15 or 16 no-one would know when they learnt to read so it is moot point by then anyway. My main educational driving force is passion and life-lessons I suppose. I want my children to learn because they want to: they are passionate about it. They are more likely to remember things that has been learnt with that degree of passion and desire. I know the things that I learnt that I was passionate about and ready to explore, are the things I remember now and hardly any of that stuff is stuff from school. I don't worry about my son falling behind academically because I don't compare him to anyone his age. If I graded him on financial know-how, common sense, being able to hold a conversation with anyone of any age, empathetic awareness, philosophical inconsistencies, self-confidence in his own ability to learn (to name just a few) I reckon he would score very well against his peers. So you can see that I didn't teach my children to read or write and then let them have a free rein. I let them have a free rein so that they could learn to read and write when they were ready. I know of other home-edders who do it differently to me and I know a lot get hung up on the reading and writing and mathematical side of education. A lot then realise that those tasks are no more important than communication skills or self-directed learning and that a child who is part of society cannot fail to see that mathematics, writing and reading are important skills and that eventually they will want to learn them to be a part of that society. (Don't get me started on what mathematical skills I think we should teach our children and how school maths is totally pointless in many ways - that is a whole other blog post LOL.) Again I know this isn't true for many children and therefore school is a very important place for some. I just wish that our schooling system would realise the value of child-centered learning, scaffold learning using older pupils to help younger pupils and that they would stop with the testing and comparing children by date of manufacture (and other unhelpful things.)

    2. It cut me off before I could finish LOL. You can see why I called this blog Viv's Ramblings. Anyway not sure if that has answered what you wanted so ask more questions if you need. Here are another few links that might help: http://theinnovativeeducator.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/whats-tested-influences-how-its-taught.html; http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/201002/children-teach-themselves-read or http://daynamartin.com/unschooling-blog/dayna-martin-hosts-the-freedomain-radio-sunday-call-in-show/ Please keep asking questions though. It is great to hear other people's views and share thoughts and ideas.

  4. Interesting discussion! I think home education can seem very strange when you first hear of it, never mind autonomous education. We are so used to it being normal to push and bribe children in every area of their lives (feeding, sleeping, weaning, potty-training, learning, behaving...) that it is actually very hard to trust that children will grow and develop and learn without our coercing them into doing so. The biggest reason I decided to home-educate my children was that it seemed madness to me to divide my children’s lives into ‘learning’ and ‘the rest of life’. I realised that if they didn’t go to school, they would never have that artificial separation and so would never develop a resistance to learning or a sense that education is boring. Life is learning – particularly for children, who appear programmed to devour anything and everything that will give them new experiences.
    Almost everyone in life wants to learn – pre-schoolers with their endless questions and urge to explore, adults choosing (even paying for) adult education, documentaries, pub/television quizzes.... The only group of people who do not want to learn and who must be coerced into learning are schoolchildren! Only in the education system do we talk of ‘making learning fun’, ‘inspiring children’ and ‘bringing subjects to life’. For home-educated children, there is no need to do any of these things – living and playing and exploring just are fun; no one has taken all the fun stuff, turned it into compulsory lesson plans, tested you on it and told you off if you couldn’t recite it back to them.
    As to whether an individual has a better chance of having a high standard of living if they went through school-based education rather than home-based education, I agree that the answer would obviously depend on lots of factors, not least how we choose to define a high standard of living. Academic success is certainly not the only route to a high standard of living but even if we only concentrate on this kind of success, there is no reason to suspect that home education has a negative effect. There is some research showing much better test results for home-educated children compared with school children – see Paula Rothermel’s work. (This research also found that home-educated children from working class backgrounds scored better than school-educated children from middle-class backgrounds.) I don’t think that this is particularly surprising as we know that one-to-one tuition is always more effective. Parents of schoolchildren often choose to pay for smaller class sizes and private tutors when they can (figures range from 25% to 40% of school children having private tutors). Also, the national curriculum is very limiting and children who are freed from it are able to learn at a much faster pace and to as deep a level as they wish compared with children in schools, who must keep in line with their classmates and school lesson planning. To be continued below....

  5. Continued from above...
    As for autonomously-educated children, I don’t know of any evidence to suggest that spending your childhood playing and exploring and learning what you want when you want (the deeper kind of learning we recognise in ourselves when we are really interested in a subject) stops you from undertaking the more shallow (memorising) kind of learning that is required for passing exams. (Roland Meighan writes extensively about the difference between these two learning styles.) There seem to be many children educated in this way who choose to take exams as a means to an end and who integrate seamlessly into further and higher education (the autonomous approach to education is much closer to the kind of education seen in universities). In fact, my experience is that college tutors appear more than happy with this strange grouping of children who are actually eager to learn, highly self-motivated and able to do their own research.
    On the other hand, we do know that boys in particular are not particularly well-served by the school system. Last year’s research by the Literacy Trust found that 20% of boys (and 12% of girls) start secondary school unable to read at the expected level. (http://www.literacytrust.org.uk/policy/nlt_policy/boys_reading_commission) Last year a friend of mine (a PhD in sociology) decided actively to look for research showing that school is the best place for her children to learn. She has so far found none.