The future of bullies?

As I read yet another news report of yet another child taking his own life as a result of bullies I take a look at my families situation, what we have been through and experienced and consider how lucky I am and hoe shameful our government and school system is.
When I look back on the physical and emotional bullying that I endured most of my school life I am saddened by how many times I informed relevant adults of what was going on, the cries for help, the truanting, the accusations…… I know my dad was called into the school as the head would rather have blamed my own terrible behaviour than look at and consider the bigger picture. When I was attending the first aid room after being physically sick, I was sent home with no questions… no one was concerned that the reason I had been sick was due to being hit so forcefully in the stomach. No one was interested when I was concussed following a shove down the metal stairs in the science block but heaven forbid I get caught sneaking out of the school gates!

My daughter was bullied. We found there was a number of girls who appeared to get away with talking to their parents using awful language, it became apparent that by giving their parents what I consider to be verbal abuse they would get their own way. This resulted in the girls learning that to give abuse and get incredibly nasty and bitch earned you what you wanted. This did not bode well for my daughter.
Meanwhile my son who has a strong sense of right and wrong couldn’t get his head around the lack of justice within his school. He witnessed boys bullying others and getting violent and aggressive and he didn’t like it. He would stick up for children when he thought they were being wronged, and as a result the teachers labelled him unkind, immature, trouble maker. The other boys in his class picked up on this and the bullying increased. The school and the head denied any bullying was going on, despite witnessing it with their own eyes.

The common problem is, that bullies are cowards. They act in gangs and often with no independent witnesses. Therefore when a victim tries to speak out it often becomes a case of 1 word against several, and the majority voice wins unfortunately. In my daughters case I was able to gather physical evidence of what was going on via emails, text messages, recorded phone calls and using a handy little hidden camera gadget that looked like a pen in her blazer pocket.
The problem is that when school staff either don’t believe or won’t accept that there is a problem, there is very little a parent can do. There is no power to deal with bullying. The police are limited in what they can do, they are also faced with no real evidence and one word against several….The board of governors in our experience were also beyond useless and failed to acknowledge let alone respond to our con plants, The local authorities offer no advice or support. Yes we complained to ofsted but there is no quick solution. Unfortunately many parents are unaware of all of their options. My dad was threatened with prosecution if he did not get me to go to school and this is true in a lot of situations. Why won’t the government and local authorities step up, try to discover why a child’s attendance is so poor, try to find a solution and make sure the parents are informed of their right to remove their children from formal learning?

I sit here, watching my son take part in a lego young engineers workshop. I see him reading and following instructions, building the challenges and enjoying what he is doing. In the last couple of months I have heard him utter the words “I am proud of that” about something he has achieved. The angry sad and hurt little boy who had no belief in himself and who had the rest of us walking on egg shells is rapidly disappearing to be replaced by a happy confident and polite little monkey boy who is happy to try new things with no fear of failing.
My daughter is independent, helpful and has rediscovered a love of learning that doesn’t need to be hidden for fear of being picked on.
They learn what they want when they want to and as a result they are learning loads! Most importantly they are happy.

My heart goes out to those parents who are not do lucky. Whose children have been failed beyond repair by the educational system. Whose situations have ended in utter tragedy at the end of a long line of “nothing we can do’s” and I hope that as the rate of home ed families continues to rise and legal rights become more widely known that these tragedies will stop occurring. I hope that authorities be granted more power to deal with bullies. That more schools be fitted with cctv so that stories can be checked and the 1 word against another can be gotten rid of… without drastic measures I fear that the situation within schools will only continue to get worse as the bullies of today will raise the bullies of tomorrow.

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The success of home education.

Last week saw my ultimate home ed achievement to date. In fact it’s an achievement that’s going to take some beating. You see, last Friday was my very own graduation. The secondary school drop out, whose father was threatened with legal action due to my truanting, who hated school and was predicted to achieve nothing…. successfully managed to graduate uni with a BSc HONS in health and social care.
Ok so I’m 30, married with 3 children so I may have taken the long route but standing up on that stage, hearing my dad, husband and inlaws cheering really bought it home that however long it took, I got there….. and I did it from home!
It has taken me 5 years of study through the open university. It took me choosing to do it, choosing when to work and creating my own methods for completing assignments, revising ans taking notes all in my own time. And it worked. The ultimate example of home education.
Seeing the looks on my children’s faces and how proud they looked with me in my gown and cap made all the hard work worth every minute and every tear. To think I achieved it all and only ever attended one tutorial so bad was the anxiety still overhanging from school all those years ago!
While my ceremony was underway the children took a trip with their uncle to the museum of London.

My daughter had her second science session, she is thoroughly enjoying it, while she was there looking at physics using hot wheels cars we were at the local park having a picnic with some other home ed families. My son tried skateboarding for the first time, and despite several bumps and bangs he carried on and made large improvements over a period of a couple of hours. These picnics are great not only for socialisation but also for swapping tips, ideas and advice as well as gaining and giving support amongst parents and children alike.

We used some free resources to look at the European union and have been looking at geography. I was impressed at how into it Josh got. He was engrossed in looking locations up on our wall map and marking them down on his small blank map.
We also spent some time looking at animals and food chains. By looking at what type of animals lived in an area and what they eat the children were able to work out what the climate and habitat would be like on different areas…. This involved them also using the world map to think about where in the world places are near the equator etc…

We have some maths resources which are maths in every day life so we spent an afternoon working through one of these books. The children both enjoyed us all sitting at the table trying to figure out the clues to solve a crime. This involved looking at height, times and witness statements, blood type etc do go from 10 suspects to 1. We lost track of time doing this!

The children have had cooking, we had a spag bol cooked by Josh one day and alana cooked a roast chicken dinner the next. It was good for Alana to learn how tiring cooking a roast dinner for everyone can be. She said that she now has more understanding for me when I am cooking for everyone. As part of this cooking they planned their meals, wrote their shopping lists and then had to go and find their ingredients and list how much everything cost. They were able to then divide the total by 4 and work out how much our family meals cost per serving.

They had another budgeting experience when they were given some money to buy their nan a birthday present. They were on a budget to get paper, card and gift and had the choice of buying something each or joining up for a bigger gift.

Their Spanish is also coming along well. We are using a free Internet site that has the words written in English and Spanish and also an audio. We have learnt our number to 20 as well as greetings and goodbyes. Josh especially loved seeing my aunty and uncle while they were visiting from Spain and being able to greet them and introduce himself.

We have had sports sessions, they attended their swimming lessons and a session for home ed kids where they played tag rugby with a coach. This is hoping to be a weekly thing.
I also had a meeting at a local adventure playground. I will be hiring it out once a fortnight for 4 hours to run sessions, it has space for free play, bushcraft, arts and crafts and table tennis etc… There is also tables and chairs, wifi etc for study periods and space for Zumba sessions. I have a number of people interested in running small group activities as we have such a large space for 4 hours so I am hoping that this can become a little bit of a one stop shop for a number of different experiences…. Whilst including a baby/ toddler play space as often during home ed meets those younger younger ones are a little forgotten.

I have heard from friends about issues within schools being ongoing, my meeting at the adventure playground threw up some interesting insights as well. Our complaints and push for an apology for Josh remain ongoing as I am determined not to let that head teacher get away with her barefaced lying. She is still adamant that bullying is not an issue in her school. Bullying is not only rife, it is being carried out by staff! When is it acceptable for a male deputy head to put his hands on a distressed 9 yr old girl? How can a head teacher support that? It’s positively terrifying! Then you gear of 12 yr olds being sexually active…. of bullies not being intimidated by adults and instead continuing their verbal abuse towards parents as well as other children….
I have no words for the horror and sadness I feel.
I am just extremely glad that my children are out of it.

Is Home Educating scary?

So much of this rings true with me. I had so many of these fears and questions, my husband, father and inlaws all also expressed such concerns and people who I speak to on nearly a daily basis continue to express these fears and worries about their own children and lives as well as asking about mine. It’s so good to find and be able to share a perspective so similar to my own that isn’t actually mine.

Ross Mountney's Notebook

Our first year home educating

When you think of home educating what’s your biggest fear? Because it’s usually fear that stops us going for something we’d like to do but which is a bit different from what everyone else is doing. And it’s often this time of year, when back-to-school looms nearer, that parents consider home schooling again.

The fears parents have are pretty much the same for everyone. We had them too. So did all the home schooling families we met. The same five things seem to come up again and again:

1)      You’re afraid you wouldn’t know what to do learning wise.

2)      You think you couldn’t teach them because kids need qualified teachers to learn anything.

3)      You worry your kids will have no friends and be isolated.

4)      You don’t know how you’d cope with the kids at home all the time.

5)      You worry about…

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Other people’s views

I have been deeply saddened this week by attitudes and comments from others.
Not specifically about my choices, but their own. I have heard teachers commenting on how rubbish the curriculum is, I have heard secondary school teachers comment that they don’t know why primary school children are pressured to learn maths and handwriting in a certain way as once they go up into secondary school “no one gives a crap” …. I have heard parents complaining at how rubbish the school system is, how they have had to go into school to get shown how maths and handwriting is taught so as to be able to help with homework. Stories of bullying ongoing for a further academic year as the bullies in question have not managed to grow up or gain some boundaries over the long summer holidays. Head lice being rife as many parents continue to fail to treat their children, school uniform having cost a fortune in august is already damaged, stolen or lost by mid September. Yet when I mention that I am home educating my children I am met with responses such as “oh god no! My kids would do my head in if I had them all day” and “I love it when they are in school I get peace!” ….. forgive me if I am wrong, and I fully respect the whole your child your family your choice thing…. but if school is that awful then is it not quite a selfish thing to keep sending the children in just so you can have some peace? Personally I have found my children irritate me far less now that they are not stressed tired and grumpy from the pressures of school, and they are my children! Of course I love being around them! Actually if being around my own children did my head in that much then I would be concerned and would be taking a long hard look at my own parenting before shouting it out in public like it’s a fact to be proud of!
Don’t get me wrong, I have felt the pressure of raising the children, in past years I have reached the end of august and in my exasperated state of tiredness have commented on how I looked forward to them returning to school. But that was when they were happy at school! As soon as that changed I was all too happy to take them out.
And wow what a difference it had made!

Josh sits down and writes, he researches things on line and reading all of which are massive leaps of progress! He has been looking at food chains, habitats and adaptations this week which all sprung from an interest in anacondas!
Alana started her science double award igcse. She was nervous at first as she entered a session booked with a tutor and a group of other kids. She said it reminded her of school and I saw the anxiousness kick in. I reminded her that it wasn’t school, that everyone was there because they wanted to be and it was only for a few hours. When I collected her 2.5 hrs later she was smiling and enthusiastic. She actually really enjoyed it.

Both of them enjoyed stuffing and sewing their own black bears which was a bit of fun and a good introduction to sewing which we will do some more of.

The Spanish is going well with some phrases even going into Joshs head and he is still eager to keep learning more and I don’t even have to ask him to read to me any more. Where in the past it was a struggle to get him to read to me for school now he will sit on the sofa and read whole sections of non fiction books to me regarding whatever subject we are looking at.
For the record, we have discovered that Joshs love of animals spreads across nearly all “subjects”!! Geography, history, biology, English and even maths!

So why would I be worried about them not doing well at home when they are clearly doing so much better than at school? The whole idea that parents are not equipped to help their children learn is beyond me! I trust my abilities to do what’s best and prepare my children for life more than I trust some random who has chosen to be paid to take on the learning of 30 or so students.

plants, picnics and production

This week has seen us enjoying the warm weather and quiet spaces. We attended a picnic in local woodland, this was a pleasant sunny Monday afternoon and a great opportunity to meet more new faces. While there another lady came over to where we were sitting and commented on “that boy over there in the green tshirt” meaning Josh. She went on to tell me how good he was, what a nice polite boy, he had helped her young son when he had climbed a tree and got stuck.
Josh then went on to write a story about the picnic, which is a massive leap that he chose to do this without any input from me given that just 2 months ago any idea of writing would have been met with sheer frustration and arguments. In fact he was not a stranger to removing himself from not just his desk but the whole classroom before I de registered him…. so to see him sit himself at my kitchen table and write 2 and half pages of story was pretty amazing!

We visited Kew Gardens with a home ed group. It was lovely to see all these kids walking along together to the workshops. They were not staying in groups of age, if they found themselves next to someone they talked to them, simples. They were not all wearing the same clothes or having to sit in groups of limited numbers, we saw a couple of school trips while we were there and couldn’t help but observe the comparisons. The group of 30 or so children all in matching clothes, all the same age being supervised by less than 5 adults…. occasionally being told off when one group got a bit “rowdy” and decided that they wanted to run around and play tag on the vast space of grass while the others were eating their lunch. How dare they not be happy and willing to sit still in such a wide open space?! Funnily enough none of the children in our group ran around playing tag either, but they weren’t told not to, they were just busy and happy talking to all these new people.

It was lovely to have such great feedback from Joshs group leader after his workshop. He came out happy and enthusiastic telling me all about bananas, papaya, rubber, monkeys and poison dart frogs! While Alana had covered the desert, how cacti store their water and how plants adapt to their environment.

During another picnic and trip out we looked at fossils and remains that had been found at a local quarry site. Josh found it very interesting to think that mammoths and pre historic lions once walked in our area!

We have done some more project work as Josh is interested in the Romans at the moment so we looked into what plants the Romans may have used and for what purpose. We were all amused that brambles were used to treat bleeding gums!

Alana had requested more structured learning. She begins study for her science double award igcse tomorrow, that will be a new challenge for her. She will be doing it with a group of young people and a tutor every Monday. She is also working through an English text book and working on her creative writing while continuing to focus on the world wars. She thinks she is interested in also studying her history for igcse but we have decided that it is best to chill out. There is no rush for her to take on any more formal learning, she is doing great.
She cooked dinner for the family for the first time unsupervised, and it was really tasty. We discussed what she could do to improve her recipe and quantities in future and she looks forward to doing it again. She also baked a cake on her own, measuring out her own ingredients and working the oven.

We find simple every day things spark conversation now. Josh sitting and watching top gear got him learning about how car chases are filmed in the movies, spiderman had him talking about rubber and electricity and if he gets bored he is much quicker to ask “what are you doing?” And wait to hear the answer rather than previously just starting to create mischief.
We don’t hear the “I’m bored” comments half as much now and I have spent all week with my children while Ryan has been at work, working late on Friday and overtime on Saturday as well and I am still feeling relaxed and chilled.

Ryan tried to suggest that we needed more structure when I commented on not having to get up for school….. but why I asked him. Are we not happy? Doing well? And de stressed? What is this structure they speak of? We are happy!

Is the hardest thing to do, doing nothing?

The term “deschooling” I hear it a lot. I was advised to do it. I read about it. It all seemed to make sense.
Children have lost their natural interest and spark for learning after it has been worn down and rubbed out of them by school time tables, pre set subjects and teachers goals. All children have the ability and passion for learning. It’s what they do! They have to learn to eat, to grab objects, to roll over, to crawl, to walk, to talk….. All this before they are placed into a school system.
At what point does learning stop happening naturally and start being something that children feel pressured and resentful about? ….. right about when they start getting tested on the abilities and compared to national averages is when I reckon!
So I read about how it’s best to have a period of deschooling, to allow us as a family to get out of that curriculum based routine and to enable the kids to discover what really interests them. Not what a class room of other people expect to interest them.
I am told that the best thing to do for home ed kids is allow them to get bored. That when they are bored is when the love of learning becomes apparent and they find themselves. I read that the local authority has to respect a families right to take time to deschool and that this can take anytime up to a year or so! Given my children’s experiences of school I expected to be in it for the long haul. I didn’t go out and buy work books and they are not made to spend their days reading and writing. It’s far more interesting to enjoy the outdoors, learn about nature, focus on life skills like cooking, sewing etc….
Its a bonus that along the way my daughter has discovered such an interest in wartime Europe, it has been entirely of her own choice to work on a project and this has built on her knowledge of geography, reading, writing and research skills and it was completely directed by her. I am also lucky that she has made the decision to study towards exams, but she will be able to pick subjects that interest her without any pressure from her peers.
My son is not quite ready yet. He has his interests but his attention span is not great. He loves maths and numbers and enjoys short bursts of each activity but it’s great to see him socialising and making friends and having the confidence that just a few months ago he did not have.

The whole idea of deschooling makes perfect sense to me and had seemed to work so well. Although not for as long as I had anticipated. So why does it seem to be such an issue that people really struggle to get their heads round? Why the constant questions about exams, lessons and curriculum?

Why the constant expectation that because it’s a “school day” they should be doing work? My children have been out after dark watching bats and learning about the sunset and nocturnal animals….. so why should we be up and sat at a table by 9 am? ! My children became engrossed in learning about the roman colosseum and did not finish building their own put of clay until nearly 5 PM, they did not have to pack up and leave it unfinished because the clock turned 3. If they are restless and want to go run around in a park or visit a museum or climb a tree, there is no reason why they can’t. In the same way that at 7 o’clock on a Sunday evening they were on the computer learning Spanish.

I was shown a local paper, a woman has been charged for letting her child continuously play truant. I get this shown to me as if to make some sort of point, my children are not playing truant! They have been de registered, there’s a difference!

The topic of socialisation comes up frequently as well. Well my children socialise. Perhaps not with the same group of 30 children their own age every day, but when in their whole adult life would that really be the case anyway?
They are able to have discussions with a wide variety of people of different ages from all different walks of life. Children of all ages play together, home ed groups meet up and plan classes and courses and trips, which make us busier now than ever when they were at school.
But they are allowed to get bored. Being bored is a good thing….. not in a “I want to play the play station” kind of bored, I allow the play station to go on, I allow movies, computer time etc…. but when all that is done and the “I’m bored” chants start up, that is when the learning can really begin! And no one said it had to be boring!
So please, if you see me with my children out and about don’t assume they are truanting or I am being lazy because they should be sat at a table with a work book open… we don’t work that way and we don’t have to work that way! They will still get qualifications but they will be mixed with experience and fun along the way, and best of all I get to watch their progress personally! I just need to learn myself, how to step back and breathe. I need to deschool myself as I can see that my children learn best by touching and doing not just by sitting and reading.
This is our road and my children are leading the way.

Frequently asked questions

I have taken this from the Home Education Advisory Service website as I found it very helpful in those early days of our decision making.

More information that I have found to be very helpful can be found at:

Home

And;

Home

 

Is it legal?

YES – it is the parent’s duty to ensure that the child receives a proper education (Education Act 1996, Section 7; Education (Scotland) Act 1980, section 30; Education and Libraries (Northern Ireland) Order 1986, Article 45). Children of all ages can learn at home.

Do I have to inform the local authority?

NO – if your child has never been registered at a state school (or if you move to an area served by another LA) you are not obliged to notify the LA, although you may do so if you wish. If you are taking your child out of a state school in England or Wales the head teacher must remove the child’s name from the register and inform the LA.

YES – if you are withdrawing your child from a state school in Scotland.

Are any grants available for home education?

NO – home educators are in a similar position to people who send their children to private schools – there is no funding available to support them. In some areas charitable trusts may exist which might make awards to families that meet specific criteria, e.g. if a child has special educational needs. You will need to check the register of charities at your local library.

Do I have to follow the National Curriculum?

NO – the national curriculum does not apply to children who learn at home.

Will my child have to take tests at the Key Stages?

NO – formal testing is not required. The local authority may ask for information informally. They have no statutory duty to monitor the quality of home education on a routine basis.

Can a child with a Statement of Special Educational Needs be educated at home?

YES – under S324 of the Education Act 1996 the local authority must make provision for the child’s special educational needs unless the parent has made “suitable arrangements” at home. Scotland and N. Ireland: similar provisions apply.

Is home education costly?

NO – you don’t need a lot of expensive equipment. In some areas you can borrow equipment from the local education resource centre. Many single parents teach at home successfully on Income Support.

Can GCSEs be taken at home?

YES – some young people enter as private candidates or arrange for part-time attendance at Further Education College to study for GCSEs. Others use correspondence courses.

Aren’t the children deprived of a social life?

NO – in many areas home educators meet together regularly for social and educational activities, and the children also attend clubs, classes, sporting and leisure activities in the community. The children mix with people of all ages as well as their peers.

Do I have to be a teacher?

NO – enthusiasm and commitment are needed, not qualifications. Many parents learn alongside their children, so the whole family benefits from the experience.

Can you study science at home?

YES – much of today’s science is geared to real-life situations using equipment that is easily available at home. And even the most up-to-date school laboratory can’t split the atom!