Friday, 31 July 2009

It could be called a holiday. Or the way we've lived life

I cannot sit still. Life is urgent. I cannot waste a moment, don't want to come away without doing, feeling, smelling, seeing, touching, being.

Where the need comes from, I don't know. It might have been a blow to the head. Perhaps I have dwelt too much on Memento Mori. Perhaps I yearn to live different from another generation, one who told me it is a long-established way that adults must rest, and I must sit and watch the clock tick.

But this week, we have been doing. And our activity and energy have been so right, so normal. With my children I have done so much, and we have packed so many moments into our time. We have toured like tourists, played on the beaches, found the rain and the sunshine, said hellos and goodbyes, lived how we wanted to, made our decisions, followed what we thought, been free to choose.

I have been away, of course, from the place where people without right stood in our way, took a role for themselves in my family that I did not give them, made it their job to malign, bully, push me into doing what they want, told me what I should do, how to bring up my children, how I should live, how I should comply, what I should say, what I should teach, how I should be.

I've been away from those voices. This week, I have had freedom again to turn to the children each morning, and say, Hey! What would you like to do today?

We built each day from scratch, and they, like me, don't want to waste a moment. Today, our last day on the island, we buzz, eagerly and happily, from garlic farm to lavender farm, to museum, to cliff walk, to beach.

But before this week, before this year, many of our days were like this. This was our home education life, and for this week, here it is, back again.

Which makes me know that this year, unlike any before it, has been so draining, so destructive, so damaging. It was brought, not by our doing, but by the interference of others who think themselves perfect engineers for my family; those people who would try and fix something that was never broken.

I can only say that in all our time together, our family has made our own decisions, followed our path, built our own lives. Shark would lay down her head on the pillow each night and say to me, I don't want the day to end.

You're not alone, Shark. I know we have had an extraordinary life, and we won't give up our freedoms.

But we also have a community of people, scattered all across England, who will support us, and we them. They would never say you're doing it all wrong. They would never say this is how you should live life. They would never dream of telling us what we should do today, making out that what we do is wrong, telling us our instincts and feelings are the wrong ones, that they have better, and know better.

When we return home, we'll continue living the life we choose. Because, my children, you have always lived this way. And I don't want the day to end either.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

How could we resist?

A day spent at Brading Roman Villa with its remarkable mosaics, followed by a walk through Brading Marshes RSPB site. And it is breathtaking. I cannot miss these spaces, winding paths, cool greens, shimmering grasses. My journey companions say, yes. Please can we come back.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Grit awards herself 10/10 for organisational skills

It's one of those days when I bet you wish Grit was your Business PA.

Because thanks to Grit's super efficient organisational ability with a computer, clock, and diary, I am picking up Big Kate from California at the titchy Sandown railway station on the Isle of Wight this afternoon.

Howabout that!

Not only can I support a week's home education from a discount chalet on a hill arranged less than one week ago, I can also schedule in an overseas visitor with jet lag to share with us the delight that is Dinosaur Island!

Grit is swelling with pride about this because normally she is a messed up old bag who doesn't know what day it is.

All I can say is that it must be the invigorating air on this lovely island.

In fact Grit is so smart about maximising efficiency, coordinating labour, and managing the best efforts of all our team players, I set Big Kate off looking for fossilised turtle shells on the beach at Fort Victoria.

We can't find the bloody things. Despite being told you can pick them up like shells. And neither, incidentally, have we eye-spied any native British red squirrels, which are apparently bursting out of this island by the bucketload because the evil grey murderous ones haven't invented inflatable dinghys. Yet. So Big Kate can look for red squirrels too. And add the dinosaur prints near Brook. Put those on the list. And some neolithic flint tools would be a neat find, Big Kate, if you wouldn't mind looking.

Which is more or less what she does.

Here she is, all the way from California. Looking.

While Big Kate is maximising our efficiency by Looking, the rest of the team players have fun mucking around on rocks, digging holes, swinging on interesting trees and trying not to fall off cliffs.

And so long as a Business PA is not actually judged on their ability to find turtle shells, red squirrels, dinosaur footprints and neolithic flint tools - because we find none of those things after Big Kate spends most of four hours staring at the ground - then Grit could just have found herself a whole new career.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Alright. I admit. I am won over.

I admit to being a bit swayed towards the delights of island living following yesterday, finding it quite easy to navigate round to areas in which the children are interested, and becoming steadily aware of the extraordinary history, prehistory and geological scope of this remarkable and beautiful land.

The final blow is probably delivered by Steve, curator of geology at the Dinosaur Isle museum.

Because this morning I take Shark and Squirrel to the geology walk at Shanklin organised by the museum and led by Steve, who is one of those people we are lucky to meet in our world; passionate about what they do, and committed to explaining and communicating their ideas with energy and enthusiasm.

And yes, I will stick out my neck and say we meet a damn sight more of these people in our home education world than I ever did while teaching in a secondary school. Not that the people who teach are not enthusiastic and committed to communication with children. Just that after a term in the classroom, they are usually tired out and worn down through struggles with classroom control, students who aren't interested, a system that can't personalise the education yet has to talk as if it can, colleagues who are dispirited and cynical, and a testing system that is unrewarding and thankless.

So when we meet people like Steve in all the worlds we enter into, whether it is arts, science, history, paleontology, sailing, or jumping up and down on a trampoline, we can recognise them. I wish all your kids could meet teachers like this.

And this geology walk is the point when I realise we are going to have to come again to the Isle of Wight, and why, come next Saturday, I shall be kicking and screaming when they try and drag me off this island.

Monday, 27 July 2009

I think the Isle of Wight might be getting to me

Yesterday, I brought this fashion to the Isle of Wight.

Yes, that's a groundsheet, and I'm wearing it.

Of course my great fashion statement has a proper history. Me and Galliano. We both reference our work to cultural movements and historic moments.

Like, last Friday Shark and Squirrel packed their own bags, and I was too busy to check the contents.

First, I've been packing Tiger's bag for her PGL - attending to six pairs of this, three pairs of that, extra ones of the other and two pairs for wet and dry - and second, I would very much like Shark and Squirrel to live the consequences of their choices, suffer, and regret their actions.

Checklist Shark. She has brought for a cold and rainy British summertime: one cotton dress, one cotton top, two pairs of leggings, twelve books and a home made dolphin.

To her credit, Squirrel has brought a variety of clothing but, for the beautiful weather, of which there isn't any, one fancy stitch flimsy pink glitter cardigan. And no coat.

My fashion moment might just turn the course of Isle of Wight history. But I do not recommend making children responsible for their own packing. It is a crap idea, because it is mother who suffers in the end.

With clouds scudding this way and that and a will-they-won't-they? approach to rain, today I donate my woolly jumper to Squirrel and a waterproof coat to Shark, with the result that I face a future mostly freezing and wet. There is only the groundsheet left. So be nice and help me along. Call it fashionable. If Kate Moss walked down King's Road in it, you'd all be calling them rain bags and everyone would want one.

Now with Grit dressed like an abandoned tent, and two kids attired in clothing that can best be described as offering plenty of growing room, we start out on a full day of education.

We begin in Yarmouth Castle, which bears this fantastic sign:

but which also teaches us a great deal about shipwrecks in the harbour, and the history of castle design from Medieval status symbol to Tudor garrison for soldiers.

Then it's over to Shark's choice at Fort Victoria which is the Underwater Archaeology Centre and the Marine Aquarium where we snap blurred photographs of baby cuttlefish while everyone sighs aaah.

Not to waste a moment we make for the tiny planetarium and the Robert Hooke exhibition, which fires Grit up to educate everyone about how even eminent seventeenth century scientists can argue like two year olds.

Which is not what happens on the beach at Yaverland this evening, walking there spotting gatekeeper butterflies, bramble blackberries, mallows and thistles, then hunting for fossils, and making sand castles, and where, after a mostly splendid educational day out with only a small amount of rain to show off my new fashion garb, I am indulgent, even of Dolly.

I think I might be liking the Isle of Wight.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

And that was one type of normality

Last night we dropped off Tiger at her PGL adventure camp, which means today, we look like as normal a family as you can get. We are two adults, two children, on holiday at a major tourist sight, and at that July time of year, when people think, for a family holiday, that's normal.

This version of normality is interesting.

For a start, we have walked round this earth for ten years being a family of five. At the moment you move away from the safe zone of four, then your travelling life becomes downright difficult. Cars, taxis, entrance tickets, seats round tables, overnight rooms, beds, hotels. They're all geared up for four. But suddenly, today, we are four, so we fit. We can be normal. And that feels odd.

And then there are the children. When I have the uncanny triplet set, they draw those surreptitious glances and sliding eyes, back and forth between looking-alike faces. Today I have a matching pair, but they don't draw the eye as much as a set of three. And anyway, Shark refuses to be seen with us and is marching on up the hill. I can be normal here too.

And then there's the home ed. I won't feel compelled to explain to inquisitive passers by why we are walking down the High Street on a Wednesday morning at 11am. I don't need to fret about the police or a truancy patrol. The scrutinising gaze of strangers is absent; the ones who watch us about our normal Monday morning business in June, then with a flick of the eye, judge me, condemn my parenting abilities, and sentence all of us to death by hanging. It's school holiday. I can be normal.

We normal, normal family walk up the path to the tourist sight that everyone who comes to the Isle of Wight must see.

It's probably here, at The Needles, that I start to forget about what's normal or not. I can just watch the waves and point out the way the rocks curve and bend. Now I can confess I like the Isle of Wight just a teensy weensy bit. And I am probably ashamed that I have travelled over the world and am ignorant of what's on my own doorstep. I was unaware of how splendid are the rocks round here, how astonishing and spectacular this geology, and how beautiful is this scenery both far away and close up. From a distance you can see the cliffs cut away to reveal many layers of colours and rock types; pinks, blues, greys, yellows, whites. Clays, chalks, sandstones, mudstones, all layered, one after the other, the rocks cut away like a perfect set of samples just waiting for the amateur rock lover to come along and start learning and exploring. Close up, you can see these vertical lines rise up from choppy waters, strata layers of black held up in white chalk. They should be gone, eroded by wind and sea and rain, but skyward those sea teeth still rise, defiant, and bite the sky.

And this is our normal. We are looking, feeling, learning, exploring, talking, finding out about the world. To us and the rocks, it doesn't matter if it's July, or October, or March.

But if for one afternoon this year, we looked normal, by the end of the day, we have given it up.

Settled back in the car, windswept and weary, I am missing Tiger and wishing she could take part in the chatter and I could share everything I've learned about this point in the world, and where we are now.

Yet there is one more family member to depart. Daddy Dig is travelling back home again this evening, and leaving me with Shark and Squirrel to our own devices on the Island.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Which just shows how determined I am

Tra la la! Off we journey to a happy holiday on the Isle of Wight!

We will have loads of fun.

On that, I am determined. And for the journey I have a 12 disc CD, a picnic hamper stuffed with carbohydrates, an assortment of small people, too much luggage, a newly stocked medical emergency kit, and a map.

Daddy Dig is with us too, so I can be cheery. I won't think how he is leaving us tomorrow. For now, he is driving us all to the ferry at Lymington.

Anyway, I don't have time to be forlorn. Because Sexy Wife Grit has done what she normally does when Daddy Dig drives, and that is fall asleep and dribble. The only task then is to wake up, realise we are in the New Forest, see horses, and be delighted at England.

I may face a pile of speeding tickets on my return home next week, but we have ample time for a leg stretch before the ferry, so it's everyone out the car for a walk. I can enjoy seeing a Tiger beside herself with joy faced with the very beautiful wild ponies and their wild pony babies.

In fact I am in such a holiday mood I then pass my phone camera to one of the small people.

Look out Squirrel! The horses are sliding down the hill! They will land in a big heap at the bottom of the New Forest if you carry on photographing them like that.

As usual, fate intervenes to try and make Grit miserable where a car journey, Dig, and her children have all failed. Half way up Squirrel's hill, the heel of her sandal drops off.

I shall not be thwarted. I am determined to enjoy the lovely stroll in the New Forest. Solution. Pull the other heel off as well. That way, I might make it back to the car and still look normal, rather than the only idiot for miles around who wears one heel to limp across half a mile of forest.

Now let's hope there are no more disasters in store. And if there are, of course I shall smile! Onto the ferry that will not sink!

Oh dear. If I wasn't quite so determined to make it to the Isle of Wight with a smile still attached to my face when everything else has dropped off, I might sour the holiday mood on noticing this particular stowaway emerging from Squirrel's luggage.

But I simply say, Squirrel! You have brought Dolly! How lovely! Now every day on the Isle of Wight I can see her lovely face!

Friday, 24 July 2009

Grit is time poor

Thanks to having organised, at the last minute, a week's holiday.

The holiday is to be locked up in a concrete bunker with two kids on the Isle of Wight, England's smallest county. I will be unable to get off the island during peak holiday season and a swine flu pandemic. Come Tuesday I see myself weeping, holding an ear thermometer, a bottle of Calpol and the swine flu hotline number. Dig will be at home preparing to leave for India. The other misplaced kid is abandoned somewhere en route at the back of a horse with a pot of glitter.

It's all less exciting than it sounds.

And a week's holiday with two of my offspring WILL BE a lot of FUN.

I have gritted my teeth in preparation and packed the portable DVD player. By Wednesday, forgive me if I am drinking heavily, kicking myself, and effing and blinding, and the latter no longer under my breath.

Because why and how I have contrived this absurd set of circumstances I am not sure. It is one of those happenings that made perfect logical sense while it is all unfolding and in retrospect now feels like a bad script that I can't get out of, but in the next Act, there appears a burned out Volvo, three snakes and a pygmy. Perhaps then, the Dyson will drive us home.

But while I am making love to the Dyson, tackling the fire, trapping the snakes and defeating the pygmy, I will be internetless and out of communication.

On the bright side, I have made time for a holiday haircut. This is not at the local salon with Kylie, but is upstairs in the disused bathroom with Grit, thrashing around hacking at her head with a pair of scissors, because life is just too short to fit everything in.

And I will leave you with this delightful scrap of almost-conversation which passes for tenderness in our household.

Grit: (Big Burp)
Shark: Mummy! You are not blaming me for that again.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

I can't resist it

'...My 16-year-old son has just left comprehensive school ... In English literature ... he has read no single English novel. He took German but on a family visit to Germany last year found it impossible to order in a bakery...

'He has left school knowing no works by classical composers, has no idea how to cook a decent meal, hasn't visited any of the local museums or places of interest and struggles to find cities on a map of the UK. ...

'Rather than home educators being called on to justify their decision, perhaps it should be those parents who send their children to school, without questioning the education, or influences their child will receive, who should be asked how they will be making up the educational shortfall.'

Helen-Jane, I am blowing you kisses.

Letters The Independent Newspaper

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Leave them alone and they do wonders

Grit has abandoned her children today. She is busy arranging her life, organising her family, mentally preparing for seven nights in a concrete bunker, and typesetting a load of pompous academic twaddle from an undistinguished lecturer now on holiday somewhere in England who spends his days drawing foolish pictures of verbs.

Since I am occupied, Squirrel and Tiger amuse themselves digging pits for unicorns. Shark, left to her own devices, sails through the kitchen and prepares delicious miniature souffles.

I think if any of those scoundrels from the DCSF are lurking around they would probably deduce, on a judgment of today, that a nine-year old child is probably the primary carer, all the children certainly neglected, and the house is filled with hazards, so that's a sure sign we need to be inspected and closed down on health and safety alone.

From our point of view, we see Tiger and Squirrel follow an extraordinary fantasy of deep play which involves one unicorn becoming a master bricklayer and designing mud houses for everyone to live in peacefully. We then see Shark's astonishing culinary ability, ambition, and confidence. We see not see the coating of soil and not the mess left in the kitchen.

We do not want thanks for what we do, we just want to be left alone to do it.

And here is a blurred photograph of one of Shark's souffles, before I snatched it and scoffed it.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Let's all help the Stasi!

Say YES to

ID cards!
fingerprinting in schools!
CCTV in all private areas including toilets!
security passes to access age-restricted areas
all personal data held on one big database!
electronic tagging for all!
national DNA database!
random healthy home visits from the family inspectorate!
licences for all family members!
suitability inspections on all parents!
guided and monitored national curriculum lessons for every child - from birth!
outlawing of all non-state approved and deviant parenting!
training every child to expect monitoring THROUGHOUT THEIR LIVES.

Yes, says Grit! YES YES YES. All these measures will help keep my children SAFE!

And what could possibly GO WRONG?

The training on all the Stasi inspectors will be faultless. Of course Mr and Mrs Spooky won't apply to work with children! We can trust the state to carefully vet all individuals! More than we can trust our own grannies! Anyway, in the new order, Granny will need a licence too! But if she's got nothing to hide, she's got nothing to fear!

And in the interests of helping the Stasi, let me inform on my neighbour.

He walks in a funny way and he keeps 27 steps in various forms in his house. 13 are connected to the stairs, which is a deviant number, so he's guilty of something; 3 are connected to a kitchen step ladder which I have never seen him use, so he's up to no good with that, 3 are down to his cellar, which should be investigated under the new Cellar Investigation Inspectorate, and the rest are casually littered around his house and garden where A CHILD could fall over them. So he is clearly GUILTY of child abuse and neglect. Hanging's TOO GOOD FOR HIM!

Monday, 20 July 2009

Home educators are sexy

In their various ways the NSPCC, DCSF and Badman all allowed unchallenged the media slur that home educating families are probably child abusers, delinquents and vagabonds.

Why? Because they thought they could get away with it.

And they banked on the great British public mindlessly agreeing. After all! These home educators are freaks, outcasts and hippies on the fringes of our society. They are already on the margins. Strange. Excluded. They have shunned normal society. They are alone. Kill the hippies! Persecute the paedophiles!

But what the NSPCC, DCSF and Badman failed to see is that home educators are a cross section of all society.

Home educators are not solely drawn from fringes, gutters or swamps. No. We are like a line drawn from top to bottom of all society; there are some top nob kids home educated alongside the feral squealers who once saw a comb and thought it was a medieval torture instrument.* Hey, sometimes they are both one and the same kids.

And with them is a huge swathe of kids swirling round the mouthy middle classes, whose ex-marketing manager mums are organising piano lessons on the one hand and Latin lessons on the other; doing it all in an environment safe from knives, drugs, and Jessie of 3b who will beat you to a pulp because you're wearing pink socks.

And these people from the top to the bottom of British society are attending to their children brilliantly and - dare we whisper it - sometimes better, and with more social mobility, than school.

But the NSPCC, DCSF and Badman are rather counting on that outdated old stereotype of home educators - shoeless, covered in grime, and living in a tent.

Well you don't have to travel far round the blogs to see that stereotype is changing. Bloggers who are smart, funny, thorough, determined, and wise.

Grit, who once wrote advertorial copy for a living and thus qualifies for what she's talking about, now contributes her cunning plan to help along our image change.

First, let's look at a case study: Image change and public consciousness: Fat people.

Once, fat people were as socially unacceptable as home educators. They were the objects of disdain. They were scorned.

But then the Great British Public discovered some of those fat people were having fun. More than that, some fat people were having sex. Kinky sex! They are having MORE FUN, MORE SEX and MORE KINKY SEX than thin people! What about those Fat Admirers! Feeders and Squashers! Ladies with big thighs! Men with big bellies! Yes! Yes! We all want to be fat!

Now hasn't it changed? Fat is OK. Fat is something we won't mind a bit more of round our sexy arses. The Great British Public is getting fatter just so they can have more kinky sex and more Jammie Dodgers.

Bearing this case study in mind, we home educators should be able to effect the same kind of image change.

Here is Grit's cunning plan.

We all take on that sexy mama and papa image for ourselves, because sex sells ideas.

So come on home educators! Let's change our image! Let's sex it up!

Mamas, hunt down those fuck me shoes, the sort you hobbled home in before you had the kids! Come along Papas! Splash on the Old Spice, cultivate that manly air, and come-to-bed smirk! Let's tell the Great British Public that home education is done by sexy mama and papas who pack the kids off to Latin, change from this...

to this...

...and then break out those Jammie Dodgers.

Disclaimer: Grit reserves the right to avoid any consequence of this post. Actually, she probably regrets it already.

*Please note that on some days I include Squirrel, Shark and Tiger both in the swamp-dwelling, comb-fearing brigade and in the cultivated tribe of posh kids who dine with daddy at official functions. Which just shows how socially fluid home educators can be.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Grit's top ten tips time! How to be irritating in Politics.

It is time to stop the silliness. Yes, Squirrel, that means you, threatening to poke cocktail sticks up Ed Balls' nose. No more of that. No threatening to kick Mr Badman on the shins either.

Right, let's think how we can all engage with the politics of the UK.

Or, how to be irritating until Judgement Day. That, for the Labour party, might be called Election Day.

Shark, I know you are aged only nine and cannot vote. But you, like Tiger and Squirrel, can be irritating if you try. You simply have to learn how to focus that ability to annoy more precisely. Aim it carefully at people in positions of power. And that is not mama, so put the puffin down.

Now, here are Grit's top ten tips, designed to propel our home education issues straight to the heart of government.

(Of course with these top ten tips you can make your voice heard with the people who run this country on all the important issues of the day, like molehills, jellyfish, and dog poo.)

1. See your MP.
In our case, waste of time. We have only annoyed ourselves. Go immediately to tip 2.

2. Connect and communicate.
Shark, Tiger and Squirrel, you have all the world at your disposal, or until the Ministry for Information shuts it down.

From here you can learn about the political processes of this country. Like Early day Motions. Or you can learn tactics about being annoying from masters of the art. But be warned! Satire might piss off people in power.

Don't repeat that phrase, Tiger. In the Co-op anyway. Say what? Yes. We can chant it at home. As much as we like. And nanananana PISS OFF PISS OFF CAN'T STOP US!

OK, stop being silly everyone. Back to the topic in hand.

Take part in UK politics by research. Look at Twitter, blogs, newsfeeds, email. Remember these connect you with people who both sympathise with, and criticise, your points of view. You have to become firmer and more robust in presenting your case. And these are skills of rhetoric, so we even get the Ancient Greeks in on the act today.

3. Write. And attend to the speling.
Write to them. Emails and letters are good. Postcards too. But have limited expectations. If you have a spineless toady MP squatting in a room in Parliament, they don't even bother answering.

Of course, ignoring the electorate is like asking to be baited.

Baiting politicians through the written word is quite satisfying. Until they figure out what you're up to. Then they start binning the letters and calling the police. Of course I was young then. These days I have to get the tea started so I don't have much time for this form of being irritating in UK political life.

4. Make your own forms for people to fill in.
This is very good. Play them at their own game. For every document sent to you, reply with your own form, called something like Permission to Request Information Form (Part One).

In the good old days when minor officials sent me pointless forms, I filled them in with several different coloured pens and some crayons. Then I supplied as much pointless information as possible, like how many stairs the neighbour is hiding in their house. If obliged to give anyone true information, I wrote tiny letters in 6 point and wrote it backwards at the end of a wavy arrow over the back of the page where they couldn't photocopy it. Oh, happy days!

5. Join lots of pressure groups or join no pressure groups.
Joining pressure groups can be quite annoying to people who know you, but to the people in power it gives them an opportunity to define you and therefore discount you. They can say Poohpooh who listens to home educating hippies anyway? By joining no pressure groups you are more difficult to pin down. Water is harder to catch if it's running off down the street in all directions.

6. Publicise your cause.
Most satisfying because your righteous indignation can be visited on lots of people all at once. Post office queues are good but, strangely, not cashpoint queues. I think the people in front assume you are trying to steal their money.

I prefer the one-to-one approach. Librarians are easy targets. They can be converted to many fringe issues by your evangelical zeal. And they are natural allies in the world of home education, possibly because they are traumatised, picking out chewing gum from bookshelves thanks to the term's school visit.

NB: One-to-one intensive chats on the state of the world do not work with bus drivers on board the number 45 at the city centre bus stop.

7. Engage in the democratic process
Sign a petition, take part in a survey, respond to yet another consultation, join the mass lobby of parliament. All these are worthy and they will go on.

In the home education world I have met a lot of people who've waged campaigns longer than a couple of months, so the government are underestimating the resilience of home educators out there. Some of them have fought schools for years to get a decent education before throwing their hands up in the air and doing it themselves with better results. So if the government thinks these parents will keep quiet come October, they've got some lessons to learn.

8. Know people, pull strings, and get the law changed that way.
Tricky. I fail at this one. But I know a man who knows people. He isn't invited to meet HRH PoW for nothing. Unfortunately people don't take the HRH PoW seriously much in politics, so I know this connection doesn't really help. Lord Lucus might be a better bet.

9. Direct action!
Of course I would not of course advocate illegal stuff, like cramming a teddy bear with icing sugar and BLOWING THINGS UP (Hello to the person crawling over this site looking for those words, along with GAFFER TAPE and ED BALLS).

Anyway, these days I am a middle aged, slow running, big arsed grit who has to get the dinner on. So my direct action now excludes running across fields engaged in acts of sabotage.

My definition of direct action thus has to include using CHARM. I know that's difficult to believe.

I would like to think charm means letting everyone know the successes, problems, frustrations and joys of educating children at home, with or without help from the authorities. This blog is one way of doing it. (As you can see, eagle eye junior spy, this blog isn't about BLOWING THINGS UP. It's about HOME EDUCATION.)

10. Continue doing what you're doing.
Shark, Squirrel and Tiger, my home educated children. You are wonderful to be with. You are funny, knowledgeable, sociable, relaxed, happy, safe, confident, energetic, ambitious, and full of inquisitive questions about everyone and everything. And there is no better way, in my opinion, to show the world, including those politicians, just how fabulous home education can be for children. And for their parents.

And that, for some people, must be really, really irritating.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Really, home educators should stand on the naughty step

Home educators are being told off by the DCSF.

You see, some naughty home educators have been finding out information. Like statistics that show up the low rate of child abuse in home educating families, and the potential for malicious referrals from the neighbour who doesn't approve.

Oh dear. This does not fit with the approved storyline at all. Now the DCSF are very upset and may withhold any more statistics to stop those home educators piecing it all together. They say this is because a few very naughty individuals are being silly and rude about Mr Balls and making Mr Badman upset. When we all agree they are honest gents about their business.

So today Grit's blog will be filled with pictures of kittens.

OK, I haven't got any pictures of kittens, but you can bet that if I had some today, just for the DCSF, Mr Balls and Mr Badman, they would be cute.

I have some pictures from the anal museum instead.

Yes, you read that right.

On the road signpost to Stoke Bruerne anal museum someone persists in removing the letter C. They've been doing it for as long as I can remember. I think it demonstrates literacy in action. You might say you just can't stop some people taking the piss.

And here are my home educated children, for whom this blog truly exists, so they can show all of you what a fantastic time they have learning at Blisworth tunnel and the anal museum - from the big group of home educated children they know and run around with, from the old man who let them all help push the lock gates open, from the enthusiastic education officer, the supportive museum staff, and their own wit and wisdom, exploring the real world.

Over to you, gritlets.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Just another Friday

Parents are in a position of trust. Parents have influence over their children. Children may act as these people want. The children may not realise this is not desired behaviour.

Register all parents. Subject them to forced annual checks by trained staff. Such staff will have the power to remove children from parents and interview them alone.

Next step?
We need to listen to children. We need to have a safe environment where children can talk, freely. We will simply invite children to tell a trained advocate about any activity in the home that they think falls outside of the normal conventions. Teachers will tell children what those conventions are; we will tell the teachers what to teach. Of course our new generation of children will not be recruited as informers. What an absurd idea.

Dealing with opposition
We need to engineer a mass movement to create our new culture. Then we can claim we have responded to popular need. We will soak the media with the word paedophile. We will suggest that everyone who has contact with children is a potential predator. The public will pick up this idea, and accuse each other. Those who are already beaten, coerced, downtrodden and mean spirited will do our work. You can hear them already: I have to register, why shouldn't you? We have to be checked, why shouldn't you? Because let's face it, if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.

'The introduction of a compulsory annual visit by a health visitor or trained advocate is suggested to ensure that the most at-risk children (about 68 per cent of cases involved children from birth to four) can express concerns to a professional.'
The Independent, 10/7/09

'...designated local authority officers should:
- have the right of access to the home;
- have the right to speak with each child alone if deemed appropriate'
The Badman Review, Recommendation 7

The Independent 'Eleven million names on schools vetting database'

The Independent 'Child database: danger of malicious reporting'

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Of course we are interested only in safeguarding children

Last month it was the turn of the home educators.

The government decided they needed to add home educators to a database.

The database will ensure all children are where they should be; that government agencies who need to know where our children are can locate them; that services offered by government can be more effectively targeted; and all local authorities can be brought into the twenty-first century model of citizen management.

And no one will complain, much.

After all, home educators are a disparate, incoherent bunch of oddballs and freaks. The best we can say of them is that they are a slightly batty, well meaning bunch of bread-baking lentil eaters.

OK, so they may include some parents who withdrew their child from school because of constant bullying by other kids. Let's dismiss them as the disgruntled parents who didn't get their first choice of school.

The database will ensure those disaffected parents can deliver parallel curriculum teaching. We can provide online support linked into our database service structure. Then those children missing in education can be simply slotted back into the state system at the first opportunity.

The database can track take-up rates for educational provision at all ages including the under 5s, produce statistics on lowered drop-out rates, and generate figures for an international audience, so we can prove the UK is rising up the worldwide league tables!

Well, OK.

There might be some parents who believe a pointless boring test regime has removed all pleasure from teaching and learning.

Those parents might say schools are increasingly run by narrow minded institutionalised thinkers adopting business models regarding exam achievement and league tables, turning local schools into factory production lines and manufacturing replicants for dead end jobs, where the success of the day will be to fill out a monitoring form on a colleague and mark their rate of achievement and performance by a success indicator chart which can be used in an annual assessment exercise which, of course, feeds into an employee's guided expectation of promotion and earning potential.

Weirdos. No, don't let's call parents that. Let's say those parents are disassociated from normal society. But given they are weirdos, they will fail to effectively socialise their children and fail to prepare them for a role in modern Britain.

Of course, in recalcitrant cases, like hard core weirdos, the database can help connect social services and other child protection agencies and the database can assist in removing children and assigning parenting courses.

And if there are objections to the database, we can say home ed parents are abusing their kids, brainwashing them, and photographing their bottoms for the international Mr Spooky abuse networks. Because the public will buy anything if we stick the word paedophile close by.

So that's the home educators sorted.

See? No one complained, much.

Now, whose turn is it next?

Ah! Story tellers. Makers of tales. Writers. They really are dangerous. They imagine other places, other times, other possibilities. They use their imaginations too much. They might have influence over our children. They might misuse their imagination. They might tell stories in the wrong direction.

But we can stop them getting at our children. We've got just the thing.

A nice, big, database.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Perhaps it's our freedom that Ed Balls doesn't like.

Today, there's a home education group meeting near you. Here's a party of us, and we're meeting up and learning together, without boundaries, tests or bells, over at the Tower of London.

And it's as simple as that.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

I have nothing better to do. I think I will bait the DCSF

I have some new home education lessons plans. I think I will submit them to the local authority and have them assessed in line with the new recommendations. I would like the effectiveness of my education to be monitored so I can improve the life of citizens in 21st century Britain.

Today my lessons focus on British culture. I have taught the gritlets how to spit, sit in the road, drink cider from tins and shout at passers by.

Here we are, learning how to eat greasy chips while walking along an average suburban run down back street.

These practical lessons have started well, don't you think, Ed?

Next week I will model staggering home at 5am covered in vomit and dressed like a street walker. I'll be dragging a drugged up Dig with Satan tattooed across his forehead in biro. I will tell Shark, Tiger and Squirrel the police may stop by, so it would be good if they could say the bag contains icing sugar. This would be excellent for real life learning skills in personal and social education.

Then I might do drawing over our body parts to give ourselves some tattoos. After that we could kick beer cans down the back lane, spray paint the word nob all over the neighbour's garage door, and walk with our chests puffed out while we hold a bit of string with a pit bull terrier on the end.

I know Shark, Tiger and Squirrel might have a problem reaching their attainment targets regarding the pit bull terrier, so I have made a start. I have drawn out a vicious dog on some card. I have even stuck furry stuff to it in the hope the gritlets might learn to pet a real dog and shout Kill!

There, you see, I have even thought of their educational targets on a twelve month timescale.

I bet the Local Authority is going to love me.

Monday, 13 July 2009

I am never going on another treasure hunt for as long as I live

Yesterday, passed through all nine circles of hell.

It started off alright, as one might expect, with the easy clue number one of the TREASURE HUNT OF HELL being something of the sort like Can you write here what is on the sign by the lake? Well of course we could! Ha ha ha ha ha!

How we laughed, and filled in the answer, and the sunshine sparkled on the gentle ripples of the lake.

Not for much longer matey. Because the next clue was beyond the deathly River Acheron

and that next clue was GIBBERISH. Like, B4 UC GL 5 PT can U C the HEART?


But by then it was all too late. The little grits had begun to cast themselves downward, forlorn, and soon began to weep and hold their heads in their hands with the incomprehension of it all, with the painful process of finding out EXACTLY WTF DO THESE QUESTIONS MEAN?

But we had already strayed with willfulness into the dark wood of the lamenting doomed, and now there was NO TURNING BACK.

We went on and on, FAILING to answer 50 QUESTIONS about Cardiff and rats and barns and Christian Ronaldo and all the Grits weeping louder and louder with the despair and impossibility of it all and REFUSING TO GIVE IN and all of it bringing me close to madness with the constant weeping of the damned ringing in my ears, and then I had to forsake all SANITY and have A BIG SHOUT.

I cannot then recall all the horrors.

No, not the incontinence and violence, the assailing by beasts, the wrathful fighting, the gnashing of teeth, tearing of clothes, pulling of hair, and agonies of TRIPLET PAIN having the BIGGEST FIGHT THIS WORLD HAS EVER SEEN. With mama shouting and children screaming and Here Here! Witness! An imminent physical attack with clipboard!


And all of this horror and mutilation was done in the name of the RSPB TREASURE HUNT which should have taken an hour OF FUN IN THE SUN but which took Grit and the gritlets THREE HOURS OF MISERY.

As we wretched, exhausted half-beings crawled back through the festering sore that was our pain, back to the solitude of our car, the LAST CAR IN THE CAR PARK

now numb with the pain and the sorrow of it all, seeing the organisers locking up, thinking we must have given up and gone home, they produced from Satan's back passage AN OUT OF DATE CHOCOLATE EASTER EGG EACH.

And then the little grits all calmed down and clambered with vigour into the car and went happy home as if nothing could possibly have gone wrong with such a splendid day out.