Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Thank you for the invitation

Dear government,

Thank you for the invitation to join your brave new world.

Unfortunately, we can't join. We're busy that day.

We probably can't come at any time.

I'll be honest.

I don't like the sound or the look of your brave new world. In fact I'll try and avoid it. Not only that, but I'll tell people why.

We home educate our three wonderful daughters. They are growing up to be people who will make this world an exciting place. They are imaginative, creative, filled with inquiry. They are learning, following their ambitions, and engaging, everyday, with this world.

My three children are educated in society. They constantly defy the expectations of adults who think of children as interested only in electronic games and hamburgers. My children teach adults that children are fascinated by adult worlds; that children want to learn from adults about rocks, and shooting stars, and water, and winds, and how every magical thing works and why it is.

And to those adults who teach us - who lead us on geology walks, history walks, who ask us why stars explode and earthworms wiggle - I want you to know that my children value you, what you teach, and what you say. You are helping shape their worlds.

Shark, confident, determined, articulate, has set her sights on the watery world of marine biology. She has sourced herself an online course, has questioned me about university, and wants to investigate all the depths of the world. Tiger wants to attend art college. Expressive, sensitive, responsive, she hopes to tell you that all lines, shapes and colours can reveal thoughts and feelings you didn't know you had. Squirrel wants to be Squirrel. She is funny, charming, interested in planets, soap bubbles, charcoal, paint. She's a champion for her rights and for the rights of all those she loves and knows, and, even of you when you fall on hard times. She's Lawyer, Engineer, Geologist, Scientist, Artist, Renaissance woman.

But, in your brave new world, I need a licence from the local council to introduce this world and its people to my children. I need to reapply, annually, for my licence to home educate. You do not trust me to support my children's needs or their goals. In your brave new world, only a local official knows what we should do. I, and the children, must therefore be inspected in our home; we must be advised, assessed, and marked.

Well, thank you for the invitation. But I'm sorry, I won't join your brave new world.

We have made our own arrangements for the education of our children, and I'm happy with that. I don't seek your approval, your sanction, and I'm not asking you for permission. When our arrangements founder, or our needs change, or we aspire to new ambitions, then we will arrange anew, because I trust our ability as parents to identify and reach the world around us. When we take that new step, I won't ask you to mediate our experience, to act as our advisor, or to give us the rubber stamp of your approval.

You see, in your brave new world, you are behaving as if my family is your family. But it's not your family. Our business is not your business. It's my family, and it's our business.

Yet there's more.

In your brave new world you would like me to be fearful and untrusting. You would like me to check on a database all the names of the many people who might have contact with my children.

Thanks for the invitation, but I'm not going to do that. I'm going to trust my judgement, my community, the judgements of others around us, my children, my family. I shall continue doing what I do. I teach my children to be in a society where adults will help them. I teach my children to always follow rules of personal safety. I teach them to never to leave a safe situation for a dangerous one; to be wary of people and places that make them feel uncomfortable, out of control, taken advantage of.

This is my responsibility as a parent. It is not your responsibility. You are not the parent of my children. I will support my children's growing judgement; I will trust them. I do not trust you, and I do not trust you to help them be the people they want to be.

I say all this confidently because we, as home educating parents, have recently come to understand some of the methods you would like to use to create your brave new world.

You tried to divide our community, and splinter it away from all society, when you said that home education was a cover for child abuse, forced marriage, servitude. You invited a great many people - not home educating parents - to take your words for themselves. If those people had done so, they would look upon us with mistrust, they would see us on the streets in the mornings and stop themselves smiling at us. Then they would ask themselves, Is that mother hurting those children? Are those children hidden? Are they indoctrinated? Does she abuse them?

In all honesty, I feared that reaction as a result of your dishonest, vilifying words. But I can tell you that many people I meet have not championed you. They have shown us understanding and tolerance. Many have expressed how they wished they could have home educated, or how unhappy their child was at school, and what benefit an alternative education would have brought. That has given me confidence that this society does work with trust, tolerance, and respect.

Trust, tolerance, and respect; these are true too of the home educating community. I respect others to know their family needs, to choose and shape their lives accordingly and to raise their children as they see fit. I expect in turn that I am respected; that the choices I make are respected too. With this approach, we support and give to each other.

But to create your brave new world, you are stamping on these values to give yourself the right to stand in this community, to take our judgments, to take our place as parents, as keepers of cultures, as deciders and makers of our fates, wishes, ambitions. I do not need you there. You will unpick the trusts that we honour, and take away the judgements we make, and then tell us you make for us a better future, one that is yours. Not ours.

So thanks for your invitation. But no thanks. Not now, not ever.

Have no doubt that we will continue to educate our children as we feel and think is right. We will continue to explore all things from stars to earthworms. We hope all the adults we rely upon will continue to teach us. You shall not stop me from living life this way.

And now we're busy. I must take Shark to look at the shores of the lake where we will meet her friends and teachers; Tiger to the stables to see Jenny, who helps her handle horses, and I must take Squirrel to the bookshop and then supply her with sequins.

Because it is these people, not you, whose invitation to the world I accept.


The Green Stone Woman said...

Very well said, grit.

Theresa said...

Bravo! I especially appreciate this part:

"I don't seek your approval, your sanction, and I'm not asking you for permission."

My feelings exactly.

Minnie said...

Hear, hear. xx

Elizabeth said...

Thanks for that Grit! I enjoyed reading it--and just wish more parents would take back their responsibilty to raise their children--and to trust their own instincts!

Danae said...

Amazing, and touching.

Thank you.


sharon said...

Wonderful Grit. Unregistered, unregulated and totally unrepentant! Keep up the good work.

mamacrow said...

blimey. Brilliant. your best ever (so far)

kellyi said...

Made me well up a bit, actually. So true.

Today we went to Chatsworth Roman Villa, took the free audio phones and our time to submerge ourselves into Roman Britain.

To the side was a school group, with children being ordered what to look at, what part of their packed lunch to eat and when, whilst my lot pretended to be gladiators on the grass. You could see the wistful school faces, and it made me sad.

(Incidentally, we are going to use the Playmobil vid yours created as part of our investigation :)

Angela said...

I hope some of those bureaucrats in charge are reading your blog and start thinking if what they are doing is acceptable, or in any way right and good. I really want to see their children compared to yours in, say, ten years time!

Grit said...

Thank you for your comments people!

i have got some of that off my chest. i can go back to being childish now and calling ed balls, graham badman and delyth morgan naughty names under my breath.

Merry said...

Hear, hear! (Or here, here! I never know. Shouldn't be left in charge of impressionable children really.)

Maire said...

Stunning and beautiful.

Mieke said...

Touched my heart and I will attempt to let it go viral, so that it can touch the world! Absolutely fantastic.
And you've reclaimed the word 'childish' to the wonderful magical thing it is :)

these boots said...

Gorgeous. Have posted the link to my Facebook thingy, hope that's O.K.

Grit said...

well i do not know what to say, people, apart from the fact that i feel a little humbled.

i cannot claim we are autonomous, and we do not run school at home; we work our way with organised groups, workshops, private lessons, public lectures, individual meet ups, extended trips ... the lot; it is evolutionary ongoing stuff for us, and i want to be allowed to get on with home ed our way and meet and use services as we see fit. to be trusted to do that would be my ideal.

kids need what kids need and all kids are different; their needs change as they grow older, so i want to be able to use all options as they feel might help.

but i worry that the badman route is steamrollering all our diversities, choices, and options into one route only, and it will actively prevent the many initiatives that people can work on and support, whether it's part-time and flexischooling or autonomous and unschooling.

really, i want as many options for home educators and for school-choosing parents as we can all dream up.