Wednesday, 20 January 2010

And dress in purple, green, yellow and diamonds

I managed to watch the committee meeting late last night on Parliament TV. Standing in the tiny, cold upstairs kitchen without a working light bulb, I peered into a laptop.

I am grateful. It's not like I had to lean backwards from the skylight with a television aerial gripped between my teeth.

The home education people giving evidence to the committee were strong, mostly. Chloe is astonishing. How old is she? Seventeen? I hope Shark, Squirrel and Tiger are as confident, articulate, commanding. She is the type of wonderful creature that shows you what it is to have an open thinking education. Unafraid to express her rights, know her freedoms; she is confidence without arrogance, expression without fear.

Fiona made her point: she said that there are families who aren't sleeping, aren't eating. For a whole year! Can you imagine that? There are ghosts among us; they walk abroad at night, hollow eyed. It's dramatic, that.

But I know what she means.

Our family has lived with this political process for one year. It is draining, and it has changed us. Made me stronger. More determined. Grittier.

In this last year, home educators have argued against negative press reports, signed petitions, coordinated information requests, written documents, collated responses, researched statistics, made videos, written blogs, letters, scripts, passed around news, run behind the scenes, coordinated picnics, protests, other people.

Telling you all, telling you all, home education is not the end. It's not what they say it is. It's the beginning. It's filled with opportunity, it's a community, a lifestyle, outdoors, indoors; it's anything you want it to be for your children. And it's strong.

But I know what Fiona means.

The last year has affected us in oh so tiny ways. Ways you wouldn't see or know, unless you are the type of person who knows themselves so closely - habits, preferences, the way you might turn this way or that - that you can detect differences in yourself, at the moment why you made this choice, not that.

When I have twenty minutes from lunch to the moment I bundle the kids into the car, I might once have quickly checked the events of a museum, called up the website to West Stow, planned in my head a day trip, imagined family, grabbed a phone number. But now, I don't do those things, unless I make time. Now, in twenty minutes, I check the parliament site. I find the message about the Lords. I make a note about the government position statement. I jot a name from the local authority. That is a difference this year has made to me. It is tiny, and it is huge.

And there is another way that life has changed. Once, I would stride along the street midday Monday behind three dancing gritlets making noise enough to rouse ten skeletons. I would have considered this a duty. By our very being, telling everyone that school is not the only option. That childhood can be better sometimes in the open air.

But now I reflect on the experience of the police and the truancy patrol and the threats and the negative media reports, and I fear glances of people in the street who know that only people like me do these things, and terrible things; how we fail children, everybody knows, people say. It must be true, otherwise the government wouldn't want to know, would they, unless there was something to know.

Some days I have thought we will wait till late afternoon before we go out the house. Then I can minimise the fear that I will be stopped in the street, made to account for myself, forced to fill in forms, expose my children to the argument, feel humiliated, because I chose something other than a classroom. It's safer to stay inside.

These are ways this year has changed us.

Of course I could ignore all the politics. Stop it reaching down into my family, and our lives. I could do nothing. I could carry on checking museum dates, diaries, imagining our visit over there, to the sea. I could do that. But I know that would be dishonest to what I feel. So indifference is not a good idea. Flowers would wilt. Cats would die. The day would rain, hard. Guilty, I would blame me.

Which leaves only one option. Go out at ten in the morning. Run the High Street from top to bottom. Bash dustbin lids. Clap hands. Be obvious. Be wild women tall and small. Be noisy, dangerous, free spirited. Laugh, loudly.

I know it is still our best defence.


kellyi said...

I know.

My son hit his head and I found myself debating whether or not to take him to A&E...because I didn't want them thinking I was one of those HE abusing types. Before the review I would have jumped in the car without a second thought.

He was fine. It was nothing but this is an example of the little things that have changed.

We too are still going out during the day, educating the populus on HE and wearing our "choose fun not school" T shirts loudly and proudly.

sharon said...

Have you consider the Leper approach? Maybe walking the streets dressed in white with your heads covered and ringing a bell whilst chanting 'unclean, unclean' will deflect the unwanted attentions of the Truancy Patrol and, in true British fashion, everyone else will avert their gaze and totally ignore your existence.

To kellyi - we almost lived at A&E during my younger son's early years, I was sure I would be struck off the Childminding Register and that he would be taken into Care! Never happened, although there were jokes about having our own cubicle when we made THREE visits in the space of a month - one head x-ray (no second brain found in the ginormous lump on his forehead!), 8 butterfly strips to a gashed forearm and finally a back-slab for a broken elbow!

emmy devil said...

You've made me start to cry reading this. I'm not prone to crying in front of a computer, but you've made me realise that I've buried my head in the sand for too long,trying to ignore government meddlings. We are seriously thinking of emigrating, just to get some peace, and do our own thing. Thanks for always giving me thought-provoking, wise and funny words to read.- Jackie

me said...

Totally - I have found myself looking at my neighbours and wondering which of them is going to report us first, or standing at the bus stop, on a weekday, during the day and wondering which of my fellow queuers is going to question us first. Before, I never had a problem with fending off the 'No school today?'s now they have all taken on a sinister avoid me at all costs feel - which is actually ridiculous because most people where we live probably wouldn't even know what the intitials DCSF stood for!!
But we will not stay in because we know what is good for us - we will carry on going out for exactly that reason.
Mandy :)

Raquel said...

If the public see us out and about, and obvious, it exposes the lie. Likewise, if your MP, or Councillors have met you or corresponded with you, you are again exposing the lie. If your child gets hurt, then don't hesitate. Get them to A&E and demand treatment. Again this exposes the lie. What it tells people is that home educators are out about in their community, they are bold and proud, they are active in politics and they aren't scared of acting on their concerns. Eventually the lie and the truth won't tally and people will stop believing the lie.

Debs said...

So glad it's not just me! Just what I needed to read today, thanks Grit, and thanks to Raquel too for that comment. I may print it out and put it up on the wall :)

Tech said...

Yes, thanks Grit :) It's been a really amazing year in so many ways. Last year I was depressed and defeated, this year I refuse to give any more of our lives to the joy eaters.

Raquel, you are brilliant! Love your comment - so simple yet so difficult to realise that it IS that simple. Meeting you and M was one of the highlights of last year, we wouldn't have ever done that were it not for badman, so for that, and other friendships that came my way because of all this, I thank you Bad Man.

Raquel said...

Likewise Tech :D

Firebird said...

I can totally identify with following politics having taken over chunks of your time. Every day I log on check my mail, check a standard list of blogs, check Twitter and finally the Yahoo groups, following links, reading, commenting, downloading for reference. Yesterday I spent sodin hours fisking a government document, today I MUST get on with a letter to a Lord.

OTOH going out is much as it was, I'm bloody minded me, I want a truancy patrol to stop me! Of course it'll never happen, like NSPCC collectors in the high street and Jehovah's Witnesses I think they have this 6th sense for trouble and keep away from me.

Mieke said...

Yes, let's all make a lot of noise! :) And make people laugh, too! There's not enough laughter and too much fear.

And about emigrating: I did that. I came to this country because I wasn't free to home educate in my native country. So I can understand why people (want to) do it. I know I am lucky to have teenagers, who have learned so much of being involved in this whole process in the past year and who wouldn't really suffer from any of this Bill going through. But their children might...

I use every opportunity to tell people how beneficial home education has been / is to my children and to share the truth about the government plans and I do try and point out the disadvantages of the school system without giving the school choosing people too much of a guilty feeling...

If the government thought their accusations and slander were going to drive me underground they were gravely mistaking. I had dozens of reasons to keep to myself and go my own sweet home educating way before, but now I have even more reasons to be noisy and dangerously free spirited. Thanks for your encouragement, Grit :).

liz said...

Loud applause from me! I concur that this is *just* what I needed to read today and every day. I have found myself doing and thinking as you have done and I totally agree that when the fearful impulse to keep indoors comes over me I must fight it.

Renegade Parent said...

I wholeheartedly agree. Every single truthful response and action exposes the lie - whether it's going about your daily life, talking to people openly and honestly, writing blog posts, commenting on news articles and showing others what a positive choice home ed is.

There is a growing network of people who are resisting the onslaught of profoundly anti-family, anti-individual government initiatives. We are finding each other online and forging such strong bonds that it's only a matter of time before we become as familiar with each other in real life.

Really, the government has completely underestimated how driven people are to protect their families - not to mention their freedom. We just need to keep calm and carry on :)

Firebird said...

Which reminds me I must get one of those t-shirts. :-)

ciaran_mchale said...

You wrote: "Chloe is astonishing. [...] Unafraid to express her rights, know her freedoms; she is confidence without arrogance, expression without fear."

I think the expression you are looking for is that Chloe is a Balls breaker.



Rachel M. said...

Well Grit, at least the gritlets have watched you tackle politics in a way that would not be taught in school and you've shown them how to make a difference.

An Almost Unschooling Mom said...

We have to embrace our rights, or we lose them. We're not violating any laws, we are free to visit museums, and libraries in the morning, just the same as any school class out in the middle of the day for a field trip. Just imagine, a "teacher" cringing, and looking over his/her shoulder as they lead their class of 30 students through the entrance of the Zoo. We shouldn't cringe either!

Grit said...

Thank you people for your thought provoking comments and support. I feel a renewed missionary zeal firing me up right now!