Friday, 15 January 2010

How are you judging us so far?

You know the British like to judge, right? And they don't do it directly. They do it politely.

Your best friend says, Where did you get that choker? (Trans. For god's sake lose the choker. What is it? Cut here?) Or they might say, That dress is an unusual fitting! (Trans. Walk three paces away from me.) Or, Did you do much over Christmas? (Good Grief! You've not been to the gym! Look at that enormous ARSE!)

Because you are BFF you let them get away with it. And you will have your revenge. On their wedding day.

But then! Disaster! You have kids! Your BFF disappears because Sorry, can't come to chat, am soooo busy at work. (Trans. God you're Booooring. It's all babiesbabiesbabies with you.)

This leaves you alone with dopey 17-year old Chardonnay who only comes because the NNEB tutor forces her, or the Asda instant coffee group, formed mostly of antenatal mums who sit in a circle and cry about their divorce.

Now you're a parent, judgement continues to pour in. Because you're vulnerable, you feel isolation, insecurity, guilt and misery. Are you going to feed the baby? (Trans. You baby murderer.) Does any baby really need that? (Trans. You baby murderer.) Would you hold the baby like that? (Trans. You baby murderer.)

It is hard enough to rip the damn squealer from your body in the first place without the rest of the world dropping judgement on what to do with it.

Now, while Grit has observed this huge and intense judgement that falls on new mothers - mostly via the technique of commenting on other mothers - she has largely escaped herself, on account of a thick skin and blasting beyond the knowledge of most people by popping out three at once.

When they see the indescribable Gritx3 coming, the opinionated hordes mostly shut up: they know they are out of their depth. And, quite frankly, my brass neck gets in the way of my hearing, so if there was an opinion offered to me by someone who hasn't any experience of what she is talking about (hello, Raquel!) then of course I don't listen. I ignore you and grunt uhu?veryinteresting. uhu?veryinteresting uhu?veryinteresting.

But then, I began home educating, and my perspective on those judgements widened. The world I now inhabit is filled with judgement, and most of it is ill-founded crap delivered, under the belt in a side-swipe, just as it was for the baby years.

At this point reader, relax. Because in my experience, judgement is not usually from other mums. Yes, I give credit to you school-choosing ladies. By this point, be honest, most of you couldn't give a toss. You discount me as beyond rational fringe hippie weirdo already. I appreciate that. Because it means you simply leave me alone to dream up a new home education type of insanity. Like, taking my own kids to the British Museum on a Thursday. If you hear about it from us, you just murmur, uhu?very interesting. uhu?veryinteresting uhu?veryinteresting.

So on the whole, I admit you school mums are pretty cool, and non-judgemental towards home ed. At least not blatantly, face-to-face, nor on my blog. I assume that is because we all share this rule, right, that we do what we think is the best for our kids. Even if you think what someone else does with their kids is crazy and not good parenting, you don't tend to yell it in my face. I thank you for that. I even try not to judge you in return! How nice am I?

Only one lady has ever gone in for the kill about my educational choice. They'll remain nameless. (Oh, what the heck. Hi Raquel! Let's see, was your opinion based on no experience at all? Not of school? Not of education? Not even of kids?)

But my point is, judgement is so ingrained in British culture, that we simply cannot be left alone to wear that black choker, feed a baby just like that, do our own thing in the British Museum. There is always someone out to judge.

There are plenty of folks who want to use your judgement to swing things in their favour. They would really like you to judge me. Negatively. And they are working hard to get you to do that. The headlines that we home educators are child abusers, didn't work on you. So they try something else.

Like in the response to the 5,000-plus people who gave an opinion about home ed. Mostly those 5,000 people said, we're doing fine, thanks!

But that's no good. People can't judge that, eh? So you need to be told what to judge. Here it is, because it will probably filter to you through the media, worse:

We received 5,211 responses to the consultation document of which: 2,222 were from home educating parents; 436 from home educated children/young people; 83 from local authorities; 40 from organisations representing home educating families; 40 from other organisations with responsibility for children. A further 2,390 replies fell into the 'other' category including anonymous responses, those who did not specify a respondent type; and 'campaign' type responses which were received after groups including the Christian Institute, Education Otherwise and the British National Party lobbied their members to reply to the consultation via their own websites.

See that? There are no explicit words which say We are discounting nearly 3,000 of the responses because they are written by home educators who are anarchists, illiterates, support extreme agendas, far right, far left, narrow-minded antisocial bigots, evangelical, and like to sacrifice dark skinned babies.

But did you get that distinct impression? From the positioning of those scare quotes? The use of the word 'other' to reinforce the idea of those who are different: the fringe loonies? The placement of the world's most reviled political party at the flourishing end of that long sentence, so that you just recall that name, more than any that went before, the BNP?

But now that your mind is introduced to that negative judgement, I guess they hope you'll discount this. They certainly will:

The majority of respondents said that visits to a family home by local authority officials were an unwarranted intrusion into family life and were completely wrong. Many felt that the visits would contravene Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights and were also discriminatory because officials did not have a legal right to entry to someone’s home without a court order under any other circumstances.


The majority of respondents, 4,217, disagreed with the proposed level of monitoring and thought that it was excessive, stating that Ofsted inspections of schools occurred much less frequently. 1,238 thought that the current law was clear and adequate and that the systems already in place would pick up where home education was failing. Others thought that where a parent had elected to home educate then the state/local authority should have no further responsibility regarding that child’s education.

I guess the point I can make from this document in full, is that you need to keep a very independent mind to cut through the judgements in this society, the judgements we all have an interest in you making, and simply think things through for yourself.

And make your own decision on the choker.


Merry said...

If i hadn't done already, at the other... BNP..." statement, i gave up and submitted to the realisation that i am living in an episode of Yes, Minister and Humphrey is alive and well.


Rachel M. said...

Amen Sister! Recent judgements in my court are - you don't need that binky in here (drop off at church day care), oh my goodness she needs a coat!, back in my day we didn't bring children to the doctor's office hrumps a little old lady.

sharon said...

Judged and found so guilty that I'm sentencing you to Life in Home Education with no possibility of parole before you have completed a minimum of 10 years (and that's not including time already served!).

My parcel of wondrous felted goodness arrived Friday but Himself only picked it up from the PO this morning. Please pass my thanks to the very talented Gritlets, the brooches are lovely and what a good idea to attach them to a canvas bag. When winter comes here again I will pin one to my woolly hat and use another to hold my scarf together in the wind!

Will e-mail later ;-)

MadameSmokinGun said...

In the same vein that simply being pregnant invites strangers to come right up to you and cop a feel of your personal person, so being in possession of a small human invites deeply personal comments unheard of in pre-breeding days - whether these 'sages' have any experience or not. All of a sudden you are considered to be Inadequate Without Trial.

The legacy of Gina Ford and Ed Balls? What kind of society are we brewing? How will the resulting 'adults' bring up their offspring? Oh god - let me out now!!!!

Stepping over any line freaks people out. Stepping over the kids-at-school line makes people think and they don't WANT to! There's a definite attitude of 'well we had to go through it so they should too'. However now we are a mob of certain heightness we have naturally gained a little lip-biting space. When we are asked 'no school today?' while we're out and about I always say 'nah we don't bother with that old nonsense' and then we get thumbs up and well-wishing.

I think we scare them into submission these days! It's like 'I dare you to give ME unwanted judgements!' - I think they save the rolling eyes for when my back's turned.

But on paper I am obviously a dangerous deviant - in need of being put right.


katyboo1 said...

I wanted to send my daughter to a Steiner school. There wasn't one within fifty miles of our house. I then seriously thought about home educating her. And you know what? I didn't because I am a terrible, impatient, teacher. I do not have the skill. Even doing homework renders me tearing my hair out and running about like Victor Meldrew.

My eldest daughter is now about to go to high school. If I cannot get her into the one school which I consider good enough (a state school), which isn't in our area, I do not know what to do. I am thinking about home schooling again and will be mailing you for much needed advice.

I think you are amazing. Truly amazing. I read your blog with awe.

That's my judgement.

Keep fighting.

Grit said...

it's sort of pathetic, merry, i think. it shows how they haven't got any serious argument to use against us, so they're going for some headlines. unfortunately, i no longer hope that the education press will see through the crap.

follow your instincts, rachel! no-one is in your situation but you, so make sure you do what's best for you and yours!

fantastic, sharon, i'm glad they arrived! it is lovely seeing the neighbours walking about with them too!

that argument was used against me, mme sg, that 'kids have to learn in school and one day they will thank you for the pain'. it's total crap. they can suffer pain at home just as well, and i don't have to get out of bed at 6am.

katyboo, you are too kind. but there is a secret to this home ed lark. (sshhh. don't tell ofsted! it's that kids who want to learn, *teach themselves*. you just provide the support. and i have NEVER yet met a home ed kid that didn't want to find out something new about the world.)