Saturday, 6 March 2010

Our society is made up of little people

The home ed community is a fantastic one. It really is. Here in a scout hut we can amass fifteen diverse looking kids, an odd assortment of parents including one company director, a bus driver, two grannies and a passing Jack Russell terrier, and someone attempts to teach the lot of them the essentials of Javanese boat building.

This type of community - your 'hidden' home ed community - is one wire that helps hold together this society.

We disparate and different people, all ages, colours, outlooks and beliefs, will meet, talk, make time for each other, and share biscuits for an afternoon in your local hired room. We may bring in the eccentric to show us his collection of matchstick pyramids that took 14 years to build.

And I can tell you now, we won't have thought about vetting each other. We won't be looking at each other distrustfully. Not one of us will jealously whisper about which neighbour's kid passed what exam. We won't be wasting time fearfully eyeing up competitive worksheets, or suspiciously examining each other's lunchboxes.

We may talk about a sports day for all the kids on the cricket field come summer. We may pass around telephone numbers of local musicians who can teach kids once a week; we may exchange information on friendly French speakers, artists who'll run workshops in their studios, the chemistry club that runs every fortnight and is led by the bloke with the wall eye and the limp. We'll discuss stuff like that. None of it will be licenced, controlled, monitored or CCTV'd. We won't need that. We have our local knowledge. We rely on recommendations. We listen. We learn from each other. We trust each other.

Because here we are, home educators learning how to get along. We'll aim to know each other, find new connections, become part of a local community, build up our networks.

For those who may have been failed by the mainstream systems, here is the safety net of home ed land, providing social contact, social cohesion, the glue of people who'll take time to get to know you and keep an eye on Tinkertop while you feed the baby sister.

And isn't this the problem? Because usually to achieve their lifestyle, home educators don't rely on big business, packaged solutions, or OFSTED controlled outputs. We are people, getting on with our own thing, using our initiative, supporting each other, and making our unique choices in the best interests of some weird and wonderful kids.

That's surely very inconvenient in a world of global brands, large-scale business, and commercialised, packaged solutions 'provided at a competitive rate, tailored to your customer needs' (so long as they're the same as everyone else's).

I think that's what the government doesn't like about us. We home educators are miserably local little people, difficult to turn into a microbusiness, loud-mouthed, independent-minded, argumentative, and not afraid of standing up and pointing.

But I'm told that everything's to play for. That it's not a done deal. There are right now debates in government between the values of localism and globalism.

Forgive me for feeling glum about the outcome. Already in our oh so small way we have felt the pressure of that fight lay upon our family. If anyone is looking for proof of that, take the last year of this blog. One minute I am chasing Squirrel around chanting the nine times table, the next I am scouring Hansard.

I've come to the sad conclusion that by degrees this government has deliberately sought to undermine my community and eliminate our difference. They have sought to pick apart our trust. They have diagnosed my local connections and declared them suspect. They have asserted that I, home educator, cannot possibly be trusted as a decent and responsible woman carrying out a legal duty of education. Indeed, they say that trust cannot exist at all unless it has been box ticked by a government official.

It's through these processes and over these wearying months that I've come to see the mechanisms of the DCSF's controlling and centralising agenda. It's not one serves our purpose. It does not draw out the best from us as self-reliant citizens. It does not permit our mature engagement in local policy. It is steadily seeking the control to remove my right to make responsible decisions for ourselves and our children.

But I observe how it does have interests in selling me packaged curriculums suitable for European targets. It does have an interest in creating employment to monitor me and advise me on which vetted CRB checked tutor from a national database I should employ. It does have an interest in turning my family into a microbusiness measured on the international markets. It needs to draw me into yet another Capita-created database, and then someone can make money from me, and I can be accounted for, told where my weaknesses are, better targeted for integrated sales, and be all branded business-like, where, in the direction of this government, global educational services truly lie.

Well, what I have to say to this government with their global forces seeking to direct all my local living, is that I'm not alone in resisting you. There are, out here, in these villages, towns and cities, huge and diverse communities of home educators, like it or not. No matter what you do, some of them fancy learning about Javanese boat building. Some of them will send their kids off to the bloke with the wall eye and the limp. And some of them may even build pyramids from match sticks.


sharon said...

Hip,hip hooray! Well said Ms Grit!

Big mamma frog said...

Oh..and I thought we all stood around gossiping about one another and slagging off the rich home edders who can afford to get other people to tutor their children...and the ones who are super-structured with their kids and make them do school work all day...and the ones who just let their kids run like wild animals...and the ones who have a house like a show home...and the ones who turn up to woodland forages in white linen trousers...and the ones who dump their kids on you and never offer to return the favour...and the ones who give you a dirty look because you're feeding your kids chocolate spread on white bread for the third day running...and the ones who think their kids are geniuses...and the ones whose kids ARE geniuses (cos you cant stand them either)...and...

Er, maybe I'm in the wrong club?

Or maybe my halo just slipped off my 3-days-past-needing-to-be-washed hair?

Big mamma frog said...

or maybe it's just hormones?

Grit said...

yeah sharon, give me a soap box and i'll use it!

take a chillpill, bigmama! the point is, you still turn up there and you still rub along, no? i love that diversity, although i accept there are people in it that i have NOTHING in common with, except that we home educate.

but more too, because does anyone in your list *tell* you how to home ed? it's usually our own anxieties about what we're doing that cause us to draw quiet comparisons with someone else who seems to do home ed better (and there are plenty of folks i meet that i feel do it better!)

but on the whole i'm usually struck by how tolerant folks are around me, and how everyone works hard not to exploit each other's vulnerabilities.

and your list is fantastic - let's add the evangelicals, the veganfreegans, the motherearthers who share washable bum wipes, and the one who only eats roadkill. gawd bless 'em every one.

Jax said...

fab post.

think I may be a slightly failed earth mother type, though difficult to say.

Moonbeam said...

Your blog made me cry. I have just arrived in home ed land though I have wanted to be here since the age of five (now 41). I don't want any one to take that away from and my kids. I can see that the Alternative Health Peeps survived the Governments interventions and grow more popular because them. I can see the Organic/sustainable farming peeps have grown stronger and more popular since the government intervend and now I have to believe that the free education peeps will gather and group and tell and pass on and even if the commmittee findings are fixed (food supplement committee scandle) it won't matter because this is the time of the individual, time for humility,and time for child cruelty to be a thing of the past. Remeber to live your life how you want to - What you think and feel happens get the right vibe out there it is time for freedom in life.

suzywoozy said...

Brilliant post Grit, I came here to cheer me up today.

Big mamma frog said...

And the ones that use the phrase 'chill pill' (only kidding!).

MadameSmokinGun said...

What about the ones who totally ignore their hooligan children, only looking round at the sound of a child crying to satisfy themselves that 'oh good - not mine' and carry on slurping their tea (made without offering to anyone else) and simply chattering away about hair-dye and the front cover of Q Magazine to anyone who stands still long enough and then whizzes off dragging brats by the ears 10 minutes early to avoid the clearing up? THAT'S ME!!!!! Can I come to your group 'cos my lot don't talk to me anymore?

Grit said...

thank you for your comments, folks. Long live the land of home ed!

MadameSmokinGun said...

Looking forward to The Chicken Man and his Chickens next week!

Really I am. Where else could he go but to a Hall-Under-Threat to see a motley bunch of home edders?