Sunday, 7 November 2010

Then Dig got up and moved.

I sat on the ferry the other day and got quite angry.

Scowling, muttering, eyeball rolling, and finger-in-the-air jabbing is exactly how you can tell.

Fortunately, this time Dig was sitting next to me, so I wasn't surrounded by a widening space and people peering from behind their newspapers.

Today, they probably assumed I was cross with Dig. Like, he fails to put out the rubbish! It should be his job! What else does he do around this house? (Apart from earn all the family income.)

But I was not cross with Dig. No. I was cross because sometimes I do not feel I have a voice.

Incidentally, if I did have a voice, no-one would listen. People lose all consciousness the moment they see The Hair. I wish I could say that my hair looks as generous and fulsome as a pair of Pamela Anderson strap-on breasts, and that is why most people are struck dumb on meeting me for the first time. It is not. Looking at my hair is like looking into a scaled model of the Big Bang. One that has gone terribly, horribly, wrong.

Now even I'm getting distracted by The Hair. Forget The Hair. That is not the point of this post.

The point of this post is that I read a discussion a little while ago, about whether small groups working together can create ideas and act upon them in such a way to impact society for the better.

The writer invited suggestions about how community groups can be encouraged. The first comment to appear in that discussion was of the nature 'teach community involvement in school'. I thought, that is so totally the wrong way round, I could smash up the monitor screen so I never had to read that comment ever again.

Then I wanted to write a comment about the communities I am part of, and say things about how they work in society. But I knew there was no point in adding to that discussion anyway, because no one there would listen. They had already wandered off into how schools could help teach a community how to be a community. My voice would be way out of that discussion, discounted, and lost.

So I thought maybe I should put some of my comment into my own blog, because that is my place for a voice, even though it is sometimes weepy, self-pitying, rambling, incoherent and downright odd.

So here it is.

One of the groups of people I listen to and talk to is the home educating community. I do not know sometimes if I am part of it or not, nor sometimes whether I should call it a community.

Astonishing diversity characterises this group of people. Rich, poor, middle income, on benefits, professional. School-at-home; autonomous; flexi-school; natural learners; learners with very specific needs and qualities and gifts, and kids who just want to draw horses (hello Tiger!). We're all there, swilling about.

Of course we don't all simply agree. Sometimes, when there is a political issue afoot (like whether to draw up new guidelines for local authorities or not) you could lock two home educators in a room together and fifteen minutes later one will emerge with a black eye and the other with a fistful of hair. If we're lucky they might have agreed to disagree.

In a way, that is how it should be. The voices are diverse, chaotic, yelling to be heard, arguing that no-one represents an individual better than an individual themselves.

But from it I can see two things. First, the most incredible qualities. Resourcefulness, strength, wisdom, and bloody minded determination. You will receive a hard and fast welcome somewhere here. Open hands, straightforward talk, and generous warm hearts will help you on the way.

Second, you'll find a willingness to react to social challenge. That might be because, if you home educate, you simply throw your kids in the face of society. You parade them to the library at 10.30 on a Monday morning. You stand arguing in front of the museum exhibit on iguanas for an hour. You march them to the shops while one kid is dressed as a skeleton, and the other has experimented with the blue face paint again. When society notices us, which they do, then believe me, we aren't going to wither and creep away under your gaze. We're going to stand up and tell you what we do.

From that, I'm going to assert that people in this home ed world are natural innovators, both in education, and in society. We push at the mainstream because we face it daily. You can see us everywhere presenting different agendas, a different approach to living and learning, different educational thinking, and different resourcing. That type of innovation should be supported and encouraged. The previous government reacted to it by attempting to control it, micro manage it, and measure its life-blood against a list of dead tick-sheets nailed to the coffin lid of a clipboard.

If you doubt me, compare your mainstream educational provision. There, you're hidebound by years of rules, guidelines, vetting procedures, checks, more checks, inspections, tick sheets. No-one can move from one classroom to another without massive organisational and timetabling input from several members of staff. How inefficient and unresponsive to change can that be? How can you teach community growth, wisdom, innovation, from that?

So you should listen here. People in the home educating community may be very diverse and seem to argue a lot, but we are distinguished from the mainstream, and that is our very great strength.

We have a very different relationship with state authorities; we come to those authorities with different demands, expectations, ideas and resources. We are not going to simply accept what we are told or given. We do not need to be 'taught' how to create a community. We do that already, based on our shared interests, outlooks, and kids.

And as for the mainstream? We will shape your expectations. We will shape your schools. We will shape your educational future. We are already doing that. We do it because we are committed to what we do. We are doing this visibly in your neighbourhood community every single day of the year.

That is why the commentator who immediately reaches for mainstream school as the place to teach community involvement is looking in the wrong direction. Look the other way, to home educators: we are showing you a way forward. And it is another reason why you should take Grit very seriously and stop staring at the damn hair.


ladybirdcook said...

yay, super post! I love this attitude! Thank you, you have inspired me to go and kick some ass today :-)

June said...

I really want to see your hair now. Sorry ;o)

Elizabeth said...

Actually--I almost feel as if this isn't the 'new' way, but the old and time honoured way of learning. For thousands of years learning was a community event, and it was the root of the family unit. The parents and other elders always taught the young what they needed to live within their community by setting an example, giving hands on experience, and nurturing their strengths and weaknesses so that they are able to make their way in the world. And the scary part of it all is, is that it has taken less than 200yrs to ruin a wonderful way of learning, to cloister it behind closed doors, to stop free thinking when most people have finally been granted that right, and to basically destroy the family unit. And their awfully proud of their achievements! (And by the way--I love your hair--those of us with fine hair would do anything for a bit of volume!!)

Rachel M. said...

I've seen a back view of the hair and it looked perfectly normal.

kellyi said...

I had a conversation in Tesco with the cashier this morning - wish I had read this first.

She did the "no school today?" thing and I replied no, they don't go to school. She said she thought I would say that, and my first thought was "is it our hair" which is just plain spooky.

She then went on to say how her son would like HE as he is very shy but his head of year said he couldn't (!) and that a boy he knew had been getting A grades but left to be HE'd and then two years later he was back in school getting C grades (shock! Horror! And probably lies)

I asked the cashier one simple question. What was the boy in question like as a person. She didn't know.

I also informed her of her rights, that her head of year has bugger all say so in what they decide to do and that if both her and her child wanted to try it, then what did they have to lose?

She went a bit quiet after that.

Deb said...

I agree Grit. Aside from my eternal admiration and affection for you, I am now consumed with seeing your hair.

Kelly said...

Well, at least you have hair. Whereas some of us have lanky, hangy bits of string thinly stretched over scalp, getting thinner and thinner as the years go by.

Retiredandcrazy said...

I didn't know you scary hair! What's up with it? Sorry, I'm being silly again aren't I? As you know I get het up about things too grit. At times don't you just want to scream at our inability to make simple, sensible change? I think that right now David Cameron must me tearing his hair out too.