Monday, 27 December 2010

You make the difference, not me

I see British Mummy Bloggers is running a promotional award. Some brave soul nominated grit's day for the Make a Difference category.

It was a kind thought, wasn't it? But let's be honest. I think my role in mummy blogland is pretty insignificant. And I'm not being modest, I'm being realistic.

I can only guess the nomination comes about because I blogged about Ed Balls, Graham Badman, the NSPCC and the DCSF in 2010.

Thanks to that foul brew - a controlling government, a national charity-business, a scattering of D-list celebrities, umpteen newspapers and some aggressive local authorities who wanted a bit more power - you all heard how parents look normal, but you must never believe them, because they're just pretending.

Really, they said, some parents are extremists. They're evangelical nut jobs. They're wild and wacko. They hide their kids, beat them up, and prevent them from getting an education. Some parents, don't you know, are just plain wrong, bad, and misguided. Worse? Their kids are failed, and at risk of abuse.

The parents they talked about were home educators, like me. The children they referred to were mine, the home ed kids.

Why did those people say what they did? I can't answer in a line, but the impact was, they were cutting back the freedom for us all to choose the education best suited to our own children.

So yes, I started to holler. About that defamation of our life. About the attack on educational styles. About that loss of freedom of choice. I hollered, just the same, along with hundreds of other people around this country.

Together we organised ourselves locally and nationally. We linked groups, created petitions, challenged 'experts' and authorities, argued calmly, went berserk, sent out spokespeople, told you what we did, publicised the laws, pursued authorities. We went out and about as normal. We went to Parliament. We made ourselves a public nuisance. And we all wrote and wrote and wrote - letters, articles, blog posts.

I don't know, as a result of all that effort from everyone, how many people thought more about what they were told - about home educating parents, about home educated children - or whether people began to be more questioning or open in their own opinions and ideas. I don't know how many people took the opportunity of information and knowledge, went to their local school and demanded action on flexischool; nor how many people looked at their own children and wondered whether a different form of education would suit them better.

What I do know, is that any parent, any adult, who did not accept passively what they were told in that hard time, but who listened and thought, for a moment, about the politics, the media, the culture, the education we all want our own children to have - you made a difference. Not me. You.

The moment any of you stopped to think about what you heard from those in power, stopped to consider options to school, did not dismiss people like me and my family out of hand - you made a difference. You made a difference to the culture we live in, to the acceptability of our chosen education, to our ability to build a lifestyle in our community, to my kids, to me.

I won't canvass for a vote. I like to see any positive publicity for choices in education. But ultimately I couldn't care less about any award culture or any tick in a box. And I don't deserve any nomination any more than any other home educator or any other thinking parent who actively chooses their child's education, whether it's mainstream, off beat or unique.

What I do care about, more than anything, is that we all have freedom to choose. I want those principled unschoolers, radical autonomous, and all their kids to be left alone to get on with life. I want the flexischoolers who need both worlds to be encouraged. I want the school-at-home to be left to choose the support they want from a local authority. I want, for people like me, who wander from one end to the other of the spectrum, who try it all, to be left without judgement to follow our path. And I want the people who choose mainstream school to choose it because they want that service, not because it's there and it's free childcare.

Probably, I'm naive. But I think, you vote for freedom of choice, not by a tick in a box, but by what you do and say, every time you meet a child outside school involved in an education which is non-mainstream, every time you meet a home educating parent, and every time you think, Yeah, all those varieties of education? That's normal.

You want to go and vote? Go and vote for someone who actually gets off their arse. Go and vote for Making it up by Live Otherwise.