Monday, 31 March 2014

'How will they catch up?'

'How will they catch up?' Add expression of bewilderment.

Now you have the question posed to me yesterday in my accidental meeting when they found out what I'd kept - for the sake of social nicety - hidden. That my children have never been to school.

But by then I was tired of keeping up appearances. I was ungracious in reply. We were unlikely to meet again. I became, shame on me, a bit mean.

But the question is telling. It betrays the idea that children should not be out learning in a non-managed environment. Is it really an education? Climbing trees, wading in rivers, running across fields chasing butterflies? Children must be managed to come to a uniform level; to make this mark; achieve an expected grade, by this age. It must be so, with each new year.

It's an idea that has no educational basis. Teachers, educationalists, people who see how humans grow, know how all people grow at different rates; they learn skills at different ages; they can walk, talk, read, at their own steady pace, learn about the world, at their own steady, human pace.

Step 1, Step 2, Step 3 - this managed, monitored, bought-in learning regime made suitable for children, it's an agenda that suits those corporates now working in the educational delivery business.

Every child should learn the same things by the same age? We can help!

The argument could go like this: dismiss that unqualified teacher, kick them out, and place your child in our managed and progressive learning experience, best where we can test them, feed back their results, so you, parent, classroom supervisor, technician, know which box has not been ticked; now we all know where to focus energies, so each child can make the grade, bang on time, just when they should.

First we need to downgrade the teachers.

And we need to demand everyone is doing exactly what they should.

Then we can suggest the corporate edu-business provides every parent who cares about their child's future with a monitored child-based educational service delivered straight to your learning platform (annual fee payable).

My bet is on Pearson.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

It may be a local charity, but it's a national lesson

Fortunately! We live in a time and place filled with life lessons!
  • How to leach public money into private hands.  
  • How to go about asset stripping
  • How to behave in a way which is technically legal but which suggests you have the moral compass of an alley cat.
Yes! these ways - liquidating assets, potentially transferring charity cash into the coffers of a private company, potentially winding down an arts charity, setting up cabals of private companies to contract and sell services to each other - they're all technically legal!

We may have just a local charity, but it's a national lesson in how life works.

Then truly, I do not have much of a voice. And I, like hundreds of other local residents, have no expensive legal teams, either.

Please click over to my local arts charity - place where Shark, Squirrel and Tiger have enjoyed dance, drama, willow bashing, and buying fluffy buttons from the old ladies at the WI craft - and measure how the locals feel.

Creed Street Theatre and Arts Centre.

And if you really want to help, sign the petition to ask the five trustees to withdraw the sale of the building and stand down.


Don't believe grumpty ole Grit? Check out the comments: 

'Places like these nurture creativity, bring communities together, support individuals and inspire people to face life's challenges. How can thes trustees have been allowed to do get this far? This centre must be saved for the whole MK community'

'I feel betrayed by the current trustees. This building has been a key part of community life in Wolverton and has provided a generation of children with their first encounters with the arts.'

'Community. Not Profit.'

'Creed at theatre was central to my early exposure to the arts and is a major part of why I now work as a filmmaker. I want young people to continue to have access to this vital resource and be influenced as I was.'  

Monday, 10 March 2014

Is it March already?

Triumphs! Disasters! Miseries! Cups of tea! Value packs of gingery biscuits consumed at speed in fields!

Apart from those, take the month's bits, fished from our home-educational cauldron.

1. Blood, guts, revenge, as in The Duchess of Malfi at the Sam Wannamaker Theatre. Fulfilling Part One of my historically-themed Jacobean fantasies (sub-section A; dressed). I was reluctant to pay for it to be realised, but I had to. The only way to explore the innards of this exciting new theatre next to Shakespeare's Globe in London is to hand over the cash. The theatre's first offering: Webster's bloody revenge drama.

Yes, beautiful, desirable. You must visit, obviously, soon. When the Americans hear about this place, your chances of a seat are nil. Candlelit, wooden-interior reconstruction: wonderfully done, but too, too clean; feel free to grub it up a bit with feet and fingers. Go easy on the tongues. The old ladies tell you off for licking.

As a theatre space, hmm, not sure. It's Jacobean. Both its strength and a weakness, if you bring your 21st century consciousness to proceedings. Like an expectation to see the stage? I missed the bleeding corpses at the end thanks to my half-view (standing at the back, cheapskate for a tenner, restricted view). But brilliant potential for nose-to-nose intimacy if you pay for the pit. And no feeling yourself when you're down there because you'll put the actors right off. (Maybe that was a memo for myself.)

The Duchess of Malfi, by the way, didn't quite work for me - Bosola's lines were, for example, delivered a little too laid-back and languidly for my taste. And more. (Shark, Squirrel and Tiger benefit from such critique-yak, so if you're educationally watching, you can add the hour's critical discussion on theatre experience for the train afterwards and call it English Lit.)

2. Music of slightly dangerous unpredictability, as in the live Radio BBC2 Folk Awards, Royal Albert Hall. Anything could've happened! Jarvis Cocker was there!

I indulged us, reasoning that I cannot afford four tickets to Cambridge Folk (unless someone hands them out for free), and I am running a home education curriculum in music.

Now I feel better about indulging myself! Folk is ticked! (Don't tell anyone we haven't got a music curriculum.) (Or that we don't do terms.) (And shut up about parents simply using home ed to get what they want.) You never know, I might be suddenly driven to have the little grits enjoy a Grunge-Metal-Punk mix.

3. The spice of anti-semitism or social satire? Merchant of Venice at Shakespeare's Globe. The Deutsche Bank financed production, aimed at the youth market. Damn those bankers and their educational outreach! Just when you want to despise the lot of them. (Note to home educators: try and get free tickets.)

4. A few frail Georgians at the British Library. I want to be excited about dropping this into the education cauldron, I do, but no. The exhibition reaffirmed my understanding about the Georgians but missed the crucial life stories. I left knowing about the times and all, but not much more about Mrs Miggins and her like who made it: those who rose or fell, won or lost, succeeded or failed.

Kids agreed, and we all wondered, what is wrong with learning about the Regency from Blackadder?

5. Trading Vikings at the British Museum. Yes, we got chucked out after 20 minutes. Did I know there was a private party? I did not. They should be clear about these things. I should have blagged my way back inside. Anyway, the exhibition is fine. Lovely brooches. Go and see it. Scholarly, informative, well displayed, probably not extensive enough.

On the other hand, the first reviews of this exhibition right pissed me off. They are much of a type: men revealing their blokey-jokey attitudes towards 'rape 'n' pillage', then lamenting how little 'rape 'n' pillage' they can enjoy from the British Museum's Viking exhibition. Get some learning in Baltic trade and drop the horn jokes, fellas.

6. Sleepovers with a Japanese wolf film (kids, not me); sporty things (weekly sub aqua/ monthly horse backside/ random running about woods); various groups (Ramblers/ astro /woodcraft); lady training tea parties at Lula Bops. Keeps our diaries full. Shall I count them all as the S-word?

And there was the birthday.

But don't leave us in charge of the alphabet set.

7. The under-17 car club. Aunty Dee's money well spent, in my consideration. I totally love this club, and if you haven't got 12-year olds who want to learn how to drive, find some.

This is the one where kids aged 12 sit behind the wheel of your Audi to spin it round an airfield. Papa clutches at his heart and makes involuntary leg movements towards the phantom brake pedal. Well, you do have access to the handbrake from the passenger side. This is my reassurance to Dig, as he watches Shark rev up the bashed up Citroen Berlingo and send it into two dozen cones.

But there is no loss here, only gain. So far I have missed the briefings, broke the speed limit, run out of petrol, failed to see the man running behind my car waving his arms wildly, and driven around Oxfordshire with an INSTRUCTOR sign on my car when I am no such thing. And they forgave me, so really, where's the problem?

She's in charge.

8. My Knicker Drawers.

I know I am now off-piste with the educational cauldron, and this might not be counted as education for the teen grits - unless you say it is mama modelling how not to run the finances of a crafting business - but I'm including Knicker Drawers because the Knicker Drawers is all I'm doing (okay, when I'm not trolling exhibitions, chucking money at the Globe, making a nuisance of myself in the British Museum, or watching the kids drive into a central reservation made of plastic cones). It is going well, thank you.

9. The MOOCs, IGCSEs, Geography workshops, general academic sessions etc. etc. Yes, plenty. Tiger enjoyed the ceramics workshop at the Victoria and Albert Museum, we are all enjoying Latin because it is the goddam law, and I arranged a talk with the Parks Trust about drains, so give me a big tick for that.

Also on the list is fish passion, an urban development session in the first circle of Northampton town centre (kids with clipboards), a poetry session, and a battlefields walk in St Albans (again). Here, poetry.

Which must include cake, so have Poetry of Cake. Stick a disassembled poem, word-by-word into your fairy cakes, then have the kids decide on a new word order. See what beautiful phrases and evocative ideas they come up with (paper weddings / blotted rings / dawn memories), then scoff the result. Delicious, in all senses.

Look, if you are considering home ed at secondary, then hurrah! Do it. You missed all the freebie sticking and gluing sessions for the 5-year olds, but you probably didn't want them anyway; you end up with glitter and glue as a permanent culinary addition to your mashed potatoes. Enjoy now at more considered and senior level, the many co-ops, remote tutors, and general MOOCery that you can join.

10. But, with my control issues, there must be ten items in my educational cauldron. Then add Squirrel's collection of soil, which she has ironed. If there is method in it, I have failed to find it. Look on the bright side. There may yet be some future career to be developed, in general soil flattening.