Friday, 23 May 2014

Nuts and seeds, knitting your own yogurt.... etc

This post is long. Sorry.
 TL:DR home education is awesome, legal and won't mess my child up.
I have found I dont get a lot of time for blogging any more. Actually I don't get much time for a lot outside of educating the child and making sure there's a sanitary bathroom and a kitchen worthy of making food in.
But here goes with trying to fit in blogging too.
The reason I am back is because Squidge is Home Educated. When most people hear about home education they assume a few of many things.
Here's some of the most common:
• The child is a genius and ahead of her age in everything and school couldn't keep up or the complete antithesis of this;
•The child is not up to parr and couldn't keep up with school.
•  More worryingly,that child was kicked out of school.
• That we are transient, extreme vegan hippies who live on lentils, don't own a TV and don't vaccinate.
• That as such, Squidge is being left to find her own way, be completely autonomous and that we believe she will absorb learning rather than needing to be taught stuff.
• That we are Tiger Parents.
• It's easy, we're lazy.
• That we are snobs.
• That we are religious zealots
• She will never learn how to fit in with schedules
• The child has no social interaction with other children and finally
• That what we are doing is unregulated, unsanctioned and/or illegal.
NOPE. Well, mostly.
The child has her own pace. Her writing has been a big block since she was withdrawn from school. Did you have a teacher at school that you felt picked on you, no matter what you did? Squidge did. Her literacy teacher.
   The kid didn't get a break time for the whole of her time in year one because she was slow to finish and the teacher had high expectations of both accuracy levels, neatness and productivity expected for 5 and 6 year olds. I would have complained at the time, but this didn't come out until she had been out of school a year and had only just started taking about that part of her experiences.
   She still has nightmares involving this man shouting at her and screwing up her half page of work for a spelling mistake.
Here's the thing... SHE'S DYSLEXIC. In a school aparently prized food is SEN provision, glaring signs were ignored. My concerns were brushed off and ultimately Squidge was failed, pushed to far and stressed out of her gourd. The week after we withdrew her from school, we paid for the test the school had refused time and again; lo and behold!
She was also mercilessly bullied by other kids. One particular child made it her life's work to make squidge's life hell. She also had such power that other kids, fearing reproachand the same treatment, home in ganging up on squidge. "Kids will be kids", yeah but they will also not change into decent adults if they're not taught the correct way to act.

  School was informed of the issues over and over and did ZIP. Meanwhile my kid became a broken shell.
She didn't eat. She didn't sleep. She was in her own world a lot of the time, and when she wasn't, she was volatile. She talked of self harm and causing her own death. This isn't some emo, hormonal teen we're taking about. This was a SIX YEAR OLD.
We had planned to leave her 'til summer and see how it went; the same as we had when the problems began arising in her reception year. By easter, something had to be done because I was certain my child would not be alive by July.
This is even before you factor in the lack of care for a medical complaint she had requiring medication at set times; and the time when (in her second week of reception) an LSA gave her a snack. Squidge handed it back, saying she couldn't eat it. She understood about her lactose intolerance. Something which I had informed the school of. The LSA ignored her, gave it back to get, told her it would make her big and strong and that she had to eat it. So she did. She was then in so much pain that she couldn't manage lunch and when I picked her up I was told she had spent the afternoon in "time out corner" for not sitting and doing her work. She had told the teacher her tummy hurt, but the teacher had thought she was making it up to get out of working before playtime.

This happened another four times, I complained each time but was told the head wasn't available for a meeting. It was only when I sent a letter, explaining that if it happened again I would be contacting the LEA about it that she was finally added to the school-wide list of children with allergies and intolerances.
My kid is not stupid. She is sharp as a tack, has an incredibly grown up sense of humour and can grasp new concepts quite easily now she's recovering. Ok so her handwriting is terrible. Her spelling atrocious, but she's working on English grammar concepts meant for a nine year old. She's at around age 10 level in scientific understanding, while her reading age is spot on for her chronological age and her maths is age appropriate too (now! After much work on her part!).
Ok.  Are we all hippies? I can't speak for others,  but my family are what I would refer to as partially hippy. Not transient, we live in a rather nice 1950s rented mid-terrace.
Not vegan but we do enjoy the odd lentil from time to time and I gave been known to knit my own yogurt.
We do own a telly, sophie is quite partial to a bit of Dick and Dom. I am not.
Squidge is vaccinated to the eyeballs because I believe wholeheartedly in vaccination. Others do not, and that is their choice, same as this is ours.
Autonomy is one of the hardest concepts for non home educating people to grasp, and is often misunderstood. Squidge is not autonomous, but her education IS mostly child-led.
I have seen completely autonomous children go on and do really well for themselves, but I know squidge's brain doesn't work like that. She needs structure. Not as much as some, more than others.
Autonomy is the idea of leaving a child to do their own thing in their own time, but providing support and resources if they're wanted or needed.
We're using an approach that is often muddled up with autonomy. Child led education is where a child chooses their own education stew for want of a better analogy, but an adult is very much in the picture giving that stew the extra veg it needs to be satisfying. Ok so that analogy maybe isn't great...
The approach varies from family to family, so I will focus on ours alone. I have no right to judge others because what works for us might not work for them, and vice versa.
Squidge does "projects". Generally amounting to 1-2 pages of A4 paper. She choose the subject (sometimes from a list given by me) and we work on it. 
The only long teem project we're doing is about our giant African land snail, Fluffy. She has charted his growth from when we got him (12 weeks old) to now (26 weeks; they become mature at 40-50 weeks).
This project wasn't just about her pet. There is literacy in the form of writing a short paragraph about Fluffy. Numeracy in the measuring and charting on a graph. Accuracy, hand eye coordination, art, biology. We even fitted in a little Latin when identifying his breed (Fulica), geography of the main locations Fulica choose to breed in. ICT in using search engines to find information... One snail, many uses.

Squidge also does a bit of English and maths every day. Well nearly. Well, at least a few times a week. On average. And she is a voracious reader.
I do not force the issue. This panics some people I know because they are certain she will never catch up. I think I need to lend them a book which has really helped me; Ruby Flew Too. It's a young children's book about a duckling who is a little behind the rest of her clutch, but who ends up excelling. The main repeating theme is "She will do it in her own time". That duckling could honestly be a metaphor for my child. When I get wobbles about our approach, I just re read it.
Neither me nor my hubby are snobs about home ed. It works for our family. It works for our lives. It may not work for everyone and it is not the easy route. The is a lot of soul searching that goes on, stress, fear.. but ultimately when you find your approach and are confidant and comfortable with it, it becomes a lot less scary and stressful.

Many times I have feared that or approach won't work, that she's not doing enough, that we are doing her a disservice.... it all turns out to be tripe in the end.
Squidge is being raised by a pagan and an atheist. In a wide family and friendship group that contains Protestants, Jews, Catholics, Jehova's Witness,  Quakers,  Muslims, Agnostics and even one or two  Pastafarians (r'amen). I don't think she's ever actually noticed. To her, they're all just kids to play with. Even home ed parents are largely very inclusive and friendly, which is something I never found with the school gate cliques.
Socialisation is a word that REALLY gets my hackles up. It's a misnomer, a lie, a fallacy. "But what about socialisation? They only learn that in school". I CALL BULL POOP ON THAT. Forced association is NOT socialisation. Squidge attends quite a few groups, sees friends regularly and spends a lot of time of and about. Does she hide behind my patched,grass stained jeans? No. She gets out the and talks. The reaction of the first few kids she told that she's home educated made her refuse to tell anyone, but she's got a thicker skin now, and great pride i her lifestyle.

For the groups she attends, we need to know how to balance our time. We have to stick to a schedule. She knows that her week kind of revolves around the things, Brownies on a Monday, Gymnastics on a Wednesday and a semi structure group on Fridays.
What we do is perfectly legal. We chose to have LEA involvement because Squidge loves our education lady, and because I need the support of a yearly check to see that we really are ok. But, we don't legally have to have this. If she been home ed from birth, we'd never even have had to contact the LEA. Even now, we would have the right to request that we only send in a letter once a year. However, Squidge loves out visitor.

Although I know some families with home ed from birth kids who chose to be in contact with the LEA, most choose not to because of the "ultra vires" methods used by some councils.
So that's us.
My blog will still be largely craft based, but as my life revolves around Squidge's education, I guess this will too lol.
 (yes. that says bum. repeatedly. she's writing ok?!) 

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