Sunday, 28 February 2010



I need to write this as I've been extremely angry recently and feel the need to try and explain why. My friends have suffered and they have already been through this once before. I probably didn't explain well then and I know that it isn't clear now, so here goes:

I am furious at the recent use of the Khyra Ishaq case by Badman to push through his invasive rules regarding home education. This case has come at an incredibly bad time for us, but also it is disgusting that it is being used at all. Don't get me wrong, what happened to Khyra is disgraceful, upsetting and awful, but to blame it on the fact that she was 'home educated' is the same! That poor child was seen by the school and the school was worried enough to get in contact with the powers that be. She was seen by neighbours who chose to ignore it. Her father could have done something, but didn't and Social Services saw her and deemed her 'not at risk'. These people and her unfit parents are the people responsible for Khyra's death; these people saw and did nothing; the government's 'perfect' system failed Khyra as it has been seen to do several times over the past year! It was NOT home education that killed Khyra! Children such as Khyra are killed by their parents/relations, they would have been abused, starved and beaten even if they were at school because their parents/relations are unfit to be parents/relations! It has nothing to do with their education it is to do with their upbringing! It is to do with the adults whose care they are in and those adults would be abusers whether or not the child is at school or otherwise. This government and the public need to recognise this and stop passing the buck!!

This Bill will do nothing to stop these children from dying! This Bill will do nothing to stop the attitude of abusive parents/relations! This Bill would not have saved Khyra and it will not save anyone else! As I've already said Social Services and 'the system' failed Khyra and it is them that should have the finger pointed at them.

All this Bill will do is impose restrictions on those parents who love, care and dedicate their lives to their children and I'm not talking just home educators here. This Bill wishes to say that children who are not at school are deemed 'at risk' because they are 'not seen'. Think about this for a moment will you? Children are not at school 24/7, they come home after school; are at home before school; are at home at weekends and during school holidays and they don't even attend school until 4/5yrs of age. How long will it be before they think 'hang on a minute' if home educated children are at risk because they are not at school and being 'seen', those children before and after school, during school holidays, before the age of 4 are also 'at risk' because they are 'not seen'? You may laugh, but this is how things start.

This Bill wants us to register every year with the local authority. Do you have to register your child at it's school every year? Of course you don't, your child is registered at the beginning and then it is assumed they will stay to the end! As should be the case with us. More on this later!

This Bill wants the local authority officers to have: (and I quote)
"- right of access to the home,
- have the right to speak with each child alone if deemed appropriate or, if a child is particularly vulnerable or has particular communication needs, in the company of a trusted person who is not the home educator or the parent/carer,"

Let's take this a point at a time. Would you want someone who you don't know knocking at your door and being able to walk into your house and you not being able to stop them? I don't think you would. Bear in mind that you may know these people if you have had dealings with them before, but to your child they will be total strangers! This leads to point 2. Would you allow a total stranger to interview your child on their own? Think about it! Your child (and possibly you) do not know this person, you don't know anything about them and you are now leaving your child alone with them! Do you think that that is being a responsible parent? Of course it isn't! You may argue that they are fine because they are part of the Council and must be 'safe'! I'm sure the parents who sent their children to the nursery that was in the news recently thought the same about the nursery staff and look what happened! Just because they are members of authority does not automatically make them safe! As to the bit about special needs; special needs children are even more vulnerable and need someone with them who they feel safe and comfortable with; so for them a parent/carer IS that very person and yet those very people will not be able to be with them! Also, just so you know, the Police cannot interview a child by themselves under the age of 17 and if they have special needs it is beyond that! I checked this out! If the Police cannot do it, then why should some office bod be able to? Bear, also, in mind that this person may not have received training in special needs or social problems; after all this is the local authority and they don't have spare money for such things and the Government has stated that there is no extra money in the pot to implement this Bill!

Now back to registration! Again I quote:
The Education Act 1996 states the "The Parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full time education suitable -
(a)to his age, ability and aptitude, and
(b) to any special educational needs he may have, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise"

Please note! It is the PARENT'S responisbility to ensure that the child receives an education. It IS NOT the Government's or the schools, it is the PARENT's! The reason I am pointing this out is because a lot of people do not see why we want the choice to register or why we wish to refuse monitoring! I will now explain from my point of view as I see it! Children are monitored in school, I know! They do SATS tests, etc, but do you actually realise why they are monitored? If you go back to The Education Act you will realise that your children are monitored because you have chosen to pass the responsibility of your child's education onto the school, therefore the school has to PROVE TO YOU that they are carrying out that responsibility. SATS tests are to PROVE TO THE AUTHORITY that they are deemed worthy of the finance given to them; SATS tests are NOT about your child! I, as a home educator, have taken the responsibility on myself for educating my child and I DO NOT receive funding from the LEA, therefore why should I be monitored? I would be PROVING TO MYSELF that I'm fit to educate and why should I prove anything to the LEA as I'm not receiving money from them. My child has no need to be tested or to do SATS! With regard to registration: you register your child at a school so that THE SCHOOL can receive funding for them and because you have entered into a contract with the local LEA for passing over the responsibility for the child's education, you are not registering so that anyone can keep track of them! I'm not passing over the responsibility and I, again, am not receiving funding, so theoretically there is no need for me to register! My child is registered at the doctor's, the dentist's, the optician's and the hospital with his paediatrician. The system CAN find my child; they CAN SEE where he is!

The way that Home Education works is incredibly different from school because it can be! A school would find it almost impossible to deal with every child's interests and needs on an individual basis. It has to have guidelines to follow because it makes it easier, not for your child, but for the school and if all schools do the same it is easier for the Government to monitor their efficiency! We home educators personalise our child's education and fit it around ordinary home life! There are many ways of it working and so it will be exceedingly difficult to monitor as it stands. Our fear is that for successful monitoring, we will have to 'tick boxes' and the whole way in which home education works will be broken down. This will eventually lead to 'school' being at 'home'! This is unacceptable!

Now to the Every Child Matters Points and I will try and make the comparison with how I home educate and what happened at school.

I quote:
"The Every Child Matters (ECM) Green Paper identified the five outcomes that are most important to children and young people:

•be healthy
•stay safe
•enjoy and achieve
•make a positive contribution
•achieve economic well-being"

Take the first point: My child in the school environment would be told to do PE when it suited the teacher and be told what type of PE my child has to do. At home, my child can choose what type of PE he wishes to do and will, because he has chosen it, put in 100% and get 100% out of it. If he was 'forced' to do team sports for example, he would refuse or become increasingly distressed as he is not a 'team person'. How many times has your child gone into school with the 'oh no, it's PE today' face? On the same subject I know exactly what my child is eating and how much of it. I can monitor, myself, what he is eating and how healthy it is. During school he would not eat as he wouldn't eat with others so invariably would come home with most of his lunch - a situation which is decidedly unhealthy! I know some of you will argue that some parents do not know what is healthy and what isn't, but that demands better education of the parent, not better monitoring of the education of the child.

Point 2: My child is safe! He is with me! I love him; I care for him and I ensure that he is not put into a dangerous situation. At school he was bullied; he was stabbed in the knee by another boy with a pencil and has been left with a permanent 'tattoo' - I hardly class that situation as 'safe'! There are hundreds of other children going to school who are experiencing bullying; are they 'safe'? Of course they're not! Now I know that this is where cases like Khyra come in, but let me point out AGAIN, Khyra was not safe with her parents; her parents were unfit to be parents; she had been to school and it had not protected her; she had been at home and that had not protected her. This Bill would not have protected Khyra and it will do nothing to protect other children in her situation. Social Services should have protected her and is in place to protect those children, but they failed her and seem to consistently fail children like Khyra!

Point 3: Enjoy and Achieve! Hmmmm, interesting one this one. Does your child enjoy school? If yes, brilliant! But how many out there do not? Think about those that are bullied; that do not understand what their teachers are telling them; those that struggle with the work and do not get help; those children DO NOT enjoy school! When asked recently, by CBBC Newsround, if children would like to be home educated, those that said 'yes' were being bullied; those that said 'no' gave their reason as 'missing their friends'. Not one of them mentioned 'school'; it was about being socialable. So can we really say that schoolchildren 'enjoy' being at school! Achieving is a different matter. How do you define achievement? Is it about how many qualifications you come out with or is it about achieving happiness, confidence and an understanding of your place in the world. The Government tend to think about achievement as exams and if we look at that alone we can see that the Government's 'system' is very good in parts but also atrocious in others. How many children leave school with no qualifications; how many leave without even being able to read or write? If their 'system' is so good, then ALL children should be leaving school with straight A exam results, but they are not! I don't know if my son with do exams, but if he chooses to he will take them at his pace, not be trying to cram 13 GCSEs in at once. He will do subjects that he enjoys and so will put in 100% effort and concentration into them, not get bored with what he's doing. I have GCE O Levels (5 of them in fact, which I know is not many), but if you asked me anything about any of them I would probably have to admit to not knowing the answer. I learnt because I had to, I learnt to pass the exam and then forgot it all!

Point 4: Make a positive contribution. What the hell does that mean? A positive contribution to what? The world, the community, the school, the home? I'm assuming that it means to the community and the world. But what defines a positive contribution? This Government and many others are dithering about over climate change because of the financial implications of laying down the law regarding emissions, etc; is this making a positive contribution to the world - I think not! They bailed out the banks recently using public money, but did we the public benefit? Of course we didn't, but the people working at the bank certainly did when it came to their bonuses; bonuses paid for by OUR money! Is this a positive contribution to the community - again NO IT ISN'T!! If our own Government is not making a positive contribution, then how do we expect our children to?

Point 5: Achieve economic well-being! Hmmm, another interesting one! What is defined as economic well-being? There are those out there that would say being a millionaire and having 14 cars in your garage is economic well-being. Others would say that being able to pay the bills and put food on the table is economic well-being. I think what the Government defines as economic well-being is us being able to pay our taxes! Does any of this really relate to our children in school? Yes, but only if they 'achieve' good exam results and end up in a high paid job (possibly with a bank??). However, someone who leaves school with nothing, but manages to get a job they enjoy and can pay their bills and put food on their table has, in my view, achieved economic well-being! What I'm trying to say is that it doesn't matter whether you go to school or not, you can still achieve economic well-being as defined by your own personal aims!

Another point made by the Bill is regarding the protection of the rights of the child! It states that "there has to be a balance between the rights of the parents and the rights of the child". Let's look at this literally! My child has rights! We all know that children have rights, but in this case they are trying to say that some home educated children would prefer to be at school and should have the right to be so. Fair enough you might say, but if this is the case, then every child that goes to school and would prefer to be home educated also has the right to be so! Think about that one for a bit will you? I'm not saying that children should not have rights; they should! But to make this kind of decision also needs input by the parent, so both should be taken into account!

I know I have rambled, I've gone off course and wittered on regarding some matters, but my aim has been to show you that 'their system' is NOT perfect; it DOES NOT suit every child and it CANNOT guarantee that each child will be safe, happy or achieve! I'm not saying that home education is the answer and that all children who ARE home educated will be safe, happy or achieve, but that is my point! There are NO guarantees in this world, only choices and I feel that in 'a free society', as we are so proud of saying this country is, we should have those choices; we should retain our freedom of speech and our 'right to choose'. We should not blanket accuse groups of people, because we do not understand them, so that we can take away those freedoms and rights. This Bill will do exactly that and to use Khyra as an example to justify that accusation is wrong! Would we be happy to round up all Muslims on the basis of a few being terrorists; NO we would not! Would we be happy to round up all immigrants because a few are here illegally; NO we would not! Are we happy that Hitler rounded up the Jews; NO WE MOST DEFINITELY ARE NOT!! But we seem perfectly happy to round up Home Educators because the Government wishes to accuse us ALL of child abuse! What happened to innocent until proven guilty?

Wednesday, 24 February 2010


Well we have survived another half term week!

We tend to have a break ourselves from formal education and try to get together with his friends instead. However, that can be difficult unless we are indoors or outdoors where there is lots of space. Having the rest of the children off from school can sometimes totally stress Callum as everywhere becomes crowded and there are (or seems to be) lots of screaming young children and fraught mothers. Must admit that gets to me too! So we avoid obvious 'children places' and stear clear, as best as, from shopping!

This past week the weather hasn't been fantastic, but we did manage to get out! The first proper day, Monday, we met up with my friend Linda and her daughter Danielle (who Callum went to school with) and took a trip to Rochester. D is studying the River Medway at school and 'homework' was to pick up some leaflets about places along the river. As Callum and I have a long running project on water which contains a section on the River Medway, we thought that we could combine a bit of education and a good day out! The weather stayed dry which was brilliant and we walked along the High Street to Rochester Bridge and along the river to the new housing. Was a lovely walk and we took lots of photos to include in our project. C and D spent most of the time on the pier which, for some reason, took their fancy. It wasn't busy and Callum had a great time. Was nice to see him being a bit silly for a change as he can be so 'sensible'; probably because he is with adults a lot! We had drinks and cake in the Cathedral Tearooms (as is our norm) and then came home.

Tuesday was Pancake Day and Callum insists on having pancakes for every meal! So made up a huge batch of batter the night before and started the day with plain pancakes with lemon and sugar! We also made a chocolate cake as we had one of his old Infant teachers coming round for a cup of tea later that day. We experimented with replacing some of the sugar with golden syrup. I am gluten free, so experiment a lot to see if I can improve on the flavour/texture of gluten free cakes, biscuits and bread. Callum loves measuring out the ingredients although he won't touch the margarine as he hates the feel of it! Does like nicking lumps of sugar though given half the chance and, of course, licking the bowl afterwards (as did I when I was a kid)!! We made cheese and ham pancake rolls for lunch and he had mince beef in tomato sauce in pancakes (like cannelloni) for dinner. The cake came out really well and he enjoyed seeing his favourite ex teacher.

Wednesday we braved going on a bus and headed off to Hempstead Valley Shopping Centre. It was his Dad's birthday this Monday, so we had to go and get a present as I hadn't been as organised as I should have been. Couldn't face going to main shopping precinct and thought Hempstead would be quieter, which it was luckily. Bribed C with a Burger King - his favourite! Actually he did really well and only had one melt down which was totally my fault at the end of the day!!! We came back by bus and C was helping with the bags. He took off his hat and gloves and placed them on his lap. In his rush to get off the bus, he forgot and stood up, dropping the hat/gloves on the floor. Neither of us had noticed however until we were off the bus and it had gone. He was fine, surprisingly, but it was bitterly cold and I, stupidly, suggested we go and buy him a new set as we were right on top of the High Street! Ooops!!! Bad suggestion! He lost it, stormed off in a foul mood (he just wanted to go home by this point) and went home ahead of me. Must point out that I'm walking using a crutch and can't run yet!! I knew he would be able to get home ok, even with crossing the road, but when I got round the corner I couldn't see him!! He'd gone home and hidden behind our front wall! I totally panicked and had to try and explain as calmly as I could that I didn't mind him going home, but could he please not hide as I didn't know where he was and he'd scared me! Took about another 10-15mins indoors before he finally got back to normal and I was forgiven!

Thursday we had another misunderstanding! We go trampolining on Thursdays and we run it through the holidays so that not everything stops. I had invited a couple of the childen back to play after the lesson, but C thought I'd invited everyone. He didn't tell me this and spent the whole lesson in a right mood and got quite nasty with me. He ended up going upstairs to his favourite 'auntie' Carol! I, meanwhile, didn't have a clue why he was so angry and upset! It wasn't until we got home that he realised that not everyone was coming and it was only two other children. He then, of course, was fine and he ended up with a good afternoon. Had a big discussion later on about communication and how he (and I) need to ensure that both of us understand what the other is talking about!

Friday was dentist, so more stress!! Dentist was fantastic though and managed to look in his mouth and say that he had brilliant teeth - phew!! C is very very loathe to clean his teeth and I have often left it unless he has had sweets before comencing the battle of the toothbrush!

The weekend was spent playing with the Scaletrix with dad and as Phil had taken off this Monday and Tuesday as well, C got an extension of holiday from formal ed! However, by the end of Monday he was beginning to get very hyper and non-stop chattering. I do notice this after he hasn't done anything formal for a while; don't exactly know what it is but I think it's because he isn't engaged enough! It isn't like we do nothing with him, but what we tend to do probably isn't mentally challenging enough, so he becomes over animated! It wasn't helped by me having to go to hospital clinic on Monday where we hung around for ages waiting to be seen and then being told to go to xray and then having to wait again! Aspis do not do waiting!

But we have survived!! Back to normal a bit now and hopefully he will calm down by the end of the week. Had a great education session with him this morning on WWII looking at food rations (we measured stuff out to physically see what we would have been entitled to); looked at maps (C's favourite) to see how the war progressed and looked up his favourite foods online to see if they were available during the ration years. He got very excited when he discovered that peanut butter was sold by the spoonful from Woolworths! Then swimming this afternoon followed by a play swim with his best friend (also a Callum) then back here for a continuation of play until this evening.

That's it so far!

Thursday, 18 February 2010

First Blog

Hi all

This is just an introduction really. My name is Sheila and I'm a home educator. I have a 10yr old son called Callum who has Asperger syndrome and a 21yr old daughter called Terri.

Callum is home educated because he had an appalling time in Junior School. The transition didn't work as they took all his help away from him that had been set up in the Infants under School Action Plus. He tried his best to fit it, but on his first day he stood back when they were told to enter the classroom and find a seat and ended up on a table with a bunch of kids who really didn't want to be there and were the misfits of the class. He wasn't happy, but on my asking for him to be moved, they said he couldn't be!! Within a week he'd been in trouble for disruption and by the end of the second week I'd been called in because he attacked another boy. Turned out that the boy had stabbed him in the knee with a pencil (he is left with a permanent 'tattoo'). I pointed this out to the teacher and managed to get him moved to another table (under his School Action Plus status he was entitled to a table of his own).

He was made to attend assemblies and sit with the others at lunch. Assemblies were too noisy and he refused to eat with the other children, so from the very start of the day he was stressed! I ended up having to bring him home every lunchtime as 1) he would then eat and 2) he couldn't cope with the playground.

I ended up having endless meetings and making endless phone calls to the LEA but got nowhere. Callum ended up sobbing every morning and begging me not to send him and kicking/punching me every evening as it was the only way he could express his frustration and anger. The final straw was when, at parent's evening, his teacher said that she thought he was mucking me around!!!!! I said that I didn't realise that teachers had to have a medical degree and stormed off!

Callum never went back!! That was nearly 3 years ago now and we have never looked back. The change in him has been amazing. He now smiles, laughs, cuddles, socialises and is happy! I have my little boy back. We obviously still have problems and he still has meltdowns, but on the whole these are controlled easily or disipated quickly and it normally is because I've 'forgotten' and said something stupid! Oh well!

Anyway, this blog is to talk a bit about how home education works for us and how having a son with Aspergers affects his and our lives. I hope you enjoy reading it!