Home Educated: Not Hidden, Not Abused, Not Radicalised.

An open letter to Women’s Hour at BBC Radio 4

Dear Ladies,

Before this Thursday’s programme entitled “How can we best safeguard children who are home schooled?” is aired I just want to make sure that Jenni understands the difference between ‘home education’ concerns and ‘safeguarding’ concerns. But before I talk about that, can I point out that here in the UK it is called ‘home education’; ‘home schooling’ is the American term.  It is not used here in the UK as we would like people to realise we are generally not replicating school at home.

‘Safeguarding’ is an issue for the UK’s many social service departments to handle; it is not the responsibility of the LA. When there is any ‘safeguarding’ concern raised for any child in the UK, home educated or not, the responsibility is with the social services department to investigate.  If a home educator has a knock on the door from a social service worker, we are bound, like any other parent, to comply with their investigation.  If we refuse, it is the social workers job to make sure they get access—there are laws in place for this for all children, regardless of where they get their educational provision from. (Section 47 of the Children Act 1989)

The only reason an LA can make an inquiry is if there is a report of an ‘educational’ concern.  As the law states that as the parent I am responsible for my child’s education, unless the LA has a verifiable complaint on my child’s educational provision, I am not bound to discuss any educational issue with her.  If she still feels there is an educational issue, she also has laws in place for her to gain access.

If your new found interest for protecting the ‘hidden home educated children’ is based on the very tragic Dylan Seabridge case—please get all the facts.  The year before Dylan died, it is reported that a welfare concern was raised—why did Social Services not deal with this?

If we are going to use Dylan’s case, why not report on the case of Daniel Pelka? Was Daniel hidden while he was in his classroom surrounded by the other students?  Here is the link for the BBC report on his case: BBC report on Daniel Pelka

Would you like to use the Kyra Ishaq case, where her teachers, the social service and police failed to help her while she was also being starved to death?  She was in school for most of this abuse—and yet the school and social services failed to protect her.

Shall we talk about the thousands of abuse claims every year here in the UK?  How many of those children are home educated?  Does being in school protect any of those children from being abused at home? No.  Nor does being in school keep a child safe, if they were safe places, there wouldn’t be such a huge campaign here in the UK to stop bullying in schools.

Now please—can you please stop insinuating that home educated children are ‘hidden’?  I have taken my children to thousands of places and activities their whole life—they are not hidden. They have even been on BBC TV (Real Rescues 2011).  When they were young and we would go places, they were the only children there.  The other adults couldn’t understand why the children were there, would question us & then smile when they realised what freedom our children had to explore and to be fully immersed members of society.  My children haven’t been shut away for up to 7 hours a day since they were 3 years old.  Nope, they have gone shopping, to the parks, to the museums, to National Trust houses and English Heritage locations, to daytime and evening concerts, to astronomical & scientific lectures, to local reserves, to the local recreation centre and to special classes arranged for home educated children. Hidden?  I’d say not.

If you would like to learn more about home education, we would love to tell you our stories.  There are as many different types of families home educating as there are who use the schools.  And like all the other parents in this country, on the whole we are not radicals, we are not child beaters, we do not neglect our children.  We have dedicated all of our time and effort to our children out of love & respect for our children—we like everyone else, want the best for them.  Please, please stop insinuating to the world that as a group, we are some heinous secret sect hiding our children away to do them harm.  Our children listen to your programme—and I really don’t want to see them hurt or feel the need to defend their lifestyle again.

 

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Lick Observatory

We had a very scenic (long, scary, windy, mountainous) drive out to Lick Observatory to start our New Year. The oldest telescope there, the Great Lick Refractor is a real beauty and is 127 years old on the 3rd of January. One of it’s first discoveries was the 5th moon of Jupiter, Amalthea. Currently the newer telescopes are focusing on locating exoplanets.

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Oh Christmas Tree…

Though we decorated the house at the beginning of December we waited to get our tree.  I don’t think we have ever waited this long to buy our Christmas tree.  We were worried about finding one that would fit our stand (trees are wider here) and not getting it too early that the warmth would turn it brown in days. The wait turned out to our advantage, we got a tree we liked, that fit our stand and all for under $25! Bargain!  The kids did all the decorating again—and did a lovely job as always!

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Music Academy Recital

Musical recital time is something new for us, but any opportunity for the kids to play in front of an audience is great.  The academy here has many good students, and I’m thrilled to see how well my two are coming along, especially with their piano skills.

Hazel: Moonlight Sonata, a very proud mother had a few tears of joy while this was being performed!

Kieran: Minuet in G

Hazel & Kieran: Waterfall

Kieran: He’s a Pirate. For the recital Kieran wasn’t going to play a guitar piece because they could only play a classical piece, which he didn’t really want to do. At the last minute he had an idea: he played classically, but not a classical piece. The program for the day is 4 columns of classical music, and the last piece was titled “He’s a Pirate”. There is one little hiccup at the end-but I think it went rather well for less than 2 weeks putting it together.

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Peppermint Bark

Hazel sent in a quick and easy Christmas recipe to the Dreamcatcher Blogzine, Peppermint Bark.  It is so easy to make and contains Hazel’s two most favourite treats: chocolate and mints!  To get the recipe check out the blogzine article here: Dreamcatcher Blogspot

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Tafoni and Monarch Butterflies

Having learned about the migration of the Monarch Butterflies last year in the UK, I was happy to discover they nested not too far from us during the winters.  We decided to take a drive down the coast to see them, so we drove over to the Half Moon Bay area and then headed south on Route 1 till we got to Santa Cruz.

We stopped at quite a few beaches on our way to see the Monarch Butterflies. Bean Hollow was our favourite-it had amazing tafoni features to see, rock-pooling with hermit crab and we had a picnic on the rocks near the ocean.

Our next major stop was at the old Pigeon Point Lighthouse.  They were having a special open day so a few things of interest to see.  I found a ranger who was able to identify some of the flowers for me and explained how the one I asked about, Ice Plant, was an invasive, non-native plant and they were making small steps to eradicate it near the lighthouse.

The last port of call was to see the Monarch Butterfly Grove at the Natural Bridges State Beach in Santa Cruz.  It was wonderful to see them all, and this was only at the beginning of the migration, more will be coming soon.  We learnt that the Butterflies that return are actually the great-great-grandchildren of the original butterflies that left last spring.  Then we walked to the beach to see the Natural Bridges, well we saw one natural arch, I’m not too sure if there are more.  It was covered in Pelicans, and certainly smelt as if they had been covering it for decades!

On the drive home, we stopped at a few beaches to watch people kitesurfing and to see the sunset. Sadly, the clouds crept in just before the sun was going to set so we didn’t see that this time.  We then had dinner at the Half Moon Bay Brewery before heading home.  We did stop at one of the look-out points along the Santa Cruz Mountains pass (San Andreas Fault) to look at the stars for a few minutes, which was wonderful.  Here in our California home we can see only a few stars as there is just far too much light pollution in the valley.  Was lovely to see so many!

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Yosemite Valley, Half Dome

On Saturday we drove out to the Yosemite Valley for the first time.  We did the Tiago Pass in May, but we hadn’t visited the valley before.  Though we know the air quality in California is not great, what we saw when we drove to Yosemite through the Central Valley was shocking.  The pollution was so visible—a blanket of thick, black, heavy smog hung over the valley, which takes about two hours to cross. We had never been in a ‘red-to-dark red zone’ before.  When you see this level of pollution in a sparsely inhabited area you have to really question what we are going to do to fix this massive problem.  The smog hangs there when the winds die down, so this is the pollution being blown in from San Francisco and Los Angeles that is trapped in the valley until the winds pick up again. We had to rise above the smog through the Sierra Nevada foothills to about 3000ft before we left the smog behind us.

Yosemite itself was lovely, well worth the drive. We stopped the car often to get out and have a look around.  The kids and Michael scrambled down to a river bed that had the slightest amounts of water in it.  We then stopped off to see El Capitan and while we were there Michael spotted climbers on the rock face.  I managed to get photos of some of the climbers, who sometimes actually sleep over-night on the rock face.  Lunatics!

We decided to do a gentle walk to Mirror Lake to see Half Dome.  ((I have a bad foot, so this was even against the therapists directions, but what can you do!!))  I guess we haven’t lived long enough in California, because we were expecting to see water in the lake.  It doesn’t stay full for most of the summers normally, but we still were not expecting to walk to the centre of it on completely dry sand.

Instead of driving the 3 hours back to the house, we decided on staying the night about an hour outside the park in Mariposa.  For dinner we went to Betts Gold Coin restaurant.  One of the owners was friendly and seemed to enjoy his wine.  He decided to spend some time with us (he was the 2nd  person to ask if we were Australian on this trip) and wanted to ask the kids an American history question.  He gave them the answer first and then proceeded to give us a small lesson on the first presidential candidate of the new Republican Party, John C. Fremont. The children got a gold $1.00 coin for listening and giving him back the answer he originally gave them.

In the morning before heading home, we stopped off at the California State Mining and Mineral Museum and for a small museum it was really interesting, especially if you like rocks and gems.

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