Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Twitter Newbie Blues

So yesterday the small group of Mumsnetters that have worked on getting this story* (see links at end of post) in the news lugged themselves back to twitter. 

We had rather hoped that the "bone" of an MP being "not sober" and banned from mumsnet would catch the attention of the press and they would then bite into the meat of the matter. The "meat" being said MP published the names of minors on Mumsnet regardless of a British court order prohibiting the naming of the youngest child AND he has made some serious allegations about corruption in the child protection system, but seems loath to provide any actualy evidence to support his beliefs.

But as yet we are still having to work on that aspect. 

Hence all trooping back to twitter.

But yesterday twitter was the backdrop for some pretty weird stuff for us mainly twitter new ies, who had no idea things could be so odd and freaky outside of our mumsnet comfort zone . And we want to share what happened so everybody remembers to stay on top of their internet security. Cos weird shit can happen on those new fangled social media sites and it helps if you know what might be a bit iffy on twitter. We are mostly twitter virgins so had no idea these sort of things can go on there due to nasty spammers and we were a bit slow on the uptake. Hopefully after reading this, you won't be.

A spam bot focused on and followed the small group of MN posters tweeting about HemmingGate. Plus Tim Turner the legal blogger who covered the story from a legal perspective.  Plus Jess Phillips, Hemming's labour opponant in the next Yardley election.

By the end of the day this had happened.

Two of our accounts hacked.


One ominous DM to one Mumnetter, that originated from an unrelated account that got hacked.


A mumsnet poster who is not connected to the main group via twitter, but has been providing highly useful information from behind the scenes had all her followers block her in unison. 


What a very distracting and <EKK!> shaped day. 

All sorted now. What with password changes, resetting to factory setting and some updating of security software etc.

But to be on the safe side, do check out any new followers you pick up. Cos .. you never know what pesky little bit of norty code is planning on being a little scamp with your account or device. If you suspect a spambot has locked onto you as a follower, find the wheel/flower thingie, block and report. Seems to do the trick if you let other people in the spambots crosshairs know and they do the same. Our spambot went "poof" once all of us did that.

*Press links

Saturday, December 28, 2013


Best Legal Analysis

When the Italian C-sec/adoption case hit the news it was debated on Mumsnet.

One of the posters debating the case was the MP John Hemming, posting under his own name, an account verified by Mumsnet HQ.

Things got..... interesting.

Mr. Hemming appeared unhappy that other posters were not prepared to take his word for it when it came to his sweeping statements. They kept being terribly awkward by asking for things like evidence and proof to back his statements up. In what *may* have been a fit of pique he offered to email a poster proof.

She received a page from a legal document.
The case was still ongoing.
Names were not redacted.

Mumsnetters did this...

 <sharp intake of breath>

Among the posters trying to introduce Mr John Hemming to the basics of what debate actually is,  were a number of Italian speakers who challenged his assertions as per the Italian court being in agreement with him. In what *may* have been an attempt to "get one over" on the declared Italian speakers Mr Hemming declared his own command of Italian to be adequate enough to read and discuss an extract from a legal document pertaining to the mother in the original news story.

He posted the extract on Mumsnet.

The extract was from a document that was never intended by the court to be made public. When he posted the extract he posted the names of Alexandra Pacchieri's baby in England,whose name was protected by a court order,  and both of her sisters in Italy. Other identifying information about the three children was also included.

Mumsnet HQ deleted the post as soon as they heard about the contents.

Mr Hemming went "Oppsie! It's OK, doesn't count cos I didn't mean to and anyway my Italian skills have retrospectively evaporated"

If his declaration of "Opps!" is to be taken at face value, he had evidently not made any attempt to have the extract checked for origin, status and content prior to posting it for public viewing on Mumsnet.

Mumsnetters went ....

<even bigger sharper intake of breath>

And took action.

Essex Local Authority, Tim Farron [Senior Liberal Democrat] and the court of Judge Munby (the officiating judge in UK) were informed of what had occurred. Additionally, the Guardian newspaper was made aware of the breach of confidentiality by a serving MP

Mr Hemming kept on posting. His posts aroused suspicions that he was Mumsnetting under the influence. When asked directly if he was drunk he replied, "I am not sober, but I am right".

Mumsnetters did not...

 <fall over in shock>

...when they saw that, because it was ever so slightly obvious.

Mumsnetters were increasingly dismayed by poor political standards of conduct running riot over their thread by this point.

Mr John Hemming then posted the twitter handles of Mumsnetters on the thread. Effectively outing a number of them given that some of the twitter handles were clearly in the posters' real names.

Mr Hemming's post containing Mumsnetters' real names was swiftly deleted by MNHQ.  And he went quiet.

Due to John Hemming's sudden disappearance Mumsnet HQ was asked if he had been banned.

They confirmed that Mr Hemming has the dubious honour of being the first MP to ever have had his account banned for a week while they decide what the best course of action is.

We are astounded that a serving MP is disregarding the law in such a blatant fashion, and is attempting to intimidate other posters by revealing their real life identities. Contrary to Mr Hemming's repeated assertions, there are often very good reasons for not releasing the names and the details of those involved in a family court case. In many cases, this secrecy is maintained to protect the innocent - the children. For a member of our parliament to reveal details of these cases, that he has only become party to due to his work as an MP,  is extremely worrying.

For background of the original news story as it was first reported, and how it morphed as actual facts came to light please see:

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

An Ode To George

George is the clerk to the president of the court that made the order preventing people from naming the child in the Italian c-sec/adoption case. And I called him today. All the way from Italy where I live.

In a state of full blown "disgusted from not exactly Tunbridge Wells"

I called him to report that John Hemming MP, right in front of me, posted the child's name (and her sisters' names) on mumsnet. Yup mumsnet. Only the biggest parenting website in Britian.

So there I was, with my illusions of superior political standards of conduct back home (when compared to Italy) lying in shards at my feet, waving screenshots at George (metaphorically speaking) over the phone.

Poor George. 

One flustered and rather squawky Italianised British woman in full flood of garble mode. Unsung hero who helps keeps the well oiled justice system moving did his stuff. Soothing and calming he helped me unjumble my tale of "hold the bugger accountable PLEASE! I want to report him. To Judge Munby ! I have "PROOF!"". Took all my details and said he'd call me back.

Reader, he did.

And he satisfied me. 


So George, a big fat smackeroonie of a kiss and a big, fat hug from Italy. Becuase while my illusions re British poltical standards of conduct are dented, my conviction that "British public servants do it better" remains as ever solid, solid as a rock.

George. I think I love you for that.

Merry Christmas. Happy New Year. And may Santa make your all your dreams come true.

Because today you went over and above the call of duty and made me all proud of my country. Which was no mean feat after a very trying few days of wondering how it all went to hell in a handbasket behind my back since I left.


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

I Love Skool! (says the ex homeschooler)

We are nearly at the end of our first year of mainstream(ish) school and miracles of miracles...we are not a collective heap of nervous stressed out exhaustion due to his education. First time ever!

I haven't had to struggle with the desire to throttle a teacher, or throw a Very Big Book at an administrator all year. A personal best.

Which is really odd considering the year we have had in the non academic sense. This year should have been a disaster on paper.

Almost a year ago my very seriously ill (mentally  and physically incapacitated) mother in law came to live with us. Almost immediately went into manic we were trying to poison her, I was a member of the Gestapo, poo flinging, the works.

Then, just as I was contemplating holding a pillow over her face as the one possible option to save us from a living hell, she slipped into a profound depression.

Followed by pneumonia. Xrays revealed a suspicious mass on her lung. And she died, the day before New Year.  At which point I discovered that despite the 18 years of being a thorn in my side and an extended period of fun things like kicking me in the crotch every time I got her out of bed.. I was more emotionally invested in her than I had believed myself to be. Not to mention the man I love being devastated by her death.

After which followed a "stereotypical with extra added knobs on"  Italian family fallout of massive proportions with a gesticulation infested, shouty,  blame game ending in mass estrangements. Plus Italian bureaucracy. In quadruplet. Rubber stamped 12 times. I've spent more time with lawyers in the last 4 months than I have in the last 4 decades.

I have been running on fumes for nearly 12 months, which is normally a recipe for me to see the worst in my son's education, because until this year it was a constant bone of contention at best and outright "head, bang, wall, bleed all over the floor" at worst.

By rights I should be peeling myself off the kitchen tiles looking at Son of Thor's upcoming end of year exams with fear and dread due to stress and distractions having taken their toll.

But it hasn't turned out that way.

He goes to InterHigh, an online British Independent school. Even though it has been a hard year for us as a family, because of how he accesses his education he has missed very few lessons. Whatever was going on we have been able to find a quiet place upstairs for him to go to school on the 'puter and then study and do homework, while World War 3 raged on downstairs. Thank god for centuries old Italian farmhouses, their thick walls and the power of headphones to cut out background noise. Because of the issues with grandma, her constant medical appointments with specialists miles away, and how it took two of us to get through the hours long morning routine of up, washed, in wheelchair, fed and medicated in the face of a ginormous amount of "shan't, won't, wallop"  on her part awful lot of days would have been missed at his old brick school due to the impossibility of getting The Sock Dropper and Son of Thor out of the front door anything like on time.

It's been about more than not letting things beyond our control interfere with his education though. It's been as much about his education actively helping us give him respite from the shit that life (and his grandmother, quite literally) was throwing. In large part that is down to the teachers making student engagement constant element of of their work. Because it's interesting and student centred he has found it easy this year to lose himself in his work. That is in direct contrast with the past,where he was being aided and abetted by academic tedium into being distracted by the less than fortunate circumstance that "couldn't give a bugger in the community" policies thrust upon us.

He has transitioned well into the British system. Not least I think because his teachers at this school don't hand out reams of busywork. His homework is about giving him the opportunity to think about the content of the lesson, and apply it to his own world. I had thought I had a rather incurious child. Not so much now where he will be studying the Amazon one morning, and be still banging on about his latest self directed discoveries three weeks later. (but if school could train him out of doing it at inopportune moments, like when I am trying to wrap a spitting cat in a towel so I can Frontline it, that would be a help)

Geography particularly came into it's own in this sense. He has really enjoyed being asked to explore our area to compare, contrast and relate it to what he has been learning and producing whiz bangy presentations to illustrate his findings. He loathed Geography at Italian state school. It's now his favourite subject. Science has also been a big hit due to the emphasis on the practical  as well as the theory. And I have forgiven him for the red food colouring on my kitchen ceiling. Almost.

I can't believe how much his English has come on. I will at some stage overcome my shock that he no longer regards poetry as a form of child torture and actually goes off looking for examples in order to inspire his own creations.   Bear in kind I am not talking about your typical home educated creative genius here. I have a bog standard child. If it's not Minecraft or football related he typically demonstrates the creative interest most often seen in your average lump of concrete. I think his English teacher may have magic powers ...or something.

Maths at the Italian school was the subject that first brought up an online British school as an option. I spent three weeks on mumsnet being helped by British State school teachers who were looking at scans of his textbooks, askance that 11-12 year olds were being shouted at for not being able to do work that is more normally done during the A level syllabus. By contrast, now he is really enjoying doing work that is pitched at a more age/stage appropriate level. I am happily wondering how I managed to produce a kid that, as it turns out, likes maths. I am enjoying being quizzed by him slightly less. He is getting a bit showy offy now he feel all adequate mathematically speaking and likes to torture me by asking me questions I can't answer because unlike his lucky self, I didn't get a strong grounding in the subject. Unbeknown to him I have been going through his downloaded lessons while he is in bed. It makes more sense to me the way it is being presented to him than it did when I was at school, so I intend to catch up,  plug my gaps and then shock him when he starts firing questions at me again next September. (evil cackle)

Overall he's doing really well. I would have settled for him just not struggling mightily and being miserable in a system that just wasn't a good fit for him. So doing well means my cup verily overflow-ith.

From my perspective being able to have a prompt, non prickly, friendly dialogue with teachers and admin has played a massive part in my unusually relaxed and optimistic state. No more churning stomach as you make an appointment for three weeks hence to discuss an blip or an issue or a misunderstanding over a piece of homework. It is ridiculous how something seemingly so small can make such a massive different. They are on his side. They don't treat me like an irritating non entity who has no right to have an opinion regarding his education. They want to help when things aren't so clear to him or me. They don't knee jerk into a defensive blame game just because a parent had the temerity to ask a question..they just sort out any minor issues in a pleasant and professional fashion. While I sit on the other end of the phone in a state of shock. Gaping like your average goldfish upon having been caught seriously unawares.

My control freak gene is overjoyed with the graphic representation of his attendance, grades, homework management. I feel I can stay on top of things. A diary and occasional reports at brick based school didn't have quite the same effect on me. One of the major benefits of the graphical representation is that by and large I can leave it up to him with me just poking my nose in to keep an eye. Even my disorganised "I forgot! (again)" child can cope pretty easily with a system set up to help him succeed rather than almost designed to instigate failure.

All in all, while I am knackered to my core due to how hard this year has been for non educational reasons, I am so bloody pleased I took a leap in the dark and took a punt on something that was scary by dint of being different from the normal mode of delivery. If anything the differences rather than being a small "con" have turned out to be a "pro" in their own right. I can't think of a single issue or niggle. Which given my (long) history of two way bitch slapping with schools and flapping around waggling a long list of complaints is something of a turn around.

Son of Thor is almost 13. He started school at 6. It has been a long time coming, but we have finally found an option that works for all of us in a way that neither Italian state school nor home education did.

So a big fat thank you to InterHigh staff .......and NobleGiraffe and all the other British state school teachers on the education forum at mumsnet, who told me about it, checked it out for me and supported me in making what felt like a really scary decision to pick an unknown quantity. It really helped having "normal" mainstream teachers working in the British State system peel back the fear factor and point out that "new scary" mode of delivery was a lot less of a concern than quality of education offered.

They were right. Quality of content and teaching does matter more, and as it turned out the "scary new" delivery has actually been a plus not the potential disadvantage I was afraid it would be. It has made a hell of a difference and now I can see my son being able to realise his hopes and ambitions because he will leave school having had an education that supports him in attaining those goals. Rather than being like it was in the bad old days, where it felt like his education was determined to set up roadblocks and elephant traps to make sure he never got to achieve his potential.

So a big fat hooray for InterHigh.

Ditto the lovely teachers who support, help and inform confused, pissed off and  upset parents at Mumsnet.

And a massive, spluttery raspberry at the Italian state System. Who should take a leaf out of InterHigh's and Mumsnet's teacher/posters' book and remember that the students are the whole point of a school, and not the "inconvenient necessity" they are perceived as in the Italian system.

I wasn't cut out to be a happy home educator. I wasn't cut out to be a happy mum at the school gate able to overlook a long list of issues in the name of just accepting "this is the way things are so suck it up and pretend it doesn't matter".

I was cut out for this though. And thankfully so was my son. We got there in the end. We found something that was a good fit for both of us. Halle-bloody-Lu-Yah!

Thank god for the internet. Mohammed couldn't go to the mountain, but html et al let the mountain come to Mohammed. So he gets the rural Italian childhood that we both want for him, without having to give up the good quality British education that suits him best and gives him  a fighting chance at having the future he wants.

Whatever that may turn out to be.

I felt awful, not being able to provide an education that worked for him. Like a real failure as a parent. I couldn't make brick school work for him, and I couldn't make home education work for me. 

How crap was I feeling as a parent ? Mucho crapo.

That weight having been lifted has no price. And as much of an about-face as it is for me of all people to say it, after a six year long whinge with much banging of head on desk in frustration....

I Love Skool.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Don't reinstate the FOE MOOC.


Coursera's and Georgia Tech's Fundmanetals of online teaching ought not to bend in the face of protest and reinstate the course. At least not until the quality is raised and the instruction model *scrupulously practices what it preaches*.

I am sitting gobsmacked that so many students on the FOE forum are blaming "grumblers and whiners" for having "broken" the "high quality" course.

There are already too many people running around making pig's ear of online delivery which is turning students (and student's parents) off the concept from the onset because they are at the sharp end of poor planning and delivery.

The last thing we need is thousands of people waving a cert. from Georgia tech, being seen as an in-house expert as a result and being given the responsibility of trickle down training to their peers.

Particularly where they are at risk of modelling NOT what the course readings were trying to get across, but the "do what I say, not do what I do" style of delivery that they absorbed from their own instruction.

Wow, there are some teachers/trainers with a massive embracement of learner autonomy out there. I know it is a seductive concept...but ..seeing it en mass is ..well I just don't have words. The thought of that over embracement combined with a (mind boggling) perception of FOE's delivery being a benchmark of high quality and "that's how you do it!" gives me the willies.

It can be hard enough to counteract student resistance to new modes and methods of instruction as it is. The last thing we need is to build up that resistance due to poor design, application and delivery being replicated by a sub set FOE  participants. Specifically thanks to the misguided efforts of those who were unable to realistically assess the quality of the course, in order to avoid making the same basic mistakes. Certainly education and training fields need that like a hole in the head. Particularly where the risk is that back in their own fields and institutions that sub set of participants could well be perceived as "sort of certified" experts and go around infecting yet another staffroom with bad practice and an ill conceived vision of what quality online education looks like.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Hell no to HSLDA!

The Home School Legal Defence Association is good thing right ?

Not necessarily. It kind of depends if you are left feeling a little sick after discovering the following or not.

HSLDA is a religious organisation.

The founder is a practicing Quiverfull. (see note 1)

This is one of the more extreme versions of an already extreme sub section of Christianity.

This group believe in patriarchy, the submission of wives and children to their husband/father. They are against any form of birth control. Believe women should dress "modestly" (see note 2a). Favour homeschooling to isolate their children from being "contaminated" by any other beliefs or values. (see note 2b)

As a group they are taught it is Christian to practice physical punishment on their children. Details of how severe this kind of "godly" punishment can be is evident in the work of the Pearls. They advocate switching (using a small flexible implement as a whip, like a willow branch for example) for babies as young as six months old and using an even wider variety of implements to hit older children. In fact several children have been beaten or starved to death by their parents who mindlessly followed the Pearls advice. (see note 3)

HSLDA was one of the founders of a Christian university, and built it on their grounds. It teaches creationism. All students and teachers must sign "A statement of faith" that demand their adhesion to this concept. (see note 4)

HSLDA is not pro unschooling.

In their own words on their membership agreement you have to agree to...(note 5)

To use a clearly organized program of education to instruct our children.
To keep records of each child’s educational progress.

Many American unschoolers accuse HSLDA of prioritising a right wing Christian agenda above an agenda to defend homeschoolers rights. In fact HSLDA released this propaganda during the previous presidential election. "Homeschoolers for Huckabee".

Huckabee (see note 6), being a potential republican candidate with a bad track record for failing to stand up for homeschoolers rights, he was also strongly endorsed by the NEA who proposed:

"The National Education Association believes that home schooling programs based on parental choice cannot provide the student with a comprehensive education experience. When home schooling occurs, students enrolled must meet all state curricular requirements, including the taking and passing of assessments to ensure adequate academic progress. Home schooling should be limited to the children of the immediate family, with all expenses being borne by the parents/guardians. Instruction should be by persons who are licensed by the appropriate state education licensure agency, and a curriculum approved by the state department of education should be used."

Outwardly HSLDA claim to support unschoolers. But their affiliations, membership agreement and actions depict an *entirely* different picture.

HSLDA is a right wing organisation.

They founded Generation Joshua, a Christian organisation to get children politically active. It claims to have no specific political position. Yet only Republican candidates have been supported by their members. (see note 7)

And returning to their the slogan "Homeschoolers for Huckabbee" (a Republican presidential candidate). Please note they made it sound like they spoke for ALL homeschoolers, failing utterly to make it clear they were operating without the mandate of American homeschoolers in general. Unsurprisingly since American homeschoolers represent the whole spectrum of political affiliation. (see note 6)

HSLDA supports hitting children

In their own words on their FAQ page.

"The UN Treaty on the Rights of the Child is an example of the UN’s view of the family. We oppose the UN Treaty on the Rights of the Child because it would strip parents of much of their authority to educate, train, and nurture their children according to the dictates of their conscience." (see note 8)

NB the use of the word "train" may sound strange to you in relation to children rather than dogs. However it is worth noting the title of the Pearl's book advocating a horrifying degree of physical punishment for babies and children, is called "To Train Up a Child". (see note 3)

They have a clear position on defending the right to hit children as can be seen in many statements on their site. (see note 8)

If Senate Bill 2180 passes the Mississippi Legislature, a parent would be in jeopardy of receiving a life sentence in prison for spanking a child. Sponsored by Senator Brice Wiggins (District 52-Jackson), this legislation would make it a felony to “whip, strike or otherwise abuse any child,” thereby causing “bodily harm” to the child. “Reasonable discipline” would be an exception to this offense. The minimum penalty upon conviction of this crime would be 10 years in prison. The maximum penalty would be life in prison.Unfortunately, the terms “bodily harm” and “reasonable discipline” are not defined in the law, so it would be up to judges to determine whether parents had crossed the line and committed a crime worthy of imprisonment. Would bodily harm include inflicting pain or leaving red marks or bruises on a child? Is it reasonable discipline to use a switch, a paddle, or other object in spanking a child? Obviously there are differing opinions on this subject, and because of this, any child abuse legislation must precisely define terms to ensure that parents maintain the right to administer reasonable corporal discipline without fear of being imprisoned.Home School Legal Defense Association will continue to track the progress of SB 2180 and work with the homeschoolers of Mississippi to bring about a defeat of this dangerous bill."

HSLDA is anti gay.

On their site they are very clear that they will fight any attempt to "destroy the traditional family" by passing legislation that allows gay people to marry. (see note 9)

If you type "homosexual" into their internal search engine there is no lack of evidence, in their own words, that they are against tolerance towards gay people.(see note 10)

Why should you care over here in Italy ?

Because of while HSLDA claims it has no plans to open a European Office, it has in recent times been spreading its tentacles in Europe in its own right or via other Christian homeschool organisations that share their ethos.



HSLDA collaborated in creating and generating negative publicity about Gemany and Sweden. Obviously the respective governments and populations of those two countries were, in significant numbers, offended and felt misrepresented.

Hands up if you think the high profile involvement of a right wing, fundamental Christian pressure group helped to highlight that homeschoolers are a highly diverse bunch who AREN'T the homogenous stereotype of "religious "loonies" who want to isolate their children from the world" that we are often believed to be ?

Hands up if you feel that their approach was a sensitive and cautious way of "helping" two homeschooling communities already feeling serious pressure and prejudice ?

Personally I feel I need their help like I need a hole in the head and a sledgehammer to my frontal lobe. In fact you'd HAVE to take a hammer to my brain and render it well damaged before I'd ever endorse, collaborate or seek to emulate them.

Please be aware who these people are and what they stand for when you see references to them.

And please know, however they word things to indicate otherwise, neither they, (nor people who collaborate with them), speak for me.

Not as a homeschooler, not as a woman, not as a mother, not as a supporter of equal civil rights regardless of sexual orientation, not as a human being.

On any level.


In fact if HSLDA say something, even though I am a "homeschooling weirdo" just assume I whole heartedly DISAGREE, unless I explicitly state otherwise. In which case look up. Airborne bacon has arrived.


note 1
"Michael Farris - Farris, a conservative United States constitutional lawyer, founded the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) and Patrick Henry College. His wife Vickie is the author of A Mom Just Like You (2002). The couple has ten children and six grandchildren.[42][43]"

note 2a

example of "modest" swim wear for young girls and women

note 2b
"Leading Christian patriarchy organization Vision Forum promises that if you raise your children according to their teachings, homeschooling in order to “shelter” from “evil influences” and “teach God’s truth” and emphasizing the hierarchical teachings of Christian patriarchy, your child will not stray from Christ’s side like all those willful pagan children in the public schools"

note 3

The Pearls - extract
"In their self-published book, To Train Up a Child, Pearl, 66, and his wife Debi, 60, recommend the systematic use of "the rod" to teach young children to submit to authority. They offer instructions on how to use a switch for hitting children as young as six months, and describe how to use other implements, including a quarter-inch flexible plumbing line. Older children, the Pearls say, should be hit with a belt, wooden spoon or willow switch, hard enough to sting. Michael Pearl has said the methods are based on "the same principles the Amish use to train their stubborn mules."
There are 670,000 copies of the book in circulation, and it's especially popular among Christian home-schoolers such as Larry and Carri Williams of Sedro-Woolley, Wash. In September, local prosecutors charged them with homicide by abuse after their adopted daughter Hana, 11, was found naked and emaciated in the backyard, having died of hypothermia and malnutrition. She had been deprived of food for days at a time, and made to sleep in an unheated barn.
Hana, originally from Ethiopia, also had been beaten with a plastic tube, as recommended by Michael Pearl. Carri Williams had praised the book--which advises that "a little fasting is good training"--and had given a copy to a friend, local authorities say."

Quiverfull movement and the Pearls, from a former Quiverfull member.

note 4

HSLDA and Patrick Henry College

"The school was founded with the help of the Home School Legal Defense Association, and now serves as the headquarters for the organization, with which it is still closely connected."

"Patrick Henry College (PHC) is a private, independent college with an Evangelical Christian basis"

"All students must sign a "Statement of Faith" before they arrive, affirming belief in what the college considers core Christian doctrines. For example, students are asked to acknowledge "Satan exists as a personal, malevolent being who acts as tempter and accuser, for whom Hell, the place of eternal punishment, was prepared, where all who die outside of Christ shall be confined in conscious torment for eternity", and "Christ's death provides substitutionary atonement for our sins."[23] The college professes non-denominational Christian beliefs. Teaching faculty must also sign the "Statement of Faith", plus a more detailed "Statement of Biblical Worldview", which represents the College's requirements for what should be taught.[24] For example the Biblical Worldview Applications states that, "Any biology, Bible, or other courses at PHC dealing with creation will teach creation from the understanding of Scripture that God's creative work, as described in Genesis 1:1–31, was completed in six twenty-four hour days."

note 5
HSLDA membership agreement

note 6

details of Huckabee's record on homeschool rights

note 7

"Generation Joshua campaigns solely for conservative candidates who support pro-life and otherwise socially conservative platforms. [5] The group's focus on youth has led some atheists to characterize its mission as making "Christian nationalism palatable to the MTV generation"."

home page

note 8

HSLDA position on children's rights, primarily for the purposes of avoiding legal limits on corporal punishment.

HSLDA re corperal punishement and the law
...."Life Sentence For Spanking?

"If Senate Bill 2180 passes the Mississippi Legislature, a parent would be in jeopardy of receiving a life sentence in prison for spanking a child. Sponsored by Senator Brice Wiggins (District 52-Jackson), this legislation would make it a felony to “whip, strike or otherwise abuse any child,” thereby causing “bodily harm” to the child. “Reasonable discipline” would be an exception to this offense. The minimum penalty upon conviction of this crime would be 10 years in prison. The maximum penalty would be life in prison.

Unfortunately, the terms “bodily harm” and “reasonable discipline” are not defined in the law, so it would be up to judges to determine whether parents had crossed the line and committed a crime worthy of imprisonment. Would bodily harm include inflicting pain or leaving red marks or bruises on a child? Is it reasonable discipline to use a switch, a paddle, or other object in spanking a child? Obviously there are differing opinions on this subject, and because of this, any child abuse legislation must precisely define terms to ensure that parents maintain the right to administer reasonable corporal discipline without fear of being imprisoned.

Home School Legal Defense Association will continue to track the progress of SB 2180 and work with the homeschoolers of Mississippi to bring about a defeat of this dangerous bill."

note 9
extract from HSLDA FAQ
"8. Why does HSLDA support efforts to constitutionally define marriage as between a man and a woman?
The following answer is an excerpt from a letter written by HSLDA Chairman of the Board and General Counsel Mike Farris:

. . . We are a Christian organization (see answer to question number 4 above). This colors our way of thinking about many things. Fundamentally, it is reflected in what we believe is truth.

All truth is God's truth. Man's knowledge is limited. We think we know something only to find that future generations have found that we really didn't know what we are talking about.

The truth is that God created the family. It is God's view of the family that is reflected in our western civilization and in our law until very recently. If we tear down this God-based view of the family, then all of the God-based principles in our society are ultimately at risk.

The reason we have parental rights is because our law assumes that God gave children to parents, not the state. If we eliminate the assumption of God from our law, parental rights and human rights themselves are impossible.

I was in the Soviet Union in 1988 arguing for parental rights and religious freedom with the government of the USSR. They asked, "Where are such rights based in any international legal document?"

I answered, "If rights are based on man-made documents they are not rights, they are privileges. What man makes, man can change."

Only if rights come from God is it illegitimate for man to take another's rights.

It is impossible to say that the God of the Bible would sanction rights of homosexual marriage. Thus, there is no such right in a God-based theory of rights. Any man-made theory of rights is no theory at all. ... HSLDA is not willing to move into an era of human privileges. We believe this would jeopardize our liberty to teach our children at home and bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.


Michael Farris"

note 10
HSLDA many objections towards improving tolerance towards gay people

link Italiano (How the stereotype lives on DESPITE the number of people choosing home education for religious reasons has fallen from two thirds to just over one third in a period of five years.) (the homeschoolers helping Rick Santorum were in no small number from Generation Joshua

Quiverfull and homeschooling, link in Italiano

in Italian
L'istruzione a domicilio in tutto il territorio nazionale deve la sua legalizzazione, nel 1993,
al lobbismo della Home school legal defense association (Hslda), organizzazione evangelica
che conta più di ottantamila famiglie"

"E’ quanto afferma Hslda, un’organizzazione non-profit che si batte da trent’anni in
America per garantire il diritto ai genitori di educare privatamente i figli. !
ASbc-TV ha deciso di prendere a bersaglio direttamente i cristiani con quello che in realtà
è un hate speech”, scrive il direttore di Hslda. “Questo programma ridicolizza i cristiani,
il cristianesimo, la Bibbia e i simboli cristiani in una maniera che sarebbe impensabile
se diretta verso un qualsiasi altro gruppo religioso. Per esempio, nella pagina di Facebook
si dice che ‘la fessura fra i seni ti aiuta a tenere dritto il crocifisso’. Potreste immaginare la
reazione della comunità musulmana se un messaggio del genere, completo di una foto altamente
suggestiva avesse per bersaglio la fede islamica?”.
Conclude Hslda: “Queste decisioni sono rese possibili dal fatto che sta diventando
pubblicamente accettabile umiliare il cristianesimo”."

"l’Home School Legal Defense Association (organizzazione che difende “il diritto costituzionale
dei genitori a indirizzare l’educazione dei propri figli”: 11 milioni, 2009).
Sono circa 300 le istanze di cui queste organizzazioni si fanno promotrici: un quinto
si focalizza solo su questioni interne, un sesto esclusivamente su questioni internazionali,
mentre il 64% su entrambe le tipologie di questione. Sul fronte interno tra i temi più gettonati ci
sono le relazioni Stato-Chiesa, la difesa dei diritti civili, la libertà religiosa delle minoranze,
le questioni legate ad aborto e fine vita. Sul piano internazionale: i diritti umani in generale,
la riduzione del debito e le tematiche economiche in genere, la promozione della pace. "

La Reppublica, motivazione Americani, NON Italiani.
" Per il 31% dei genitori iscritti all'Hslda si tratta di un modo per evitare che i bambini entrino in
contatto con droga, bullismo, parolacce e volgarità. Il 30%, invece, preferisce optare per una
ferrea educazione morale e religiosa da impartire all'interno delle mura domestiche,
mentre il 16% si è detto insoddisfatto degli standard d'insegnamento nelle scuole locali
frequentate dai propri figli. Tra le altre motivazioni, anche la possibilità di permettere ai bambini
di esplorare il mondo, sviluppare l'immaginazione e competenze da poter sfruttare negli anni
successivi oppure quella di averli sempre vicini, a casa, e non perdere i loro anni più belli."

Links In English

Forum members explain

"Why people don't like HSLDA" (from mainly structured, classical homeschoolers)

Joyce Fetteroll (well respected unschooler) expresses her qualms re HSLDA (scroll down)

Sandra Dodd expresses that HSLDA is problamtic and does not support unschoolers

"Does not support all homeschoolers: The homeschool Legal Defense Association has strict guidelines as to what type of homeschooling families they will support and what type they will not. You cannot just join the HSLDA, you must apply. Rules you must follow to maintain membership include, supervising children under 14 at all times, not be in legal trouble (with a few exceptions), you must also used a recognizable curriculum and not unschool. In addition, they will not represent a single parent in a custody battle."

"Secret negotiations by HSLDA"

"HSLDA is another concern. I have my own opinions on HSLDA from my personal experience with them. When you visit the HSLDA website, you can clearly see their own religious agenda. Google them and you will find their anti-gay stances. They also seem to be much more comfortable representing families that use a set curriculum, preferably one that they approve of. Where does that leave the unschoolers and the more eclectic and free spirited members of our community? I am all for HSLDA coming in and representing their clients in individual cases, even a group of their members in a case, but to come into a state and present themselves as “the” authority to speak on behalf of all homeschooling families is a bit much. They have a history of doing this on a national level as well. They completely refused to listen to anything that anyone outside of their closed circle has to say"

HSLDA and politics, from mainly structured homeschoolers

Are you a member of HSLDA ? (mainly structured homeschoolers)
poll result

reasons why not stated in forum

"In order to receive HSLDA’s services, you must agree to use “an organized curriculum and a clearly recognizable program of education,” which may be very difficult for unschoolers."

"Home School Legal Defence Association (HSLDA)

Web site:
HSLDA is a Christian, nonprofit advocacy organization established to protect family freedoms and to defend and advance the constitutional right of parents to direct the education of their children. Supported by a legal team and run by "an active board of directors, all of whom are homeschooling fathers who give guidance and direction to the organization," HSLDA provides annual memberships to homeschooling families which entitle them to receive legal support at no extra charge should they need it in the course of exercising their homeschooling rights. You do not have to be Christian to belong, but you do have to agree to "use an organized curriculum and a clearly recognizable program of education to instruct [your] children." HSLDA has been active in fighting against certain policies of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and in defending parental use of "reasonable corrective discipline."

long standing postion of vociferously supporting the parental right to practice corporal punishment, on little kids.

1n 2000
"HSLDA’s sustained lobbying against the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child — the top issue cited in an “issues alert” sent by the HSLDA to all members of Congress last fall — is necessary because “if children have rights, they could refuse to be home-schooled, plus it takes away parents’ rights to physically discipline their children,” says Klicka. He had a similar explanation for the group’s opposition to increased federal child abuse laws — more laws would mean more likelihood that corporal punishment could be defined as child abuse. (Just this month, administrators from Patrick Henry College were among those testifying before the Virginia Department of Social Services for a measure that would allow foster parents to physically discipline foster children.)"

in 2007
>From the Home School Legal Defence Association E-lert Service…

December 4, 2007

Massachusetts–Your Calls Made a Difference!

Dear HSLDA Members and Friends,

Thank you to everyone who contacted their legislators about House Bill 3922, which would prohibit corporal punishment of children in Massachusetts–your calls made a difference! We believe that your calls helped convince the legislature to let this bill die in committee.

In addition to your contacts, several pro-family representatives attended last week’s committee hearing in opposition to the bill, which has little chance of passing. The Massachusetts public is overwhelmingly against House Bill 3922, and even Senator Karen Spilka, co-chairwoman of the committee on Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities commented that the state will not be banning corporal punishment (See )."

"While the HSLDA does not hold an official position on the use of corporal punishment, Donnelly said it is clearly up to parents to determine whether corporal punishment is an appropriate form of discipline."

While they may not officially declare a position on corporal punishment, it would seem in the light of all the info that points to them being just a tad enthusiastic about maintaining the right to hit kids, some (self defining as Gentle) Christians started to become ambivalent about them...

The use of the expression "train up a child"

Micheal Farris speaks on the subject "Train up a Child"
"I was forced to mow the lawn, paint the house, re-roof our house, dig ditches for our irrigation system, and dig up some awful stuff in the yard called “quack grass.” I look back today and believe that my father did me an enormous amount of good by forcing me to work and work hard"

and reams of other articles on HSLDA containing "train up a child"

But so far I have't found anything where the organisation distances itself from the Pearls, who wrote the book "To Train up a Child". Which I would expect to see plastered all over the web if they were wholly against the sort of parenting the Pearl's promoted.

Exerpt from amazon reviews of the Pearls book "To Train up a Child"

"This is a book about how to "condition" children into obedience like one might condition a dog into obedience.
Except that these techniques are generally considered abusive and counterproductive amongst professional dog trainers, so yes, this is basically a manual for child abuse. It is based on a single Bronze Age principal from Proverbs 13:24, pithily stated by Samuel Butler (in a satirical poem): spare the rod and spoil the child."

"There was stuff in the books that I read and thought, "well that's a little extreme." Stuff that I did not apply. Such as "beware of a infant crying to manipulate you." "Spank until the child stops crying." I am ashamed to write I did this once. I felt so terrible afterwards that I never did again. I also do not agree with "breaking a child's will." God does not break our wills..why would I want to break my child's? I hate that one line he says over and over, "what your child is at 2 he will be at 12" I was stuck on this one and was so sure I was failing when my 2 year old was whinning excessivly. I started to hate the kind of parent I was becoming. So I started reading other books and have backed off. Please if you feel like you are being too over zealous with the dicispline read "Grace Based Parenting," by Dr. Tim Kimmel. I was so convicted reading this and have changed the way I see my children drastically. I just don't see any room for grace or room for mistakes in the Pearl's way of doing things. Then I read the whole thing about the 7 year old getting beat to death and it was like a slap in the face."

"What confuses me is why people think they need to hit, spank, smack or paddle their children in order for them to listen. I am a mom of 2 children under 2, a Sunday school teacher and a follower of Christ. Those who need to resort to spankings have obviously have not tried other methods.
I have a 2 year old and we ONLY use our hands for high fives and hugs. My daughter does not get everything she wants. My daughter knows that she is safe in my home, loved and well taken care of. Have ANY Of you talked with children who grew up in the "To train up a child home??
Well meet me. I think the book sucks! I am a 25 year old wife and mother of two. I grew up being spanked and hit till I was finally able to hit back. The only thing my parents taught me was fear. I grew up in FEAR because I was getting smacked for every transgression I ever committed. Why do you think you have to spank a child in order for them to listen??"

Was it done to "save the planet" ?

I dunno, perhaps an eco choice to save trees by cutting down on paper usage ? Concerns about fossil fuel consumed by the postal system ?

I'm trying to give the benefit of the doubt here, but struggling mightily.

Because for the life of me I don't understand why I am hearing the results of my declining to exercise my right to the annual exam for homeschoolers....via my son, in lieu of an offical letter from the school.

Information which he got via his friends in his former class, when he was at youth club.

Yup. The teacher announced (in rather snotty, disparaging terms) details regarding my son's academic and legal status in the education system his former class, on the last day of school (Friday).

Yesterday seven of them individually told my lad what she had said. It's not like I have a hard time believing them because...

only myself, my husband and the school knew all of the contents of our letter. Son of Thor knew one bald fact. (until of course his mates informed him).
this is not the first time this has happened.

I guess I could phone all their mums, gather evidence and play merry hell. But you have to batter a child in your class whilst it is infested with hidden camera before any preliminary sanctions are made. And even then it is not a foregone conclusion that justice will out.

The most likely result would be the teacher working out which kids in the class "are to blame" for generating a complaint and consciously or sub consciously taking it put on them. Cos that's happened before too.

Because I worked in state schools and trained state school teachers long enough to know that far too many are unable to realise they have been the architect of their (mild) misfortune. Nope, it is always somebody else's fault for tittle tattling, rather than a rueful realisation that behaving unprofessionally is a wholly personal choice.

Oh well, "school employees behave in rather unprofessional manner" isn't exactly a "hold the front page" deal. It's not like it is a shock to the system anymore, not after 8 (very long) years of dealing with the school network here in my corner of Italy. I guess I should save any surprise for the first time I interact with a school here and everybody behaves impeccably.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Pray for me

I am about to set off so I can endure three hours of children murdering dirgy classical music, in a provincial theatre that always leaves its doors open so the mosquitoes charge in after light and dinner, and I have run out of repellant.

Kill me now.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Controversially Challenged

This was first posted right back when I started home educating. Some things have changed, for a start I'm not the only homeschooler in my region anymore. However the thrust holds true even after all this time. By the bucketload.


Controversially Challenged

On a list stating who home education is right for I noticed a paragraph that said I was wrong for it.

Cos I am a "conformist".

Well I am not in the usual interpretation of the word, but when you read lots and lots and lots of homeschooling forums and blogs you pretty quickly work out what linguistic tendencies are broadly adopted. "Conformist" is used again and again in contexts where "conventional" is what is actually being described.

It's fairly standard in communities that feel embattled or misrepresented, individual terms get over-egged to match the rest of the souped up lexis.

Which would also explain why my eyes have been so regularly assailed by profile tags, blog badges and usernames proclaiming

"XXX homeschooler !!!!!"

The XXX standing for a range of the most floridly extreme adjectives.

If I were to take those self -descriptions as accurate and a good representation of the norm then I'd almost be scared to meet a real live homeschooler in the flesh.

I'd be expecting the love child of Lara Croft, all of the Greenham Common women and Joan of Arc.

Probably armed with a hot glue gun and singing "onward Christian/unschooling/pagan/classical/healing crystal soldiers" (delete as applicable) in a rather menacing soprano.

Set against that image, yes I am a "conformist" in comparison. I'm as radical as a wet weekend in Wolverhampton. My idea of a vigorous protest against social constraints on my freedom of expression is to not warm the pot before I make the tea.

I am the only home educator in Lomellina and probably the only one in the entire region (that's about 1/2 a million people).

But the act of home educating doesn't define me as a non-conformist. Quite the opposite. It makes me as conventional as they come. An English woman tightly gripped with the national obsession of getting the best possible education they can for their kid.

House price bubbles in the catchment area of a particularly well performing school.
How to hedge your bets when making your choices.
Tips and tricks for getting a place in your top pick,
Which headmasters are currently cowering under their desk cos they rescinded the "automatic entry for siblings" rule.
Advice for dealing with depression and anguish if you child doesn't get into the school you wanted.
How not to transmit your stress over a getting place in a good school to your child.
10 reasons not to kill yourself if you only get offered your third choice.

That lot above is bread and butter for a quality British newspaper. We lap it up.

Since the options in the UK are not the ones I have here I just transferred the convention into my geographical reality and HomeEd was the single realistic choice.

I didn't "think outside of the box", I ordered one. Full of books.

I didn't "shake up the system" or "mix it up" or anything as exciting as that. I did my usual, conventional, boring "sucking it up" and "getting on with it" (thought I'll admit to a few domestic hissy fits and bouts of imaginary banging fist on desk) and it was a road that led me to the same destination as the trailblazers when dealing with officious bureaucrats and relatives suffering from a fit of the vapors.

I didn't stick two fingers up to the "herd mentality" at mainstream school, I merely upped the number of times a week the mini representatives of the "herd mentality" came over to play. Just like they have always done, but a bit more often.

If the Homeschooling community promotes an image where non-conformism and being "alternative" is seen as an essential quality my biggest concern is there will never be the popular critical mass in HE that is needed to remove its secondary status.

Maybe that's the point. How can you keep calling yourself a rebel if the act that defines your rebellion has become as conventional and controversial as putting a child into mainstream education ?

(prints self T Shirt proclaiming "boringly normal, unspecial, somewhat flawed and rather conventional Homeschooler. Hear me roar put the kettle on!")

Thursday, May 31, 2012

where to put the footie ?

Preliminary timetable for next year.

I hope the big boys football club meets up after 6 pm

Why can't he do volleyball? Their scedual fits in perfectly with InterHigh School and all the other stuff crammed into his day.

I need my sister to look at this, I'm sure an organised person would make less of a meal (and pig's ear) out of creating a timetable.

I need to fit in two hours for Italian history and geography in this. But WHERE?


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