Home Education Disgruntlement

Posted Leave a commentPosted in About me, home schooling, Uncategorized

outdated educationI have to say that my passion at the moment is torn to my defence of the home education world. Its a very understood part of society, particularly as we group every home education family into one basket when they are so different. Believe me, they vary a great deal more than from the commercially produced factory belt families that our society produces. Don’t get me wrong, I see the reason and the needs for helping the masses – we’re a very big population – but then I can also see the need for helping those who have unique requirements and passions.

I guess I should say what qualifies me to garble on about this and I reckon its something that many people don’t have. I’ve been a tutor for 15 years, a lecturer in a college for a short time (3.5 years) and I’ve seen how the system works. Its affected by paperwork, grades, targets, bureaucracy, health and safety and risk assessments. I’ve seen it go wrong, with teachers yelling at crying children, and I’ve seen it go right, with pupils enjoying themselves so much they don’t want to go right. Teach right, in a well structured school, with the correct funding, then you can have a lot of well educated students who are happy and enjoy the experience.

A private tutor, five years ago I started to teach one and a half hours a week for a home education group. “Home education group?” I hear you ask in shock. Yes, the home education world has places were kids and families can group and chat, getting to know each other and socialise. These kids aren’t locked away, in the corner of the room sat in front a lowly desk, quill in hand. They don’t scream “The light! Not the light!” as they emerge from their homes, disintegrating under its glare. They have social lives, get over it.

I was there to aid their learning as some home education parents can’t help as much when they hit their GCSEs. I taught maths, biology, environmental science and even history. It was lovely as for once it wasn’t about the grades and marks. These kids had picked to do this work because they enjoyed it and their parents didn’t demand As and Bs or even passes. A lot came along to just sit the class and listen, rather than take an exam at the end, and it was fabulous to see kids learning because they wanted to learn. Can you imagine that? I gradually integrated into the home education world, having expertise in the state schools and also understanding education in this new environment. I read about the different reasons for home education, the different forms, and found out why people enjoyed it so much. I even fell for a home education single mum and have four lovely kids and a beautiful partner. Its safe to say that I may not be the master of either side but I know about both.

There are two, well actually three things that bug me the most and really have to be addressed.

Firstly, society groups the home educated under one big umbrella. If your kids learn at home they are home educated and they are all the same. Really? Do you know what racism, sexism and homophobia are? They’re grouping people and unfairly judging them because of characteristics. How can you say that all home educated families need to be registered just because they are home educated? We already know if there are children in a family – there are these things called birth certificates – so why the heck does there need to be a special register? I’ll come back to that later.

My point is that we home educate for different reasons but, in my eyes and from what I’ve seen, they can be boiled down to five main ones:

1. Religion – With religion sometimes contradicting what is preached in the schools, some families want to bring their children up with religion in the background. Remember school assemblies where we had to say the Lord’s Prayer? Now have you thought what its like if you’re another religion? Or maybe schools have removed the religious features now and this is what a family wants. Its their choice, not the government’s.

2. Advanced or needing help – Schools in the UK have the most stupid system of putting children in classes according to age, not ability. Why? Surely if I’m struggling I need to stay at a lower level? Or why should I be held back if I have an advanced age? Its not a necessity to pass GCSE’s by a certain age, to get into college by another and to shovel teenagers off to university by a deadline. These are just outdated traditions.

3. Bullying and mistreatment – A child’s work suffers if they are being bullied or even if they have been. Couple this with the fact that worse things can happen, I’ve seen one teacher yelling at a seven year old kid while waggling a finger in their face, then their school work can be severely held back. Home education can provide a secure environment which can help them recover or just provide an atmosphere where they learn better.

4. Conditions – There are tonnes of conditions that affect kids. Anxiety, depression, ADHD, OCD, autism, dyslexia…the list just doesn’t stop. Now theoretically these kids are supposed to have help in schools, have assistants who can aid them but I can tell you this doesn’t happen in A LOT of places. I know one child who was put into a special needs class without finding out what was holding them back only for me to discover they had bad dyslexia. The child was getting headaches when viewing white paper and they wondered why it held his maths back!

5. The system – Its safe to say that our education system is outdated, traditional and backward. It needs changing. Look at the European countries, child centred learning, open schools – all these things improve learning ten fold and make it far more enjoyable. I’ve met numerous families who are just fed up, watching their children become held back because of the way the commercialised system holds them back. We are no longer a mass producing ‘get everyone educated’ world of the late 19th century. Change the system.

Okay I’m going to shut up now as I have used up a lot of my time and…ahem…written an essay. I’ll gas on about my other frustrations at another time but until then have fun!

Home Education and Theresa May

Posted Leave a commentPosted in About me, home schooling, News, Uncategorized

Home educationDefinitely a day that made me want to head butt the wall as the dog knocked glasses off my face (tip – don’t pick up mad, hyperactive, nutcase mongrels) and I turned around only to feel the ‘crunch’ beneath my foot. Honestly, its like something from a sitcom only this left me partially blind. Out came the glue, which seemed to fix the job, only now I have a smear of the stuff in my vision. Great.

Lack of time prevented me from getting on with the latest words I’ve plotted in my head, which made me a bit disappointed. So much for a new years resolution (two days after I started it). Fingers crossed this will just be a blip! In all fairness I did stay up till late helping one of my students, rather than getting on with much needed writing, so I have an excuse. Trouble is there are some times when I always have excuses…

Yesterday also saw us dosing the sheep, a job that went smoothly thanks to the trained nature of the sheep. It does mean Woolie is a step towards coming home (yeay!) after she’ll be PD’d (pregnancy diagnosis) later this week. For those who don’t know, Woolie is our pet sheep, given to us by my uncle as a runt who was rejected by her mother. After three…awwwwww.

Looks like Theresa May has had another black mark against her name with this cabinet shuffle cock up, failing to make changes that she said would come. Will it make a difference though? I’d like to think that by now the Joe Bloggs will understand that she is not a good leader but will they vote for Labour? I’d like to think so as Corbyn seems a much better guy to have in charge! Saying that, we have a local labour party member who is trying to infiltrate the home education groups and with this forced register coming out (honestly it sounds like something from the Hitler’s regime) coming out there is a severe lack of trust. Its almost as if she wants to gather information about the home educated.

Perhaps we’re paranoid but can you blame the home education society? People don’t understand the way they have been mistreated. I had one friend whose child suffered severe anxiety but wanted to try to go back into school for a few days. They were told by the school that this was fine and she could always leave again only for them to find letter after letter and threat after threat piled against them when the girl couldn’t cope. So much for being allowed to leave. Local Education Authority officials falsely tell parents that they have every right to enter people’s houses (this happens on numerous occasions) breaching people’s privacy. And now, with one child dying of nutrition deficiency in the home education world, everyone is put under scrutiny. Let me ask you, how many children are abused that come from state schools? How much children have died by mistreatment who go to the state schools? A hell of a lot more.

People simply fear what they don’t know. And that’s the crux of the matter; there is a lack of trust between LEAs and the Home Educated and that needs to be fixed before we can work together. Personally, I don’t see a forced register as allowing this to happen.

Jedi Powers and Writer’s Block

Posted Leave a commentPosted in About me, After Death, News, Uncategorized, writing

Good old Trump strikes again. By the way I apologise to any Americans who are reading these blog posts but hell, the end of the world is something I have to write about. Have you actually seen the child like remarks he’s made about Wolff’s book? It does not make him look good. If there’s one damn thing you don’t do to illustrate you’re not mentally like a child is spill insults and snaps like a child! Has anyone seen Mark Hamill’s reply to Trump? I can only hope that he can use his Jedi mind powers to control Trump’s temper tantrums. Remember he has a bigger button.

Another grouch of today’s news is the media’s love of slagging off celebrities and royalty. The latest punch is Meghan Markle’s sister-in-law assaulting her fiancée, I should say allegedly, but so what? These aren’t the rulers of the country. Hell, they don’t even know what has actually happened. Just to sell papers or please ads on websites they’ll publish anything that will scratch under the surface of public curiosity.

A session down the farm and a session with the pizzas pretty much took up a day that started with the splat of two teabags falling from my teaspoon to leave a brown liquid psychological interpretation image on the floor. However, all things considered the day was good as a new student signed up (only for four lesson but hey ho money’s money and as my wallet is empty and I was close to setting up a pole dancing club I’m more than happy).

In all the best part of my day was getting through my writer’s block (hence the exert from my last post). 1300 words of a story that I was happy with and now on to the next part. It came to me that Khazar could capture Nils’ son as he tries to get the message to Ancora, sacrificing him to control Nils (who has the death charm). It’s a nice twist and one I didn’t think of but as it happens most of my ideas come to me during my writing. Is this the same for everyone else? After that its on with the next chapter, back to Wilhelm and Aldar as they escape the tribesmen who are going to hunt them down. In jump the Elves…Finally I’m moving closer to a scene I thought of about a year ago! Nothing more satisfying than finally getting it down on paper!

Snippet From Sequel

Posted Leave a commentPosted in adventure, After Death, fantasy, Uncategorized, writing

Brienne_of_Tarth-Gwendoline_Christie.jpgOk this one is from the sequel to my book I’m currently writing. If there’s crap grammar etc its because I haven’t redrafted it and won’t until I’ve actually finished! This part of chapter 3 (I think) sees the main protagonist (Khazar) using a spell to control the mind of a stranger he has planted in a castle that he wants to take. His plan is to use a death spell to force the man to commit suicide so that he rises from the dead (its a zombie book) and thereby spread the death to others in the fortification. Better than taking the castle by force!

‘Reaching out with my mind, I channel it into the flames, into the magical artefact. The swirling snakes of energy that wind around my scalp reach out to be sucked into the interwoven twigs before I begin to picture the vision of the man I seek out. The man who’s daughter I slaughtered in order to control that single mind. My thoughts flow through the air, riding the cold winds that blow over the snow covered slopes, and then I am there at the fortification that halts my army’s advance. Upward, over the huge walls that seem to be designed to hold back dragons or even the gods themselves, towering above the rocky ground below. Upward, over the parapet and along the walkway where soldiers stand, dressed in their thick black furs and protective armour.

I speed through the air, to the second wall, and then onwards until I pass a figure I know. Nils, commander of the Eastern Fortress, an old man yet famed for his use of the sword. He is broad shouldered but not a giant, not like the woman who stands next to him. Not the prettiest, I know this will now matter to Nils as long as she is loyal and can protect the castle. He shows his age now, hair a matt of grey and unshaven pock-marked face showing many wrinkles, but he would defeat many before he fell. He is a thorn in my side and one I plan to pluck from my skin as if a fly. Irritating but killed with a swift blow.

Onward, past them and through to the room where they are now heading, past the guard who stands idly at the door and inwards into the bedchamber where the father of my sacrifice sits. Looking down at him, invisible to all but those of the highest magic, I see a young child whose mind is almost gone. Huddled like an embryo, he shivers in spasms, staring at the wall with a lost gaze. Soon is pain will be over and the infection of the fortress will begin.

Mumbling the words of the curse, cross-legged in my cave, I picture the charm within his clothes and channel my magic into its woven shape. For a moment I feel a wave of nausea, dizziness flowing through my brain as if I am spinning round and round but then I use all my discipline and training to focus again and I am there, within him. The death spell is complete.

Now a puppet, his eyes look away from the wall and I and his vision are the same. We look around, searching for something to quench a need to end a meaningless life and he is captured with the need to end his own life. The spell will force him to take this path and then his undead form shall rise and those within the castle will become my army. We rise from the bed, searching the room for something of use but there is no blade or knife that may make the task easier.

Staggering forward to the window for a second I think we may throw himself to the stones of the courtyard floor below but bars prevent our exit. This time we move towards the door and I smile inwardly. The guard will end him and then the infection can begin. Just as our hand is placed on the door, ready to attack the guard beyond, we stop and I wonder what we are about to do. Our eyes have caught something, the blanket on the bed, and as we take it in our hands and twist and twist I realise what we are about to do. Under my breath I growl.

Formed into a makeshift rope we step up onto the bed, tying the end to the beams above. The other end is torn short, ripping as we pull with all our strength, then he fashions the noose that will be our end.

No good! Anger stabs into me as I recognise that protesting is futile. I cannot control his actions now, only watch as a spectator from within and feel frustrated. This death will leave him strung up like a chicken, spasming and swinging from the wood above, but much less likely to bite those I wish dead. This zombi will be unlikely to spread the underneath to others of the castle and all my work will have gone to waste. Even as my attention returns to the situation at hand his feet step out into the air and then he jerks once, twice, and hangs dead with spittle trickling down his chin.’

I approach 18k words…

Trump, Pizzas and Sparks

Posted Leave a commentPosted in About me, News, Uncategorized, writing

Trump.jpg

Today I read the next story in the Trump saga and it amazes me how the world believes how naïve people are. Mind you perhaps we all are. Refusing to block Trump’s twitters, the site is now stating that they won’t block world leaders as it would stop important matters being debated. Do people really believe this? Its obvious that the number of followers and viewers on these sites is much more essential to the sites than world safety (come on, stating ‘I’ve got a bigger nuclear bomb than you’ is not the way for a world leader to behave) and it can’t be the case that people actually believe this bull. I guess what difference will whinging make in the end though? I’ve been waiting for nuclear Armageddon for the last year and, though there have been other times when I think the clock has come closer to striking midnight, I flinch when I read Trump’s latest nutcase statements. Hope you’ve had a nice life if this first post (in quite a while) is my last.

A good time delivering pizzas yesterday was highlighted by the addition of an extra student and stained by the snail slow internet that we now have. Can you believe that Talk Talk can’t send out an engineering until the 16th!? Eleven days of sluggish hell as I but my head against the wall. Ironically I remember the ZX Spectrum when I was a kid and the repeated buzzing for at least quarter of an hour as we waited for the games to load. I guess my patience has slowly been striped away as the world has got much faster.

The sparks that are lighting up my writing life are actually highlighting a way back into writing and I’m actually looking forward to getting on with my sequel to Demon Rising. I’ve actually sent my first book to an agent (though I don’t think I’ll actually get it published without a platform – man it was impossible to scrape together a writing CV with my lack of experience) and felt quite proud in myself. Now I only have to start the actual writing again…

Self Sufficient Biology – Goatish Contemplation

Posted Leave a commentPosted in self sufficiency, Uncategorised

OlafDue to the small nature of our premises, our two Anglo-Nubian goats (Fudge and Olaf by name) happily chew a cud made up of delicious hay. Its always lovely to see them crashed out and comfy, jaws circularly rotating as if chewing gum while they contemplate the world. The question I want to answer in this article is this: just what are those goats up to? There are a number of animals that chew the cud (sheep, cows and reindeer to name but a few) but why do they do this strange act?

The problem for the herbivore eaters is that plants are pretty tough critters, evolutionarily responding to their constant destruction by beefing up their structure. They produce a molecule known as cellulose, a tough polymer that refuses to be broken down, and incorporate it into their structure. This cellulose grinds down the teeth of those who try to consume and make sure the plant can’t be digested. This way, the animal won’t eat them as there’s little point. Job done.

Only evolution has a crafty way of combating the adaptations of others. The herbivorous diners developed large molars to grind away at leaves whilst some developed a new type of digestive system. Ruminants are animals with a special type of ‘stomach’ known as the rumen. In here, bacteria and microorganisms sit, not to infect and cause illness but to work in a symbiotic relationship with their animal friend.

This relationship is mutualistic, when both organisms gain something from it, different to parasitism as the organism that dines will be the sole one to benefit. The bacteria gain a source of food and protection from the elements, taking their share of the food that the ruminant consumes. So what does the goat, sheep or cow gain? Well, those microbes have designed enzymes to break down cellulose, biological molecules that allow such reactions to occur efficiently. The cellulose that could not be destroyed is now digested, just as if the herbivore could do it itself. However, there is one problem.

Once cellulose is broken down, it must be digested further and unfortunately this process occurs in the mouth. Having already passed this part of the digestive system, it means that the herbivore has no means of obtaining the nutrients…or does it? Cleverly, the ruminants have developed muscles that pull the food back up into the mouth! If you watch carefully while a ruminant chews, you may even notice a pause and sudden movement up the neck when the food is brought up! The animal will then grind away with its teeth, the mouth digesting the products of the broken down cellulose, in its casual, carefree way. Repeating the swallow and regurgitate process, the food will eventually pass on to the next part of the gut and finish its passage through the animal.

So next time you see livestock chewing happily, spare a thought for the animals who have to grind up their own regurgitated gut contents!

Careers in Biology – Microbiologist

Posted Leave a commentPosted in careers, Uncategorised

Biology technician.jpgMicrobiologists study the invisible organisms and other biological particles that associate with life; bacteria, yeast, virus and protoctista. Understanding these organisms can be essential to our interaction with the world. Bacteria naturally maintain nutrients in the soil, can contaminate food (when you’ve had a dose of E. coli, one of the causes of food poisoning, you’ll know just how much!), are used in medicine production and much, much more. These microorganisms can be used as a natural means of detecting pollution, helping us correct the damage we are creating to the world around us.

The microbiologist must study and learn about these creatures, delve into a seemingly non-existent plain to the naked eye, and enter a world where the microscopic rule.

History of Home Education – Compulsory Education

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Home Education

victorian education

As a newcomer to home education (my new family have been in this social system for many years but I was only introduced four years ago) it has been interesting to see this different way of learning from all angles. As a previous teacher (hating the bureaucracy involved) I could see the demand for a means of educating a large number of students. However, when I become a tutor to the home educated and eventually a father of unschooled children, it allowed me to see the upsides to home education as well.

There’s a difficulty for all sides with the systems involved. Many have our passions, let downs or fear of the unknown. Those who parent via the 9 to 5 system (well 8 to 3.30 really) don’t understand what home schooling is about and hence are apprehensive. Our brain’s are psychologically designed to have a fear of what we don’t understand and, whilst this is unfair and should be overcome rather than used to protest, at least its a reason. On the other hand, many home education families have been let down by the educational system, as well as the local education authorities that supply it. How many times have I tutored pupils who haven’t been given the appropriate help, have been bullied at school, or are intimated by the academic examination system. I even have family members who become severely stressed while sitting a primary school test.

But maybe I just inexperienced in the whole thing.

Anyway, I’m digressing. The reason why I’m spouting on is that I’ve recently become interested in how this system came about, how home education has developed and what the future of education will and should be. Personally, I can’t see a way to educating the millions of children in the world unless there is some commercialised system (yuch) but I also believe there will be a niche for those who want to educate by a more individualised means. These are the home ed who will strive to provide for their children’s personalities rather than the rules and regulations.

So where did the compulsory system we have today all begin and why is it there? I suppose you have to ask yourself just what education is for. In today’s world there are completely different reasons for it but the place we live also in is completely different to that which existed a hundred years ago. Apprenticeships date back to the 12th century, ironically providing an education that many home ed families seek. Rather than a child learning in an academic system they learned skills that they needed for everyday life right up to the 20th century. No-one had to read or write: being able to carry out carpentry or repair a roof was much more important!

However, such systems failed due to their abuse, using children for money rather than to allow them their own future. Don’t get me wrong, maybe in those days such things were needed. It wasn’t until 1880 that this use of children was finally stemmed (at least for those aged 10 or under) and I’ve often read about six year old children sent up chimneys during the Victoria era. In the developing world a child’s life is often seen as a resource rather than something to cherish and as sad as this is it is one of the harsh realities of life. I guess we must remember that this isn’t a system to make one person extremely rich or for a parent to put their feet up but instead it allowed a family to survive.

In 1870 the Elementary Education Act, or Forster’s Act, was passed to force children between 5 and 10 into education. This was with the exception of those families who could not afford to give up their children as part of the family workforce. There were several reasons for this act and some of the more cynical can easily see what the government had to benefit. Parents had to pay for the education if they could afford it and I am sure the government had its cut.

There was a fight to keep the British Empire competing with the rest of the world (such as the rapidly growing US, unified German Empire and stale but still strong Russian Empire) and the way to do this was to improve the skills of the workforce. New technology that formed the backbone of the industrial revolution required engineers and not just labourers.

On top, Britain would be introducing new voting Acts to bring more of the public into the election. The Ballot Act of 1872 made voting secret and so more people were happier to vote rather than be threatened or bribed. However, this would require the public to be able to read and write (to an extent) if politicians were to have a better chance of putting their arguments across to the people.

Maybe I’m getting old and bitter but personally I think the new system was for money.

In the end, I believe this reasoning for the Compulsory Education Act in 1880 is seriously outdated. The government now funds education, rather than taking their cut, and many parents are educated enough to provide their children with the three R’s that apply to life. We no longer have a developing country where Imperialism is of the utmost importance but a developed world where culture and creativity can be a driving force behind our economy. Of course, this is just the beginning of the system’s development and maybe we can find more legitimate reasoning for compulsory education in the 137 years that have since passed. But those are for another article.

Picture taken from on-this-day-elementary-education-act-passed-in-1870-11363823327455

Demon Rising is Live

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Demon Rising, fantasy, Uncategorized, writing

500 pages and one masterpiece later, Stephan makes a horrifying discovery.Almost two years ago my brain was bubbling with too much Walking Dead and zombies when I figured I would like to write such a novel. Flicking over a unique take, a decided to do a fantasy as it seemed to me most zombie apocalypse shows and books were set in the modern world. What exactly would happen if the dead were unleashed on the land in the 17th or 18th century? Would the lower population numbers mean that it was less of a threat, unable to spread itself as much? Or perhaps tougher times would mean they people would be able to fight off the new terror. Would there be a supernatural reasoning behind it, bringing in magic and the unexplainable? Or would it have a scientific basis like many zombie apocalypse programs?

Nailing myself down in front of my laptop to actually complete this book, I started forcing myself to write a couple of thousand words a day. As usual my imagination shaped the pathway by book would take, coming up with ideas that I weaved into the novel. I decided that I would write it from the protagonists views, exploring the minds of each character and how they perceived the scenes. At that point I hadn’t read Game of Thrones so hadn’t seen a book done in such a way and it seemed like a different take.

By the end of the year it was finished with beta readers giving the thumbs up for the first five chapters. However, to my horror I realised I’d slipped back into past tense since chapter two! Having the change the tense of the whole book disheartened me and, with the year becoming busier than ever, I put down the quill and returned to the tedium of teaching and tutoring. Several months ago I promised to finish the redraft. I’d already written two short stories, Heart’s Siege and Into the Desert (only £0.99), based in the same world, stories taken from the characters backgrounds, and so I began to trudge through the chapters to finally reach the glorious day that is today.

I’m definitely not expecting big sales, possibly any sales lol, but its satisfying to finally publish my first book. There’s a proper cover being made but for the time being the one I’ve dug up seems pretty good. If you’re into fantasy books try Demon Rising , its only £3.10, and I hope you enjoy!

You can find out more about me and my books at my website www.hywelgriffiths.co.uk at my website. You can read snippets about the book and look for other info in my updates page here or even give me a shout on the contacts page!

Happy reading!

Picture taken from www.cartoonstock.com