Protected: Letter to the LA

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On one of the email lists, a request was made for people to be interviewed about HE for a newspaper. One of the questions asked went along these lines: “HE children do not mix with a cross section of society and only with other home ed children.”

Oh this makes me sooooo mad!! Do they really think children only meet other people in school? That they don’t see anyone else, ever, that at weekends they never go out? Where do they get their ideas from?

I live in a block of 8 maisonettes. We are white British. The family next door are from Somalia. Next door to them are Bolivian/Columbian family. Next to them, the family are from Eritrea. On the 1st floor, the four households are Jamaican, white British, Greek and finally the Ivory Coast.

On the estate as a whole (88 households), we have single parent families, gay families, disabled parents, disabled children. Pensioners, and young people in their first house. Renters and home owners. Children who go to school, and children who don’t. The children that play out on the estate range from 6-7 years up to 16, and they all rub along together.

My children have the world on their doorstep.

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AE Conference 11th June Part 2

I went to the LTTL Conference on Saturday as part of my ongoing mission to discover as much as I can on this thing called Autonomous Education. I found it quite inspiring. Here’s part 2 of my account of the day. Part 1 is here.

Italics are the points of the speaker (not verbatim), normal text is my thoughts.

The last speaker before lunch was David Waynforth, a lecturer and researcher in biology and nutrition at the University of East Anglia.

He spoke about children’s ability to make autonomous food choices. He started by talking about the sort of diet humans are evolved to eat, and how contrary to popular opinion we’ve actually adapted biologically to tolerate foods like gluten and dairy, even though they only came to be part of our diet relatively recently.

Humans cannot get physiologically addicted to food. So sugar/junk food addiction is a myth. In experiments, people have been shown to crave certain foods (for example, protein) when they were restricted, but this balances out after the body has received what it needs.

The biological evidence above suggests controlling food intake isn’t necessary. Kids can self regulate their food intake if food is not restricted.

Bingeing happens when food is restricted, but I get caught up in a vicious circle. I worry that my kids will eat too much of the wrong food, so I restrict their access. This means that when I let them have something they normally can’t, they want more and more. I’m not sure I have the confidence to allow them completely unrestricted access to the food cupboard, but I have a few ideas to ease me in, so to speak. Firstly, I’m going to buy less of the foods I don’t want them to eat. So I’ll control the type of food that comes into the house and allow the kids to make their choices from that. This is already starting to work well. Ava asked for a second breakfast, and I allowed it. At that point, Matthew and Frankie asked for another breakfast, so I put the cereal and milk on the table and let them help themselves. That day, we went through a whole box of cereal and an extra bottle of milk. But already they’ve slowed down on the cereal eating. I’ve also said yes any time they’ve asked for fruit, even just before dinner.

Dinner times can often be a problem here. Seemingly small appetites, huge appetites, not liking anything but plain pasta, I’m sure I’m not the only one! I have a desperate need to be a good mum, and food is really central to that. But David’s talk helped me realise I’m the one with the issues, not the children. They’re allowed to not to like things! But as I said before, I’m not currently able to relinquish all control (maybe that will come with time?). So my solutions for now are to serve food in bowls at the table and allow them to choose portion size and even leave the meat if they don’t want it. And we’ll see how it goes.

After lunch, Mike Fortune-Wood spoke about the politics of home education, how ‘children’s rights’ are being used as a tool for government to control families and outcomes. I don’t go in much for politics, but am aware that by home educating I’m swimming against the tide of mainstream thought. Hopefully I can help the children to think independently, and to make up their own mind about things rather than just blindly follow the herd.

Next up were the researchers Alan Thomas and Harriet Patterson, who spoke about how children can learn to read autonomously, without being actively taught.

Alan and Harriet have researched and written a book about home education: How Children Learn at Home. They found that most home educators gravitate over time to less formal learning, regardless how structured they started out.

Their latest project is research into learning to read autonomously. Up to now there has been virtually no research. Most research says you cannot learn to read unless taught, and most children learn reading by being taught. Many home educated children learn to read ‘late’ (that is, by school standards, when children need to read by 6 or 7 at the latest to be able to access the curriculum), but they are not behind their peer group once reading is established. As home educators, we a re in a unique position to be able to facilitate education without reading being a pre-requisite, and it is common for children to learn to read at the age of 8 or 9, sometimes even later, with no detrimental effects on their long term prospects.

Then followed a brainstorming session on how we can encourage reading without formal teaching (such as phonics):

Reading aloud is very important, having conversations. Responding to what the child asks for, rather than asking the child to perform. Pointing to words as you read them. Encourage curiosity about what words do. Self motivation. Needing a reason to read. Not restricting reading to books, words are everywhere. Parent not displaying anxiety over needing their child to read. Being social. Making storyboards and cartoons, even if parent is doing the writing as the child describes.


Literacy and maths are learned through the world around us. We have an innate disposition to learn out culture, so that includes reading. Coversation is the most important. Play is vital, labels, imitation, observation, practise, but mostly that child makes the choices, reading material should not imposed as at school.

Treating reading as a whole rather than breaking it down to rules seems to be more effective. Literate people do not decode words, so why should the basics of reading be taught this way. Reading is about comprehension, not decoding words/letters.

Late readers in school fall behind, late readers at home soar ahead. Interference disturbs the natural learning rhythm.

This was the talk I was most interested in before the day started. I had already started teaching Frankie to read at her request, with a subscription to Reading Eggs and also following the Jolly Phonics scheme. I think I made it too formal for her though, restricting her access to some of the materials in an attempt to stick to the programme as written. This talk reaffirmed my faith in her ability to learn to read at her pace. She loves to read, to be read to, to ask about words on the screen, to ask about what words mean when we speak them. I have no doubt she’ll be very literate, as and when she’s ready. So I’m taking the books, cards and games down from the high shelf and letting her have free access to them. I’m sure she’ll be reading soon enough, probably just as I start to panic!!

Finally, Schuyler Waynforth spoke amusingly and lovingly about some of her experiences as a radical unschooler. These are the points that spoke to me the most.

The point of music is not the end…

Engagement, not guidance.

Your child is who they are, just as you are who you are. Be with them, not change them.

Be more attentive, for everything!


There was a Q & A session at the end, but I’m afraid I cannot remember much about it, as I was very nervous about my question, and didn’t take notes! But the whole day was recorded, and the audios should be up on the LTTL website soon (link at the top of the page). I hope this has given you a flavour of the day. I thoroughly enjoyed it, loved meeting like-minded people, and would go to a similar event in a heartbeat!

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AE Conference, 11th June Part 1

I went to the LTTL Conference on Saturday as part of my ongoing mission to discover as much as I can on this thing called Autonomous Education. I found it quite inspiring. Here’s my account of the day.

Italics are the points of the speaker (not verbatim), normal text is my thoughts.

The first speaker was Imran Shah.  He is a child-protection social worker whose children are home educated. He spoke about Attachment Parenting and how vital it is.

The attachment phase is birth – 7/8 years old, and in this time, the child should spend most of their time with the mother (or primary carer). Attachment techniques can still benefit older children, even if the attachment phase wasn’t ideal (maybe it’s never too late!)

Attachment is a biological process. All warm blooded animals have some form of attachment with their young. A part of the brain called the limbic brain is the seat of what we call emotion and love, and connections are made from there to the pre-frontal cortex during attachment. Attachment actually grows a child’s brain. Research shows that the brains of the Romanian orphans (who had their basic survival needs met, but were shown no love or affection) were not as well developed as ‘normal’ children.

The attachment process is biologically compulsory, but our cognitive functions try to override it. In this culture, we are encouraged to separate from our children as early as possible; wean at 6months, baby in cot, in another room, go back to work and put baby in nursery and so on.

Benefits of Attachment Parenting include emotional resilience, ability to deal with stressors later in life and impulse control (the ability to wait for things, or think things through properly.

How to practise Attachment Parenting? All you need is: Responsiveness (react to their needs), sensitivity (be aware of them), proximity (be close to them), time (they’re only young for a short time, make the most of it).

I found this, the first talk of the day, extremely challenging. And it tapped into a feeling that Imran even noted, that all mothers feel guilt. I didn’t practise AP with my eldest 4 children, thought I did (and do) with my youngest 2. However, even though I feel bad for the missed opportunities, I do think that it’s never too late to build strong and loving relationships with all my children. All I have to doiswork out how!!

The next speaker was Sandra Dodd, a famous unschooler. She spoke about unschooling in general, and it was less about how kids learn when unschooling, but how radical unschooling (giving children autonomy over all aspects of their lives, not just in education) happens, and some pointers on how we can do it.

Move on from past, don’t deny it but don’t let it consume or dominate the present. Don’t live in the future either, now is the place to be. Planning is good, but don’t forget the now. If you have one foot in the past and one in the future, you’re pissing all over today.

We can spend too much time regretting the past, or worrying about the future, and the present, the joy of the now, just passes us by. One of the keys to unschooling successfully is to live in the now, to savour each moment.

Stop listening to the destructive voices in your head.

Changing your mind is ok, but explain things, it’s ok!

One of the holy grails of parenting is ‘consistency’. If you say you’re going to do something, you must do it. Well actually, that’s not true. The only thing that it’s vital to be consistent about is honesty. Be honest. Sandra gave an example about smacking. You might, in temper, threaten to smack your child. And you might feel that if you don’t carry through your threat, you child will continue to do whatever the undesirable behaviour is. But that doesn’t have to be the case. You can change your mind. But, and here’s the important point, it is better to explain to your child that you have changed your mind, and why, and then you can both talk about what has happened, and resolve matters. Explain how you made a choice (to smack), and how it wasn’t a good one. Then you made a better choice. And you could also talk about the situation that let to the threat of smacking in terms of choices too.

Be forgiving of people living their own lives with you.

No one will do things in exactly the way you’d like. But they’re all doing what you’re doing, the best they can. If you cut them some slack, they’ll do the same for you.

Parents should be partners to their children doing interesting things.

Unschooling isn’t letting kids run wild doing what ever they want. That’s bad parenting. Join in with their games, invite them to sit alongside you when you’re at the computer, let them cook or help you cook. Give them a broom when you have the duster, get down in the dirt with them when they discover worms. Live alongside them, not behind or in front of them.

Pick up on cues, not just on the words said.

Remember when your child was a baby and they couldn’t speak? You had to pick up on their cues and respond to them? Carry on doing that. You can avoid a lot of conflict that way…

If you look and find the best in each moment, you’ll help others do the same.

Positivity breeds positivity (And the reverse is true too).

Avoid ‘just’. Nothing is just, it’s a denial of a situation. 

And ‘only’. It’s not ‘only’, or ‘just’, it ‘is’. It’s not ‘just potatoes’ to my 4 year old, it’s the most disgusting thing ever and if I make her eat them she will make herself sick. If I understand that today she hates potatoes and she doesn’t have to eat them, then she’ll probably eat everything else. It’s not ‘only a picture’, it’s a picture your 14 year old drew. Even if it’s not a masterpiece, she’s worked at it, and if you take time to point out the elements depicted or techniques used, she’ll feel acknowledged.

Also avoid stupid, awful and I hate.

Get back your sense of wonder. Cynicism is fashionable, forget it.

Be like your 4 year old again, be wondrous at the world!

Think and act peacefully and with wonder and your life will be more peaceful and wonderful.

If you tell your child what’s better or worse how can he make his own choices. Denying their thoughts destroys their confidence in their choices. Let go of control, it will work in the long run.

It’s cold, put a coat on. You can’t be hot. It doesn’t hurt that much. Don’t be silly, I was only joking. You don’t need to cry! Sound familiar? It does to me. I have major control issues I need to work through…

Live by principles rather than rules.

Some people live for tomorrow in a way that makes today fail.


I’ll stop there as there’s a lot. I shall post soon about the other speakers, and about the thought processes the event as a whole triggered in me.

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The Uncaged Family

Some of you may know me as knittyflitty, or flitty. Some of you may know me as 8gomad. Some of you will know that I flutter about, changing everything her and there, seemingly unable tosettle on anything permanent. And here I am, having changed again.

So why uncaged?

Well, I’ve been in a mental prison for quite some time. Trapped by my failings. Trapped by my depression. Trapped by my negativity. Trapped by my own expectations. By the expectations of other people. By the expectations of the state.

Over the past 18 months I’ve connected with people that (unknowingly) have really challenged my thought processes. I no longer feel bound to live up to what others think as normal.In my heart I’ve always know what is best for my family, and now I am starting to trust myself, I don’t feel mad, I feel free.

I’ll still struggle and feel pressure, but I’m getting there.

This blog.

I won’t be chasing readers, or looking at stats. I won’t commit to posting an entry every day, week or even month. This will be a place where I talk about our home education, my thoughts on HE, things I think about, and more than likely lots of streams of conciousness! I’ll love to get comments, but won’t get hung up on them, or lack of them. I’m blogging for me, and if others enjoy it, read it and comment, then that’s a bonus 🙂

I’ve imported some blog posts from 8 Go Mad, so if you’ve never read my blog before, you can get a flavour of what we’re like, but be aware that things move very quickly, and that what we thought or did last week isn’t necessarily the same this week!!

Look for me on twitter if you want to see my really inane ramblings, the link is over there ~~>


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Epic Week

I know it’s been a while, but I just had to share my week, cos it’s been damn brilliant, on the whole!

My husband finally confirmed that he’s going to college in September to do his degree. He’ll be doing internet computing and web design and his first step to owning his own business.

I decided I would go self-employed at the same time to support him. I’m setting up an online shop where I will sell knitted, crocheted and cross-stitched items, and patterns.

My eldest (17yo) daughter got a job (an apprenticeship), full time with 1 day a week at college. She’ll be fully qualified as a nursery teacher in 2 years!! She starts next Wednesday, and she’s over the moon. And so am I, I couldn’t be more proud of her!

My 16yo daughter leaves on Sunday to go to Liverpool (we live in London) to work as a live in nanny for the summer. When she comes back in September she’ll start her professional chef training.

My 14yo was accepted by a local craft organisation to do her arts award, and she can also work there voluntarily to get experience! This is great, as this will help her when she applies to go to college to do arts and design at 16.

I love weeks like this!!



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Learning to Read

I’ve taught my children to read using the Jolly Phonics system, with great success. I have collected and made a lot of resources for it, and am making them available for you here. It is a very big file, and you will need an unzipping program, a pdf reader, a media player that plays .wma files, a printer, LOTS of paper, scissors, glue, and pencils to make full use of it all 🙂

Download my JP Resources file here, or here (always choose free/slower download, you don’t need to pay!).


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