HESFES (Home Educators’ Seaside Festival) 2008

Roland and Janet Meighan and myself attended HESFES 2008 on 28/29th June ( http://www.hesfes.co.uk/ ). It’s become one of the highlights  of the year. We introduced two of the latest books from Educational Heretics Press ( http://edheretics.gn.apc.org/ ) ‘Personalised Learning: Taking Choice Seriously’ edited by Mark Webster and ‘Joy Baker: Trailblazer for home-based education and personalised Learning’ by Chris Shute. We also went on to speak about the work of the Centre for Personalised Education – Personalised Education Now and then faciltate to open workshops. We always marvel at the very special atmosphere during HESFES. There is a wonderful centredness about the festival. Families of home-based educators comfortable with their life and learning choices enjoying time together – sharing, collaborating and supporting. The children and young people are appear to effortlessly mix and get on. Younger and older children naturally enjoy each other’s company and spontaneous activities arise alongside planned groups and sessions. This is such a stark contrast to many of their schooled peers who ‘fizz’ and pop like bottles of lemonade youngsters are contented and comfortable to be still and contemplative as they are to be active and physical. Conversation is alive and well. Extended conversation is possible in a way rarely enabled in schools. There is emotional security, trust, self discipline and mutual respect of humankind and the environment. Children and young people accept their freedoms and responsibilities, learn to manage the risks and avoid the destructive malaise of peer and gang cultures and pressures. What is also evident is the positive, inclusive way the adults relate with youngsters and model behaviours. There’s no shouting, screaming, beating and balling. There’s no verbal abuse, binge drinking or knife crime. Young people are fit and healthy – there’s no obesity. There are those who would have you believe the home-based educated children ought to be put into schooling to get some ‘real’ learning. There are those who would argue the youngsters don’t socialise or get sufficient learning entitlement. There are those who would argue the children are at risk. The reality is somewhat different.  Quite frankly mainstream schooling systems have a lot to learn.  HBE is achieved without government support, without legions of professional educators and without high stakes curriculum and testing.  The differences are profound. Relationships are strong and precede learning. Learning is relevant to learner and is not hostage to the inflexibilities of age-stage progressions and pre-packaged chunks of knowledge. Learning all the time is appreciated and valued. A continuous stream of learning journeys and episodes are undertaken. The results are educated, motivated, engaged, active citizens who undertake useful work. Even on mainstream indicators HBE youngsters are on average 2 years and as much as 10 years in advance of their schooled counterparts. If only mainstream learning systems could even get close!

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