Reflecting on 2014 in Home Education here in Northern Ireland

Lots going on at the North Down Co-Op Christmas Party

2014 has been a busy, extraordinary and sometimes alarming year for Home Education in Northern Ireland.  We've launched a new website, seen the birth of two new groups and our existing groups go from strength to strength.  We've tackled themes from Vikings to the International Space Station at our meet ups, visited everwhere from Museums, to Farms, Supermarkets and even Stormont!  We've welcomed babies, made friends, grown and learned and changed together.

And then the consultation!  The Draft Policy arrived on our collective desk in April this year and we were all shocked at the attitude it revealed.  Parents were horrified to see a government body attempt to go so far beyond their legal powers, and to see the Boards' attempt to smear home educating families with implications of 'hidden children' and selfishness in prioritising parents' rights over our childrens' education, without evidence of any sort.  In fact as we all know our rights are for the protection and nurture of our children - parents are almost always the best person to decide for their children because we know them best and we love them best.

The process undoubtedly made us stronger, better connected and more aware that our strength lies in our community.  Our numbers have grown as word has spread about the consultation and more parents are discovering that they don't have to accept the Education and Library Boards' word on the law. Families who have had visits and monitoring for years are relieved to discover they don't have to put their children through that any more, and to discover a community that will support them and their children in their home educating journey.

Radio Ulster Talkback on Home Education

Radio Ulster Talkback on home education (about 1hr10 in from the start).

We are touched to hear our site described as 'well intentioned and well organised' - if you're well intentioned and well organised... and well informed and well advised... then you can achieve anything!

A drift towards standardisation - Draft Policy by the back door?

Drinking Straw Stick Men, and why not.

Home educators are waiting for the outcome of the recent consultation and the merger of the five Boards into one by April '15.  

A recent exchange with the North Eastern Board has highlighted to us the danger that the Single Board, when created, will simply take the most common of the five Boards' current habits and apply them in the absence of a properly scrutinised Policy.

The NEELB had recently (and probably innocently) borrowed a form from the BELB for use as a prompt for parents to write a report about their educational provision.  Apparently in the aftermath of the active phase of the consultation, an increasing number of families are opting to keep their contact with the Board in writing.  The greater awareness amongst home educating families of their legal options in this regard as a side effect of the consultation can only be positive.

The form in question gave the impression that parents were required to follow a curriculum (possibly even the Northern Ireland Curriculum), have a timetable, meet a certain quota of working hours and provide the child's opinion - though the NEELB indicated that the accompanying letter would describe it as non-statutory and a guide only.  The form has been modified after discussions with HEdNI, but would have passed unopposed into practice if we had not been alerted to its existence.

All-Ireland Winter Reading Challenge Starting Now!


Why not join the Home Education Winter Reading Challenge?

Just for fun, and a way to explore new books and authors with home educators all over Ireland.  Every time you read a book (or for younger readers, have a book read to you) write down the name on your list. At the end of the reading period, count up the total number of books and/or pages you've read.  

If your child would like to write a story, poem or book review, try and keep the word count to a max of about 500/750 words and email it to the address on the reading sheet below.

Download the record sheet (.doc or .pdf) and get reading!

St John Ambulance teens earn awards!

St John's Ambulance Teens

These home educated siblings Christopher aged 17 and Hallie aged 15 have earned certificates on First Aid level 2 and Caring for others, to go towards The Grand Prior Award. The awards gained are for 1st place Challenge cup, Cadet effiency award, 1st place fundraising, 2nd place Challenge cup. Christopher will be now starting his Almafi Award and Hallie is continuing with her Grand Prior Award.

For more information on St John Ambulance check out the website here:

Home educator nominated for mum of the year

Heather with her hamper
Heather and family
Heather was kind enough to write a little for us about how and why she was nominated:

Mr Storey Presents the Petition to the Assembly

Mr Storey presented the petition to the Assembly today.

Mr Principal Deputy Speaker: Mr Storey has sought leave to present a public petition in accordance with Standing Order 22.  The Member will have up to three minutes to speak.

Home Education on Radio Ulster 

Home education and the petition is discussed briefly at 52:30.

Great Free Resources from the British Heart Foundation

Circulatory System Poster

Some really nice free posters and information from the British Heart Foundation.

In the classroom and at home, education is at the root of combating heart disease.

This is the place for teachers, parents and those who work with children to find out more about our free resources and training opportunities for encouraging young people to live a heart healthy lifestyle.

Our free resources cover everything from learning to read through to physical activity and education, science and PSHE.

We also have information for and about young people with heart conditions.

By their nature these freebies are only offered for a limited time, but at the time of posting they appear to be available and open to home educators - please check with suppliers before you rely on the offer.

Petition Handover

Petition Handover

On the 7th August HEdNI members Mairi Rivers and Edward Underwood met Mervyn Storey MLA with members of their families to hand over their petition. The petition asks the Minister for Education and the Northern Ireland Education and Library Boards to ensure that their policy on home education accurately reflects their legal duties and powers and respects the parent's duty to provide an education. The petition has over 3360 signatures. As well as signaturies in Northern Ireland the petition has also attracted signatures from home educators all around the globe, demonstrating that the world is watching Northern Ireland to see how it handles the recent consultation and the responses, and whether any new policy will stay within the law.

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