Why are we doing this?

I am poised to contact the press in the hope they may do a feature, primarily to raise our profile and appeal for some willing volunteers to embark on personal challenges or to help with fund raising. There is one thing worrying me. We home-educate Mia. It is a contentious issue for some. I am worried people will think ‘Why should I help you, when Mia could get the help she needs in school?’

The short answer to that is that Mia could not get the help she needs in school. The initial reason for home educating Mia (though we have found many advantages to this approach since) is that she was deeply unhappy, and her needs not well met, in nursery. Of course, at that time none of us fully understood Mia’s condition. But we did not feel supported in trying to obtain an assessment or reach any kind of diagnosis or plan of action for treatment. Instead, she was given the same attention as any other child, which left her isolated. Meanwhile, the other children naturally found her behaviour odd, and were often unkind to her.

Now that we do know Mia’s diagnosis and prognosis, we also know that Mia is not a suitable candidate for a special school. She would have a statement and be in a mainstream
school. For some children with special educational needs, mainstream school can meet their needs very well. This would not be the case for Mia. Once again, she would be isolated and prone to bullying. She is hyperactive and strong-willed. Her behaviour can be very challenging, especially when she is struggling to understand what is happening around her. She would find a quiet-working classroom setting oppressive, and a noisy, active one overwhelming; and the school would find her behaviour very disruptive.

I go to several places where special needs parents come together, and have yet to hear a happy tale of a wonderful school, with appropriate funding and resources to suit the child’s needs. I am sure they do exist, but it is not the norm. I overheard one parent talking about how the headmaster would not meet with her to discuss her concerns as he felt the child’s needs were already being met.A friend of mine asked at her daughter’s school if they might do some fundraising for Mia. The staff met in the staff room to discuss it, and decided that as they were unable to adequately meet the needs of children in the school that have speech and language needs, they felt it inappropriate to fund raise for a child not registered there. So telling. I do help it gave them some ideas though – fundraising for resources?! Mia is an unusual case as she has huge potential to do well, but her disability is currently very pronounced and afflictive. It is estimated that 1 in 3 children in school have some sort of speech and language problem, most less marked and so sometimes unnoticed and undiagnosed.

The system fails so many children. That isn’t a political statement against the current government, it has been thus for many years. Mia has a severe difficulty. Her difficulty is highly treatable, but that treatment needs to be individual to suit her character and needs. It is the difference between being able to lead an independent life, and needing support and intervention as an adult.

Mia has had some help from the kind of NHS speech and language therapists who work in schools. It was not specialised enough, and it was not intensive enough. She has made more progress in the last few months working with Julie Ansty at The Talking House than she has in the last few years. It takes my breath away a lot at the moment! The fact is, Julie’s approach works. TalkTools and Prompt work for Mia. We have just started Fast ForWord, and are expecting that to help a lot too. Conventional therapy, that which is available in schools, has not really worked for us. Nothing has worked much until now. I don’t want to spend all my time and energy fighting to get NHS therapy for Mia, when I know that in the end, even if I win that fight, the therapy will be less effective than the therapy she is currently receiving privately. I want to do everything I can to get my daughter where she needs to be. I am not the first parent of a special needs child to turn away from a failing system and take matters into my own hands. I am hoping people won’t judge me for that.

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19 comments on “Why are we doing this?
  1. Louise says:

    In the interests of healthy debate rather than contentiousness………….. The school versus home-ed issue. Wouldn’t it be fair to say that speech is not the only problem that Mia needs help with. It is, perhaps, an over-simplification to reduce her problems to ‘speech’. I know speech is at the root of most of it, but interpersonal skills can’t be ignored until she can speak. She needs to learn to adapt to different environments, to ‘fit-in’. Lots of kids find school difficult, but they find ways to make it work, because at the end of the day that’s life. We all have to learn to rub along with lots of different people in lots of different environments or we’d be jobless, family-less hermits.
    This is just a thought, and of course I am not her mother.

    • nibby says:

      I would say that Mia is not being excluded from different environments, or shielded from the problems that life throws at her. Although she does not go to school, she is not kept in the house all day, and she does meet with, and is learning to socialise with, a range of different people. I rather think that school is not a microcosm of the real world at all (quite the opposite), and most of us spend some time after leaving school learning what the ‘real’ world is really about. A child will meet life’s ups and downs wherever they are and whatever they do, and they have more opportunity to discover about life outside of the school gates. In fact it took rather a long time for us to get Mia’s ‘interpersonal skills’ anywhere near back to where they were when she entered nursery after we removed her at 3.5 years old. It was about 6 months before she stopped hitting other children, screaming and pushing them away. She is very gradually learning to want to communicate and play, in her own time and her own way. Children don’t learn to swim by being pushed in the deep end of the swimming pool, and they don’t learn to socialise by being pushed into dealing with social situations they are not yet equipped to deal with. Many adults still suffer from social anxieties that can be traced back to their school days. I know Mia, and I know that speech is not her only problem. I also know that school would not help her interpersonal skills – quite the opposite. But I do appreciate your honesty in entering into a debate. It is through discussion such as this that we can learn to understand each other’s opinions more fully.

    • Viv Chamberlin-Kidd says:

      At the end of the day surely life is life and school is school. Let’s not confuse the two!! Mia is a very sociable girl at all the home education groups that my children and I attend and she attempts to communicate with the adults and all the different aged children there. That is ‘rubbing along’ and more real world than school is ever going to be.

  2. Louise says:

    I think we are going to have to agree to differ here Viv (and Nibby). For the majority of kids school is life, or at least time at school and time spent with school friends comprises most of their waking hours. And the vast majority love it. Of the kids that are in classes with my children (that’s over 100 in total, including some with very individual needs) I can’t think of 1 who is unhappy at school or who would choose not to go (except on the odd day maybe!).
    Also, I am inclined to think that kids DO learn to socialise by being put into social situations they can’t quite deal with yet. We all learn all manner of things via being taken outside our comfort zones and making mistakes. Sometimes the ride is comfy, and sometimes it’s bumpy – but usually we come out a little wiser.
    An anecdote springs to mind (sorry!). When in Reception class there was a very challenging boy in my daughter’s class. During assembly the teacher asked the children if anyone would like to nominate a classmate for the ‘improvement’ award. A little girl stood up and said she would like to nominate this little boy because ‘he hadn’t hit anyone all week’. Everyone clapped and the boy collected his certificate grinning from ear to ear. He is now a popular little boy who doesn’t hit anyone.
    Of course, these observations are highly generalised. Mia is a special case, and obviously it is her parents who are best placed to make the right decision for her.

    • Viv Chamberlin-Kidd says:

      I am very happy to differ and for every sentiment you can give I can counteract so it is a given that we are going to differ. I know loads of children who are very unhappy at school and I also know loads who are very happy. However there are fundamental problems with the school system not least of which is the ‘batching by date of manufacture’ as Ken Robinson would put it (watch his brilliant video here http://youtu.be/zDZFcDGpL4U.) I believe that many of the unhappy children that I am aware of suffer because of this batching method because they need to be with older children and learn from them or with younger children to nurture them or with both. Mia needs to be around children and adults of different ages and from different backgrounds too to help improve her speech and social skills. That she can only get from the vibrant and active home education community that she has and will never get from an artificially constructed institution like school.
      The ‘abuse’ we put our children through when we ‘force’ them to learn stuff when they are not ready or able is appalling. Passion for learning is our children’s right and school squashes that right every single day. The joy on my 11 year old’s face when he realised that he could read is something that I will never forget. He learnt to read in his own time and at his own pace. His passion to read needed that time and school steals that and many other passions every single day. As a Maths tutor I see it every day and it is sad.

      • Louise says:

        I don’t want to hijack Mia’s page with this debate but……….. I wonder if your 11 year old will still feel positively about home education in a couple of years time Viv. My 12 year old asked me what I was doing whilst I was typing in my last post, and when I explained the thrust of the discussion she said ‘no way would I let you teach me!’ I don’t think she intended this disrespectfully. She knows my credentials as a teacher. It’s just a natural adolescent response to the thought of their Mum teaching them. They need to spread their wings and be exposed to lots of teachers, teaching styles, subjects, other teenagers, etc…..
        Also, the words ‘abuse’ and ‘force’ are no less offensive when put in inverted commas. I believe that the schools my children attend, with my support, have most definitely inspired a passion for learning.

        • Viv Chamberlin-Kidd says:

          I wonder why you think my 11 year old would feel differently about it in a few years time? He chooses how he learns, what he learns, when he learns, etc. If he chooses to continue to do that at home so be it. If he chooses to do that at an institution so be it. I have also told him about the conversation we are having and he replied ‘you don’t teach me Mum, I just learn!!’ That says it all really and therein lies the difference in our education philosophies.
          I truly believe taking away someone’s right to learn at their own pace is akin to abuse whether in inverted commas or not. I didn’t used to believe this but looking at the way my children learn and grow as people I now do believe it. Knowing what you are passionate about is key to finding your path in life and school cannot foster that because it is too prescriptive. You can take offense to that if you want to as that is your right and your choice although why you would when you can chose to ignore what I have said and not watch the interesting video I have posted and not show your children either and just get on with your life I don’t know. Taking offence is just another choice you have chosen to make along with other ones I choose not to make. None of my comments are anymore offensive than your insinuations. I am not offended by your insinuations because I choose not to be. This is one of the life lessons I have explained to my children. Thanks for giving me another example to show them. BTW I am not a teacher although the vast majority of home educators are. I am just a philomath with a passion for life. Also I am sure Nibby doesn’t mind us taking over her page!!!!

  3. Louise says:

    I have discussed the whole home education thing through with Nibby over the past few hours and, although sceptical to begin with, I am now entirely convinced that home is the best place for Mia for now. I still believe that school is the right place for the vast majority of children, but there are exceptions, and Mia is one of those exceptions. Although her needs may change over time, at present they are best met at home where her language problems can be tackled intensively – with the necessary funding of course!

  4. Louise Lipatti-Mesme says:

    I’m glad you’ve added that Louise-I’d like to talk to you about the merits of home education versus school and also what a joy we find it to be able to give our children the freedom to grow in their own way in a ‘free range environment’, but dont think here is really the place. I think its almost doing a disservice to Mia in that its detracting from the main issue. Nibby is doing an amazing job of supporting Mia and meeting all her individual needs whilst providing Mia and her brothers with a hugely varied, stimulating, loving, secure environment and very sociable lifestyle to grow and flourish in. I dont think Nibby, that you need to worry that Mia is home educated when presenting the fundraising to press or the wider public – in my experience people are understanding and accepting and will see that the bottom line is you are asking for help with fundraising so that you can provide Mia with the therapy she needs – this clearly wouldnt be available to her in school and I’m sure people in general wouldnt dwell upon it but just wish you and Mia well. Big pat on the back coming your way from everyone in the Lipatti-Mesme house – take your courage in both hands and walk forward knowing that you are doing the very best for Mia.

  5. Louise says:

    OK Viv, I was going to retire from this debate, but find I can not let your last post go without reply. Gloves off, so to speak. I find the very idea of letting an adolescent have completely free choice over what they learn, how they learn, and when they learn quite ridiculous. Ever read Lord of the Flies? And the idea that all of their complex social needs are dependent on parental organisation and/or supervision is unhealthy.
    Louise, I would love to get together some time for a friendly chat. Perhaps we could co-ordinate a day trip with Nibby in the Summer.

    • nibby says:

      Louise, I was keeping out of this as I have already outlined my reasons for taking this path, reasons you yourself have agreed with. I believe everyone has the right to an opinion, of course. As I told you privately, I held many of your views myself when I first heard of home education. Facing the challenges I did, I fully explored it over the course of two years. Two years in which I joined other parents of special needs children online, hearing harrowing storied of needs not being met amongst many other things. Most of those special needs parents have taken the decision to home educate out of abject necessity, often sacrificing much to do so. I met with parents home educating young children, older children and the various methods they use. I read books, of which there are many, that explore learning, maturing and the sociological and psychological factors affecting children in and out of school. I found out about adults who had been home educated – where they are today – do they have jobs, friends, a happy life? I met teenage home educated children and found them, on the whole, to be a rather different breed to those (I generalise) that attend school. In a good way. They are not constantly supervised by overbearing parents, they are young adults (the definition of a teenager) who seemed to be secure and confident in a variety of social situations. They, like any other decent person, have an inner sense of right and wrong – moral, social and personal responsibility and an ability to make their own decisions in a mature and sensible way. I rather feel if someone has got to that age and has none of this then something has gone wrong. I think your comments illustrate a complete misperception of home education that is held by many. This is understandable as our culture, paradigms and conditioning are all very school orientated. We are taught to think like that.

      You can ‘hijack’ my webpage, as you put it. I would ask, however, that you might let go of your judgement, fully explore both sides in truth and educate yourself about them, then you are welcome to come back and comment. That would take you some time! I must add I was amused by your Lord of the Flies comment! It was based on observations of school children and the social systems prevalent in school! It was taken to the extreme, of course, in a jungle without the odd adult or two, but still The Lord of the Flies could also be used as a pro-home education case!!!

      I am running this page to help my daughter. I have valid reasons for making the choices I have, as do you. If you have any comments about our particular situation here, they are welcome. But this is not a political debating forum for your pleasure! I am sure they must exist somewhere else online though……….

      • Louise says:

        Apologies. My initial comments were merely intended to address your opening statement …..

        ‘There is one thing worrying me. We home-educate Mia. It is a contentious issue for some. I am worried people will think ‘Why should I help you, when Mia could get the help she needs in school?’’……

        I think the subsequent discussion around this point has been helpful in establishing why it is important for Mia to be at home.

        However you clearly feel it has gone on too far, and so I apologise and will say no more!

  6. Corinne says:

    I have read through these comments with interest and it seems clear that all are advocating that there is a need to educate children and that we hope through this education we are able to support in preparing them for their adult life, whatever that may be. Ultimately I guess it is how we think about educate & what that means to each of us individually.
    I suppose that working in the field of rehabilitation for individuals (adults not children) who have behaviours that challenge may influence my perception of educate. Within this work we have to adhere to many standards that are set my government, much the same as schools in this regard. The key element that comes through all those standards is of person centred – this is about giving the right supports at the right time to enable choice making. Again I would not see this as being different to thinking about educating children. It is the process of enablement that becomes central rather than the route chosen to support this enablement.
    Knowing Nibby as I do I am in complete awe of the challenges that she has taken upon herself – aiming to raise much needed funds for her daughter to help provide the right supports at the right time. Managing the impacts of the challenges that Mia faces, these impacts are within the family, within the community and within the wider society. In addition, she has a strong focus on educating all her children and has actively explored the potential within the local state educate system as well as the home education system, of which I think many of us are misinformed. This has allowed her to make an informed choice regarding the education of her children and she has then applied herself to the task. We are all educators when we think about it, as we are modelling to those around us all the time and how we approach a task be it a conversation with others we are always being observed and listened to, to quote a family member “little pictures have ears”.
    So I wish Nibby continued success with all the effort that she is making and as you say maybe there is a need for some healthy debate.

  7. Sarah says:

    It sounds like your doing a great job for Mia, what a good idea to try and raise your profile via the media. My son has DVD and we too pay for private therapy – it’s the only option. Glad I discovered your website. :-)

  8. Rachel says:

    Hi, Nibby!
    Thank you for sharing all the hard work you and Mia are doing!
    I have a question for you: you said in this post that a special school would not be appropriate for Mia – that she would not be a suitable candidate… I wondered why you thought that. Is it because you have been told that by the local authority? Or is it via. Specialist advice? I have no issue with home schooling at all, I’m just thinking more funding ( to which Mia is statutorily entitled) is accessible via. A special school placement.
    I’ve been looking at the coalition revised funding arrangements, and the amounts of money seem to cover the costs of the support you seek for Mia.
    Would be really interested in your thoughts.
    Best wishes.

  9. JaneBB1 says:

    Well done parents! Am also fighting and off to tribunal in a few weeks…. I hope your press coverage brings you some luck xx

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