A wee comparison

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Warning: may contain politics

Here’s a pretty picture you may well be familiar with. It’s a picture of the British Mainland taken from space showing all the lights at night.
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It’s not just a pretty picture though, it illustrates a point I’ve made to a number of people over the years when they discover I believe Scotland should be Independent. Look at this wee nation in that picture, or rather, have a squint and see how much of it is actually illuminated at night. Not that much really, is there? Nothing like as much as England, or even most of Wales. Aye, the Central belt is bright enough, but can you even make out the Solway Coast? Let alone most of the Highlands. I don’t think the picture includes the islands at all, but it’s a bit hard to tell.
What’s my point then? It’s actually a pretty simple one. The reason we don’t light up the night sky like England does is because under all of that darkness is countryside, and lots of it. Our country is largely rural, and so is our economy. Take the oil out and we’re left with whisky, food and tourism, all of which need that unilluminated rural expanse to thrive. England, on the other hand is a service driven, urban economy, evidenced above by the mass of city lights across it’s length and breadth.
Now, obviously there is a large population difference between Scotland and England, which goes some way to explaining the greater urbanisation of our southern neighbours. The untold story though is about the difference in infrastructure. Let’s start by looking at the road and rail networks of our respective countries.

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Starting with the road networks, taken from Google maps. It’s quite startling to see how little of Scotland is serviced by major roads.

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That’s the rail networks, which much the same as the road networks leave large parts of Scotland very poorly serviced.
Of course it would be very easy to say that given our smaller population it makes sense, but I don’t believe that really cuts it. Let’s look at another near neighbour to illustrate why.

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There we have the road network of France, which has large urban and rural areas, and an economy as reliant on food, drink and tourism as Scotland has.
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This is the French rail network, interestingly including high speed rail links.
So, in France we can see a much more even service of transport links than in the severely unbalanced infrastructure of the UK, where connectivity is concentrated in the south-east. France is a full six places above the UK in the UN’s recent Human Development Index, which ranks countries on the inequality in their societies, and although I oversimplify by focusing  exclusively on infrastructure here, it is easy to see that Scotland’s infrastructure has been left behind England’s. I’m not going to go into any detail about HS2 here, but the fact that Scotland is a long way down the priority list for this project, in spite of being named third best country to visit by Lonely Planet this year, gives a little perspective on Westminster’s infrastructure priorities. It should go without saying that a rural, food and tourism based economy benefits from good transport infrastructure. The real problem here is that two such different economies are very difficult to cater to under one stewardship, and Scotland, with it’s lower population and low representation in Westminster, is always going to lose out.
So, in short,  Scotland needs to be independent to be able to take the correct level of care of her economy and infrastructure. The UK is clearly uneven and unequal in both of these areas, and England and Scotland have clearly divergent needs and circumstances. Better Together? Honestly, for both nations, I think not.

My name is Angela and I am a Home Educator

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This is an old piece I’m re-posting here because it remains relevant.

And so is my partner!

Seriously, we took the decision to Home Educate our son out of school at the end of Primary One.  I had already been Home Educated for a year when I was 11, so I had some experience of the idea.  It is not an easy decision to make, having your kids at home all day, or otherwise engaging them in the outside world for their education is a huge responsibility and a huge sacrifice of your personal freedom.  That said, it’s so worth it.  For one, you learn to know your child in a way you simply can’t when they are away from you 7 odd hours a day in an alien (from the home) environment. For two, you get to continue that same joy you had when you helped them take those first few shaky steps alone, or utter their first word all the way through to grinning like an idiot because they’ve just written a hilarious short story with your coaching or figured out trigonometry quicker than you ever did in school because they want to know how to use it in computer programming.  Those are the kinds of things that happen in our house anyway, different kids have different educational interests and every HE family has their own unique moments of pride like that.  We’re a truly diverse bunch, ranging from the Unschooling  to Christian Home Education.  I’ll be open and say I am not a fan of the latter at all, but then I’m an atheist so that’s why.

One thing that we do all have in common is the questions we all seem to get asked, and answering them here is as good a way as any to explain what Home Education actually is.  I’ll start with the ones that causes the most offence though, just because we HE’ers do get quite a bit of stick from some people and  I feel the need to let people realise that!

1. Isn’t that illegal?

What do you want me to say? Yes, it’s illegal but I’m doing it anyway?  Of course it’s not illegal!  In fact it is enshrined in Scot’s law:

Section 30 of the Act states:

It shall be the duty of the parent of every child of school age to provide efficient education for him suitable to his age, ability and aptitude either by causing him to attend a public school regularly or by other means.

Section 35(1) of the Act states:

Where a child of school age who has attended a public school on one or more occasions fails without reasonable excuse to attend regularly at the said school, then, unless the education authority have consented to the withdrawal of the child from the school (which consent shall not be unreasonably withheld), his parent shall be guilty of an offence against this section.

Home Education falls well within the “by other means” part of that, and as you can see, withdrawing your child from school is perfectly legitimate!  I want to put in a word for the Germans here – it IS illegal to HE in Germany and many parents are battling the system to have it changed, but parents are going to jail over it.  How does that help their kids in any way?

2.  What makes you think you are qualified to teach your child/children?

ARGGHHHHHHHHH! I helped him to figure out how to walk, talk, read, write, eat for himself, use a bloody toilet, wash himself, make himself drinks and all before he went to school!  Kids learn by nature, it’s what they are evolved to do, it’s how their brains work.  As his mother, I am his guide and I teach him things like how to use google, how to use a library (I am a librarian, but it’s hardly Rocket Science!) how to learn things for himself, and more importantly, how to enjoy learning!  I’m sorry, but the statistics for our public schools turning out  successful learners are not exactly that great.  Oh, yes of course, exam results are improving year on year, but that is teaching to the test that does that.  We’re turning out a generation of fact regurgitators, not thinkers!
The Beauty of Home Education is that if your kid shows a keen interest in  something then you can help them follow that through, you don’t have to stop at 11.15 am and move on to Maths if your kid is on a roll, you stop when they are flagging and ready to move on!

3.  What about socialisation?

Oh. My. God.  I keep my son locked in his bedroom and make sure he never goes out, of course…. What the hell is with this question?  Can kids only get socialised in a school environment where bullying can be rife, where they really only interact with other kids of their own age and where we all know that peer pressure is a massive problem?  Come on.  Now, my boy has Asperger’s and finds socialising difficult, but that doesn’t really mean he doesn’t do it.  He likes talking to adults, particularly older people, has friends he meets at the local park and a best friend who is also HE’d so they can spend time together whenever they want to.  Together we attend classes, Gaelic and Guitar classes most recently, and when I go to my singing class he comes to hang out at our local Arts Centre where he gets to talk to all sorts of different folk while he works away on some workbook or other or some writing.  He gets out into the community to socialise, and gets a varied experience for it!  A lot of HE kids get involved in charity work as well as lots of clubs and classes.  You could almost say that they are more widely socialised than kids who are cooped up in schools 7-ish hours a day 5 days a week…..

4. Do you have to follow a curriculum?

In a word, no.  Not in Scotland.  In France you do, but that’s another story.  When you put in your request to deregister your child, one of the things you have to do is give them an idea of what kind of teaching philosophy you intend to follow.  This does not have to be a curriculum of any kind, local authorities are bound by their guidelines to accept Unschooling as a valid teaching philosophy, for example.  What you do have to show them is dedication to your child’s education, which, to be honest, if you are taking this step, you are already more than halfway there!

5.  Do you get any help from the education authority?

In Dumfries and Galloway that’s a resounding no.  Some other authorities will give some minimal assistance, but in the main, you are on your own.  Currently schools get just under £5000 per pupil as a budget, but home educators get £0 per child.  I did say it’s not an easy path, and of course, it also requires at least one stay-at-home parent as well.  In our family that’s my partner, although since I work part-time  I do days when I’m not working.

6. What about qualifications?

What about them?  Are Secondary Schools the only places where people can get qualifications? Does everybody who works even use those qualifications they got in Secondary school?

In truth, there are many ways round this.  Some schools will allow kids to come and sit exams at exam time so long as they are paid for, colleges run Highers for people who didn’t do them at school, the OU will take on 16 year olds without qualifications, and there are plenty of other Universities now offering distance learning without the need for traditional qualifications.  In fact, many universities offering certain kinds of Arts courses will take HE students on the basis of Interviews and portfolios.

That’s the six most common questions I have had, and I can say with confidence I’m not the only one!  If you have any more useful or actually pertinent questions, feel free to quiz me, cos I like to read the comments on stuff I post!  For more detailed information and support through the process of taking your kids out of school, I recommend Schoolhouse as they are the best authority on Scots law and Home Ed.

Quick Creamy Vegan pasta.

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My partner bought some boxes of Kraft Cheesy Pasta and they’ve been kicking around the cupboard radiating “eat me”pheromones. I’m wheat intolerant and trying to cut out dairy, so it’s poison to me, but it’s bloody tempting poison. Tonight I experimented and managed to make a rather tasty, vegan alternative.  Here’s how I did it.

Ingredients:

1\3 cup of unsweetened almond milk
1 tablespoon of gram flour (plain gf flour would do just as well)
1teaspoon of nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon humus
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon of garlic powder
Juice of 1 small lemon
Paprika, pepper and salt to taste
100 g of wheat free pasta

Cook the pasta as per packet instructions. Whisk together milk, flour and yeast. Once pasta is cooked and drained, pour milk mix into pot,  over pasta, add the rest of the ingredients and cook until the sauce is thickened. Serve immediately.
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