Working on the principle that I am never given more than I can bear, obviously I can bear more right now than I thought! Maybe I was a little spoilt by the lovely season of routine and gentle activities that we were enjoying before everything got busy! Anyway, I'm not feeling quite so overwhelmed this week - all projects are complete and fabulous, and more importantly Youngest has not had any more asthma episdodes, so I am relaxing a bit more. We are working to get him into our GP's asthma clinic. It seems a bit ridiculous to me that a newly-diagnosed four-year-old sufferer has to wait over a month before getting help with ongoing care, but hopefully once the surgery releases their December dates we will get somewhere...
Having said a sad goodbye to Tiny last week as he went to a hedgehog hospital, my boys obviously prayed for another prickly lodger, as the very next evening (just after I wrote the last post) we rescued another juvenile hedgehog from our garden - this time called "Midge". I wasn't surprised really as I had seen another small one in the garden previously, and I had been advised to look out for siblings from the same litter who would be about the same weight. I'm happy to report that Midge is doing really well - he has put on almost 100g in the last four days! We are in touch with some really helpful experts and are now familiar with the process of sending hedgehog poo through the post to be tested for worms etc! So we've gone from being complete rookies and not sure of the best to do for Tiny, to having our confidence boosted by Midge - just in time for another sibling to appear last night. This one has been named "Squidge" by a hedgehog-loving young friend. So now our downstairs loo is out-of-bounds again, while Midge and Squidge pork up for the winter! The boys are happy again (and I'm quite chuffed too, to be honest) - so although it is extra responsibility and pressure, it's really OK... Hooray for cute hedgehogs!
The other "big" news that happened straight after my last blog entry was that we had our letter from Herts County Council. We are now 'on the radar'. Actually I don't mind this at all - it puts paid to the ongoing wondering of "when will they find out about us?" or "is this person going to report us?". What I do object to is that the initial letter they sent out was really quite misleading - if I wasn't already familiar with the law and confident about my rights and their responsibilities, I could have been easily intimidated by it - presumably some are. The letter stated that it is county policy for an Attendance Improvement Officer to make an initial visit to see parents, after which visit an education adviser from the LA will meet me/ us to discuss the arrangements we are making for the boys' education. This 'policy' is ultra vires (beyond their legal authority), and I resent the way they expressed it as a done deal, with no suggestion that these visits are optional. Further, the date they gave me for this preliminary meeting was for ten days after I received the letter. In my opinion that is not enough time for a person to receive a letter, educate themselves on where they actually stand, and reply in time - I assume they are hoping that the recipients will not understand the law and so just go along with what has been presumed upon them. Anyway, despite the fact that my local HE friends who have met them have nothing but praise for the education advisors here, I object to the system, and will be declining both visits. I will be as polite as I can, as I have no wish to be antagonistic... although actually I had to leave the initial draft of my letter for 24 hours so I could review it when I was less annoyed by their letter. I felt as prickly as our hedgehog guests after reading it!
You see, the Local Authority are legally permitted to make initial enquiries to see whether or not my children are receiving a suitable education at home. Other than that, they are only entitled to demand specific evidence of suitable education if they have reason to believe that a suitable education is not being provided. So we will be replying asap, refusing the visit from the Attendance Improvement Officer (I do not wish the boys to attend school, therefore their attendance does not require improvement!), and refusing the visit from the education advisor - not because they are "the enemy" or some kind of bogeyman to be feared, but because I object to being assessed and monitored by people who have no responsibility for my children. I think my boys would probably enjoy seeing a new person who is interested in everything they have been doing (I doubt she'd get a word in edgewise) - and I would really enjoy chatting to someone who understands HE (as apparently the Herts advisors do) - BUT I cannot reconcile myself to a system that at best undermines, at worst usurps my parental position and responsibility, so for the time being I have no plans to agree to the demanded visits.
Other than declining the visits we will also not be filling in their forms of many questions about our educational plans - but we will be including an "Educational Philosophy" (a brief outline of our thoughts and plans conerning educating our boys at home). It could be argued that technically this is above and beyond what we are legally obliged to do, however I know of some Local Authorities who have used the 'grey area' of having a suspicion that a suitable education is not being provided as an excuse to hound Home Educators, some going as far as serving a School Attendance Order that legally demands for the children to return to school. In the case of people who are using HE as a cover for not caring for their children, this is not unreasonable - but there seems to be an assumption among some LAs that this applies to most Home Ed'ors. It doesn't. I don't think our LA is like that, but if I stubbornly refused to cooperate in any way, just saying 'no' to the visits but giving no other information (potentially giving them reason to suspect the validity or suitability of the boys' education), I could be making enemies where there is no need for hostility. By including an Ed. Phil. I hope to reassure them that we are taking our children's education seriously, and give them no cause for concern. There is being right, and there is being wise - and we really want to get the right balance. Those who have gone before and have plenty of HE and LA experience seem to agree that an Ed. Phil. fulfils all demands that can be legally placed on us by the LEA. Ideally then, once they have received our letter, they will have no valid reason to contact us again - we will see.