Thursday, 5 November 2009

Nim's Island

Nim is an eleven-year-old girl brought up on a remote and secret island by her nano-plankton obsessed scientist father. In her own words she is "home-educated, well technically, island-educated." She plays with her friends, Gallileo, Fred and Selkie, (a gull, a lizards and a sea-lion), she hatches turtle eggs, she cooks, she sails with her dad, she reads countless books and knows enough about Ancient Greek military strategy to fend off invasion by crass, uncouth and spoiled Austrailian tourists.
I wonder what our Local Education Authority, or the many skeptics who are so fond of questions about socialization and examinations, would make of her? Of course, this is pure fantasy, but I was still left with the feeling that her life and her education lacked very little. I pondered whether such a situation would be 'allowed' in real-life society and I am pretty sure that this is exactly the kind of thing Graham Badman and all who are uncomfortable with Home Ed would like to see eradicated. There were no safe-guards for this girl and, had her father been brutally abusing her then there would have been no-one to protect her but this was not the case. She had a loving and close relationship with her father and they each respected and adored the other. But would many consider such an upbringing to be so unconventional to also be prevented? Would some consider such isolation or such disorganised learning, (no goals or attainment targets, no progress reports or testing,) a failure to educate?
There are many aspects of other people's parenting that I am uncomfortable with. I have heard loving mothers say how much their child hates school day after day, and yet they continue to force attendance, heart-felt believing that it is the right, or only, thing to do. And there are the tennis or gymnastic or athletic stars-of-the future who practice for hours a day on top of their school work and feel that anything less than perfection is failure. Could this ever be seen as abusive behaviour on the part of the parent? I would not behave towards my children in these ways but I would not suggest that these parents should be registered, annually inspected and required by law to change their life-style if I didn't like what I saw.
I am reminded of Laura Dekker, the fourteen-year-old Dutch girl who has been banned from attempting to sail around the world. Now, I know nothing about sleep management or sailing and maybe the enterprise is folly, but the arguement that one reason she should not embark on her adventure is that she will miss out on schooling seems to me to be laughable. Surely any person capable of sailing single-handed across the North Sea has a very developed skill set. I cannot imagine that any person with the strength of mind to complete the challenges that she has and hopes to, would be dettered from learning anything she set her mind to or that she needed to. Really, what do the authorities think a school will provide that following her passion and experiencing life to its fullest will not?

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