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to think my DNiece is being neglected and my DBro should do something?

(198 Posts)
CrocsNSocks Fri 17-May-13 21:34:05

My brother has a DD with a woman he had a brief fling with 8 years ago. He has always seen her but irregularly for much of that time as he was struggling with alcoholism and not in a good place himself. He has been sober for the last 2 years and is now engaged and settled with a steady job. I'm posting because he, while he agrees that the situation with his DD is in his words 'not ideal' he feels there's nothing to be gained by any action and I want to canvas opinions to see if I should continue to try and persuade him otherwise!

So onto the details. My DBro was quite young (19) when he met the mother (who was the same age). She lived in a caravan on a nearby new age traveller site at the time, though moved into a flat with DBro when she fell pregnant. Their DD was born after they'd only been together a year and they split when she was 18 mo though things were rocky for most of that time and they didn't live together from when she was 6 mo.

Since then the mother has returned to living on traveller sites. DBro used to travel to wherever she was staying to see DNiece but since he stopped drinking and cut association with his old friends on that scene, she has been coming to stay with him for a week a few times a year instead and so the rest of the family have finally been able to get to know her over the last two years.

DNiece lives with her mother, her mother's partner, her 2 younger siblings, and various dogs in a bus. They are living without proper running water, just a tap in the corner of a field, and with no proper toilets (hole in the ground ones shock [vom] ) and no shower/bath facilities. She is usually filthy when she arrives for visits as she goes weeks without a proper bath though her hair is looked after really well, strangely hmm and I will say in her mother's favour that she never has nits.

She does not go to school. She can read and write and do basic sums but that's because she is a bright child, not because anyone has bothered to teach her. She is quite vocal in her opinion (I say her opinion, it'll be her mothers opinion but you know what I mean!) that school is a waste of time and her mother has apparently always said that no child of hers will go to school. Fair enough. But then she needs educating, not just running wild with a pack of children day in day out with the excuse that "she is learning what she needs to know" hmm

She has no bedtime at home (the children apparently get told to come in when it gets dark), gets taken to weekend long parties frequently, her mother/mother's partner/their friends smoke weed in front of the children (according to DBro who used to see this when he visited). She really seems to love and relish the basic care she gets when visiting - bathing, hair drying, wrapping up in a towel, painting nails with my DD, choosing new socks and knickers, that sort of thing - and also the routine of 'normal life'.

DNiece is a lovely child, she has good manners and is very bright and articulate. I don't think she is being abused by any stretch, but I do think she is subject to persistent low level neglect and think my DBro should grow a backbone and talk to his ex about educating her properly, washing her, and at the very least finding somewhere to park the bus that has showers and toilets fgs. DBro thinks this would be out of order, he says he let her down and now has no right to tell her mother what to do, he also tells me that their lifestyle is different and that unless his DD is in danger he isn't going to wade in like that. I think he is being a spineless twit and it is never too late to stand up for his own child....

Ilikethebreeze Sun 19-May-13 09:41:35

As far as I know, there are no standards of home education. No benchmarks.
So it can range from good enough to awful.[I know one that is probably good enough?, 1 where the child took it upon herself at about 17 or 18 to sort it out herself by going to college, and 1 where the outcome is bad].

zzzzz Sun 19-May-13 09:52:45

Standards of institutionalised education can range from goo to awful too hmm.

I'm amazed that so many people are so anti-home-based-education. It's really no different than choosing to teach your child to swim yourself or taking it to swimming lessons. Surely you choose what to spend your time doing (if you can) and how to do things?

zzzzz Sun 19-May-13 09:53:06

Good, blush

Ilikethebreeze Sun 19-May-13 09:57:41

Home education is not seen nationally as top of the range education is it?

FJL203 Sun 19-May-13 10:54:31

HE is not seen as the top of the range of education because of ignorance and misinformation spread either by the uninitiated or those with a political agenda, ilike.

If you read the circulars and websites of many LAs you will find lies, coercion, deliberate misinformation and very interesting, clever wording.

Such as, for example, "If you plan to HE you should contact your LA who will consider your application and contact you when and if it is approved".

I'm not quoting verbatim but I can remember the words from a certain NE England local authority's website, written information and the letter they sent to me as near as damn it. Note the word "should". The unaware parent would do exactly as they were told upon receipt of that letter because a government agency says they should.

I knew the law. I know that "should" means "you don't have to in law so we can't say 'must' but we're trying to make it look like you must". I also knew that the LA has no right in law whatsoever to expect me to forward any application to home ed nor does it have the right in law to approve or disapprove my right to home educate.

That is what HEers are up against.

Cambridgeshire is another great example. A FOI request threw up a response of the LA to a government green paper - an opinion which hadn't been published and which Cambs LA wanted kept quiet. I can't find it for the life of me atm but will do, I was only reading it last night! Essentially, it has transpired that Cambs LA doesn't think that education can be adequately provided unless in a structured, school environment with school type provisions.

Maybe SDeuchars can quote it - Ms Deuchars and I have spoken about HE often on another, long since gone parenting forum and I know how aware and committed she is on the subject. <waves>

Interestingly, taking into account some of their appalling state schools and going on personal experience I would say that the last thing I'd want to do is subject a child to Cambs LA's doctrine and that they're in no position to criticise HE.

FJL203 Sun 19-May-13 11:11:59

Here you are!

Cambs LA said;

"It is difficult to conceive of an education being deemed adequate unless the premises are equipped to a particular standard, work is marked, and detailed plans are made in advance."

This opinion was countered by Home Education UK who stated:

"It is highly likely that such a presumption contravenes the human rights of many parents within Cambridgeshire LA and, by providing an LA with a parental philosophy of education home educators can take the first and crucial step towards preventing LAs from wrongfully prejudging what is acceptable education; this is not the remit of LAs."

As I said, this is what HE is up against. Ignorance, politics, conformity and conservatism. There are plenty of well educated, intelligent, successful young people and adults in this country, they just get brushed under the carpet by those who don't like that fact.

Branleuse Sun 19-May-13 11:12:06

her childhood sounds idyllic to me

Goldmandra Sun 19-May-13 11:19:40

detailed plans are made in advance.

That sentence alone demonstrates a gross lack of understanding of how children learn most effectively.

Mumsyblouse Sun 19-May-13 11:24:43

Unfortunately, it is many children who are in the state system who are educationally deprived. Just the other day, I was reading the London Standard about Boris Johnson having a 'read-in' at Trafalgar Square because, the quote said, nearly 1 in 5 children leave primary school unable to read and write and he wanted to change that! How on earth can you be concerned about one reading/writing/happy/bright child who is a bit dirty when you have an education system in place that, in the capital, can't get 1 in 5 to read and write properly!

I am not a home-edder, I haven't got the patience for it and enjoy my own career, but I am pretty convinced that HE could well be superior for some, although not necessarily these under-achievers as their lack of progress could well be linked to illiteracy/numeracy problems/under-enthusiasm for school in their own parents.

There are issues here in this situation, but the positives are that the child is having contact with the brother and a more conventional upbringing, so is able to make comparisons as she grows up, and should anything change and the brother be really concerned about his child in terms of significant harm/neglect, then he can go for the nuclear option.

CrabbyBigbottom Sun 19-May-13 11:26:12

@ Ilike

So it can range from good enough to awful.

What, like state schools, you mean?

the child took it upon herself at about 17 or 18 to sort it out herself by going to college

What, like millions of other young people who go to college to further their studies? And like HE youngsters who attend college in order to get A-levels (not necessarily having done GCSEs first) to get into uni?

and 1 where the outcome is bad

What, like the millions of school leavers who finish education without any skills or qualifications?

Home education is not seen nationally as top of the range education is it?

No, I believe private or public schools are generally viewed as the top of the range. Certainly many state schools aren't!

Lonecatwithkitten Sun 19-May-13 12:22:42

This thread reminds me of the well adjusted adults with good jobs some of them solicitors, accountants and doctors who I meet everyday who grew up just round the corner from me at the Greenham Common Peace camp. In addition to everything listed they witnessed their mothers chaining themselves up, being arrested, going to court regularly (in the 1980s magistrates court ran 6 days a week here to cope with the public order offences) and sometimes their mothers went to prison and the camp looked after them till their mothers returned.
Many of these individuals made the choice at 13 to 14 themselves to go to school and had a not dissimilar grounding to their formally educated counterparts, but a much greater understanding of the world. Some of them didn't do that, but I know several who have no formal education, but yet they joined the UK's largest company (based here) and are now some of the top managers there so school learning is not everything.
Through my job I also have regular contact with the homeless community who without exception have been formally educated and it is usually some failure in this system that lead to them being where they are.

Ilikethebreeze Sun 19-May-13 14:54:43

State school range from pretty excellent to awful.
Mine went to a pretty good one. Home Ed wouldnt have been able to beat it. Or any of the other schools around here for my bright children.
For children who are not very bright, or perhaps in the bottom 35% of the population, I suppose it is quite possible for Home Ed to beat state ed,so long as the parents or guardians are prepared to put in proper work.
tbh, I am not really talking here to people who Home Ed as they will always disagree with me.

Lonecat, I do not know anyone as you describe.
I have decided to get my kids to ask around the places where they work, to do an unscientific study.

cory Sun 19-May-13 15:07:12

I don't HE and never would, but have known very bright children who have done well out of HE.

Not quite sure I understand why bright children should do less well- surely bright children often find it easier to work independently anyway? And that is before you consider the fact that bright children are statistically likelier to have bright parents.

CrabbyBigbottom Sun 19-May-13 15:10:25

For children who are not very bright, or perhaps in the bottom 35% of the population, I suppose it is quite possible for Home Ed to beat state ed

shock Fucking hell, your ignorance astounds me! shock

Mine went to a pretty good one. Home Ed wouldnt have been able to beat it. No it certainly wouldn't - not being educated by you!

SDeuchars Sun 19-May-13 15:13:36

Ilikethebreeze: Home education is not seen nationally as top of the range education is it?

There are two issues with this statement:
- Home education is not regulated or monitored, so there are no government statistics about outcomes.
- Only about 1% of children of compulsory school age are home-educated at any one time, so any statistics would apply to a very small number of children.

Many home educators would suggest that EHE is top of the range - it is the ultimate in private education. In fact, it is the only sort of education that can fulfill Education Act 1996 s7 for every child. Schools do not (and cannot) give every child an education that is:
- efficient (no time wasted lining up, waiting for everyone to settle down, trying to do maths when tired, etc.)
- full-time (home educated children learn stuff which their educators acknowledge as valuable through most of their waking hours)
- suitable to age, ability and aptitude (if a 10yo is doing Level 6 maths, Level 3 English and Grade 7 violin, home education can cope - even if we wouldn't use those terms)
- suitable to any special educational needs (many home educators start EHE because their child's SEN are not being met in school).

The other problem is that there is no good definition of what a good education is. For me, it is not defined by academic qualifications but by what sort of adult is raised. I see the education industry largely colluding with the government in infantilising our young adults. The hundreds of home educators with whom I am in contact tend to think that an adult who can get on in the world and be happy is a better outcome than one with many GCSEs and A-levels. This is not to suggest that someone with many GCSEs and A-levels cannot be happy but rather that a happy, self-determining young adult is likely to be able to achieve the qualifications they need (and to know what they want to do).

CrabbyBigbottom Sun 19-May-13 15:15:16

Incidentally, I have nothing against school at all, in fact I've tried to persuade DD to go back on several occasions but she's having none of it. grin

But Ilike is rubbishing something that she clearly knows absolutely fuck all about, and speaking as though her ill-informed opinion is the only right way. It makes me angry

cory Sun 19-May-13 15:15:51

I'm sitting here revisiting childhood memories of learning German and Old English at home and pondering the idea that this would have been more doable if only I had been in the bottom 35% of the population. I don't quite get it. Have to admit I don't quite get it. Probably because I'm too bright.

FJL203 Sun 19-May-13 15:17:33

Ilike, that's some of the most arrogant, ignorant and patronisingly insulting crap I've ever read on MN - and believe me, I've read plenty.

You have no personal experience of HE. You made it clear upthread that you are totally ignorant on how HE works, how it's administered or how it's governed and regulated so you're patently not sufficiently well equipped to judge this form of education.

You're not the only one with <gags> "bright" children. I have "bright" children too, children who both passed academic scholarship examinations to attend independent school, coming above hundreds of others in the process. I'm not normally so vulgar as to boast of my "bright" children; however it's reasonable to mention it here, since you raised the subject.

And I suppose that SDeuchar's HE children are another example of your conclusion that HE children who are "not very bright" and who have benefitted from HE more than they would have from state education?

To patronisingly, dismissively say that "For children who are not very bright, or perhaps in the bottom 35% of the population, I suppose it is quite possible for Home Ed to beat state ed,so long as the parents or guardians are prepared to put in proper work." is laughable. Take a look at the results of some of the inner city schools - try the Manor in Cambridge where on 48% of kids come out with 5 good GCSEs or Charles Edward Brooke in Lambeth where only 40% come do. Yes, state schools are performing wonders, aren't they? hmm

And don't get me started on the manners, behaviour and social skills of the children in these and other state schools like them.


FJL203 Sun 19-May-13 15:23:11

* Sorry for the grammatical errors in that last post. My annoyance was too advanced for my typing skills!

SDeuchars Sun 19-May-13 15:23:39

Ilikethebreeze, I think that you are correct in saying that home ed is probably better than state ed for the bottom third of children - that is because the education industry does a pitiful job (including by allowing there to be a concept like ^bottom third^).

My children are academically bright - the schools around here are generally not. However, I decided to HE long before they were born (and before we moved to this town). One reason was that, as a bright child in a large comprehensive, I had a false sense of how bright I was until I went to uni, when suddenly I was with people of the same level. I did not want to risk my bright children thinking they were geniuses (particularly once I examined the NC). I wanted them to achieve what was important to them (even things they were not good at) at their own pace.

Incidentally, I would also have HEed if my children had had specific difficulties (whether physical, emotional or mental - in fact, one is not neurotypical and HE allowed us to deal with that without having to dwell on difference).

propertyNIGHTmareBEFOREXMAS Sun 19-May-13 15:25:53

Yabvu. I actually have respect for your brother who seems sensible, sensitive and diplomatic. It is great that he has a good relationship with his child and accepts that his ex girlf's lifestyle is the same as it was when he met her.

KatyDid02 Sun 19-May-13 15:31:16

Apart from the issue of smoking pot, I think she's going to be fine. SHe has a life with her mother, a life with her father and the two are wildly different but she's coping by the sounds of it. She probably likes the stuff with you in the same way that we like doing different stuff on holiday.
As for the smoking pot, it's not ideal but there are worse things that could happen.
As others have said, provide her with books, give her a good time when she is with you and also try to understand some of her culture and way of life.

Lonecatwithkitten Sun 19-May-13 16:25:19

Llike unless you live in the town I do I doubt you have meet the type of people. My point is that in 1982 there were 30,000 women and their children living in the camps around Greenham Common most of these children were HE, partly as our schools physically couldn't cope partly as these families were of no fixed abode. Many,many of them stayed in the area so probably my town has a higher concentration of adults who were HE at some point than any other town in the UK so it probably is representative.
The fact that the vast majority of people who are seen in homeless projects have been let down by mainstream education at some point is widely recognised.
I do not HE for a variety of reasons, however, I acknowledge that mine is not the only way and that HE is as good as what I do and might even been better. I often think my bright child would actually be better in HE able to run far and fast with certain topics.

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