Thursday, 20 August 2009

Home education and gender

There seems little doubt that most home educators in this country are women. I have been wondering lately to what extent, if any, this might have a bearing upon the apparent leaning towards autonomy or unschooling in home education which we see today. There certainly seems to be a great difference between the typical home educator now and people like Harry Lawrence, the fanatical Hothousing father, whom many will remember from the mid eighties. This really is purely anecdotal, but the few male home educators whom I have come across do seem to be very different from the run of the mill home educating mother. A lot of the time the home educating fathers seem to be arguing with lifeguards at the swimming pool, pushing their kids to the front at various activities, breaking the rules at the zoo, shouting and placing their children in harms way by encouraging them to do dangerous things. Meanwhile, the female home educators are fussing around with hats, scarves and sun cream, trying anxiously to ensure that their children are not too hot, cold, nervous, pressurised, traumatised, over-stimulated, suffering from a gluten allergy or being educated.

I suspect, though am quite unable to prove, that male home educators tend to be much more concerned with what one might call hard outcomes; things which can be measured and examined such as examinations and so on. A lot of the women seem to be more concerned with intangibles like security, happiness and fulfilment. Is this a fundamental difference in approach? Is one of the main objections to Graham Badman and his report that he is a man and keeps banging on about testing and measuring? Is this basically about an essentially male habit of analysing and categorising, as opposed to the supposed female traits of being intuitive and relying upon instinct to measure outcomes? After all, it is not just that testing is seen as unimportant by many autonomous home educators; it is viewed by many as being positively harmful. Testing is seen not merely as pointless and irrelevant, but something which could actually destroy that which is being measured. A strange idea indeed outside the world of quantum physics!

I cannot help also but wonder whether the furious opposition which I have myself encountered might at least in part be due to the fact that I am a man and most other home educators with whom I correspond are women. Mind you, it would be a rash person who discounted the other possibility, that my lack of popularity has more to do with the fact that I am an exceedingly irritating and abrasive individual, rather than being solely a product of my biological gender.


  1. That is just rubbish simon i am a home educator and a man i don't spend my time shouting and puting our son in harms way.i have also find that the women i have met are fussing over hats'scarves and sun cream or are not too hot, cold, nervous, pressurised traumatised, over-stimulated, suffering from a gluten allergy or being educated.I think you are showing your age. by these remarks.these are very sexist remarks.My greatfather would have approved!
    Women are intutive and are often right! i have learnt a lot from the women i have met about home education and often a better way of going about it.
    i dont belive women are against badman report because he is a man it is because he has got it wrong.Badman has upset a lot of people of both sexes due to the fact that he would not listen to what he was being told about home education becuase it did not fit into what he had been told to do by DCSF/Ed Balls who wanted to appear to get tough on home education to attempt to stop the flow of children from failing state schools.

  2. Well, I dare say that your feminist credentials are impeccable, Mr. Williams, but tell me, have you ever considered taking an Adult Literacy course? I did of course point out that this was purely anecdotal. I am sure that there are many New Men, such as yourself, out there home educating away valiantly.

  3. No im not taking one of those courses may fail. its got nothing to do with feminist credential you sound as if you dislike women why is this? i have learnt a great deal from the women home educators i have met over home education and many of them where very helpful to Peter allowing him into their homes to take part in all sorts of funs thing and lessons to.
    How much do you think it hurts Balls?DCSF/Badman and good old Jim that we home teach how we want? no plans no formal hours oh yes start when we want no dated work and the best bit no home visit no meeting nothing! and we told good old jim to F off and the funny thing is he did! gone to scared to take us on.we where up for court but HCC bottled out of it.go on phone him up and say i have belive that Peter jr is not geting a sutable education tell him that and he no nothing cause he is scared! All talk and no action bit like you. We also told them we be taking No notice of mad bad crazy Badman report and guess what not a word from them nothing see i worked it out once their see your not back down and will fight back their run away like cowards.

  4. Yes, most home educators are women because obviously we still live in a society where in 2 parent families the father is more likely to be the one out of the home in paid employment. The consequence of this is that most home ed "events/meetings" are attended by mothers who form close support networks and who therefore may be less worried about "results" and more concerned about "Badman" than the fathers who don't feel so committed to the whole home ed community.
    However there are a load of mothers out there who do feel strongly about outcomes and who are determined to give our children a superior education to that which they could have obtained in schools - you just haven't met us!

  5. Anonymous said...
    That is just rubbish simon i am a home educator and a man i don't spend my time shouting and puting our son in harms way.i have also find that the women i have met are fussing over hats'scarves and sun cream or are not too hot, cold, nervous, pressurised traumatised, over-stimulated, suffering from a gluten allergy or being educated.

    You do realise that you have written that you AGREE with Simon's comments, don't you?

  6. oh no have i spelt done the english all wrong again Mary? report me to the teacher or better still report it to good old Jim that tough guy who went all shy maybe you Mary could give him some backbone? what do you say phone him tell i have found a child who is not being taught home education in the right way we must save him Jim? we must save this child Jim come on Mary phone him up simon got Jim number he love to hear from can report all the bad spelling and english to him Jim will put in one of his crap files marked do nothing!

  7. I know 4 other families well (+ ours) where the parents share the home ed and work responsiblities equally and in at least two of them it was the mother who was more concerned about concrete results and structure though all are basically AE. In other families we are friends with where the mother is mainly responsible, one is higly structured, most are middle of the road and a few AE.

    Don't recognise the description of fathers pushing kids into danger and mothers mollycoddling. Maybe it's the circles you move in?

  8. yes your thinking about it more mothers who HE where intersted in the concerte results including exam results and spent a lot of time with the children making sure exam work had been done and checking it!and if it was not good enough the child had to do it again. if anything it was the fathers that where more relaxed about results wanting more play time.
    Prephaps Simon was writing about his own experince did you shout at yor daughter? and place her in harms way? or spend time arguing with lifeguards at the swimming pool?

  9. Paula Rothermel noticed changes over time within home educating families:

    "* They often re-arranged their working lives so that they could both share the children

    * Fathers were more involved that the norm.

    * Flexibility and fluidity characterised families as they searched for and found what suited them.

    * Very 'normal' families, once home-educating soon changed, sometimes quite radically, as a result of their decision and their mixing with other home-educators."

    This certainly reflects mine and my friends experiences and it sounds similar to the experiences of anonymous on the 21st at 5:40 above. Maybe the hothouse fathers tend not to mix with other home educators and that accounts for the difference?

  10. I think that you are quite right about this Sharon. The few fathers who I did observe did not seem to be connected with anybody; I just crossed their paths from time to time in zoos and so on! My daughter and I used to joke that they always looked a bit like me, as though they were walking against a strong wind and getting ready to disagree with somebody. I was not being dogmatic about this, just wondered if anybody else had noticed it. I was being a little bit light hearted here.

  11. I haven't noticed the difference first hand because I've never met a home educating dad who has the main responsibility for HE. I've met plenty of families where the home education is shared more or less equally and many where the mother is the main home educator but the father plays as large a part as possible whilst not out earning a living. I've met a few where the mother does most of the HE on their own, but these have been a minority. I don't ever recall crossing paths with other home educators in zoos, etc. unless it has been part of a group visit. Maybe I'm not observant enough! Or maybe I've seen other home educators and just assumed they had a teacher training day or had taken a holiday during term time.

    BTW, we educate autonomously *and* originally chose to home educate to provide a better and more suitable education than school. They aren't mutually exclusive as some people writing here seem to think!