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.