The problem with home educators is the same problem that hippies and skinheads used to have some years ago. It is a problem that Goths, Jehovah's Witnesses, home educators and a lot of other tiny minority groups who refuse to conform to the mores of the society in which they live, still have. These types all seem really weird to outsiders and often a mythology grows up about them in those who don't usually know any personally. For instance hippies were all regarded as promiscuous drug addicts, skinheads beat up gays and Pakistanis, that sort of thing. With home educators, the idea is that their children are at greatly increased risk of physical and sexual abuse, forced marriage and possibly even murder. This is one part of the problem.
The second part of the problem is that like all those who are used to living a peculiar and atypical lifestyle, home educators have forgotten just how they appear to others; that is to say as a bunch of freaks and oddballs. That they should be unaware of this is perfectly understandable from the perspective of the home educating parent. After all, what are they doing that is strange? Just looking after their children and trying to help them to learn. I mean that's what most people do until their children are five, but carry on with it after that age and people give you some pretty odd looks! Also of course, many home educators spend a lot of time chatting on the internet to other home educators, their friends are often home educators and their family and neighbours are often too polite to mention how weird it all looks to normal citizens.
The problem really becomes apparent only when something like the Badman report crops up. Most people, both parents of schoolchildren and others, find it quite reasonable that home educators should be checked regularly by the local authority. This is partly because they seem to be a pretty strange bunch and it sounds like a good idea that we should be seeing how their children are, but also because the safety and welfare of children is very dear to the heart of the man in the street. Anything which makes children safer must, almost by definition, be a good thing.
The perspective on such proposals from some home educators could hardly be more different. Teaching one's children at home is, for them, the most natural thing in the world. How dare anybody suggest that their children are not safe at home! They feel picked on and victimised. This is of course exactly how Goth teenagers feel and, for that matter, other fringe groups like naturists .
Here is the heart of the problem. If we deliberately set ourselves apart from the rest of society by our behaviour or personal appearance, then we can hardly be surprised if society and its more conventional members view us askance and mistrust our motives. In a sense, we can be said to have brought the problem upon ourselves. Readers might remember a year or two ago, the fellow who decided that he had a perfectly legal right to walk from one end of the country to the other stark naked. I have no idea at all of the legal situation, but I do know that he was regularly arrested and treated by the general public as a wandering madman. He had a choice. Either he could put his trousers on and walk from Lands End to John O' Groats peaceably and without a fuss, or he could do it naked and be stopped and bothered by the police at every touch and turn. One or the other, but not both. Home educators are in a sense in a similar condition.
Those who have chosen not to send their children to school may or may not have good reasons for what they are doing. Most people, in fact society as a whole, find the whole thing a bit fishy and probably somewhat suspicious. These attitudes are something which we must expect as a result of our choice. Some of the recommendations of the Badman Report perhaps stem from this point of view. On the other hand, we could just send our kids to school like everybody else and then there would be no problem and everyone will think that we are normal. What we cannot do is adopt a course of action which over 99% of the population regard as utterly bizarre and then affect shock and disbelief if we are treated as crackpots and weirdos!