One of the things which I have noticed over the years, both in my personal and professional life, is the huge number of parents who cannot apparently wait to get their kids into nurseries almost as soon as they are born. I am talking here not of busy professionals on Maternity Leave, but couples where one parent is not working and also unemployed single mothers. I have sometimes felt like saying, although I have never been so rude, "If you are that keen to get shot of him, I wonder you had the bloody kid in the first place!" I have often thought that this strange desire to pack children off to nurseries, schools, play-schemes and holiday clubs might be at the root of many people's suspicious attitude to home education.
When the Summer holidays are beginning, newspapers routinely run jokey articles asking how parents will survive for the next six or eight weeks. Many parents have told me that they dread the holidays because they don't know what to do with their children. I find this truly extraordinary. Like most, probably all, home educating parents I absolutely love my daughter's company and have done so from the moment she was born. Why would I want to miss out on a single minute of her childhood?
My wife an I have friends are utterly foxed by this. They tell us that it would drive them mad to have their children at home all day. They say things like, "I don't know how you do it!" or "Don't you get fed up with just your daughter for company during the day?". We also know mothers who complain that their brains feel as if they are turning to mush because they are stuck with their baby or toddler all day and that they simply can't wait to get the child into a nursery so that they can get on with their life again. Regular readers of this Blog will be aware that my social skills are all but non-existent and I am hardly able to disguise my horror that anybody could speak this way about their child.
Those who feel this way about their children, and they are in the majority, find it unbelievable that there are people who would choose to keep their children by their side for twenty four hours a day. And this was quite literally the case when my daughter was young. I never felt that I wanted to be parted from her for a moment and even now that she is sixteen, I frequently spend the weekend in her company and still find her a constant pleasure. Well, why wouldn't I? As I say, this is how most home educators feel. For those who do not feel like this, I get the impression sometimes that they think that this is a bit fishy, even creepy when they encounter home educators. Normal people are not this attached to their children, there must be something abnormal about it. What are they up to? Are they abusing their kids? Something's not right!
As I said above, I think it possible that these completely different views of children may be the cause of any friction between home educators and normal parents. People who send their kids to school just don't "get" it, the idea of parents and children being so close that they actually enjoy being with one another! I thought in this context, I would again post the link to part of a television programme which my daughter and I appeared on a couple of years ago.
The people talking to us, Matthew Wright and Lowri Turner, seemingly took it quite for granted that Simone's education would be as good as she might get at school. What neither of them could grasp was the idea that a father and his teenage daughter could enjoy being with each other all day and that it was really the most natural thing in the world. Lowri Turner makes one of the most tacky and tasteless remarks I have ever heard in the whole course of my life and says that Simone and I seem unnaturally close and that she seems more like my wife than my daughter! This is fascinating. She had already told the audience that at that age, she would not even sit next to her father on the beach. She evidently believed that this was normal; to me it sounds completely dysfunctional. This shows the enormously wide gulf which can sometimes exist between "ordinary" people and home educators.
It might be as well to remember this when we are talking to those who do not educate their own children. To me and I think other home educating parents, getting on well with your children is the most natural thing in the world. It is not getting on with your kids that is strange and unusual. For many parents of school children, the case is precisely opposite; it is not getting on with your child that is the norm. I can't help wondering whether or not the current demands for tighter control might be caused not by any genuine fears about forced marriage and so on, but rather because so many people, both in government and also in the general population, just can't imagine what we're up to, wanting to have our kids with us all day long!