In a comment on the last piece which I posted here, somebody asked whether I could cite any research in support of my statement that autonomously educated children were often late in learning to read. It is, on the face of it, a fair question. Of course there is no research at all worth mentioning on this subject. Such as there is, does indeed support my contention, of which more later.
One of the main reasons which home educating parents give for not sending their children to school is that they object to the constant testing of children and consequent pressure on them to perform. As a result, many parents have an ambivalent or in many cases downright hostile attitude to the idea of their children taking part in a programme of testing. I am of course talking of this country. Whenever I have mentioned the need for extensive research on this Blog, there are objections to the idea as being unnecessary. Because of this, the only research into autonomously educated children tends to be that carried out by sympathetic types like Paula Rothermel and Alan Thomas. The idea of an educational psychologist testing autonomously educated children en masse would, I suspect, be anathema to most home educating parents.
We are left with very small scale samples made by "believers". There seems to have been no objective survey of this subject by anybody! Again, I think that most parents would object to their children being tested by a professional who was actually opposed to home education. Under these circumstances, it is almost impossible to gather data. I have looked previously at Paula Rothermel's work on literacy among home educated children. Her response was to pull the original work from her website, thus making it impossible for the casual enquirer to check the methodology. Let us look instead at what Alan Thomas says about late reading.
In his book "How Children Learn at Home", he says, "...many children learned to read 'late' by school norms. Resistance to being taught and late reading both featured in the earlier research." The work in "How Children Learn at home" was with twenty six parents. Whenever he quotes one, he uses a number between one and twenty six to identify the speaker. In the section on late reading, he identifies thirteen out of the twenty six parents as being parents of late readers. This is 50%. Most would see that as a pretty high prevalence of late reading.
In previous comments on this Blog, some have tried to fly the idea that because 20% of children do not reach the government's own targets on literacy, this means that 20% is a base line figure for reading difficulties. It is suggested that this is also the figure among autonomously educated children and that it is therefore somehow a "natural" thing that 20% of children should be late in reading or have difficulties with literacy. This is absurd. A figure of 20% with problems in this crucial area of development tells me that the maintained schools in this country are lousy. (Which was of course why I did not send my child to one!) Quite apart from that, without testing the reading abilities of thousands of autonomously educated children, we cannot really compare their reading with those in state schools.
All of the above strikes me as a very good argument in favour of the large scale testing of autonomously educated children in this country. This way, we would be able to find out what is really going on. A lot of home educating families seemed to be very pleased with the DCSF select committee's report on Graham Badman's report. I hope that they would agree with what the committee said in para. 121, "We call on the Department to fund research into the outcomes of autonomous education among a fully representative sample of home educating families." Now that would really be interesting....