In the cheerful, sunlit world inhabited by many home educating parents, there are no idle or disaffected children. Every child out of school is learning constantly, skipping through the world like a character from an Enid Blyton book. They see a bird and immediately ask about it's habits, they observe the starts and driven to study their nature and origins without any further prompting. If anybody doubts that a home educating parent is in fact providing a suitable education for her child, one only needs to ask. Having been assured that it is so, one must take the parent's word for the matter and move on to more pressing affairs. With the exception of a few freakishly rare and atypical cases, this is pretty much the picture of British home education as painted by the home educators themselves.
In the real world of course, things are slightly different. Here, it is pointless asking people what they are up to and then taking their word for it. This is because ordinary people lie all the time and people doing bad things lie even more. Ask a dishonest man about his tax liabilities and he will lie about them. That's why inspectors from the Inland Revenue demand evidence. Ask a lazy man if he has completed a job and he will lie to you as well; much easier just to go and look, rather than take his word for it. People lie to local authorities even more than they do to central government. They lie about the number of people living in their house, they lie in order to avoid planning permission problems, they lie in order to get a bigger dustbin, they lie to get their kids into schools that they want. Councils know this, which is why they seldom take anybody's word for anything. It's human nature. These are not wicked people, just ordinary people telling lies to avoid bother.
Of course wicked people tell even more lies than the rest of us. Ask a wicked person if he is beating or starving his child and he will probably deny it! The police can often tell when they have caught a bad person. This is because when they ask him questions, he will either sit in silence or reply, "No comment". Ordinary people explain simply what is going on.
With home educating parents, we are asked to believe that these commonly accepted principles must be turned on their head. Ask home educators about their child's education and you must just accept what they say. Everybody else that the local authority officers speak to will lie and deceive them at every touch and turn, but not the home educator! Their word is sacrosanct. This is a very strange idea. When a home educator replies "No comment" if asked a question, or refuses to speak at all, this is because she is acting on high principle. The usual rule of thumb, that such people are hiding something, cannot be applied to them.
For many working in local government, this is a strange state of affairs. What is it that sets home educating parents apart from everybody else in this way? Most parents will lie about their kids education. If they are appealing against the refusal of a school place at the school of their choice, they will lie their heads off. They will pretend that their child has special needs, is being bullied, has travel sickness, anything to win the appeal and get the school place. Ask a home educator any questions though and you must assume absolute honesty! It does not make sense.
It seems to me that home educators are asking for especially favourable treatment in their dealings with local authorities. In every aspect of every dealing with my council, I am obliged to provide evidence and paperwork in support of any statement which I make. It is the same for everybody. Home educators want to be a special case in that they simply assert a case to their local authority and there the matter ends. "Are you providing a suitable and efficient full-time education for your child?". "Yes, I am." replies the parent and the council promptly closes the file! It is an interesting idea, but i feel that if that is how it will be with home educators, then the rest of us should be given the benefit of the doubt when we try and swing the 25% discount on council tax for single person occupancy. And I have friend with children at school who want to get the school place of their choice without being asked for evidence of where they are living! In other words, if this is to be adopted, let it be a general principle and not only applicable to one group of individuals