Nobody was more surprised last year than me, when I discovered that I had written an article for the Independent called, apparently, Time to get Tough on Home Schooling. Home schooling? It's not an expression which I have ever used in the whole course of my life! (My title for this piece, before the sub-editor got his hands on it was, Home Education; a Need for new Legislation?)
I have been reminded of this over the last few days, reading the coverage of the Khyra Ishaq case. The use of the phrase "home schooling" is definitely on the increase, at least in the mass media and it cannot be long before it altogether replaces the term "home education". As far as I can see, there are two possible explanations for this development. The first is one which I have seen put forward by some autonomous educators. Essentially, the idea is that this is an insidious bit of propaganda being foisted upon us. That the subliminal effect of seeing "home schooling" all the time, rather than "home education" will be to condition people to associate the practice with lessons, teaching, curricula , timetables and all the other paraphernalia of the classroom. After a while we will all of us, home educating parents and ordinary citizens alike, find ourselves thinking automatically in terms of "schooling" and all home education will be see as "school at home". I certainly gained this impression when listening to Fern Britton talking on the radio the other day. She even referred to a home containing a "schoolroom"!
The other possible explanation is a little less sinister. It is simply that we are increasingly adopting American usage, American pronunciation and American vocabulary in our speech. This is a form of cultural imperialism, called by some "Coca Colonialism". Often, this results in the shortening of phrases by a syllable or two. I even had the misfortune to hear my own daughter recently referring to a "train station", rather than a "railway station". I pulled her up pretty sharply, but I fear I am fighting a losing battle on that one. "Home schooling" is the accepted American expression for the activity and it also has one syllable less than "home education". Because of that and the fact that everybody apparently wishes to talk like Americans these days; I suspect that our "home education" is doomed.
I do not particularly care for this trend, I must admit. There is a definite difference between "schooling" and "education", a distinction which I for one am anxious to maintain. I think though, that the battle is almost lost. The company publishing my book on home education, which I supposed might be called Elective Home Education in the United Kingdom, have now decided that Home Schooling in the UK would be a bit catchier! I already expected to be pelted with mouldy vegetables by some home educators when it comes out; imagine the howls of execration when that title hits the shelves!