Those who have not themselves been home educators, which includes I suppose about 99.99% of the population, do not generally realise how the effects of home education tend to pervade every aspect of one's life. Those used to the "School run", who take for granted the shouting at the children in the morning, the hurried breakfast and the mad rush to get to the school on time, do not know how relaxed the morning of the average home educating parent is by comparison. On the downside, neither can they fully appreciate the loneliness and isolation felt by many home educators. Not for them the regular gossip at the school gates, the social circle formed of the parents of the child's classmates and so on.
The very expression "Home education" can be a little misleading. It suggests that this is essentially just a different way of educating a child. It is not. The decision to home educate has a profound and all pervasive effect on every part of a family's life. It is an interesting and debateable point whether or not this lifestyle is simply a by-product of home education, or whether home education is a by-product of the desire for this alternative lifestyle! Research in this country suggests strongly that the desire for better family relationships and being able to choose the pace of life are among the things that parents value most about home education. I have, apropos of family relationships, noticed that home educating parents seem to get on better with their children. A lot of the parents of school children whom I know seem to be in a state of semi-permanent conflict with their kids. The atmosphere in home educating homes is certainly more restful and loving. I realise that this is merely anecdotal evidence, but I know others have observed the same thing. Perhaps it is due to the fact that home educating parents like their children and want to spend time with them. They are not desperately anxious to pack them off to nursery as soon as they can walk, nor do they view the Summer with dread, bring with it as it does the prospect of spending weeks in the company of their children.
There also seems to be something mildly addictive about the whole home education thing, something which makes parents reluctant to drop the whole thing, even when they are no longer officially home educators. This thought was precipitated by my constantly seeing Fiona Nicholson's name still cropping up all over the place in connection with home education. Like me, Fiona ceased to be a bona fide home educator on Friday, June 26th 2009. And yet, again like me, she seems quite unable to tear herself away from the world of home education. Readers at this point are probably snorting with derision and remarking to themselves that this is a bit rich coming from me. After all, months after I stopped being a home educator myself I am still appearing before select committees and shooting my mouth off on television! Where do I get off drawing attention to Fiona Nicholson's inability to break loose of the whole home education thing?
Fiona and I are of course not the only ones who find it hard to move on. I shall not name any more names, but a few of the people one sees on the lists are of parents whose children have either returned to school or have turned sixteen some while since. Why should this be? After all, those whose children have left secondary school do not hang round the school gates like restless ghosts. That stage of their children's lives has ended and they forget about it. This makes me think that home education means more to most of us than just education.
Clearly, my own methods of home education are not those of a large section of the home educating community. They have more in common with Mr. Gradgrind's utilitarian philosophy as expressed in Hard Times. All the same, I cannot just forget about home education and treat it as of no more significance than as though my daughter had been at some school. Quite clearly, the whole thing meant something to me, something more than mere education. I am pretty sure that a lot of other parents feel the same about this enterprise. Whatever methods of education they used, whether fanatically structured or completely autonomous, the whole lifestyle which went along with the education must surely have been at least as important to parents as the learning itself?