Thursday, 1 April 2010

Is there a typical home educator?

Although one cannot generalise, I have noticed over the years that some types of people are more commonly home educating parents than others. For instance, I have a sneaking suspicion that very few home educators are in favour of fox hunting! I would also be prepared to bet that there are far more labour voters than conservatives among home educating parents, at least until Ed Balls took over as Secretary of State for Education! Nor would I be at all surprised to learn that vegetarianism was more common, as well as anxiety and depression.

Here are a few more things which I think might be more likely to be found with home educating parents. Firstly of course, they are mainly women. Secondly, I rather think that many of them are single mothers. The UK average is around 16%, or one in six. I'm guessing that this proportion is probably higher among home educators. What about unhappy childhoods? Could it be possible that some of these parents are determined to give their children a better and happier childhood than they themselves had? I happen to know that this is definitely so with a few well known home educators, but I would be keen to hear if it is a common feature. I am pretty sure that the majority have sent their children to school and then subsequently deregistered them.

A natural corollary of this is that if some character traits are commoner among home educating parents, then there might equally well be characteristics which are more likely to be found in the children of home educators. Now of course, this does not mean that there is a typical home educator or a typical home educated child, but never the less I think that some things might be commoner in such children than in the ordinary population. Being sensitive and anxious are the sort of things which I am wondering about here. I do not know whether this is so, I am simply ravelling a thread. I suppose that I am thinking that it is at least possible that a certain type of parent might raise a certain kind of child who might react differently from most children to the rough and tumble of school. A child whose parents have taught her too much about justice and fairness for instance would probably have a little difficulty in adapting to the average school! If this child were also a little more sensitive than most, then the unfairness encountered every day might be a seriously disturbing and cause great unhappiness. I wonder if this might be a possibility? Are home educating parents overly concerned with justice and fairness? Have they taught their children from an early age to expect or require these qualities in others? It is an interesting thought.


  1. LOL! Most of this post seems to be knitting with wet spagetti, but one thing jumped out: the single mother issue.

    I don't know if it's more common nationally. It certainly seems that way 'on the lists'. However, among the HE'ing families I know personally, it is very rare. In fact, out of the 100's of families who have passed through the groups I've been very involved with over the last 15 years, I've only met 3 who were single parents.

    Actually, I was in a group of about 20 or so HE mums once (as we waited for our kids to finish their swimming lessons) and we tried to figure out what, if anything, was the common thread between us all, trying to determine why we'd HE'd. It turned out that there were two.

    Firstly, almost every single one of us had either had difficulty conceiving naturally, had frequent miscarriages or had lost a baby or young child or had adopted our children. We came to the conclusion that our children were just a little bit more of 'a gift' to us than most other people's. We felt it had led to us being more likely to consider hard what was best for them, perhaps than most.

    The second interesting thread we had in common was that each of us had lived abroad for some period of our lives. In my case, two periods, totalling about 8-9 years. The average length of living abroad had been 3-4 years. Maybe we were an odd group and not representative, but it seemed to us that our experiences of living differently to the (UK) norm had equipped us with the confidence we needed to take unusual decisions.

    Re-reading your post, Simon, you seem to be hinting that 'these silly, neurotic women are screwing up their kids' (not direct quote). I believe there are many reasons people choose to HE and many 'types' of us who do it.

    Mrs Anon

  2. Extremely interesting Mrs. Anon. Especially what you say about difficulty with conceiving. My youngeser daughter, whom I home educated from birth, was the result of a heterotopic pregnancy. While my wife was pregnant she had a ruptured ectopic and then was rushed to hospital for an emergency salpingectomy. We grieved for the loss off the baby, but a few days later it beagn to dawn on us that she was, incredibly still pregnant! There had actually been two fertilised eggs, one in the tube and one in the womb. This event certainly made my daughter even more precious to me and I wonder if that is the sort of thing you might be talking about. The living abroad bit also strikes a chord, I spent years in the Middle East. Very intriguing indeed, thanks for that.

  3. Must agree with Mrs Anon. In my experience of groups I've only met about 2 single parents though to be fair I've not always known. You say that it's usually mothers that home educate. In my experience it's more likely to be a case of joint home education and there were usually a few men at the meetings we attended. Employment seems un-typical in many of the families I know with self employment relatively more common and shared working, parenting and home educating more usual. Out of the 6 families we are closest to, only 1 follows the pattern of a father going out to work for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week.

    As to single parents, they accounted for 6.25% of Mike FW's study a few years back and Rothermel's study found an 11% rate. Of course these were self selected figures, but they are more likely to be accurate than a guess. I have also noticed that families tend to be larger than average even amongst non-religious home educators but maybe those I've known are un-typical.

  4. As a single parent I would say that I have not met many other single parents who are home educating- of course I have met some but
    for the most part in the circles I mix in, I am in the minority by what seems like less than one in six.I cannot say I had noticed it was that way on the lists either but it may be so.

    The people who are active on the lists however do not represent the majority of the HE community so only the LAs would be able to comment on what their demographics are and possibly EO which has a large membership.Those who become more political and have joined lists may have a different demographic make up and I feel that applying any theories about the characteristics of those who HE is futile.

    However the 'fairness and justice' observation is the most interesting theory when looking at the 'active' community .

    Single parents may have often experienced more prejudice and hardship and may have had to learn to assert themselves , just as someone who has lived overseas may have had to deal with and learn how to operate in a different culture. The same would apply to many people who have had negative dealings with an LA or a school. Anyone who has had difficulty conceiving or has lost a child will most certainly have had to deal with feelings of injustice. What about those whose child is born with special needs, especially if the society we live in marginalises and devalues their needs?

    These varied experiences may contribute to developing a sense of fairness and justice.

    I disagree that a natural extension of pursuing fairness and justice is necessarily 'sensitivity and anxiety'.

    If not channelled into positive action for fairness and justice one can become overly sensitive and neurotic but it is equally possible to become de-sensitised and aggressive. Look at how some people when faced with a sense of injustice and lack of fairness can become reactionary ,angry and treat others just as badly.

    It is possible however that a positive outcome for someone who is 'concerned' about the 'bad' behaviour of others or the general dilapidated state of reality would be to positively channel that into constructive ideas about what constitutes 'fair and just' and to pursue these ideals.

    My religion is rather preoccupied with 'fairness and justice' possibly as a result of many centuries of living 'differently' from the outside community and being persecuted. I see all three types of reactions being played out amongst we Jews.

    We all have the tendencies once we become aware of injustice to react at either end of the spectrum?

    It is not the concept of fairness and justice that is the issue but how we react to these feelings of injustice

    Take the historical figures we know of such as Jesus and Gandhi and try and work out what came first, the chicken, or the egg in how they developed their ideals about fairness and justice. Were these people 'sensitive' in nature or did their nature show them experiences to which they then became sensitive? What prevented Gandhi from becoming a terrorist? How did he find the 'Middle Way'?

    Just imagine if all over the world the predominant ethos was 'fairness and justice' for all and gentleness, compassion and wisdom was found in the balance?

  5. Yes, Simon, I would never say that people who have not had these experiences with pregnancy loss or child bereavement or infertility are careless about their children or lack understanding of their preciousness (or indeed that people who send their children to school cherish their children any less).

    However, I do think it can prompt some of us to take the whole business of having a family less for granted and this possibly makes us more likely to 'think outside the box' re raising them. More fascinating avenues for research, perhaps.

    Mrs Anon

  6. Why are you always picking on single mothers Simon?

    A child whose parents have taught her too much about justice and fairness for instance would probably have a little difficulty in adapting to the average school!

    Are you saying you dont much care for justice and fairness? mob rule like the play ground! uncle Balls?DCSF like mob role why dont you apply for a job with them! your have to hurry time is running out for this failing governemnt! its in its death thoes! cant wait to see Balls out of his job! he just be an M.P then if he lucky!

  7. I hope that most home educators are not like the majority of those most vocal on several lists. If I only read the lists I would also assume that most home educators are as Simon describes, but this certainly can't be the case. Most home educators aren't list members. But this is me
    -27 years old
    -university educated with an honours degree
    -professional qualifications
    -small business owner
    -lived for a year in Germany (where I taught at German university)
    -currently living in England (not my country)
    -happy childhood
    -no trouble having a baby
    -children never been to school/nursery
    -I educate more than my husband( he works full-time)
    -we teach our children that justice and fairness are qualities they should strive for in their behaviour, not expect those qualities in others.

  8. It's April the first every day on this blog....

  9. I'm not picking on single mothers at all. But when people are talking about children and young people killing themselve due to school and bullying and when we know that 90% of those adolescents will have psychiatric disorders, it makes one think. I am curious about this because the risk of mental health problems in children is increased by 40% when they don't live with their fathers and so the whole suicide/bullying/ anxiety thing might well be tied up with lifestyle. I have no reason to suppose that home educated children are really more likely to kill themselves if they are returned to school, but this is the suggestion which is being made. I am just trying to look into this idea.

  10. There is no one type of 'home educator' anymore than there is one type of 'school child' and I can see where this is heading. Neurotic, vegetarian, socialist single mothers damaging their imprisoned children.....should be a law against it! It would be most convenient for you to pigeon hole everyone in this way, wouldn't it?

    Over the past months, you have shown yourself to be extremely untrustworthy and violent in your attitude towards home educators. Everything you say should be viewed and responded to with extreme caution.

  11. "I have no reason to suppose that home educated children are really more likely to kill themselves if they are returned to school, but this is the suggestion which is being made."

    If a child has been removed from school 'as a last resort' because of bullying. And if that child was then forced back into school, what would then be 'the last resort'?

  12. I'm still interested in seeing your definition of a psychiatric disorder. Given the current state of psychiatric theory, I'd be surprised if any adolescent who committed or attempted suicide was viewed as *not* having a psychiatric disorder.

    The underlying assumption is there must be something wrong with you if you decide you want to die. Given the situations some people find themselves in, this decision could in fact be viewed as entirely rational. We need to ask why is the situation medicalised, rather than contextualised.

    Also, I wonder whether the mental health problems in children not living with their fathers could have originated, not in the absence of the father per se, but in the reasons why the parents split up.

  13. Over the past months, you have shown yourself to be extremely untrustworthy and violent in your attitude towards home educators. Everything you say should be viewed and responded to with extreme caution.

    Well said who ever you are Webb is also a traiter to home educators and there children.

  14. You been in contact Simon with Uncle Badman or Balls or DCSF tell us what you said to them in those emails you sent??

  15. I have no idea at all about this Mr Williams. I spoke to Grahm Badman once, almost a year ago. I don't think I have ever had any dealings with either Ed Balls or the Department for Children, Schools and Families. I don't suppose you would care to share with us what you mean by this?

  16. "you have shown yourself to be extremely untrustworthy and violent in your attitude towards home educators."

    Hmmmm, only slight problem here is that I am myself a home educator. I wonder if whoever posted this comment could tell me what the violence is which I have shown?

  17. Err, not saying anything either way about the violence against home educators (though obviously you've been very derogatory about AE HEers), but why would you being an ex-home educator mean that you couldn't be violent towards other home educators?