The accusation has been not infrequently levelled at me that I believe that my own way of home educating is the best and that other people's methods are at best ineffective and at worst actually harmful to the children concerned. This is of course perfectly true and I make no apology for it. The only thing I find a little astonishing is the gross hypocrisy of those making this charge. The fact is, we all think that our way of doing things is the best way and that if only others emulated our wise and good ways then whatever process is involved would be a accomplished more smoothly and efficiently. This is true of hobbies, professional activities, child rearing or any other human activity which one cares to mention.
I have known a number of people whose hobby was cross stitch. This is a very genteel pastime and you would think that those who undertook it would be very tolerant of others, but every single person who I knew that ever did cross stitch had her own way of going about things, a way that she was convinced was better than anybody else's. Some regard a different technique for back stitching as little short of heresy. I have observed the same phenomenon with mechanics, sportsmen, window cleaners, psychologists, and parents. All are absolutely sure that their way of doing the thing is best and that if only everybody else followed their lead then everyone would be a good deal happier and the whole world would run more smoothly. I don't see home education as being any different from this. Of course all those who undertake it believe that their way is so much more gentle/firm/sensible/effective/compassionate/ethical/respectful/educational/kind/holistic than anybody else's technique. This is human nature. Of course it is not at all true; some of us are actually harming our children, while others are doing brilliantly. Unfortunately, there is no objective way of deciding which is which. If I have hinted that I believe some parents to be neglecting their children's education by their crackpot methods, they for their part have more than hinted that my own daughter's childhood must have been a nightmare and that my own system sounds cruel!
As I say, there is no way really of deciding which way of home educating a child is the best. Besides, it probably varies greatly from child to child. The point which I am trying to make is that it is ridiculous to reproach me for thinking that my way of doing things is the best and that others should follow my wise advice. Of course I feel this way; so does everybody else. I have not the least doubt that those who criticise me so bitterly think that the way that they are doing things is far better than mine. This is only natural. We all love our children and want what is best for them, however mistaken we might be. It is very rare for a parent to set out on a course which she honestly thinks is harmful for her child. Even in cases like that of Khyra Ishaq I am quite prepared to believe that the mother actually though that she was doing the best for her child. Most of us would say that she was mistaken, but she herself almost certainly was not intending to act in a wickedly cruel fashion. Her obsession with her own weight and with food intake led her onto a wrong path; she was not an evil person.
So it is with all human activity. Whether we are washing up, teaching our children to read or painting a door, we all have our own special way of going about the business that we feel is the best possible way of doing it. I like to rinse the dishes under running water when they have been washed and the sight of somebody smearing them with one of those dirty rags that the English call 'tea towels' makes me cringe! I am sure that others regard my own way of washing up as a little bizarre. So it is with teaching our children. Of course I think my way best; I wouldn't do it otherwise. Just as those slackers who leave their children to fathom out the alphabetic code for themselves imagine, however deluded they might be, that their way is the best. It is hardly sensible to criticise me for believing that I have the best method and thinking that all other home educators should adopt my methods. It would be strange if I didn't feel that way.