Home educators vary tremendously in their aims and methods for achieving those aims. Some are like me, parents who are getting restless if their child cannot read by her second birthday. Others are not bothered if their son can only write in large, scrawled capital letters at the age of twelve. Most fall somewhere between these two extremes. All however have one thing in common; they like their children and enjoy their company.
I find it absolutely extraordinary to hear mothers with a babe in arms talking eagerly of how soon they will be able to get a nursery place for their child. I am similarly astonished when parents report that they are dreading the Summer holidays; it will mean spending a lot of time with their kids. My own daughter was not born until I had already turned forty. Perhaps this had the effect of making her very precious to me, I had more or less accepted by that age that I would never be a father. Whatever the reason, I loved every second of the time I spent with her as a baby. I certainly never tired of her or wished for anybody else to look after her. it seemed the most natural thing in the world not to send her to school. Why wouldn't I want to spend all the available time with her? I think that many parents of school children find this attitude a bit weird. they say things like, 'I'd go mad if I was stuck in the house with him all day!' or 'Don't you ever get fed up?'. I have felt in the past that there is a hint that there must be something a little unnatural about a parent who is content to have his child by his side all day long.
I wonder if this might be at the back of the suggestion that home educated children might be more at risk of abuse than those who are sent to school? Could it be that most parents simply can't imagine mothers and father who love their children so much that they do not wish to be parted from them? Perhaps some people find this so unusual that they feel that there must be something sinister or unhealthy at the back of it.
I have noticed another thing when talking to parents of teenagers who are at school. They are all amazed when I tell them that my daughter and I never argue. It is as though this whole set-up of parents arguing furiously with their teenage offspring is supposed to be the normal state of affairs and a relaxed, peaceful home is somehow an oddity. But I can't for the life of me see why I would want to fall out with my daughter.
Perhaps it is this which really lies at the heart of the reservations which others have about home education. Clearly, the objections cannot really be based upon purely educational concerns. It is perfectly easy to teach a kid at home and provide at least as efficient education as is likely to be on offer at the local maintained school. The real problems that some people have with the idea of home education must lie elsewhere and I would not be at all surprised if this were part of the explanation.