I have written before about the large number of home educating parents who seem to undertake the education of their own children in reaction to problems at school, rather than because they are keen on home education. Typical problems which precipitate this decision are bullying and the school's inability to cater for some special educational need. I am thinking today about another factor which might cause parents to choose home education; their own experiences in the school system.
I have noticed that an awful lot of well known figures in the home educating scene have negative views about schools in general. A lot of the time, these are based upon their own childhood experiences. Paula Rothermel is of course one such individual whose own life dictated her interest in home education; there are many others. I shall not give any names, but the kind of things I am talking about are as follows. One well known person from Education Otherwise was subjected to sexual abuse and still feels bitter many years later because the teachers at her school were unsympathetic to her resulting depression. Another woman was withdrawn from a boarding school and sent to a comprehensive, where the teachers were a little suspicious of her, seeing her as snobbish. Both these women taught their own children at home for a while and in both cases, the decision to home educate was directly connected with their own childhoods. I can think of quite a few others in a similar position.
The reason that I have been musing about this is because I get the feeling sometimes that many home educators are not so much pro-home education as they are anti-school. Listening to parents, I seem to hear far more about the iniquities of the educational system than I do the joys of teaching one's own children. This is curious. I did not particularly enjoy school myself, but I don't think that this affected my decision to home educate. I certainly have nothing against conventional education, except that it can be a bit inefficient. With a lot of home educating parents though, even those who have chosen to do it and not just been forced into it by bullying and so on, there is a repugnance for the very idea of conventional teaching. Such things as broad and balanced curricula are regarded as the Devil's work, as is the very idea of planning an education at all. It strikes me that these people are opposed ideologically to ordinary education.
Of course, it might simply be that a lot of these parents have sat down, researched the literature and then concluded that traditional teaching is a dead loss. I can't think that likely though. After all, apart from a handful of cranks like John Holt and Roland Meighan, academics in the field of education are pretty unanimous about what tends to make a good education. Teaching is certainly a big part of it.
It is definitely the case that many on the Internet lists seem to have some kind of grudge against schools and local authorities. I can certainly understand this is a school has let down their child and failed to provide a good education. It also makes sense if the child has been exposed to harm and the school has not protected her. Even so, this would really only suggest that a particular school was falling down on the job; not that the entire educational system was based upon a faulty theory. The dedication with which some parents embrace crank ideas such as homeopathy, autonomous learning or the dangers of vaccination, cause me to think that there is more to this than meets the eye. Whether it is simply one aspect of an anti-scientific world view, or if it is because they and their families were badly let down in the past by doctors or teachers, it is fairly plain to me that there is more going here than people just examining the evidence and then making a rational and objective choice. After all, if they examined the evidence in an unbiassed way, they would plump every time for conventional teaching! There are clearly other factors at play and I would very much like to know what they are.