I am a great believer in education. Indeed, it might not unjustly be said that it is by way of being an obsession of mine. For this reason, I am no great fan of many modern schools. This is because they fail to deliver a good education a lot of the time. I'm not much interested in why this should be; however much we tinker with them, the quality of education produced tends to fall far short of what I regard as acceptable. This is of course why I educated my daughter at home. The sort of intensive, one-to-one tuition which can be provided in a relaxed, domestic setting is infinitely more efficient than the conveyer belt, one size fits all, production line which is operating in many comprehensive schools. For this reason, I feel that more should be expected of home educated children than of those stuck in schools. They have more opportunities to learn, fewer distractions, no negative peer pressure; everything is perfectly geared towards a first class education.
When I see a sloppy, half baked, ineffectual education being delivered by a school, it makes me angry. Still, at least they have some excuse for it; conditions are hardly ideal for learning in the average school! When I see or hear about the same sort of thing in home education, I also feel angry. Here, there is no excuse at all; the conditions for a decent education could hardly be better. It is the difference between a large factory turning out a shoddy, mass produced article and a craftsman devoting his life to producing one-off, beautiful works of art. If the craftsman then also turns out something just as shoddy and worthless as the stuff being churned out by the factory; one wonders why he is bothering in the first place. He might just as well let the factories do the job.
The attitude of many home educating parents seems to be rather like skiving factory workers; They wish to do the bare minimum necessary to keep the foreman off their backs. In this case the foreman is their local authority and for many such parents, as long as the local authority is satisfied then so are they. Shocking attitude. They are like the schools who are content to be described as 'satisfactory' in an Ofsted report. For those who are unfamiliar with the jargon, 'satisfactory' in this context actually means 'profoundly unsatisfactory'. So yesterday when somebody quoted me and then added her own comment, it made me think a bit. Here is the comment;
"The majority of home educated children in Britain have been deregistered from school."
In which case they are already 'registered' and therefore fulfilling LEA criteria of 'suitable education'.
See what I mean? As long as the local authority feels that the education is 'suitable', then we can all relax and stop worrying. At least schools have the decency to pretend to be striving for excellence! For many home educators, the sole object of the exercise is to persuade their local authority that they are providing a 'suitable education' for their children. We see this time and again on various Internet lists. The problem is not educating the child, it is getting the local authority off their back. There is no secret about this. Parents ask where they can find details of Key Stage 4 resources, not because they wish to use them for their child's education, but so that they can demonstrate to their local authority that they know about them, thus fobbing them off for a year!
I can imagine no more effective way of educating a child than by allowing her to remain at home and not attend school. It is an absolutely perfect arrangement from an educational perspective. All the talk of 'individualised learning plans' that one hears of in maintained schools can become a reality literally overnight for the home educating family. Somebody commented here yesterday saying;
Why do you think home educating parents should be held to higher standards than schools? It hardly seems fair.
Well it is quite fair. If a child is being 'educated' by complete strangers as one of a group of thirty in an institution, then he is unlikely to receive as good an education as when being taught one-to-one by a loving and concerned relative. Of course the standards should be higher; I would have thought this to be self evident. If parents feel that they can make a better job of their children's education than schools, then they can do so in this country. It's not that hard. I would fight to the death if I thought that this possibility was likely to be curtailed or abolished. If on the other hand they take their children from school and then for whatever motives provide them with a worse education, than this is an appalling state of affairs.