Yesterday, somebody commenting here gave us a link to some Canadian research about how home educated children fare as adults. This is it;
I had read this already and dismissed it as being irrelevant to home education in this country. However, perhaps I was wrong. Let's look at this and once again compare the situation in North America with that in Britain.
Perhaps the first thing to strike one about the Canadian adults is that this statement is made of their education;
The most typical pattern of home education covered the entire period from the ages of 5 to 18
This is very different from the general pattern in this country among home educated children. It is pretty rare to encounter any home educated child or young person who has not been to school or college between the ages of 5 and 18; in this group it is the rule. The reasons for home education are also interesting. In the Canadian study, they had this to say,
Most respondents gave many reasons for the decision to home educate, but the desire for a better education than that offered in schools was by far the most frequently mentioned and the most important.
This is not the situation in this country. All the surveys carried out here, including the most recent study by Ofsted, show a very different pattern of reasons for home education. The majority of home educated children in Britain have been deregistered from school. The most common reasons for this are bullying and the perceived failure of the school to meet a child's special educational needs. Another popular reason relates to lifestyle and being able to spend more time with a child. This at once underlines a major problem with using studies from North America to make even tentative conclusions about the outcomes for home educated children in this country. The outcome for a child who was never sent to school at all because his parents wanted a better education for him than could be provided at school is likely to be vastly different from that of a child whose parents didn't plan to home educate him at all, but feel compelled to remove him from school due to some problem or other. The two cases are quite different and this alone makes the Canadian study pretty useless as a predictor of how children here might do in later life.
Another very great difference between the young people in this study is religion. 84% of these home educated adults participated in religious activities in the home at least once a week and 82% of them belong to religious groups. Does this sound like home educators you know? However, something that I have noticed in this country is that those for whom religion is important often seem also to favour a more structured and conventional educational approach, which is usually dependent upon teaching rather than simply the hope of learning taking place. I certainly fit into this pattern, being a fanatically structured teacher whose child has been attending church and reading the Bible since she was very small! I wonder if there is a fruitful area for further investigation there? I have noticed the same thing about American studies; religion is a very big factor and seems to go hand in hand with both structured teaching and good educational outcomes.
I have said before that these studies from the USA and Canada are not really likely to shed any light upon the outcome for home educated children in this country. There, we are looking at religious types who have chosen to educate their children for purely educational reasons. The educational outcomes tend therefore to be pretty good. Here, parents typically educate their children for reasons wholly unconnected with education. Most of them send their kids to school and then take them out because problems develop. They then often choose a system of education which does not involve teaching, again in contrast to the sort of parents we read about in North America. It is high time that some research was carried out about this in Britain, but judging by past reactions to any idea of this sort, I am not hopeful. When Ofsted launched their study, the lists were buzzing with messages calling for parents to boycott the thing. The DfE's pilot for a longitudinal study was also received with great suspicion and promises of non-cooperation!