Until a week ago, I was convinced that the only thing which attracted so many readers to this blog was the luminous quality of the prose which I turn out with such effortless insouciance. Sadly, this would seem not to be the case. Indeed, when I mentioned that I had been keeping this blog for over a year, several regular contributors to the comments hastened to set me straight about their motives for coming on here every day. Apparently for some, reading this blog is a distasteful duty which must be undertaken, whether or not one feels like it. I must say that this strikes me as absolutely extraordinary. There are many completely mad blogs on the Internet, some of them written by world class idiots. I occasionally come across such things and seldom bother to return. How different, how very different from the response of those who visit here and conclude that I am an ignorant fool and malicious to boot. They keep coming back for more! I have been puzzled by this in the past, but a little research shows the sheer altruism which motivates some of my most dedicated readers.
Here is a typical case of somebody who feels reluctantly compelled to come on here and express her opinions:
I started commenting on your blog only because you made some ill-informed remarks about children with special needs. I think that many other of your remarks are also ill-informed, so have felt obliged to continue to comment.
Now I am bound to say at once that I have been working with and writing about adults and children with special educational needs and disabilities for about a quarter of a century. I doubt that my remarks on the subject have been 'ill-informed'. Crass and offensive perhaps; even insensitive or unpleasant, but I am, I think, pretty well informed on the subject. Another person said much the same:
I too only come here to check and set the record straight from time to time,
These people put me in mind of Lord Longford when he was investigating pornography some years ago. He forced himself to visit various unsavoury shops in Soho and leafed through the most disgusting materiel, all for a very good cause. I imagine some of my readers in the same way. There they sit, hunched over their keyboards in darkened rooms, muttering 'Filth!' or 'Disgusting!'. But they know their duty too well just to log off and look at something a little more agreeable!
Another regular here, who lives in Brighton, has an even stranger reason for feeling obliged to visit and comment here. She is worried about the effects of what I say upon those who are just starting to home educate. She comes here, 'in case there are new home edders feeling thoroughly put-off...' This really plumbs new depths of weirdness! I am a fanatical home educator whose daughter never set foot in school. I have shown that contrary to what some local authority officers claim, it is perfectly possible to pass any GCSE at home, including the three sciences. Anybody coming here will soon learn that however repulsive I might be personally, I am living proof that home education can succeed in delivering a rigorous, academic education at least as efficient as that provided by the best independent school. How on earth will this 'put off' new home educators?
Interestingly, the parents who email me privately do not seem to feel at all put off by what they read here. A week does not pass without somebody contacting me for advice or information. I have never been told that anybody has felt 'put off' home education by anything which they might have read here. Nor incidentally have the parents of children with special needs ever berated me for my unacceptable views on disability. I have noticed that those who criticise me most vehemently about this do not apparently have children themselves with special educational needs. There is something horribly patronising about people complaining on behalf of families with special children, as though these people know better than others what is likely to be unacceptable in this field. It is true that I have had a few irritable things to say in the past about the number of parents in the home education world who claim that their children have special educational needs which are not being catered for at school and which have made it essential that their children are educated at home. Closer examination often reveals these problems to be relatively mild conditions such as dyslexia and attention deficit. Now I freely admit that I sometimes get a little impatient about this. I work with some children who have severe learning difficulties and are non-verbal, unable to walk and also have epilepsy. To hear some mother going on about her kids 'special needs' when all it amounts to is that he can't sit still and concentrate, does annoy me a bit. This is perhaps the sort of 'ill-informed' view which has caused people to find it necessary to monitor this blog!
I think that people sometimes overestimate the significance of this blog. It is nothing more than the personal thoughts of a former home educator. It is not, as I have had cause to remind folk in the past, a peer reviewed, academic journal. The ideas expressed here are usually my own and if others find those thoughts disgusting or contrary to their own inclinations, then it does not really worry me. I am of course happy for everybody to come here and comment; that's why I don't moderate the comments at all. However, if anybody really is upset by the sort of things which I say here, then there are plenty of other blogs on home education which cater for the kind of wooly-minded crank determined to avoid at all costs teaching her child. This blog is about education, education outside the school system. Such education can be, as I said above, at least as successful as anything being offered in the best of independent schools. Somebody commented here recently, saying;
Why is home education not as good as good to Eton college Webb
Well it is, or at least it can be if parents wish to put in the time and effort. For those reluctant to do so for ideological or perhaps ergonomic reasons, home education is likely to remain a poor substitute for school based education. I am hardly to blame for that; such is the nature of the world!