I am sometimes accused of making money from home education. This is quite untrue, but I have noticed lately that a few new people are using the Internet lists to sell their products and services to the home educating community. Personally, I find this a bit much, but I suppose it's none of my business really. Still, as regular readers will be only too aware, that has never stopped me from passing comment in the past!
Perhaps the most shameless example of this new breed of entrepreneur hoping to cash in on home education is Kelly Green in Canada. She is currently pimping her self-published book A Matter of Conscience on the lists. This consists of large and indigestible chunks of material from her blog Kelley green and Gold. It's quite a catchy title, with its overtones of ethical concern; it sounds as though it could be written about the struggle against apartheid or the civil rights movement in the Deep South during the sixties. It is at any rate a good deal more imaginative than the title of my own book. I mean Elective Home Education in the United Kingdom, how uninspiring is that? I have to say though that I find Ms green's style of writing unendurably turgid and almost incomprehensible. On page one, she tells us that her great, great grandmother was a native American. That's the sort of personal touch wholly missing from Elective home Education in the United Kingdom ! My editor was utterly ruthless and I don't think that she would have felt that my great, great grandparents' ethnicity helped in any way to inform the debate on home education. A few paragraphs later, Kelly Green says;
' Germany, on the other hand, seems to be a society in constant struggle with the idea of difference, an interesting case study in irony and backlash when it comes to tolerance and the acceptance of minority groups.'
What on earth does this mean? Where is the irony in this situation? We can only guess. Or take this, a few lines later;
'our ability to engender the future together, to imagine it, to develop it in a playful and positive way.'
Does she know what she means by 'engender' in this context? Why should we consider the future in a 'playful' way, rather than in a serious and considered fashion? What would be the advantage of thinking about the future of society playfully, rather than systematically and carefully?
It will be noted that she is using Lightning Source for this book, which is a bit of a giveaway; it is a favourite company for Vanity Publishing. I doubt she could have found a proper publisher for this sort of nonsense.
Another person trying to make a fast buck by advertising on the home education lists is Patricia Hope. One cannot help wondering if this is her real name. It reminds me of Patience Strong, who used to do those ghastly little bits in the papers years ago. Anyway, Patricia Hope will sell you either pencil cases or the secret of happiness; links to both her enterprises are helpfully included every time she comments on any of the lists. The secret of happiness involves paying her $40 an hour for counselling, so I think I'll pass on this for now. I can usually buy a decent pencil case at WH Smiths , so I shall be giving this a miss too. These sites also offer links to her daughter's business, which is putting one in touch, for a price, with angels!
Paula Cashmore in the Midlands will, for £60, come round to your house for a couple of hours and explain to your friends and relatives why you want to educate your children at home. Yes, I thought this a little steep too, as well as completely pointless. For £240, she will come round for a couple of hours, speak to you on the telephone for fifty minutes each week and answer your questions by email. Or, you can just join a few lists and support groups and ask all the questions you like for nothing; the choice is yours. This business cashes in on the anxiety which some people feel about visits from the local authority. Instead of allaying these fears, Ms Cashmore exploits them and tries to kid vulnerable parents into thinking that you need the help of a professional to get through a routine meeting with a local authority officer. Just as with Patricia Hope, the name Cashmore seems a little odd, a little too apposite.
There does seem to be a bit of a cottage industry springing up around home education lately. Not that there is any harm in that, but I do have reservations about so many people using the support groups to tout for business. The way that it works is that these people will post pretty pointless comments, often just agreeing with a previous poster and then including a link to the commercial site that they are operating from. I am glad to see that one of the lists which I am on has put a stop to this now.