Writing a book is a thankless task. One spends months researching, writing, revising, preparing the index, listing all the references, proof reading and so on and the whole thing takes ten times longer than you could possibly imagine. Then when it is published, people either don't buy it or those who do, read it and say that it is lousy! It is perhaps inevitable, to say nothing of depressingly predictable, that home educators should seek to turn this natural sequence of events back to front and begin their criticism and condemnation before the book has been published and read. This saves them the trouble of reading the thing I suppose, but when in addition they expect the author to set up and run a correspondence course in academic referencing systems, one somehow feels that the limit has definitely been reached.
Yesterday I had the fascinating experience of observing the convoluted mental processes of some very odd people. A number of them seemed to be aggrieved about a book which they had not yet read and of which they could know absolutely nothing. Nevertheless, the criticism was as serious as that of practically any book of which I have ever heard. The accusation that I am persecuting people by thinking about home education, for instance. One unfortunate person claimed that;
'Anyone that cynically writes a book purely for financial gain which it claims “identifies key areas of conflict between home educators and local authorities and suggests ways that these can be resolved to everyone's satisfaction” and then denies persecution of Home Educators is either demented or delusional.'
This was in response to a post which I made about the mental health of some home educating parents. That anybody could possibly see identifying key areas of conflict between home educators and local authorities as persecution tells us a good deal about this person's own mental state. Another comment said in connection with this, as yet unpublished, book;
' When a Judicial Review of Metropolitan Police Force policy finds against them for discrimination and persecution'
That is two posts in quick succession made by people who feel that either I or the Metropolitan Police are persecuting them. Fairly typical of a certain type of home educating parent, one might say, and pretty ironic in view of the topic of the original post upon which they were commenting!
Others had different concerns. Several people felt that I had written the thing under false pretences, because I was;
'claiming to be part of the HE community (that's your position of authority for writing this book isn't it?)'
This is such mad nonsense that it is hard to know how to respond. The blurb on the cover says it all;
'Simon Webb educated his daughter at home and has a blog on home schooling. He has also worked for many years with children who have special educational needs.'
Hmmm, no mention there of the home educating community. I cannot imagine who is making all this stuff up. If this is the reaction before it even hits the shops, the good Lord alone knows what people will be saying when they actually read the thing!
I think it worth making two points. Firstly, I asked several times on this blog whether anybody would be interested in contributing to a chapter on autonomous education. My original idea was that autonomous educators could have a chapter in which they expressed their views in their own words and that local authorities could have a chapter in which they stated their opinions. This could be followed with a chapter in which the two parties tried to find common ground. Nobody was the slightest bit interested in this and I gained the distinct impression that the parents both here and on the main Internet lists did not want to have their views publicised in this way. That is fine, but I can hardly be blamed when I am then compelled to put the case for autonomous education myself. Since this book is really aimed at education professionals rather than the lay reader, it means that I have had to explain autonomous education to teachers, local authority officers and so on in my own words. I would have preferred autonomous educators to put the case themselves. It is no good complaining at this late stage about the book; I tried to get others involved, but nobody wanted anything to do with it.
The second point is this. There is absolutely nothing to stop anybody from writing a book about home education themselves and finding a publisher for it. I cannot see why so many people are fretting now about how I have referenced the thing and what my views are. If people want to write a book about autonomous education, there is nothing to stop them doing so. It is true, as somebody pointed out yesterday, that Jan Fortune-Wood has written books on this subject, but these are a little outdated and peculiar. I feel sure that there is scope for something about the modern home educating scene written from an autonomous viewpoint and published by a proper publisher; something which major bookshops will stock. I am not really the man to do this. I have written a book from the standpoint of a highly structured home educator. This was only to be expected. I honestly cannot see why this would irritate anybody. There are currently books about autonomous home education and I have never felt persecuted by them! I feel that the field is open for a new book on this and perhaps instead of bitching about the fact that I have actually bothered to write a book, some of those commenting yesterday could write one of their own?