One of the great things about educating your child at home is that you have almost complete responsibility for the end product. If the child turns out well, you can take a lot of the credit. After all, you provided the education. The downside is that there is no blaming a school if your kid turns out to be ill educated or badly behaved. Nobody else to blame for the slovenly speech or swearing, no peer pressure as a handy alibi if the child starts taking drugs and so on. What your child becomes is largely down to you. So for example, the fact that my daughter swears like a trooper is because I swear myself and she has been used to hearing this all her life. That she is a bit of a know-it-all probably comes from spending much of her early life with somebody who thinks he is cleverer than anybody else. This is a pretty frightening feeling actually; that most of your child's bad points are directly attributable to your parenting deficiencies! Fortunately, there is a way out of this, a brilliant piece of legerdemain which at a stroke can relieve you of much of the responsibility for all those unattractive traits which you see in your child and are anxious to blame on someone or something else.
My own daughter is a bit clumsy, having a tendency to bang into things and knock them over. Potted plants, vases, cups of coffee; all regularly fall victim to her cack-handed ways. I have always assumed that this was simply because her gross motor skills were not given as much practice when she was little as were her skills at recognising shapes. In other words, if we had played more ball games, spent more time with physical activities rather than reading, then I guess her gross motor skills would have developed a little better. The type of education which I provided is responsible for this. Suppose however that it was a neurological deficit? if that were the case and she suffered from some obscure syndrome like dyspraxia, then I would be completely absolved of responsibility. The fact that she didn't get much practice in the gross motor department would have nothing to do with it. I think we might be onto something here! Another home educating parent actually suggested to me some years ago that my daughter did indeed suffer from dyspraxia. In return, I confirmed her own diagnosis of her son's Asperger's. One hand washes the other! My daughter is also pretty standoffish and impatient with other people. She gives the impression of being a bit stuck up. I had always attributed this to the fact that her father, with whom she spent much of her childhood, is an exceedingly arrogant, rude and abrupt man whose social skills are practically non-existent. I took it for granted that I had set her a bad example in how to conduct herself in society. What though if she was on the high functioning end of the autistic spectrum? That would both explain her behaviour while at the same time letting me off the hook for being partly responsible for it.
This is all very exciting. Kid really badly behaved and rushes around like a mad thing not doing as he is told? Hmmmm, sounds like a case of ADHD to me! Don't worry mum, it's not just that you haven't taught him how to behave properly. He has a special educational need; it's not your fault. Teenage son spends all day in bed? Could be CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome). Child lousy at spelling because you have not given him enough drilling in phonics? Not to worry; maybe he is dyslexic. You see how wonderful this is? Just by uttering the magic letters SEN, poor parenting vanishes like a puff of smoke and is replaced by a medical condition!
In fact with a little bit of research it is possible to explain away all the undesirable behaviour of our children in purely medical terms. This can be a great comfort. Nobody wants to think that they have screwed up badly on the parenting front and as I said above, home educating parents have a heavier burden of responsibility in this department than most. A little judicious use of the autistic spectrum though, coupled with a dash of dyscalculia, dyspraxia and a few random groups of letters like CFS, ADHD and ME can make all the difference between being a slack and ineffectual parent and being a mother bravely soldiering on as the carer of a child with special educational needs. The payoffs are tremendous. Just be sure to stick to self-diagnosis though. Professionals will sometimes cooperate in a dodgy diagnosis of special needs when a child is a registered pupil at a school because there is extra funding to be had. They won't generally play this game with a child who is at home; there's no advantage to anybody. The researchers from Ofsted were amazed at the number of self diagnosed conditions which they encountered last year when they produced their report on local authorities and home education. These were in addition to the children who had been previously classified as having special needs at school. In total, almost half the home educated children they saw had some special need or disability. Almost all were neurological deficits of one sort and another. For some reason, nobody self diagnoses things like blindness or spina bifida. This is probably because it's a bit too easy to spot when the diagnosis is not well founded, whereas with dyslexia or dyscalculia, it's your word against anybody else's.