One of the things which those who are not home educating parents sometimes fail to realise is that an awful lot of home educators are very odd people who think completely differently from everybody else. It is not as though home educators are simply a random cross-section of the population who simply failed to send their kids to school. Many home educators conform to a particular type. This does not mean that they are all left wing or all atheists or anything like that. There are many Christian home educators and also many who, if they lived in the USA would probably be anti-Federal Government survivalists. They are all of a type though to the extent that they reject the government's right to intervene in the lives of their families except in the direst need and with clear evidence of neglect and abuse. Those who feel this way can be socialists or fascists, Christians or atheists; this desire to avoid government interference is their common feature.
School and nursery and all that goes with it permeate the lives of most families to such an extent that they hardly notice it. It is like the water surrounding a fish; it is just a fact of life. Government busybodying goes with this way of life as a given. The government gets worked up about climate change, they force it into the curriculum and the result is odious little prigs coming home from school and shouting at their parents because they have left the light on and so are destroying the planet. This might seem like a trivial example, but it is one way that those with children at school find the government poking their nose in. Some parents feel strongly that abstinence from sexual activity is a good thing for teenage children. The government arrange that school nurses will hand out contraceptives and arrange abortions. They also set up the sex education classes in such a way as to avoid criticising early sexual activity. This is another way that the government interferes in family life. As I say, this is simply a background which most parents hardly notice. The government becomes a third parent to their children and they seemingly accept it without question.
Home educators, whether they are devout Christians or rabid atheists, do not approve of government interference in their lives and those of their children. They see it happening and wish it to stop. Now the difficulty is that although the government can be exceedingly annoying and have a habit of sticking their noses in where they have no business and are not wanted, they also have duties to fulfil. In this country, we cannot do what we will with our children. Whether they are at school or home, certain laws apply to them all. They must not be beaten or starved, for instance. Nor must they be murdered or married off at the age of nine. They must be educated between the ages of five and sixteen. The attitude of most home educators about this sort of thing is very straightforward and seems to them to be blindingly obvious. Only if evidence emerges that a child is being starved or her education neglected have the state any right to take an interest in the matter. Otherwise, it should be assumed that parents are the best judges of their children's interests and should be left alone to get on with the job. For many in ordinary society, used as they are to involvement with the school nurse, Health Visitor and so on, this is an odd notion. They cannot see why home educating parents would mind a local government apparatchik asking them about their kid's education or diet. After all, schools routinely confiscate unhealthy food from pupils' lunchboxes, they hand out condoms, monitor the education of the children; surely that is normal? Why are home educators so precious about these things?
I do not think that there can ever be a satisfactory resolution to some of the things which irritate home educating parents. Their worldview is so completely different from that of parents who send their kids to school, that they might as well be speaking different languages. I find myself torn between these two points of view. Most of my friends are teachers and social workers and their concerns are very real. They are not actuated by malice, but by genuine concern for the welfare of children. In general, the same can be said of local authority officers and those working for the Department for Education. They set up a marvellous system for the benefit of children, a system which provides them with all that they could possibly require and then a handful of cranks not only refuse all these benefits but go mad and threaten legal action if you so much as ask after their kid's welfare! They must be mad. I would be curious to know how this will ultimately work out. Will the government and local authorities back off and abandon any attempt to monitor children who are not at school? Or will the prevailing common view become codified in law and enforced on home educating parents against their wishes? It is an interesting point.