One of the things which tends to make discussion with home educating parents a little heavy going at times is that they often seem to take a debating point about their philosophy as an attack on their parenting skills or general lifestyle. This is I suppose inevitable. As parents, we are naturally sensitive about any implied criticism of the way that we raise our children. When we have chose a somewhat bizarre and heterodox method for bringing up our children, we are bound to be on the lookout for anybody suggesting that it actually is a bizarre and heterodox method!
Somebody commenting yesterday made an observation which others have hinted at but been perhaps too inarticulate to put into words. She said;
' You seem always to put the worst possible interpretation onto things people say.'
This is not at all how I would put the case, but one quite sees what she means by this. Having established what general principle somebody professes adherence to, I exhibit the logical consequences of following that particular belief system. Or, to be exact, I exhibit the possible logical consequences. This does not of course mean that when I show what might follow from sticking strictly to some ideology of child rearing, I assume that this is what really does happen; only that it might and is not forbidden by the system under discussion. The reason that I do this is simple. Most of those who come onto this blog and comment here are perfectly reasonable people who raise their children as responsibly and sensibly as anybody else. They provide them with an education and care for them efficiently. As a matter of fact, I doubt whether any non-home educating parent would be able to tell the difference between the methods which I used to educate my child and the methods which autonomous parents use! In both cases, there is heavy emphasis upon conversation as the primary tool of instruction and a good deal of the education takes place out and about, rather than actually in the home.
What concerns me and what I try to show, is what could result from somebody taking the ideas which are being talked about here and applying them without really understanding what they are doing. I believe that this could result in the neglect of a child's education. Note that I am not saying that it will result in such a neglect, only that it might. Of course, it might be argued that any philosophy or educational method can be misused and some of those who have commented here certainly claim that a strictly followed scheme of formal education in the home might have ill effects for the child. This is why I was asking recently whether anybody had seen such a thing, that is to say formal education at home which does the child harm.
When I point out what may follow from somebody's educational philosophy, this is not at all the same thing as telling them that their educational philosophy is wrong or dangerous. It is more pointing out that it is possible to be misunderstood or misused. The question to ask is, 'How common is that?'. How frequently does the idea of intrinsic motivation as applied to home education result in a poor education or none at all? Some local authorities believe that this is a common occurrence. Autonomous educators would say that it is rare. Without doubt, one sees people posting on some of the home education forums who really seem to have the wrong end of the stick and whom one strongly suspects are not providing much of an education for their children. I have encountered such parents myself. Most of them follow a misunderstood version of autonomous education. What interests me greatly is whether or not anybody has seen a similar thing happening with structured education. In other words, has anybody witnessed structured education causing harm to a child's education? This would be a very good thing to discuss. Can standard theories of education cause harm to a child's education when conducted at home?