Thursday, 2 December 2010

Having our children at home

The position of home educating parents is very plain. They like their children, enjoy their company and want to spend as much time with them as they possibly can. Unfortunately, in today's society, this sounds pretty weird!

Hovering constantly on the edge of all the debate about home education is the unspoken assumption that no normal parent could possibly wish to have a toddler or teenager with her all day long. There must be something funny going on. After all, the natural order of things is that almost as soon as children are able to walk and talk, they are packed off to nurseries and then schools, so that strangers may look after them. Going against this trend has the effect of making a parent look anxious, neurotic and possibly abusive. Of course, this idea, that the state should be the ones who takes care of children for a lot of the time, is itself a pretty recent one. But so common is the practice now, that anybody who does not subscribe to this view cannot help but be seen as rebel and a crank, if not actually a potential abuser. It was for this reason that the terms of reference for the Badman review of elective home education had little in them about education as such. The focus was definitely upon the sort of things that parents would be doing with and to their children if they were not safe at school.

Home educators respond to these fears by pointing out that their children are thought to be safe enough with their parents until they are five, safe at weekends, safe during the long Summer holidays. Why on earth should they not be thought to be safe and not at risk of abuse if they are at home at other times; for instance during the day on Monday to Friday? If they are safe with their mother on Saturday and Sunday, why are they suddenly at hazard as soon as Monday arrives? If they are safe at home until their fifth birthday; what changes at that magical age which puts them at increased risk of harm?

Part of the difficulty here is that Health Visitors, social workers and other professionals adopt the prevailing paradigm and then view anybody who does not subscribe to it as a dangerous maniac. The parent who ignores the Health Visitor's advice to take her child to a playgroups is apt to find herself being marked down in the records as neurotic and the phrase 'separation anxiety' making an appearance! When the current wisdom was that babies should be laid to sleep on their faces, lest they choke to death on their own vomit, some parents refused to follow this new fashion. Rightly so, as it greatly increases the chance of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. This obstinacy infuriated the Health Visitors and many mothers were noted to be uncooperative, over-anxious and negligent of their baby's welfare.

This position of home educating parents, as regards to wishing to spend all day with their children, my be contrasted with yesterday's piece, which pointed out the fears of education professionals that children would be at risk if not seen regularly. Both sides have valid points of view and both are probably a bit right and a bit wrong.


  1. A classic example of Simon writing something that has no value or interest to anyone just because he feels that he should put something up every day.
    There is nothing here that is not already well known, no insight, no thesis apart from some views are 'a bit right and a bit wrong'.

    Wow!. Thanks for that Simon.

    Have a day off now and again and come back with something better.


  2. The point being of course that home educating parents habitually behave as though they are right and local authorities are wrong, whereas the local authorities behave as though they are right and it is parents who are wrong. It is always worth reminding ourselves that in any acrimonious debate, whether it be a divorce or discussion of home education, both sides have valid points which the other side would do well to take notice of.

  3. Sometimes in a debate one side is just plain wrong and have no valid points.
    You are just plain wrong, for instance, to assert that in any acrimonius debate both sides will have valid points.
    In many debates, yes, maybe even in most or nearly most, but not all.