I have remarked before that talking to some home educators is rather like passing through the looking-glass with Alice and entering a world where everybody thinks and acts in the opposite way that they would in the real world. Take the expression 'a broad and balanced curriculum' in connection with the education of children. Over the last few days I have been asking people whom I meet in the course of my everyday life whether or not they think this is good thing and something which all parents should hope that their children receive. I have asked the women at the checkout in the local supermarket, a couple of people at bus stops, friends, colleagues, home educating parents and various other people. I have to report that every single person to whom I spoke thought this a good and desirable idea and nobody could think of any bad points to it.
The reason that a 'broad and balanced curriculum' is thought to be a good thing is that without it, a child's education might become lopsided. I see this in the orthodox Jewish community in Stamford Hill. There are some good schools, such as the Lubavitch place, but many children study nothing at all but scripture. Most of feel that this is unhealthy and that the kids would do better to be learning about a few things other than what the Bible said about mixing linen and wool fibres in your clothing. One of the most important cases for home educators, that which helped define what we mean by a 'suitable' and 'efficient' education, came of course from this community; R v Secretary of State for Education and Science, ex parte Talmud Torah Machzeikei Hadass School Trust.
Certainly for my own daughter, I thought it very important to provide such a curriculum; to ensure that she studied art as well as literature, music as well as science, that she swam and rode as well as learning about algebra. As I say, most people feel that way. I was therefore astonished to see Fiona Nicholson, formerly of Education Otherwise, objecting strongly to the inclusion of this passage in the Department for Education's section on home education;
'parents do not have to follow the National Curriculum. However, parents should deliver a broad and balanced curriculum'
Apparently a barrister, of all unlikely people, is now working on this and the hope is that the DfE will stop encouraging parents to ensure that their children receive a broad and balanced curriculum in their education. This renders all comment superfluous and simply confirms that many home educators are actually thinking and acting in a way that is completely at odds with practically everybody else in modern British society. No wonder the DfE feels minded to introduce new regulations without reference to their sensitivities if this is the sort of mindset from which they work.