Friday, 20 May 2011

Real reasons for not sending children to school

It is very rare for any course of human action to be taken or adopted for one single reason. There are usually ostensible motives, the ones we reveal to others, but also there frequently exist other, perhaps less creditable explanations for what we do. Often, we do not acknowledge these hidden motives, even to ourselves. Perhaps we arrange for an elderly relative to be admitted to a hospital and then transferred to an old people's home. On the face of it, we are doing what is best for her and reap the credit for being a good niece. In fact, we are thoroughly fed up with going round her house twice a week to attend to her needs. Getting her into an institution may well be in her best interests; but that is not really why we have done it.

Of course, it is not always a case of an apparently altruistic motive concealing a base and ignoble one. It just as often happens that somebody will affect to be callous and hard and will present his actions as being based upon his own self interest, when in fact he is doing a genuine good deed! Humans are very complicated like that.

I was thinking about this recently apropos of home education. In my own case, the explanation which I regularly advance for not having sent my daughter to school is that I could provide her with a far better education at home than she could ever have received at school. This is demonstrably true, but is not really the reason for my failure to enrol her at a school. The truth is that I enjoyed her company tremendously when she was two and three and was very reluctant to deprive myself of it just because she turned five. I was essentially being selfish.

Why do some people choose not to send their children to school? I am sure that there are as many motives for this action as there are home educators, but I also have an idea that these motives fall into several broad categories. One of these is without doubt the same thing which motivated me to home educate. A mother loves her child so much and gets so much pleasure from her daughter or son, that she wishes to hang onto the child and not be deprived of his company during weekdays. There can be varying degrees of this and it can be a positive or negative motive. If it is because the mother really loves being with the child and would miss him; that would be a positive thing. If on the other hand, it is a fear of being left alone all day; this would be a negative reason, not really connected with the child at all.

Quite a few home educating parents have very bad memories of school themselves. Either the teachers failed to recognise their intelligence or the other pupils treated them badly. They are already prejudiced against school and this predisposes them to view schools as bad places. If they do send their children, then at the first hint of a problem they will deregister them. These are parents who are not really making rational decisions, but are the victims of their own pasts. A surprising number of home educators were unhappy or bullied at school and it is an odd coincidence that they go on to claim that their own children suffered similarly. In many cases, this is clearly a projection of their own anxieties onto their children.

However much evidence we manage to produce in support of our decision not to do what everybody else does and send our children to school, it is very often the case that such evidence is not the reason for our action, but merely justification for a decision which we have already taken on other, possibly less rational grounds. We are not and nor should we be purely logical where our children are concerned and there is nothing wrong with making choices based only upon natural love and affection for our offspring.

The trouble might start when the justifications which we produce for not sending our children to school are faulty or do not match up with the available objective evidence. Those opposed to the practice of home education then seize upon such discrepancies and accuse us of having hidden purposes and sinister reasons for wanting to keep our kids at home with us. What are they really up to? Obviously, this is not about the child's education at all! In a sense, they are quite right. Nobody really chooses to spend twenty four hours a day, seven days a week in the company of a toddler or teenager for purely educational reasons. There is always more to it than meets the eye.


  1. What an odd post. I'll limit myself to this one point, I think:

    'A surprising number of home educators were unhappy or bullied at school and it is an odd coincidence that they go on to claim that their own children suffered similarly.'

    A perhaps even more surprising number of home educators were themselves very happy at school and invested in school education in that they became school teachers. They decided to teach their own children at home because the school system they were emotionally invested in, and keen supporters, of FAILED their own children.

    This group is far larger than the group you mention, in my personal experience of 15 years of HE.

  2. I hope the misplaced comma above doesn't upset anyone! :-)

  3. I HE because I am far too lazy to do the school run :D

  4. "The trouble might start when the justifications which we produce for not sending our children to school are faulty or do not match up with the available objective evidence."

    It's a shame that even home educators appear to look at it from this direction. Instead of justifying home education, we should be justifying the use of schools. You were not being selfish, in my view, you were following the natural instincts of humans as mammals to raise and care for their young themselves (within the wider community, of course).

  5. I don't think this is an odd post at all. This is a conversation I frequently have with myself and others. For our family the reasons to HE are many (including the usual objective ones) but at the heart of it it's a natural instinct.

  6. It is very complicated and often different reasons for different children within the same family too.
    I have written a couple of posts on this - this one I often contemplate laminating and handing out to inquisitive strangers

    but I think when you turn it around and justify the status quo the whole thing makes more sense really

    Here is a great quote on that from Jeff

  7. Oooh this post made me think.
    I home ed for the sake of the children, to help meet their needs (SEN, health and general)and to suit their personalities.

    However I would admit to lots of reasons for HEing that arent the main reasons but definitely have come to be the reasons I enjoy it so much.
    1. I rarely have to force my children into clothes before mid-day.
    2. I can take a day off whenever I like, or even stay in bed.
    3. I can change what we are doing, introduce something new and teach whatever I fancy in any way I like
    4. I can filter the information and influences my children have in their lives.
    5. I don't have to meet any kind of standards
    6. I can call anything educational if I feel like it.

  8. Oh Simon love, go with the flow :-). Chill.

  9. Oh Simon love, go with the flow :-). Chill.

    he Cant do that: he is a self-confessed miserable old git