Many of our friends have children who have not done brilliantly at school from an academic viewpoint. I have noticed that this is, at least according to their parents, because they are sensitive and talented in various areas and so unable to knuckle down to study like all the other kids. None of these children are home educated and yet I have noticed the same attitude appearing frequently on the home education lists and forums; my kid may not have a bunch of GCSEs, but boy is he creative/compassionate/caring/sensitive/talented/concerned. It is almost as though they regard these things as being a consolation prize for failing to pass all those GCSEs and A levels!
As I say, none of the parents I am thinking about here in my personal life are home educators and it is odd that they should have such a similar mindset to many of the home educating parents one encounters on the Internet. I think that this might be more a matter of background and class, rather than schooled or home educated. I have noticed that when the children of working class people I know muff up their GCSEs, their parents usually attribute it to their children’s laziness or lack of intelligence; this never happens with middle class parents. For them, it is because the child is too artistic or musical, loves animals so much or was too busy doing voluntary work. I don’t believe that middle class parents ever have lazy or stupid children; these traits are definitely confined to the working classes.
Now of course I value characteristics such as altruism, honesty and compassion very highly in my daughters. I regard a good ethical system as being at least as important as a grounding in academic subjects. I did not send my daughter to school for two main reasons and both were equally important. One was religious; I wanted her to grow up knowing the Lord and following his wishes as revealed in various scriptures. The other was that I did not trust the local maintained schools to provide an adequate education. An education without a moral code is a terrible thing. Almost as bad as religion which is not backed up by scientific knowledge! I would have been dismayed had my daughter not grown up to be honest and caring, but I certainly did not regard this as a substitute for having academic qualifications. Quite a few people have commented here telling me how wonderfully kind and caring their children are and hinting that this is more important than the kids knowing how a nuclear power station works or understanding the nitrogen cycle. I cannot quite agree with this point of view. Compassion and caring for the environment which are not backed by solid facts can easily be misplaced. There is no point getting involved with campaigns to stop the export of powered baby milk to less economically developed nations unless you know the facts and figures. Similarly, one cannot be opposed to nuclear power unless one fully grasps the difference between ionising radiation and all other types of electro-magnetic radiation.
I am fascinated by the fact that so many parents on the lists and forums speak of their children in precisely the same way as the parents whom I know whose children did attend school. Do more middle class people hang out on these places? Do some of them choose to home educate because they already suspect that their children will not do well at school and are lining up an alibi? Are the main ideologies of British home education shaped by parents whose children are not academic anyway? Could this be why there is often an implied disdain for GCSEs and SATs tests? Do I detect the faint tang of sour grapes in the air? There is no doubt that there is a strong trend of anti-school feeling in the home education scene in this country. I shall explore this idea in another post later this week, because I am sure that there must be a rational explanation for it.