It is no particular secret that British home educators are prone to squabbling among themselves; this happens at both a national and local level. On the national level, there is a constant struggle to be the top dog organisation for home educators. Education Otherwise has held the crown for so many years that others sometimes despair of supplanting it. Every so often, discontented members split off and found their own projects; the Home Education Advisory Service for example or Home Education UK. HE-UK, under the personal control of Mike Fortune-Wood certainly has pretensions to become the leading home education group in the country. The owner of this particular organisation often predicts the imminent downfall of Education Otherwise, but this never actually seems to happen. There are other contenders for the leadership of British home educators. Home Education Forums is one of these. They are so ambitious, that last year they had the cheek to approach Mike Fortune-Wood and suggested that since they were so clearly the market leaders these days, HE-UK should sell them their brand so that they could take over it themselves. Mike Fortune-Wood was singularly unimpressed by this proposal!
This factionalism is also evident at a local level; just look at Somerset. Now before we go any further, and going off at a slight tangent, I have to say that I find something more than a little odd about grown up women who use little-girl names for each other. I have two old friends called Jennifer and Rebecca. I have know them both for many years, but even so if I took the liberty of addressing them as Jenny, Becki or Becks; I strongly suspect that I would get a thick ear. Not so among the home educating parents of Somerset, most of whom seem to be known by endearing little diminutives like Linny and Ali or Tans and Jacs. Yuk! Is this hideously twee or what? Having mentioned Ali, otherwise known as the charming and delightful Alison Edgeley, I cannot help making an observation. When I gave evidence at the select committee in October 2009, there was an outcry because I was no longer apparently a home educator; my daughter having turned sixteen two months earlier. Home education was said no longer to be any of my business. What then shall we say of Alison Edgeley, who hoofed her own children back to school five years ago because they were getting in the way of a new business which she was trying to launch? Five years down the line and she is still mixed up in home education; posting on forums and lists and even making a nuisance of herself anonymously on here.
Now the Somerset home educators are forever falling out with each other and flying at each other throats in a rage. (Metaphorically, you understand. I don’t mean to suggest that the citizens of Frome are having to dodge round furious catfights in the street between brawling home educators!) They exchange angry and tearful telephone calls and emails; constantly falling out and then making up again with hugs and kisses. Last year, Tania Berlow and Jacquie Cox were jointly submitting evidence to Parliament, but today they are at daggers drawn over who is actually teacher’s pet. Both are upset because each thought that she was Alison Sauer’s favourite. This has caused both of them to make spiteful and bitchy comments , not only about each other, but also about various friends and supporters. Linny for instance, a chum of Jacs‘, was so upset by Tans that Jacs had to comfort her with tea and cake.
One of the things about the this bunch that should act as a warning sign to all right-thinking people is that they all of them make a fetish of their honesty, integrity and, most significantly, their ability to speak plainly. Now I have often met men and women who announced that they were outspoken and told it as it was. Men who proclaim, ’I’m John Blunt; I call a spade a spade and don’t have any time for pussyfooting around’. Without exception, such characters turn out to be rude, insulting and abrasive. I have to say that, judging by what I have so far seen, the home educating Linnys , Alis, Tans and Jacs of Somerset seem to fit perfectly into this pattern!