Monday, 18 July 2011

Associating with other home educators

Something which has been said of me in the past, and the same idea cropped up yesterday, was that I have not had much to do with other home educators and base my opinions mainly on what I read on Internet lists and forums. This notion says little about me and my life, but a great deal about the attitudes of those making the suggestion. I think that what people who make such assertions are really saying is that there is an Education Otherwise group which meets in North London and a strong home educating scene in Colchester. Because I have not been a member of either set; I cannot have met many home educating parents in real life. This shows a very strange and distorted perspective of home education.

It is true that there are quite a number of groups for home educating parents and that thousands of people belong to them. It is also the case that many more home educators simply get on with the business of home educating without joining groups or making any effort to seek out other home educating parents. I am one such person. Nevertheless, one way and another, I have still come across many home educators while teaching my daughter. Some of these were parents with whom I had professional dealings. This sample were not really typical of anything other than dysfunctional families in Inner London and may perhaps be disregarded for our purposes. How else does somebody who avoids groups get to meet home educators? Well, one bumps into them at meetings of the National Association for Gifted Children, to give one example. We used to belong to this and there is no shortage of home educators at some events and activities. One meets other parents with ‘school age’ children out and about locally and soon realises that these children too are home educated. We have got to know people in this way. A couple of our friends were so impressed with what they saw of my daughter’s experience that they tried it for themselves. This did not work out too well, although one persevered for a year before admitting defeat. Belonging to HEAS and Education Otherwise provided lists of individual parents who could be telephoned and arrangements made to meet up. Many of these parents too did not attend meetings. Finally, because my daughter and I have the habit of appearing in newspapers both local and national, some parents approach me in the street and reveal that they have just taken their children out of school and seek my advice.

Without knowing how many home educated children there are in the country and also knowing the number that attend groups intended exclusively for home educated children, one cannot make any confident statements about the matter, but I strongly suspect that the majority of home educators do not belong to groups. I think that most home educating parents simply plough their own furrow, neither seeking out nor avoiding other home educators. In other words, I think that I am pretty typical in this respect. The great thing about home education is that it is a collection of individuals of all sorts, linked only by the practice of home education. There are of course trends and distinct strands, but there is no such thing as a typical home educator. I might have something in common with other church goers or people who read Sartre and Camus. In the same way, I might have something in common with another person who does not send her child to school. However just because I share one interest with a person, church-going or home edcucting, does not mean that this is somebody with whom I will get on. We may well have very little else to connect us. I never thought of home edcuation as being in any way a defining chracteristic of mine. It was simply what I did and there was no reason why it should provide any sort of link to or common ground with others. For some parents though, it was more like a hobby or shred interest, something like birdwatching ot supporting a particular football team. These people joined together into clubs to meet others who shared their enthusiasm for the pursuit. This is fine, but it is not how I ever worked. I suspect that those who accuse me of not having met many home edcuators in real life belong to this group of people.

43 comments:

  1. I'd say that home educating gives me a shared experience with other home educators and that makes it rather different to groups of friends with whom I share just an interest. A big part of that is that my family belongs to a couple of groups where people work together to facilitate shared experiences for our children. This obviously brings both parents and children together on a regular basis. The common ground lies in the creation of the shared experiences. We don't necessarily have a massive amount in common in other areas of our lives (though sometimes we do) but the joining together (and making commitments to each other) makes connections.

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  2. I think most people would care little about the amount of contact you have with other home educators if you didn't set yourself up as an expert on home education. It sounds as though you have avoided contact with various large groups within home education.

    Obviously, other home educators also get to meet the odd home educator by random chance, just as you have. But many of us also meet hundreds of others from around the country at meetings, events and camps. One would think that someone who writes a book, blog and articles on HE would at least attempt to meet a wider range of home educators in person before doing this if only in the interest of research, so they can at least claim with some confidence that they know what they are talking about. But no, you seem to prefer some caricature of an 'average' home educator built from the odd meeting here and there and eavesdropping on email lists. This certainly explains some of your stranger ideas and why 'your' home educator bears little resemblance to those I've met.

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  3. 'if you didn't set yourself up as an expert on home education.'

    Have I done this? I have certainly had an interest in the topic for forty years or so; I'm not sure though that this makes me an 'expert'!


    'One would think that someone who writes a book, blog and articles on HE '

    You do realise Anonymous, that there is nothing to prevent you yourself from writing a book or articles about home education or keeping a blog about it? If you feel that you could make a better job of it than me, then why not do so?

    Simon.

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  4. It's not about doing a better job than you Simon, it's about NOT doing it when you haven't done the basic field research, yet lead people who read your work to assume you have broad knowledge on the subject. Clearly you don't. I liken this with the "guidelines posse" who also don't speak for my family and our style of home education.

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  5. 'yet lead people who read your work to assume you have broad knowledge on the subject.'

    Have you actually read the book? I am a bit puzzled here at what you are driving at. You seem to be saying, if I understand you correctly, that people should not write books on physics unless they have personally interviewed physicists. Similarly, I suppose, books on the mineral composition of the moon should only be written by one of the dozen or so men who have actually been there. This is a very strange view of writing and publishing and one which, if generally adopted, would revolutionise the industry!

    Simon.

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  6. Simon wrote,
    "You seem to be saying, if I understand you correctly, that people should not write books on physics unless they have personally interviewed physicists."

    If the writer claimed knowledge of the physicists views, yes. Your publishers claims about you book include:

    "discusses why more and more parents are choosing not to send their children to school.....Exploring the background of the home education debate....to the desire of autonomously educating parents to be left completely alone...this objective survey of the current state of play ...The author identifies key areas of conflict between home educators and local authorities and suggests ways that these can be resolved to everyone's satisfaction."

    Not sure how you can achieve this without talking to many home educators. One of your chapters is titled, 'What are the home educators and what do they do?'. How would you know, especially since you make the point that little research has been carried out in the UK?

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  7. "Similarly, I suppose, books on the mineral composition of the moon should only be written by one of the dozen or so men who have actually been there."

    But an author writes about their experience on the moon, I would expect to author to at least talk to them.

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  8. But *if* an author writes about their experience on the moon, I would expect to author to at least talk to them.

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  9. 'Your publishers claims about you book include'

    Impossible to discuss with you a book which you have not read!

    Simon.

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  10. Why? These are the claims your publisher makes in order to entice people to buy. Are these claims false? Do you include this information in your books, or do you just say, it would be interesting to know these things, but I don't know because no research has been done and I haven't done any research myself? This information is either in your book (as your publisher claims), or it isn't. Which is it?

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  11. 'Do you include this information in your books,'

    As I say, it is not really possible to discuss with you a book which you are either unable or unwilling to read. Why not write a book of your own about home edcuation; one which would get your own views across?

    Simon.

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  12. Yes or no. Are the claims are false or misleading? If not, you've obviously based the information on previous research (which you rubbish elsewhere), occasional contacts with the odd home educator here and there, and email lists. Can't see any other option.

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  13. 'Yes or no. Are the claims are false or misleading?'

    Your debating style is aggressive and hectoring; I seldom respond well to such tactics. Read the book and then come back to me with specific criticisms.

    Simon.

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  14. You don't really try to sell your book, do you? I may be aggressive and hectoring, but at least I don't make random claims in national newspapers that people are abusing their children when I have not spent time with them and obviously know little about them.

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  15. I see visits to you blog are declining. Time for some personal attacks against home educators along with evidence of your eavesdropping activities in order to stir things up and get people back?

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  16. Simon wrote,
    "Read the book and then come back to me with specific criticisms."

    What's wrong with criticising discrepancies between a publishers claims for a book and the lack of relevant experience as admitted by an author? Don't need to read the book if it's the publishers blurb that's being criticised, surely?

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  17. Very amusing. So he's no longer home educating, has only met one or two home educators, has badly written a book about home education, spends each and every day blogging about home educators he doesn't know, hasn't met and knows nothing about and his views on home education aren't actually liked or respected by home educators. Is it time for Simon to get a new hobby?

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  18. While clubs, camps and events serve there purpose for home educators, more so the parents than children I feel at times. Personally I find them a chore around where we live in Fishguard, some you can only attend if you have a personal invite and then fit the ethos of tree hugger and the child is a free spirits to bloom when ready, hmm! Ok.
    I just like to get on with things my way and mention the word " School " without being made to feel I've committed blasphemy.
    For me the best social contact and friends we've made as a family have been random meeting.
    Maybe it just where we live and lack of clubs that create this elitist attitude, I for one avoid it and create our own social events.
    AMY.

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  19. Re anonymous saying '... his views on home education aren't actually liked or respected by home educators.'

    I know Simon-slagging is practically a HE hobby, but how do you know he isn't liked or respected by home educators? I imagine the overwhelming majority of them are in blissful ignorance of his existence and still manage to live full and fulfilling lives. He's like marmite. You either like him or you don't, and if you don't, then no one is forcing you to read what he writes.

    For the record, I don't know Simon, so I don't know if I like or respect him. Nor would I expect to on the basis of reading a blog or posts on a list. Even when I don't agree with him, I admire him for being so willing to stick his head up above the parapet and tell it as he sees it rather than being bullied into orthodoxy.

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  20. "You either like him or you don't, and if you don't, then no one is forcing you to read what he writes."

    No, but it's great that there are so many willing to take the time to correct his worst errors.

    "I admire him for being so willing to stick his head up above the parapet and tell it as he sees it rather than being bullied into orthodoxy."

    True. Just a shame that he felt the need to call autonomous educators abusers of children in order to do this. We should be able to put our views forward without suggesting that those we disagree with are causing incalculable damage to their children, especially when it turns out he knows so little about them and their methods.

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  21. Anon said - 'True. Just a shame that he felt the need to call autonomous educators abusers of children in order to do this. We should be able to put our views forward without suggesting that those we disagree with are causing incalculable damage to their children, especially when it turns out he knows so little about them and their methods.'

    I haven't read every word he's written, so could please you post a link to the piece where he's explicitly called autonomous educators abusers of children? Then I can compare it with the accusations I have read about him on multiple websites. At the moment, all I'm seeing is an unknown number of people who are responding to a debate by attacking the person raising the point rather than dissecting what he's saying.

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  22. Assuming you believe that causing children incalculable harm and denying them their right to an education is abuse (and I do), try this article:

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/schools/simon-webb-we-must-get-tough-on-home-schooling-1764348.html

    He clearly has had very limited contact with home educators and seems to have gained most of his 'insight' from web sites (that he selectively quotes) and email lists. Hardly good sources!

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  23. I don't like or agree with the article, but I wouldn't define 'denying their right to an education' as abuse.

    Not only don't I get how you'd stop a child learning, learning is a lifelong process so even if you somehow managed it, the child could choose to learn when he/she became an adult. Nor do I see any point in the article where he mentions the word 'abuse'.

    Ironic, isn't it? A few days back I was suggesting that he shouldn't use emotive words out of their correct context. Now I'm defending him even though I don't agree with him.

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  24. "I don't like or agree with the article, but I wouldn't define 'denying their right to an education' as abuse."

    Causing incalculable harm isn't enough for you?

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  25. This line is full of errors,

    "The most popular educational method used by those who withdraw their children from school in this country is known as autonomous education and involves nobody teaching children anything at all!"

    AE is certainly not the most popular education HE method Even research carried by an autonomous educator only came up with 17%. AE can and invariably does involve teaching.

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  26. 'Assuming you believe that causing children incalculable harm and denying them their right to an education is abuse (and I do), try this article:'

    This old chestnut (again!). It is pretty common to read in academic journals that some practice or other connected with children will cause them 'incalculable harm' or result in 'long-lasting damage'. All that the author really means by this is that he does not personally approve of whatever it is that he is describing. So an opponent of the practice of mixed ability teaching might say that it causes incalculable harm to the children upon whom it is used. So it was in the case of the article quoted above. It does not mean that the person writing thinks that those teaching in this way are abusers!

    'He clearly has had very limited contact with home educators and seems to have gained most of his 'insight' from web sites (that he selectively quotes) and email lists.'

    One might in an article of this sort mention something which a man in the pub told one, but that gives the piece a rather anecdotal air. By quoting an account to be found on the website of the largest home educating group in the country, I was showing that this type of education was accepted to be a mainstream trend in British home education.


    Simon.

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  27. No, because incalculable means that you can't calculate it. That means that it could be infinite or zero, or it could be any number in between. So what he is actually saying, whether or not he meant to, is that we do not know how much (if any) harm this causes a child. He's the one who wants and likes statistics, and discounts any view not backed up by them, so I'm discounting his view too.

    I'm much more annoyed with him over 'denying their right to an education', because what I suspect he meant was 'denying their right to learn in the way I think is best.'

    And I'm enjoying this much more than I did his post...

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  28. Odd how the standards for what is said about teaching methods alter according to whether it is school or home education being discussed. When I mentioned a recent BBC programme on primary schools, there was general agreement here that the practice of sitting a quiet, studious pupil next to one who was disruptive, was likely to harm the education of the child who wished to learn. We none of us found it necessary to describe the teachers as 'abusers'; it simply seemed that they were not following a very good course of action. When I make an observation about some type of home education which seems to me to be similarly ineffective or harmful, I am apparently accusing those using it of 'abuse'. This is absurd.

    Simon.

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  29. Brilliant! And I never said Simon isn't liked and respected. I was very careful to NOT say that lol. I specifically said his views ;)

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  30. 'Brilliant! And I never said Simon isn't liked and respected. I was very careful to NOT say that lol. I specifically said his views ;)'

    Good point. Drat. Will read more carefully next time! Some people still might like and respect his views though. I do some of the time and when I don't it's still useful it makes me think about what I'm doing and thinking and why. Sort of along the lines of the old adage of always vote against people at elections if you're not sure who to vote for! Some of my best decisions have come from saying 'well, I'm not doing THAT!!!'

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  31. "No, because incalculable means that you can't calculate it. That means that it could be infinite or zero, or it could be any number in between."

    Yes, I agree with you technically, but it's clear from the rest of the article that Simon believes that the level of harm is high. It's also clear from the article that he did not understand autonomous education at all (or was purposely misrepresenting it) and it has since become clear that he has met very few home educators in person, but less informed readers would not know this. And whilst 'abuse' may be a little strong, he is at the very least accusing these parents of neglect.

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  32. "When I mentioned a recent BBC programme on primary schools, there was general agreement here that the practice of sitting a quiet, studious pupil next to one who was disruptive, was likely to harm the education of the child who wished to learn."

    I would call this neglect on the part of the teacher, and also the parent if they allowed this to continue after seeing the programme. Luckily the teacher said that she had stopped this practice after seeing the film. Obviously she recognised the issue and acted on her new knowledge - something to praise.

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  33. "It is pretty common to read in academic journals that some practice or other connected with children will cause them 'incalculable harm' or result in 'long-lasting damage'. "

    But this wasn't in an academic journal, so it sounds as though you were writing for the wrong audience.

    "By quoting an account to be found on the website of the largest home educating group in the country, I was showing that this type of education was accepted to be a mainstream trend in British home education."

    How does it show this? It was one of several articles showing different styles and no statistics were given or suggested. Research shows that AE is a minority approach. You then selectively quoted from the article, missing out anything that would be viewed as educational by mainstream readers.

    You say in the article, "my daughter and I welcomed the representative of our LEA into our home once a year to show what we had been doing, but many parents are determined not to allow the LEA any access to their homes", yet elsewhere you claim that you grudgingly allowed them to visit a couple of times about 18 months apart (if I'm remembering correctly). What actually happened re. visits?

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  34. You claim in the article that for many children, HE is the end of their education. How many is 'many', in your view?

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  35. This isn't meant as sarky in any way, but could anyone tell me what autonomous education is? I've heard it described and defined in a lot of different ways since I started HE part time 7 years ago and full time 4 years ago, and I'm wondering if there is an 'official' description.

    I'm curious because my children have timetables, textbooks and targets, by their request and, increasingly, drawn up by them. What does that make me? (Apart from buried under a pile of marking which I really shouldn't be avoiding by commenting here as much as I have been. And yes, they want it marked. They also really like the 'super' and 'great' stamps which I was given as a joke.)

    It must look like a classic example of 'school at home' but I don't remember any school where you could stop for a run in the garden or get a snack when you felt like it. Or choose the order of the lessons and have a say in the content.

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  36. http://www.home-education.org.uk/articles/article-autonomous-education.pdf

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  37. "I'm curious because my children have timetables, textbooks and targets, by their request and, increasingly, drawn up by them. What does that make me?"

    If the children have a completely free choice and this is the way they choose, it's autonomous education. Ours looked like this at various point too!

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  38. Simon claims (in written evidence to Government) that in his experience, many children are not receiving a suitable education at home. Shame he didn't care enough to notify the LA.

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  39. "If the children have a completely free choice and this is the way they choose, it's autonomous education. Ours looked like this at various point too"

    I wouldn't say a completely free choice so can I be semi-autonomous? Or is that like being a little bit pregnant? Seriously, it's something I've been wondering about for a while. What we've got is a bit like university without the student union bar but with the American concept of a few required choices amongst their free choices.

    And thanks for the link to Mike Fortune Wood too. Definitely food for thought.

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  40. "Or is that like being a little bit pregnant?"

    LOL, yes, I think so. I would call your style a mixed parent/child-led approach, and Mike FWs research found that this is by far the majority approach amongst home educators in the UK. A minority follow a completely child-led approach (autonomous) and a smaller minority are completely parent led. From what he's said, Simon falls within the middle/majority range too.

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  41. PS, a small point, the article is by Jan FW.

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  42. Thanks for the correction re the Fortune-Wood article. (Again not sarky. I know how infuriating it is to have work misattributed.) I made the basic and silly mistake of seeing the mast head and assuming. I like the description too. So much better than my usual one of 'pick and mix' education!

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  43. This blog is bitter and vile, and does much more harm to home education than good. It doesn't help that it comes from a narrow minded, misinformed and jaded point of view. Please stop communicating with the government pretending that you represent ANYBODY in Home Education circles. You do not. Horrid man.

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