Monday, 8 August 2011
The extra responsibilities of home educating parents
One of the great things about home education is that you can pretty well claim responsibility for the good things which your child achieves. I don’t just mean academically, but also when their character turns out well. After all, they have been with you for most of the time and so have picked up your ideas on justice and compassion, kindness and respect for the natural world. We can all feel proud about such traits when we observe them in our children. There is a downside to this though. If we accept that we are largely answerable for the good points in our kids, then it follows naturally that we are often to blame for the bad parts as well. Well it should follow, but many home educating parents seem anxious to evade this responsibility.
Let us look at a few practical, real-life examples from my own daughter. She has many sterling qualities, but there are also less attractive aspects of her personality. For instance, she is arrogant and self-opinionated. She swears like a trooper and her knowledge of geography is lamentable. I always assumed that this sort of thing was connected with spending so much time in my company as a child. I focused on science when teaching her and therefore neglected geography. I am a famously hard swearer and am know to be arrogant. Judging by some people’s comments yesterday though, perhaps I am off the hook! Take my daughter’s lack of geographical knowledge. Maybe it is not down to poor teaching on my part. Perhaps there is a psychological block to her learning about the capital cities and principle exports of foreign countries? Could this be geographobia? Or might it be a neurological deficit? I am thinking geographexia. And what about all that swearing? I have always thought it is because as a small girl she spent so much time with a foul-mouthed man, but there could be another explanation. Coprolalia can be a symptom of some psychological disturbances or what about Tourette’s?
I wonder if readers can see yet where I am going with this? Yesterday, I discussed reading and advanced the radical idea that when children do not learn to read, it is generally because they have not been taught or have been taught poorly. Just as with my daughter’s lack of geography, I thought that there would be a link between the level and quality of teaching and the child’s skills and abilities in this particular area. It seems though that some parents do not accept this link. They hunt instead for obscure syndromes which might provide another reason for their children’s difficulties. Here is the way that I look at such claims. Mt daughter’s propensity for swearing may have a neurological basis. If I wanted to claim this, I would need to have hard evidence from psychiatrists, brain scans and so on. It would not really be enough if I were to suggest that her use of bad language or lack of geographical knowledge were caused by a physical disorder of her brain. In the same way, for those who comment here about their children’s supposed neurological disorders I must ask how many have evidence of an organic problem? Several people commented, hinting that their child’s reading difficulties were caused by something other than poor or absent teaching. Have these children had PET scans? Who has come up with the diagnosis? Nine times out of ten, the simplest explanation is the correct one. If a child lacks geographical knowledge or easy facility in literacy; the most likely reason is related to teaching. Only when this has definitely been excluded should we reach for other and rarer causes.