Thursday, 11 August 2011
Home educated prodigies
The history of home education is littered with cases of supposedly brilliant children whose parents were convinced that they would be world champions in some area or another. Sometimes the chosen field is physical; tennis or gymnastics. In other cases it is intellectual; mathematics or chess, for example. Below is a recent piece from The Washington Post about this sort of thing:
I do not think personally that children under the age of fourteen or so are really able to make informed choices about this sort of thing. It often looks as though the parents are fulfilling some need of their own in these experiments. Sometimes, matters seem to turn out well enough, as with the Williams sisters and their tennis. On other occasions, the child’s life seems to have been blighted by the pressure of living up to parental expectations. There is also the unfortunate fact that 99% of children whose parents believe them to be geniuses at tennis, gymnastics, mathematics or chess, turn out after adolescence to be nothing of the sort. This can be very dispiriting for both parent and child. It can also be damaging for the child’s future life. In addition to the loss of self-esteem, having to accustom one’s self to the notion that one is not after all a world champion, there is all the time which has been spent on that one chosen activity to the detriment of the child’s general education.
Home education does seem to be a fertile breeding ground for unbalanced childhoods of this type. Not that they are very common of course, simply that such odd upbringings are possible with home educated children in a way that school would not generally allow. I wonder what the long term prospects are for home educated children who have been raised in this way? I have recently been re-reading Joan Freeman’s book; Gifted Children Growing Up. For those about whom she writes, all of whom went to school, the eventual outcomes seemed to be pretty good. These were children who were objectively very bright. I would be intrigued to know whether the sometimes feverish atmosphere in the homes of the home educated gifted child produces radically different outcomes. Does anybody know of any research on this?