Like many home educating parents, I frequently used to muscle in on school activities at museums, zoos and anywhere else I could manage. Lectures, handling sessions, behind the scenes tours; you name it and I would be there, tagging along with my young daughter and trying to look like all the other teachers. Sometimes, we would get chucked out, often nobody had the nerve to challenge us. Those were great days! There were events organised with schoolchildren in mind to which only a few home educators actually turned up. I remember with particular pleasure the Zimbabwean sculpture workshop at the Natural History Museum in South Kensington. The idea was to make the museum more accessible and attractive for black schoolchildren and so they engaged three Zimbabweans to teach the kids how to carve soapstone using traditional, African methods. They had budgeted for thirty schoolchildren; in the event, nobody at all turned up, apart from five home educating parents and their kids, all of whom were white. This meant that my daughter had virtually one-to-one tuition in sculpting stone for a whole afternoon.
I have been thinking about all this because of the fuss going on on various home education lists and on the Facebook page of the National Schools Film Week. As some home educators will know, this offers free showings of films at cinemas to schoolchildren. Not just schoolchildren, of course, home educated children can also go along if they want; we did ourselves when my daughter was younger. The details of this event may be found here:
Now because this is aimed primarily at schoolchildren and is free, many teachers book up parties of kids to go to see films and then don’t bother to turn up. This is precisely what happened with the Zimbabwean sculpture workshop which I mentioned above. The result might be a cinema opening and showing a film for just three or four children. To prevent this happening, the charity behind this, Film Education, have decided that they want at least ten children at each showing, just to make it worthwhile for everybody to turn up and run the projector and so on. They are also threatening to ’fine’ schools £50 if they book up a sessions and then don’t turn up. Anybody see anything wrong with all this? Of course not, it is perfectly reasonable. Cue the sort of mad response in which some home educators specialise. This is ‘discrimination’ and ‘bias’ against home educators. It is outrageous, how dare they try and prevent home educated children from joining in this event!
See what happens when you try to get home educators to follow exactly the same rules as everybody else? The comments on the face book page are now boiling over with rage and people are threatening legal action against the charity. You couldn’t, as they say, make it up! On the HE-UK list, people are being urged to bombard the charity’s website with angry messages. There is also a bizarre suggestion that the Charity Commission should be contacted. Let’s see what the stated aim of the charity is, according to the information which they supplied to the Charity Commission:
FILM EDUCATION PROVIDES FREE, CURRICULUM-BASED RESOURCES WHICH TEACHERS USE TO TEACH VARIOUS SUBJECTS THROUGH THE MEDIUM OF FILM. FILM EDUCATION ALSO PRODUCES FREE FILM SCREENING PROGRAMMES FOR SCHOOLCHILDREN, MOST NOTABLY NATIONAL SCHOOLS FILM WEEK.
See the mention of teachers and schoolchildren? This is because the charity is really concerned with schools. They don’t mind home educated children joining in the activities, but on the same terms as everybody else. Which is of course sheer anathema for many home educating parents…
It is idiots like this who give home education the bad name which it has with many ordinary people who might otherwise feel well disposed or at least neutral towards the idea. Instead of just jogging along and working the system like everybody else, they always seem to need special consideration. The rules never apply for them. Whether it is attending free cinema performances, provision of which is now being treated by some of these clowns as some sort of human right, or getting places at a further education college; they must never be expected to conform to the same standards as the rest of the world. No wonder so many people grow weary of their antics and get the impression that all home educators are either bloody-minded barrack-room lawyers or else frankly just raving mad.