Monday, 20 August 2012
Ostensible and real motives for home educating
Something which I have begun to suspect in recent years is that those who choose not to send their children to school are generally motivated by something a little deeper than the reasons which they give to others. This is certainly the case with me and also with many of the home educating parents who open up about their past lives.
I was looking again at the blog written by the mother who left this country to avoid trouble with social services about her children’s welfare. One entry is written in the third person about a child who, I gather from the comments, is actually her. She says:
Once upon a time there was a 6 year old school-girl...
She was skinny & freckly & a little bit plain & awkward.
She hated school & had few friends. She was always much happier at home.
Sometimes she would be picked on by the other pupils for not being 'typical' or conforming to the 'norms'...
One of those commenting on this, also a well-known British home educator, says,
That could have been me, although they did not know I was bright they criticised all the time and I got two years of the bitchiest teacher going, she picked on and exposed the shy ones
Now neither of these two women have said in the past that they decided to home educate their children because they were themselves unhappy at school. In fact I have never seen or heard of such a claim anyway being made by a home educating parent. It is just that when we do hear home educators mentioning their childhood experiences of school, certain patterns seem to emerge. Typically, these include being unhappy at school, having few friends, being isolated and teachers who fail to recognise genius or at the very least talent and high ability. I am not about to name names, but this constellation of life events has been observed in very many high profile home educators, as well as an awful lot of others.
It is fascinating to relate this to my own experiences and apparent motives for home educating. Now I have often said that I was motivated by the realisation that I could give my child a far better individualised education than she would receive at school. I have also said that I believed that God has given us a duty to direct our children’s upbringing and education. Both of these motives are perfectly true, but they are in a sense ’cover stories’. The fact is that I hated school and did not feel inclined to inflict upon my own daughter something which I found so loathsome and distressing. I have noticed just this same phenomenon in so many other parents. You learn that they took their kid out of school because she was being bullied or had some obscure special educational need that was not being effectively catered for. Then, some time later, it comes to light that the parent herself hated school and was very unhappy there.
The truth of the matter is, I think, that so ingrained in our culture is sending your children off to school, that it takes a little more than a calm and balanced decision to break with the tradition of schooling and decide to go it alone. Very many children are bullied, many are on the autistic spectrum or have school phobia; very few of the parents of these children take the step of removing their child from school entirely as a remedy for the problem. It takes something a little extra to prompt such an eccentric move and this is often provided by the flashbacks suffered by the parent about her own school days.
I would be interested to hear what readers think about this. How many thoroughly enjoyed their time at school and who was unhappy; did anybody feel that her ability was overlooked by the teachers? I am not, as I say, going to give names, but I have collected a huge number of personal reminiscences from different sources which cover practically every well-known home educator or researcher of whom most of us have ever heard. All tend in this same direction.