Monday, 6 May 2013
Home educating parents presenting as problem families
I’m afraid that we are fast approaching a time when I will have to abandon this blog for a month or two. This is caused by the pressures of work. Before doing so, I want to spend a couple of posts looking at a question that a number of people have asked here recently. This is why local authorities apparently target home educators wholesale and do not fine tune their attentions so that they are focused more upon the families who actually need help; perhaps those where children are at risk. This is an easy enough question to answer, although the explanation will not be a very agreeable one for many home educating parents. Today I shall look at bullying in this connection and in a day or two we will examine abusive families.
I remarked a few days ago that some home educating parents, whether wittingly or otherwise, seem to mimic the lifestyles and conduct of habitual abusers. I pointed out that this was apt to draw unfavourable attention to them. Many of the characteristics of these families are also uncannily similar to those that one sees regularly in the families of bullies. This is very curious, because of course research indicates that a perhaps a third of home educating parents withdraw their children from school because they are being bullied. Bullying is a very complex phenomenon though and it is sometimes difficult to distinguish the bully from his victims. Yesterday, for instance, my attention was drawn to a boy who had supposedly killed himself because he was being bullied. It seemed an open and shut case, until we learn that he had himself been investigated by the police and social services over allegations that he assaulted a girl and also that he had been accused of violence towards other pupils. Things are seldom as they first appear when you look at bullying.
When I worked with families with difficulties, those with whom I worked and I would sometimes discuss the common factors to be observed in the parents of children with emotional and behavioural problems. I was working with under fives, but we later heard about many of these children and learned how they did at school; usually, very badly. The parents often conformed to a pattern and it was, oddly enough, similar in many ways to the stereotypical abusing parent. They would not keep appointments with health or education professionals, their children often missed their vaccinations, they were ‘difficult to engage’, most did not want anybody coming into their home, they were aggressive and blamed everybody else but themselves for their children’s problems. Later on, they might typically move their child from one school to another; often on the grounds that the kid had been bullied. Now this pattern is well enough known to teachers, social workers and so on. It is, as you might say, a familiar syndrome. Unfortunately, it is also an eerily accurate description of many home educating parents!
One of the interesting things about these parents is that they would often claim that their child was being picked on or bullied at school. Having watched their child as a toddler and three year-old, we often guessed that the boot was on the other foot! So it sometimes proved, because talking to the teachers at the school would occasionally reveal that far from being bullied, little Johnny was in reality an absolute terror to all the other children an d also his teachers.
It is unfortunate that a number of home educating parents should share a profile in this way with the parents of difficult children. I think that what sometimes happens is that rather than professionals being prejudiced against home education as such, they observe many home educating parents and see that they are indistinguishable from the problem parents that they have encountered in the past. I certainly see those similarities myself when reading what some home educators have to say. So what is happening is that social services, teachers and health professionals are, as home educators say that they should, targeting families in specific ways; rather than concentrating on entire groups such as home educators and wasting their resources on them. One of the ways that this is done is to look at the behaviour of parents and see if it matches particular profiles. When it does, then those families receive a little extra attention. It is a matter of regret that quite a few home educating parents present in an almost identical way to the parents of bullies and abused children! I shall expand on this theme in another post in a few days, because there are actually things that parents can do which would help them not fit into this pattern.