Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Is home education an educational concern?

My daughter has now gone back to Oxford and I have been musing about the extent to which the concerns of professionals around home education actually involve education itself.  When speaking to teachers, social workers and so on about this subject, it is very noticeable that education itself very seldom comes up during the conversation. This is probably because although teachers, like all other specialists, try to make what they're doing sound very complicated and hard, they know really that any fool can teach a child any subject at all. No, it is not education that tends to be the focus of discussions about home education, but rather the wisdom of keeping a child within the family and not letting her mingle with others for six or eight hours, five days a week.

The question of possible abuse or neglect sometimes comes up in the course of such conversations, but this is more as a theoretically increased risk; it isn't seen as being a huge problem. By far the greatest cause for concern is the extent to which home educated children present as different; which is to say a bit weird and not like other kids of similar age. Many, perhaps most, teachers have come across the occasional home educated child who is now at school or college and they often remark that these children and young people  come across as outsiders, not able to connect with their peers in the same way that those who have attended school from the age of four or five seem to do. It is also observed that the longer children have been out of school, the stranger and less normal they appear to be. This is felt to be a bad thing for the children themselves, making it hard for them to get along with others.

Now I obviously cannot be expected fully to share such feelings and yet there is no doubt at all that there is something in this. Many home educated children have been withdrawn from school because they have been bullied. Often, this bullying has been because they are different in the first place. If the child is then taken from school and kept with the mother for a a few years, it is hardly to be expected that this would have the effect of making him or her more like other children; quite the opposite in fact. 

This then is in my experience the point which most worries professionals, that children who do not attend school tend often to become different from other children of their age. They think differently and behave and talk differently. Parents might find this a pleasing thing, because in many cases their child talks, thinks and behaves more like the parents than he does other children of his age. This cannot help but be flattering to a mother or father! It would be interesting to know what, if any, the implications of this might be when children become adults.  Do they settle down and become like everybody else or do they remain slightly off-beam and perhaps a little eccentric? Is there any correlation between this and the length of time that a child is out of school?  Is it more likely to be the case with children who were deregistered due to bullying? Is some of this perceived strangeness attributable to the relatively high proportion of home educated children on the autistic spectrum? I feel that there is scope here for somebody's thesis or research project.

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