Monday, 4 November 2013
Why home education makes some people uneasy
One of the strangest things which I observed, when once people noticed that I wasn’t going to be sending my daughter to school, was that other parents often appeared to take my course of action as a reproach to them. Of course, nothing could have been further from the truth; I honestly didn’t care where people sent their children to be educated, it was none of my business. But for some reason, it really bugged a number of people. Spontaneously, people we knew would launch into an explanation of why they thought that schools were the best way of providing an education for children and then, in the next breath, justify their decision by telling me how busy they were and how it would have been impractical for them to educate their own children. As if I cared! I have never been in the least evangelical about home education and indeed, I avoided the phrase when my daughter was young. I would simply say, “She doesn’t go to school.” and leave people to make of that what they would.
I could never quite figure out why people felt a little affronted and defensive about my own way of providing for my child’s education. It reminded me a little of the way that some people are funny about vegetarianism. We don’t have meat in the house and my wife and daughter are both fairly strict about not eating meat or fish. None of us care if other people want to eat dead chickens or pigs, that’s their affair, but once some of those who are partial to a pork chop hear that somebody is a vegetarian, it does seem to wind them up. Just as with home education, they adopt a twin track approach of firstly explaining why their own dietary practices are so wise and good, followed by telling us why they couldn’t ever give up eating meat. It’s odd, because I don’t ever recollect hearing any vegetarian proselytising about this; it’s just another of those quirky and individual choices, much like home education.
Do people feel obscurely threatened by home education? Does it make them consider their own automatic placing of their children with strangers to look after and educate them? Are they perhaps worried that their own children will be clamouring to be taken out of school? I do know that many schooling parents do tell their children that they have to go to school, because it’s the law. Is it irritating to have themselves shown up as liars when their children meet kids who have never been sent to school? There is no particular point to all this, other than to reflect upon something which both my wife and I noticed a great deal, especially when our daughter was five and our friends were making arrangements for schools for their own children.