Sunday, 8 December 2013
Motives for home education in this country
One of the things which triggered the report on home education by Graham Badman was that in the first decade of the present century, the numbers of children being educated at home appeared to be rising steeply. Tens of thousands of children were not at school; what if this continued, until hundreds of thousands of children were involved? So what, we may say! What business would that have been of the government’s? There were two considerations. One was the natural and reprehensible desire of governments to regulate things for the sake of it. The other was that it was becoming pretty clear that many of those deregistering their children from school were doing so not because they felt that they could provide their children with a better education than the school, but because sending the kid to school was interfering with their own lifestyle. This is appalling; that parents would place their own convenience above the opportunity for their children to receive a good education. This tendency by home educators to embark upon home education as a matter of lifestyle, rather than for the benefit of their children’s education, has been widely noted; not least in surveys by organisations such as Education Otherwise. In one survey, conducted among all its two and a half thousand members in 2003, Education Otherwise found that a third of those who answered, said that the strongest influence upon their decision to home educate related to family lifestyle, rather than education.
This trend of avoiding sending children to school, purely because this accorded with some kind of ’alternative’ lifestyle, was worrying to many professionals in the field of education. With number rising each year, it was felt that at the very least, some effort should be made to find out what was happening. Since 2009 though, the numbers of home educated children have first flattened out and are now declining. Because the problem is still limited to a relatively small number of children, compared with those in the schools system, the decision has been reached to leave home education alone. Of course, if the numbers began rising sharply again; that could all change.
For those who are now gnashing their teeth and denouncing me as a liar, I thought that it might prove interesting to look at a recent example of this kind of thing. On one of the largest of the internet lists for home educators, one with thousands of members, a woman posted recently about the question of what to do about her son’s education. She has two sons. Both are home educated, but the older boy has recently expressed the desire to go to school. What are the mother’s concerns about this? What sort of things motivated her to educate her children at home in the first place? Let’s have a look;
My son has just decided that actually he quite likes the sound of school … I am thrown into complete disarray and terrified at the idea of having to help him find the right school, visit schools, sort out getting admission to a school and all the rest of the palaver this might involve…
I've been feeling in recent weeks how much more relaxed my life might be if both the boys were in school. This is all just reminding me of one of the reasons I chose to home educate in the first place - being tied to someone else's schedule (term dates, school hours, home work, etc.) which have the potential to completely rearrange our lives...
Readers will see at once that there is no mention at all of the child’s education! Neither in the initial post, nor in subsequent exchanges with others on the list, is education mentioned. The whole problem is framed in terms of the possible effect upon the mother’s own life. Somebody tells her of the risk of attracting attention from the local authority in the future, somebody else says something about social services. Education does not rate the least mention. It is perhaps significant that not one of the thousands of members on this, one of the largest of the home education lists, thought it worth asking whether this proposed change would provide the child with a better education. It was taken entirely as read that the important point was how school would affect the mother, not how it might benefit or harm the child himself. Any further comment would be superfluous. It is this trend which worries many local authorities and causes them to press for regulation. They know, as do most readers here, that for many people who don’t send their children to school, education is not the most important feature of the scheme; it is all about the parents' own convenience and lifestyle.