Sunday, 28 June 2015

The legal requirement for home educators to follow a curriculum

One of the most depressing things about the world of British home education is that year after year, the same nonsense is endlessly recycled; the same fundamental misunderstanding of the law perpetuated, to the confusion of new home educating parents. Take the constant talk about the ’right’ to home educate. There is of course no such thing; the child has a right to an education, while the parents, alas, have only duties. This is one of the commonest myths in home education; that any attempt at monitoring is somehow infringing upon the rights of the adults involved. It is in fact aimed at securing the rights of children.

This basic error of perception has had the most unfortunate consequences for some home educators. Because they get into the habit of thinking about their ‘rights’ and not their duties, they lose sight of what those duties actually entail. Despite what some people tell them, there is far more to their duty than at first meets the eye. Let’s have a look at one or two of the things that home educating parents must do to abide by the law. The first thing that they must do is actively supervise and teach their children. It is not enough from the law’s point of view just to let their children pick up things in their own time and at their own inclination. There is a legal obligation too, to follow a curriculum.  This curriculum will have certain minimum standards  that must be adhered to. Any parent not taking active steps to ensure that the child acquires literacy and grasps the basics of mathematics would be in breach of the law.

These are just a few of the things that home educating parents must do to keep within the law. Many parents do not bother to find out about such duties, because they are instead preoccupied with their imaginary ‘rights’ in the matter.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Joining the movement..

The other day, somebody posted on one of the home education groups on Facebook, saying that she was about to take her child from school and was trembling all over and feeling tremendously emotional about the whole thing; in a dream-like state. She asked if this was abnormal. The correct answer of course is that if you react so violently to the prospect of making a new educational arrangement for your child, whether changing schools or assuming responsibility yourself for his education; then this is definitely not normal and you should see either a doctor or a therapist of some kind. People don’t, or rather they should not, not if they are emotionally healthy,  become hysterical every time a child’s educational setting changes. This being the world of British home educators, there was of course a mad stampede to reassure the woman that her feelings were quite common for those sending letters to a head teacher.

The feelings that those commenting on this post talked of, reminded me of varieties of mystical religious experience; the sort of thing that people report when they are slain in the spirit at an evangelical church, for instance, or have just accepted Jesus as their saviour. Recollect, these are parents who have simply made a new arrangement for their child’s education, nothing more.  One mother had cried for two weeks, another had slept for six weeks. One person cried and was nearly sick, somebody else was shaking so much, it felt as though she was coming down with the flue. Words such as ‘terrifying’ were bandied about, others were ‘scared stiff’.

All this talk puts me in mind strongly of people who have made the decision to join a cult or surrender themselves to some higher power. It is the language of religion, rather than education. Here are parents who feel that they are joining some movement or taking part in an experience which is greater than them and they are seeking reassurance from others. This is frankly weird and I can see how some such people end up being exploited emotionally by stronger characters than themselves. These are vulnerable individuals, who are now desperately seeking guidance and hoping to be told that they have done the right thing. Little wonder that some fall under the spell of self-assured men and women who believe themselves to be leaders of the home educating community. We shall be looking in greater detail at this idea in the next few days.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

A Militant Home Educator

Mrs Wendy Charles-Warner must surely be one of the best known home educators in the country. An indefatigable, an unkind person might say shameless, self-publicist; she has appeared in many newspapers in support of her chosen hobby horse. In addition to being a representative of the national home education charity, Education Otherwise, Mrs Charles-Warner has remorselessly chronicled in print the lives of the daughter and grandson whom she taught herself. Here is a recent example of her appearance in a national newspaper, in this case The Guardian, on behalf of Education Otherwise;

In addition to these activities, Mrs Charles-Warner runs, under an assumed name, a Facebook group which purports to help home educating parents in their disputes with local authorities. It is popularly  known as Help Dealing with Officialdom and may be found here;

So much for the public face of this woman’s activities on behalf of the cause of home education. There is another side to her interest in this subject though and it is one about which she is strangely reticent. It is time now to shed light upon this lesser known aspect of Mrs Charles-Warner’s  involvement with home education in this country.

A brief look at the advice given on the Facebook group mentioned above, soon shows that its members are urged to live in a state of virtual warfare with their local authorities; refusing visits and doing their utmost not to cooperate with any requests for information about the education which they are providing for their children. This is because, as Mrs Charles-Warner has repeatedly said, ‘There is no legal basis to monitor home education’. On her Facebook group yesterday, a mother posted, saying that she was happy to have a visit from her local authority to check up on the educational provision she was making for her child. Mrs Charles-Warner thought this a bad idea, saying ‘I would not meet with her because she is seeking work samples and evidence, to which she is not entitled.’

I hope we all have this clear now. Wendy Charles-Warner, who acts on behalf of Education Otherwise and is a militant home educator, advises parents not to meet with local authority officers or provide evidence of a child’s work. One mother who adopted this strategy, received a pretty sharp letter from her local authority last week. They threatened her with legal action. The letter she received may be seen below.

Look now at the lower right hand of that letter  and you will see who helped to compose it. It was of course, none other than that same Wendy Charles-Warner who was yesterday urging a parent who was happy to receive a visit and provide samples of work to resist such an intrusion. And yet here she is now, helping and advising a local authority to take action against somebody who follows just this approach! Note that the letter, drafted with Mrs Charles-Warner's help, demands visits and samples of work; the very things which she told another mother that local authorities have no business even to ask for.

I will leave readers to judge for themselves what is going on here. It is however worth bearing in mind that Mrs Charles-Warner and the woman with whom she runs the Facebook group are founders and joint directors of a company which has a commercial interest in education; Heatherside Education Consultants Ltd. Almost unbelievably, after advising the local authority to send this letter, Mrs Charles-Warner then set out to offer her advice to the recipient on how to deal with the local authority! Cynical readers might think all this a perfect illustration of that old saying which mentions those who run with the fox, while at the same time hunting with the hounds.