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.