For parents who send their children to school, there is a ready-made support network among all their friends, family and workmates. Everybody has been to school; many people currently have children at school. The problems which are encountered when children are at school, whether bullying, poor teaching, undesirable culture among teenagers, to give just a few examples, are familiar ones and many people may be called upon for advice and assistance. The case when you are home educating a child is quite different. There are no mothers at the school gate to whom you may turn, no parents who will remember how they tackled this or that difficulty, no friends or neighbours of whom you may enquire. Which of course is why so many British home educators turn to online groups, chiefly on Facebook, for support. This can be unsatisfactory.
Because I have published my personal Email address here, I often get messages from home educating parents who want advice and help. Invariably, they begin such appeals by saying, 'I couldn't tell anybody in any of the groups about this!' or perhaps, 'I feel that you are the only person who will understand.' This is pretty strange, because these people are all complete strangers to me. The reason is simple; on almost all the online support groups for home educators, there is a particular ethos and those who hold views running counter to it are made to feel uncomfortable. Sometimes, a group will be strongly opposed to visits and claim that those who accept a visit from their local authority are letting others down and indirectly making it harder for other parents. The reasoning goes that the more parents who allow their local authority to visit their home and discuss home education, the trickier it becomes for those who refuse visits. In other groups, the view might be strongly held that actually teaching children in dangerous and liable to harm them. These so-called unschoolers or autonomously educating parents can make those with a different perspective on home education feel very awkward about their own lifestyle.
Some groups are in the habit of simply ejecting anybody who does not appear to share the views of the majority about home education. It is not unknown for people to be thrown out of groups just for asking too many questions! All this makes some parents feel that they are obliged to give lip-service to ideologies with which they strongly disagree, because otherwise, they will no longer be accepted as one of the group. This is a particular thing with home educators, because as I said above, they do not have access to the same support networks as those whose childrne are at school adn tend to rely heavily on the internet for social contacts with other parents. Without the online groups, they would feel very isolated.
It is worth remembering this the next time that we hear that the majority of home educators believe this or that about registering or monitoring. Often, the only way that we know this is via the internet and if everybody else is complaining loudly about local authorities, then there is an incentive for parents to go along with this; whatever their own opinions. In this way, some home educators find that they have nobody to whom they can talk when they wish to ask about such things as whether their children might really be better off at school.