Thursday, 28 July 2016

The tyranny of opinion among home educators

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.


  1. Some people find a visit less stressful than writing a report. However, if things go wrong in relations with the LA then it's usually harder to clean up the mess if there's been a home visit than if things were kept in writing, which is why I always recommend keeping things in writing so that there's clear record of who said what.

    If people have visits that's up to them provided they are aware that it is optional, and that even if they do meet with the LA, it doesn't have to be in their own house.

    If you've got a child who's fared badly in school, the last thing you want is for some official to invade their safe space at home.

    Strangely, I find myself in agreement with you, there is a lot of intolerance in some quarters. We are all unique and what works for one family or child won't necessarily be good for another so we should accept that others may think differently.

    This is also the problem with monitoring and inspections, where an intolerant LA may want to impose the same requirements on all children when clearly this is not what they should be doing.

  2. I have found home educators to be totally non-judgmental and supportive. We do things in way that's right for my family. And others do things in a way that's right for them. I feel imence support from HE groups. And also my friends with school going children. I've always felt supported and never judged. We're a follow the curriculum family. I don't feel that's the right way, just our way.
    Don't feel you should be trying to paint a picture of rejection if we have different styles. That's certainly not been my experience. And I know that autonomous learning works very well for many families.
    If you look at the figures 1 in 3 schooled kids do not achieve 5 good GCSEs. Passion is what often makes success. And I believe home education gives children time to find their passions. And I'm sure you know that many people like myself home educate as school was detrimental to our special needs kids. It's a lifeline of support and refuge not the judgemental cult I feel your post portrays.

  3. I also feel that many Home Educators are judgemental and I agree that many HE groups, particularly on social media, support a particular viewpoint - that of 'autonomous HE' or 'unschooling'.
    There are a lot of groups near to us which we started attending to meet others. However, the groups seem to be about the parents (many of whom can't make it in the real world), not the children. There is back-biting and bitching in any groups, especially where a lot of women get together, so this is certainly not exclusive to HE. But it's the piety of some of these people in that they think they are somehow so accepting of others and also better than those who send their children to school. And yet I've seen parents behaving badly to each other in these groups, and bullying amongst the children going unheeded.
    Threads on Facebook, for example, have to follow a particular viewpoint. Anyone who fights back or disagrees will be ridiculed, or 'laughed down' with puerile comments and banter from the 'old timers'.
    Also, those who are veteran Home Educators somehow feel that their views are 'right' in terms of the best way to Home Educate, and how to deal with LAs. I know that there are many unscrupulous LA personnel and I'm not suggesting people should have to have visits. I also know that there are Home Educators who don't act this way.
    We enjoy home education in that we feel that it suits our kids and they are doing really well academically. The only drawback is other home educators.

  4. I see you are causing a shit storm on facebook again. It is believed by some you are responsible for the latest facebook page about home educators working with the LA. The usual stuff, nasty LA, saintly home educators, who has put this page up to cause trouble. Statements like I have reported this page if we all do then facebook will ban it without investigation. Ironic that they don't see that while the page is garbage getting it banned is mob censorship of the worst kind.

  5. Yes, I saw this as well. Somebody I know posted about this page, saying that if anybody on said person's friends´list joined that page, he would unfriend them!
    When I asked what the page was to see what it said and be informed about different points of view, this person refused, and said he was not to publicise it because he didn´t want people reading it!
    There has been other stuff as well! I totally agree with you, a lot of the Facebook HE groups are very judgmental.
    Funny enough, I don´t see this in HE groups from other countries i.e. France or groups with English speakers from the USA or other English speaking countries.