I’m off to the houses of parliament next week. This is to attend a meeting to discuss home education with MPs before they try and implement regulations, proposed in ignorance, upon home educating families.
Why I agreed to go before I looked in my wardrobe for something to wear I don’t know! But I welcome the opportunity to try and eradicate the bigotry and ignorance that often surrounds home education.
You can feel people’s resistance come up like a prickly shield when you mention you home educate. It seems to provoke the same fear as if you’d suggested jumping off Big Ben – ‘couldn’t possibly do that’!
Which is actually where many home educating families start too, but they’re forced to move from a position of ‘couldn’t possibly do that’ to ‘we’ve got to do something’. Because despite the government conveniently labelling home education as ‘elective’, for most parents it isn’t. Many parents they are forced into trying anything to save their children from dire circumstances in school, both personal and academic.
Most home educating families are just ordinary families trying to do the best for their kids. Most are not elite, or alternative, extremist or ignorant. But the government obviously thinks we need watching because they’re desperate to collect us all on a register and confine us within the same school-style boundaries and systems that made us home educate in the first place. And they do it because of fear. Because of the same outdated ignorance many folks have towards a learning style that thousands of families are now finding extremely successful.
I’m hoping that some of this ignorance will be eradicated. It needs to be because many children need the choice of this alternative to school. For some, home educating changes academic failure into success. It changes nil self-esteem into confidence. And in some desperate cases it probably even saves lives.
Learning can occur in a myriad of different ways not just the way they do it in school. It’s about time the success and value of home education was recognised. It’s about time ignorance was replaced with some of the true facts. Facts like:
- Home educated children achieve good grades like other children do. They go to university, college, or into work like other children do. Their academic, social and personal skills are reputed to be in front of those of their school peers.
- Home educated children are not isolated. Most interact with a wide range of people, in a wide range of places, doing a broad range of activities. Some have far more life experience than those children in school. Most have mature social skills.
- Thousands of families turn to home education because schools fail to provide for their children’s needs, both academic and personal. In some cases this has been a life line for children who’ve suffered in school the kind of abuse that just would not be tolerated by adults in a workplace. Home educators are the parents who take initiative to do something about their children’s suffering rather than just ignoring it.
- Children who have been written off by the educational system or labelled as having ‘learning difficulties’ or ‘special needs’, for example, have gone on to achieve a good academic standard through home education.
- Home educating families are as ordinary as any other families who have the same ordinary aspirations for their children to achieve and be happy. They come from all ranges of the social, educational, financial and cultural backgrounds that make up our society.
- Home educated children achieve the five outcomes set out in ‘Every Child Matters’ as effectively, if not better, than children in schools.
- Contrary to what most parents think, children learn in a multitude of different ways, not just in the conveyor belt style of the educational system. Home educating gives children the opportunity to learn in the way that suits them best, increasing their chances of success. This doesn’t necessarily mean academic cramming. It means acknowledgement of the myriad of alternative approaches there are to learning, to opportunities, to qualifications, to being educated, and making best use of them.
- In my experience as a home educator within a wide network of other home educators, and whilst researching for my book, I have never come across an incidence of abuse. However I saw plenty of cases of abuse when I worked in schools.
Let’s hope this meeting, set up by Education Otherwise, goes some way towards achieving a greater understanding of both home education and the need for there to be an alternative to schools.
Meanwhile, back to the problem of the wardrobe!