The right to educational freedom

I thought I’d respond to Jax’s call for posts about educational freedoms.

The freedom to educate our children outside of the school system is a topic dear to my heart, having had two children who were failing to thrive both educationally and personally within it.

I’m thoroughly suspicious of politicians who try to control our home education, pretending they do so for the good of the child. What do they know about it?! And I’ve seen too many children in schools when I worked there who were not having any good done to them at all for me to believe that.

I also see that, although ministers cite ‘safe guarding’ as an excuse to do so, there are as many safe-guarding issues already existing with children known to schools and other services and they can’t seem to get it ‘safe’ for them, so that reason doesn’t ring true. What it does do is deflect attention away from the impingement of our rights by their ‘concern’.

I believe it is more the case that politicians are simply using that as a strategy to control and mask the rising dissatisfaction so many parents now have with the school system.

Calling home education ‘elective’ is the best mask of all. For I would say that in most cases parents do not ‘elect’ to home educate, they are driven to it in desperation by the failure of schools to provide children with exactly what home educators are by law supposed to provide; an education suitable to their age, ability and aptitude. Consider this; if there was a place where our children could go to be stimulated and inspired, with adults who respected and encouraged, supported and nurtured our children’s individuality and education, where they had real choice and the experiences were such that the kids were gagging to go, how many parents would opt to home educate then?

Home education is growing because politicians are failing to provide what children need. Any attempt to limit the educational freedom it offers is in my view a corrupt strategy to deflect attention away from that failing.

Educational freedom is not really freedom in the real sense of the word, although home educators are freed from the inhibiting structures of a school system, which is a good thing as most impair learning rather than aid it (testing and Ofsted are good examples). However, none of us are truly free in that we want to fit into the social world that surrounds us, we want to earn and work, eat and survive, enjoy life and have friends, and all those things come with responsibility which we choose to take on.

Nearly all the home educating parents I know take on that responsibility extremely conscientiously by demonstrating that to their children though encouraging learning – in fact most of the kids do it for themselves. It’s just they choose to use other approaches. And that’s where we really need the freedom. Freedom to choose approaches which suit our individual children better than the system does. Freedom to work to the needs of the child, rather than make the child fit the needs of the establishment as schooling does.

As home educated children grow up and begin working as generations are doing now they are proof that other approaches work, that educational freedom and independence works, that we don’t need a government to do it for us. Proof that we don’t need registering, testing, watching, examining, controlling of our approaches, or telling how to do it for it to work. It’s working fine already!

In fact, when I think about it, I can’t help feeling that it is in breach of basic human rights to be told what you must know, how you must know it, where, when and at what age you must know it, that you must not question what is done to you in the name of knowing it, that you have no choice in the matter and if you don’t comply you’ll be a failure. Is that not totally bizarre? Where else in life are those freedoms for choice and preference taken away from us – except in prison of course?

It’s almost as if the powers that be would control our minds by controlling our education. Not forgetting that if politicians can control our minds they can control our votes.

But maybe that’s just me being extra cynical!

12 thoughts on “The right to educational freedom

  1. Well said Rose. You mention that you have worked within schools. I wonder if you can offer any advice. My 13 year old child likes to learn by doing, is a good communicator, yet getting progress in writing fluidity and spelling is a real struggle and I am concerned this will let down his other skills. He can write nicely when doing a letter, though his speed is slow. Do you or anyone have any advice on encouraging spelling and writing progress without it becoming a chore. I much appreciate any replies. thanks.

    • Hi Karen, thanks for visiting! I think your dilemma is a common one – particularly among boys some of whom don’t take to the act of writing readily, although having said that my youngest daughter was the same! I feel we have to trust! Not easy I know. But a couple of little examples might help; I rarely forced writing practise of any length on our daughter when she was at home. She hated it – it just caused misery as she found it pointless. She did however do lots of other activities which built dexterity (typing and gaming among them as well as craft work). She went onto college at 16 and was able to increase and hone the basic writing skills well enough to get Distinctions and go onto Uni! A friend of mine had boys who also had the same resistance to doing much formal writing. However, they too went onto do the necessary when it was required (GCSEs) having had very little formal exercises at home. They had encouragement and support when the time came. The point being is that the children themselves saw the point of all this writing – for a specific purpose – and then they engaged with it. I think that most children would be the same! Trust!

  2. While I agree with you that dissatisfaction with the education system is a big reason for the growth in home education I also feel that the internet has been a huge factor as it has raised awareness of home educating. I doubt I’m alone in having people say to me that they didn’t know we are ‘allowed’ to do that or who haven’t come across the concept before.
    When my summer born eldest, now 22, was 4 years old I wasn’t ready to let him go to school. Somehow I stumbled across contact info for a home education group in a printed magazine advert. Internet wasn’t commonplace in the home then, we got it two years later. There were a few people in my county who home educated but it was very unusual and, perhaps crucially, hard to find support from others which the internet has allowed to thrive. My oldest three children all went to school, with varying success. I now home educate my two youngest.
    I recently a letter recently informing me that I ‘must’ choose 3 school places for my youngest for next September as legally she must be in school. Now many of us know this is inaccurate – in fact she has to be receiving a full time education in the term following her 5th birthday – but many don’t. Yet Facebook parenting groups and other online platforms are educating more parents into the possibility.

    • Yes – you’re right. The Internet has allowed us all access to information and networking that makes Home Ed so much more doable and interconnected. I think it will propel an even bigger growth as those two elements increase parents confidence in doing it independently. Hopefully the awareness of this choice will continue to grow. Thank you very much for taking time to leave your valid comment. x

  3. I love this post it says it all no i don’t think you are being extra cynical i feel this way too like i would love to try certain techniques but feel they are too far out and people would judge me for the way I choose to do things, I always get judged for wanting to do things a little differently to the point i feel i have to lie and just say yep we are going to be following the national curriculum just so i don’t get another lecture. x

    • I can remember that feeling Joanne! It really helps to find a community of people who do things differently too so you feel supported. Thank you for posting and all the best. x

  4. I agree with most of what you say Ross but I think there are plenty of us who also home educate because we actually like spending time with our children and dont wont to send them off to be cared for by strangers.

    • Yes – of course Lisa, you’re absolutely right. Hope you didn’t feel I was leaving out all those who home educate for that reason; actually it’s perhaps the most important reason of all!!! Thank you for commenting. x

      • I agree with Lisa, I home educate for many reasons but I think the behaviour of my daughter’s yr3 teacher really pushed me. The fact that he has been promoted now proves to me that my daughter is better off with her family, at least we love & support her, we don’t do it for a pay cheque, we do it because we want to & we know it’s best.

        I find some people just can’t accept home education but I worry about how much it’s being restricted all over the world & sadly I believe that one day it will become so stigmatised that it will just become another thing they (politicians) control.

        But until then I plan to home educate my 3 into wonderfully free and fully prepared, happy adults!

        Thank you for sharing, I love your blog 🙂

      • Great you came by and commented missminimakes! I worry about that too, and I know many others do. But hopefully, with the connections that the Web allows us we can inform and support others and continue to stand up for these educational freedoms. Thanks so much. x

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