Sometimes for escapism I watch Channel Five’s ‘New Lives In the Wild’. I can’t always do it; Ben Fogle’s ignorant remarks about home education grate on me so much I have to switch over.
This recent programme got me just the same. He’s revisiting some of the families featured on his programmes five years ago to see what they’re up to now. Tonight it was the turn of the Goddards, who were living on the Isle of Rum in Scotland, but now have returned to the mainland as their needs changed and the children, who are home educated, grew up.
You can see the programme here
Of course Ben wants to see how things have panned out for the family (me too) and in particular the youngsters. Because Ben is concerned, as he’s expressed before, about home education; in particular about how well home educators ‘adjust socially’ when they’ve had such an isolated existence.
Now isn’t this just typical of those who have limited experience of home educators, and actually limited understanding of how people actually become socially adjusted?
It’s almost like there’s a national disease of wanting everyone to be the same and fit in and be normal – whatever that is. And it rankles! As did his comments, after interviewing the young people, about them seeming to be ‘socially adjusted’ after all – as if that was some sort of surprise!
Odd, isn’t it, how it’s always the social bit people raise concerns about as if it was socially normal in school – it isn’t.
Now I know I’m biased and in support of all those wonderful parents who want to home educate. And in my experience the social side of doing so is NOT a problem. The kids are fine, socially, intellectually, communicatively.
But others don’t know this. Others just listen to ignorant assumptions. And very few people, Ben among them it appears, actually question what social means and how it’s arrived at.
Firstly it perhaps refers to skills; skills of communication, empathy, interpretation, connection, conversation, understanding of others and what’s appropriate, and skills of care as important as any. Anyone who cares is bound to have good social skills by the very nature of what care is. That begins with family and spreads from there. You don’t need to be with a massive bunch of others necessarily, although broad experiences are always good.
Secondly, the expectation is also that youngsters need to be able to cope in socially crowded situations and learning out of them may hamper that development. However, many home educators don’t learn in crowds and their socialisation is rarely under developed. They end up in college, Uni, work, mixing, just like other youngsters.
Not everyone is either a crowd seeker or a crowd pleaser, but that doesn’t automatically mean they are not ‘socially adjusted’ in Ben’s terms.
Some people live in uncrowded places yet still integrate into social situations they’re presented with. Human empathy, intelligence and care, mostly learnt from family, teaches you how to do that, not crowds!
But what grated on me the most about Ben’s presentation of the programme was his arrogant assumption that he was entitled to judge whether the young people, after being fairly isolated, were ‘well adjusted’ socially or not. As so many others think they’re entitled to judge home schoolers – even though many of those judges seem fairly socially unskilled themselves!
It’s also ironic that very few ever consider whether schools make young people ‘well adjusted’ socially in the real world out of school. In my view, many are not!
And never is it ever argued that having less people around, being in less densely populated areas, might be a good thing because it might make us value people more and behave differently.
The incidence of Lockdown has brought home how irreplaceable are those real time, face to face, hug close, interactions with our special few, despite all the digital interactions we can now have with so many. It’s valuing each other that makes us socially adjusted, not being in a crowd.
And it’s fine not to like crowds. Doesn’t mean you’re not ‘socially adjusted’.
What’s socially adjusted anyway? Who is really qualified to judge? We all have social idiosyncrasies.
I so admire the Goddards for sharing their story in the programme and for their inspirational philosophies on life. Good luck to them. And good luck to all who decide on a lifestyle that doesn’t fit Ben’s idea of a norm!
Finally, good luck too, to all you home educators who don’t give a toss whether other pompous arses think you’re socially adjusting or not!