What do you know about living in North Korea, Gaza or Syria? Have you ever had to leave your home and flee your country to find safety? What these have in common is that unless we have personal experience, our knowledge comes from what we read, it is impossible to know what it is really like. Words can paint us a picture but cannot give us an experience. Those words can also voice opinions, sometimes strong ones, based on the writer's beliefs and knowledge, we read those words through the eyes of our own beliefs and knowledge. I write here about my life, painting you a picture of my part of the world and how I live in it. A window into my world, from my point of view. Some of it will be very familiar, but not quite the same, some might be interesting but not your experience.
There has been a few stories in the UK news recently which have aroused powerful emotions and opinions from many quarters. A recent leaked report into the tragic death of a child four years ago. The child was known to social services and was home educated. There have been suggestions in some parts of the media that the authorities had no powers to insist on seeing the child because he was educated at home. Sadly there was no indication as to which part for the authorities were being referred to. It is rather unfortunate that whenever a tragic story emerges that involves home education a witch hunt ensues. Of course it is a tragedy that children are abused and neglected at the hands of their parents or guardians sadly this continues to occur whether or not the child is home educated. The recent high profile cases here in the UK where children were home educated were not 'hidden' children, they were known to social services it is they who are responsible for safeguarding children's welfare.
I have read that homeschooling* is a refuge for parents who want to abuse, neglect and hot house to the point that they cause permanent damage and I agree this does happen. The cases are few and far between and represent a minute fraction of the community who educate children outside a school setting. To tar the whole community with that brush is not only insulting to the majority, but also akin to suggesting that everyone who enters a shop is a potential shoplifter. The alternative is to change the law and force all children to attend school so that they can keep an eye on children, whilst they have a duty of care to all their pupils, they are not society's watchdog, that is the role of social services.
Home education is not subject to any statutory regulation**. This always surprises anyone who asks me whether or not I have to produce reports or register what we are doing. Parents or guardians are legally responsible for their children's education wherever they are educated, that is why schools write reports and hold parents evenings. We educate our children to provide the workforce of the future, currently UK school children follow a national curriculum and are tested many times during the years they attend schools. The exams taken at 16 and 18 provide potential employers and universities with a level of attainment of that education.
I first came across a home educating family when Cameron was about eighteen months old. I had not given his education any thought at this point, but I distinctly remember my initial reaction, why would you want to do that, are schools not good enough for you. Fours years working as a clerk to the governors at my local school gave me a good picture of that school and the current education system and I knew it was not for my children. Home educators have a choice whether or not to follow the curriculum or take any exams. I have heard it suggested that that makes for a loose system, along with the notion that by not taking exams we are not aware of how our children are coping, what they absorbing or the breadths of their interests or abilities. This sweeping statement, for me, demonstrates a opinion with a total lack of understanding, just like my initial reaction.
I remember when I first started officially home educating. I had a very young baby, I was tired and slightly bewildered by what I taken on, made all the more challenging by a government commissioned review into home education that was taking place at that time. The final report suggested a registration system. The home educating community pulled together and created history when the highest number of petitions was presented simultaneously on a single topic. There is once again talk of registration and tighter controls, politics reacting to voices in the media, aided by leaked reports. I am sure that the home educating community will pull together again but we need to ensure that we do so with integrity and an awareness that many don't have an understanding of home education.
*and here I would like to make an important distinction, I have used the word home schooling here as that is what was said, but many many people who educate outside school do not use the word schooling to describe what they do. Education is more commonly used.
**in the UK