04 February 2016

Fear of the Unknown


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.

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*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

23 comments:

  1. I agree with you. I think there are people of all kinds who are attracted to home education, for all different sorts of reasons and not all have the best interests of their children in mind. I've seen it myself. That said, most of the home educators I know are very committed to doing a good job with their children. I feel lucky (and also at times very frazzled, honestly) to be able to straddle both worlds with the way we are educating our children. I think we get the best of both, for the most part, and the most challenging parts of both too. I know I've learned a lot about how to make a good balance. I like having the accountability of the school because I think it would be easy for me to isolate myself and them, it's just my nature to be sort of a loner. But that's only me, I know many home educators who are extremely active in the community, who are very gregarious and sociable. I only knew one or two homeschooled children when I was growing up, but they were really great people who went on to do important things so their parents were definitely doing a lot of things right.

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    1. There are lots of different ways of doing it aren't there which is part of the beauty of it. We definitely have to find what works for our family, which can also change over time ;)

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  2. There must be good, bad and indifferent home educators just as there are good bad or indifferent schools. I did think about it for the Wanderer but it wasn't for us and she was a child who needed the company of other children more than being at home with me and I doubt I could have provided her with what was needed. However I think with hind sight that the school system, especially the secondary part, failed her in many ways but whether I could have done better I am not sure. There are many different ways of home educating I know and I think that the parents are the ones who know their children best as to which would be the best way to educate their children. I remember being shocked when doing my Certificate of Education to teach adults that one of the main reasons for education "is to fit people for jobs" surely not - education is for many reasons that have nothing to do with work but more to do with making well rounded people who know how to find out what they need to know and to enjoy things like music, the arts and sport as well as maths and English! If your children are happy and well rounded then continue as you are as it obviously works for them.

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    1. To fit people for jobs, that is exactly the premise of the education system and has been since compulsory education started. That is a big reason for me why it doesn't work. There will be few for whom the system as it stands does allow for learning but for too many it doesn't.

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  3. An interesting read. I feel desperate to home educate our children. The school system did not do me any favours as a person and the bullying I experienced severely damaged my self esteem and mental health. My oh though is very anti homeschooling and is completely against the idea no matter how I try and approach the subject and address his concerns. Its very frustrating and I fear we are not going to come to an agreement.

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    1. That is a very hard situation to be in, I guess from what you have said that you know what his fears are. I do feel very strongly that it has to be a joint agreement, I have friends whose partners/husbands are not supportive and they find it so hard. I might be worth finding some home ed groups in your area, if they are anything like the groups where I live they are very welcoming of families with children of any age. If you can make friends with some people and bring them into your lives it might help with some the fears your OH has?

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  4. I don't have any experience at all of home schooling, or home education, both my children have gone to school and I don't know anyone who was home educated or who have home educated their own children, however, I find it fascinating. I read a few people's blogs who home educate their children and I can see from their posts how committed they are to it and how seriously they take it. However, I'm sure there will be some home educators who do make a mockery or it, just as there are some rubbish teachers in school, I know because I've come across some of them. I don't think that all children fit in to any one thing, some just don't thrive in a school environment and I'm sure that home education would suit some of them better.

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    1. I agree Jo. We are so lucky in this country to be able to make the choices we can. It is important to me that the choices are not undermined by policy changes that are not well thought out. I loved going to school, it worked for me and I know many children who are really happy at school I am not anti it at all, I expect my children will both attend at some point in their lives so to be able to make the choice is what is important to me.

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  5. You've touched upon such an important topic! As a teacher I often wonder what is the best way we can provide the education. I am afraid there is no perfect answer for it. Schools are different, families are different, children are different. I saw many children who came to school after several years of home schooling and they just bloomed at school, I saw others for whom school was very difficult and they would definitely benefit more from the home schooling. So, I guess it's up to parents - to try and see what's the best for their family.

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    1. There is no perfect answer Alina you are right. I am lucky that I live in a country where I can work out what is for the best, home education is not legal everywhere in the world and some countries have education systems that are in far worser state than ours.

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  6. There are similar stories that have circulated here... kids being kept at home to mask abuse, parents keeping their children at home because of religious extremes, etc. All generalization comes from lack of knowledge. It is easy to bad-mouth something you know nothing about. And sensation sells! So why not spend all our energy on the one tragic story instead of running stories after stories of successful, happy home educating families? I chose to send my daughter to school for a million reasons that are my own. And I respect parents who chose a different path. I'm still on the fence about my son. Depending on where his theraoy leads us, I may choose homeschooling for him. I don't know... see that is the thing : You don't know until it is real to you!

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    1. Sensation, sadly, does sell! You have hit the nail on the head with stories too ;) You don't know until it real for you. Although we made the decision to home ed our eldest we reviewed it again when it came to the time to apply for my daughter. She is a totally different personality and I had to be sure that I was making the decision for her not just because that is what we were already doing.

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  7. My kids have had the benefits of both, at different times of their lives- which has been really great as they can adapt very well in most situations. They had time to learn at their pace and dive into things that were especially of interest to them while we homeschooled- not worry about things that that were happening in public schools that so many of their friends had to deal with, then as they got older they transitioned into "school" and it has worked out great. My daughter returned to home schooling her junior year and now finishing her senior year at home, ready to launch into college next year. For us homeschooling has been a good experience-because we have taken their needs and personality into consideration, not trying to hold them back from what they needed either way. We thought of moving back to Norway for a while - when we discovered home schooling is not aloud (or at least it wasn't then) it was not an option for us- we wanted the freedom to raise and educate our children as we thought best for them.

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    1. It is surprising how many countries in the world do not allow home education I am lucky to live somewhere where you not only can, but it has not form of registration either. I have many friends with children who have dipped in and out of the formal education system as they have needed to, I think it is great that we can all find a model that works for each of our children as individuals.

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  8. The Scottish Government are introducing (in the face of a great deal of opposition)State Guardians for every child, who will be able to interfere and meddle in every aspect of a child's life, and overrule parents. I wonder what their position will be on home education?

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    1. That sounds awful. I know many home educators in Scotland, being so close to the border I feel for them if it doesn't mean interference.

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    1. It is isn't it. Sadly it has made me more wary when out and about with the children.

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  10. No educacional system is right for every one, so important therefore to have a range of choices. Esp as schools seem to be insisting on bringing in changes that are not based on evidence of development and learning, we see it in health too. Re the safeguarding, of course any person can refer to Children and Families re safety concerns and they have a duty to consider and assess if needs be. Doesn't require anything from education authority and sounded more like a system failure to me, certainly not a reflection on homeschooling as it was reported. I can see why people feel anxious when these news stories pop up.

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    1. It isn't is it, I agree. I think we are so lucky with the choices we can make here in the UK and I do hope that sensibility prevails and we don't end up having those choices undermined when the problems lie with welfare not education.

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  11. I don't really know anything about homeschooling - so can't comment on whether it is a good or bad thing - but any responsible parent would want to give their child the best start in life wherever they gain their education - good on you for taking on this responsibility.

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  12. I don't know much about home education either. From what I've read and heard it is a huge commitment and responsibility and I admire parents like you who take this on. Shame that it's being used by some for devious purposes but I believe they are exceptions rather than the norm and should not be allowed to diminish the good work parents like yourselves do. X

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  13. I home educated my four children I started in the eighties.My eldest son is 37 and my youngest is 23. I also have two daughters,aged 34 and 29.I thoroughly enjoyed it all, although at times ,especially at the start, it seemed all I was doing was explaining myself to everyone from family to people on the street! They all have careers of their own choosing ,lecturer, paediatric clinician,retail manager and a chef but mostly they are happy and contented and have always believed themselves capable of anything they wanted to do!

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