One of my photos

Keep it in the family

September 17th, 2009 · Posted by Skuds in Politics · No Comments · Politics

Am I alone in feeling a bit uneasy and suspicious of home education and thinking it is not something to celebrate?I realise that everybody is different and no two examples will be the same: there will be parents who are brilliantly capable as teachers and those who are terrible, there will be cases where parents have taken that route because a school or an LEA failed to protect a child from bullying or harassment and, no doubt, cases where parents have used home education to facilitate abuse.  To pick out one of the abuse cases and imply it applies everywhere would be as pointless and foolish as taking one of the perfect parents and implying that all home education is like that.

Having said that I do have reservations about it.  In practical terms I wonder how many parents are capable of providing the depth and breadth of education that a school full of specialist teachers can.  I consider myself reasonably well-informed and capable in basic science, maths, English, and art, all backed up by a not-too-bad library and of course the internet, but I don’t think I could teach a child all of that.  I certainly couldn’t teach a child so that they reached a higher level than me.

There must be parents who can do that, and that makes me wonder how they find the time to embark on full-time education and how they fund it.  Also, if they are that capable, why are they keeping it to themselves and not using those skills – perhaps by being a teacher in a school?

As for the motives, how often is the real fear not that a child will be victimised, but that they will be exposed to ideas the parents do not approve of and might one day form their own opinions?  How many of these home-educated children are being protected from bullying and how many are being protected from Darwin’s theories, for example?

I think it can only be good news that local authorities now have the right to inspect parents who are home educating, for all sorts of reasons, but I still think that in most cases it is the children who are missing out on opportunities to develop interpersonal skills and also to develop the ability to cope with adversity – to thicken their skin a bit.  Is there a danger of children growing up so protected and sheltered that they are really going to find it hard to cope with the real world?   How are they going to cope when thrown into the workplace?  Or are they going to follow their parents and not work but stay at home educating their own children?

Other practical considerations.   Schools have lots of facilities that you just will not have at home – every type of musical instrument, potters wheels and kilns, fully-equipped woodwork and metalwork shops, sporting equipment and so on.  Children can try all these things until they find one they like and get on with.  Will parents be able to afford and have the patience to keep buying these things on the off-chance they will be suitable?    A child could have a natural trumpet-playing ability that is never discovered because their parents are totally non-musical.

You may be well-educated and pretty fluent in French, but the child decides at fourteen that they want to speak German instead.  How do you teach them that if you don’t speak it yourself?    I think the danger is that it wouldn’t happen because there has been fourteen years of indoctrination that French is better to learn.  How do you teach a child to read music if you can’t?   How are they going to discover that natural cricketing ability if they are never allowed to mix with 21 other children?

Sorry, but I reckon home education should be a last resort in extreme circumstances and not a lifestyle choice for those afraid of having their children turn out different to themselves.

On the plus side though, it does mean you can take the kids on holiday during term time when it is cheaper.


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