Despite the high profile home educators have had recently thanks to the smear campaign begun by Baroness Delyth Morgan and perpetuated by the NSPCC with Government backing, there is still very little in the mainstream media that actually illustrates what most home education is like and how it might be done. Partly, this could be because there is such a wide range of approaches from family to family and even within families from child to child; but partly I think it is because many people already think they know what home education is and even how it is done.
The reason the word “hidden” can be so easily banded about by the ignorant is because they assume that a child learning at home sits all day at a kitchen table completing worksheets-just like in school, but alone, at home.
In our family, as in most EHE families I know, the learning takes place all over the house, the neighbourhood and beyond. Sometimes the children do want to sit alone; sometimes work together on a shared lesson or work in the same area but on different things. Sometimes it’s just us but more often it’s us and other families.
David Chaytor MP (Lab) tried to make out that a child’s primary place of belonging was what he called “the community”. He said this only when Jane Lowe quite correctly had to say “The child is not the possession of the state, for the state to impose it’s rules on.” No the child belongs primarily to it’s family. Parents have the right and duty to educate their children and can do this within which ever community they happen to be part of.
Some work does get done at a table; some gets done under it. Some is done on the sofa, at a computer, in the park, in the kitchen, down the garden, up the road and at various places we visit.
Some of us use a timetable with set lessons; some use a Steiner curriculum, some of us use Classical or Charlotte Mason and some use Autonomous approaches. And there’s my family who do a bit of everything.
Our family: My older children have had a mixed approach with a structure to begin with but then given more free reign over what and when they learned. Alex did more and more art work and spent a lot of time using the information on his Flight Simulator game and writing a detailed project on aviation. He and Iona had a maths tutor and a friend helped prepare him for IGCSE English. With his portfolio duly filled Alex went off to college to do a BTEC National Diploma in Art and is doing very well thank you.
I was interested by what Simon Webb said to the committee. The quote below is taken from the online uncorrected transcript:
Simon Webb: Leaving aside children with special educational needs, I am against an over-prescriptive approach. I have never had any dealings with the national curriculum, but if I met a child of 12 who was completely illiterate, it would not be hard for me to know that something was amiss educationally. If I met a child of 14 who was unable to work out in his head the change from a £10 note, I could be reasonably sure of guessing that he was not receiving a proper education. It should be a fairly simple matter. They should not be testing children in a formal way, but it is fairly easy to guess whether a child is receiving an education.
I tend to agree with this. Alex was nearly 14 when I pulled him from school and he was functionally illiterate. I had to start him with Spiderman comics helping him to read the few words in each bubble and gradually working through to reading simple books until he was able to read What Einstein Told His Cook and then on to Lord of the Rings and so on. Mr Webb is right; it should have been easy to guess he wasn’t receiving a proper education. Thank God I pulled him out of school so he could get one!
Iona is 15 and is autonomously educated. She chooses what she wants to learn and she gets on with learning it. I might suggest areas of research or books I think worth her while, but the choice is hers. She has varied interests and spends some of her week alone, some with friends of her own age and some with the mixed bag of home ed families where she gets along with the mums and is treated with the respect a young adult should expect, which I am sure is part of healthy socialisation. It is something I see lacking in far too many teenaged young people who are at best awkward in the company of both adults and younger children and at times so awkward as to be rude. Alongside her reading and study of The Man In The Iron Mask, An Ideal Husband and Cyrano de Bergerac (whom she informs me wrote the earliest known sci-fi novel) she is completing projects and working through Open University online free courses to prepare for the real thing next year. She tends not to study at weekends because those are the days she meets up with friends who are in school-and listens to their horror stories! She has helped out with group sessions and even run her own session on making chocolates which got her called “Professional!” by one of the lads . I don’t know many other AE children, but I am sure they too have great interests and not only have what it takes to “function in the adult world” as David Chaytor and Simon Webb seem afraid they can’t-but actually ALREADY DO function very well in that world.
For the younger ones I have what I guess could be called a flexible framework. I write up what I would like covered over a day/week/term and then have a diary that I write up each days actual learning in with notes about progress, things said and things to be done. I do it for my own benefit as my memory isn’t good and I don’t want to simply forget where were are. This is not for the use of the LA but for me as the parent educating my children. I am sure some officials would love this-but most parents do very well without this tool at all. We have routine for most days that is flexible enough to allow for eventualities. I often take photos or bits of film to keep a record of what we’ve been up to.
I know that there will always be people who are determined to see home education as somehow ‘bad’ or ‘inferior’ to school. It really doesn’t matter how badly children at school do both academically and socially compared to home educated children, they will still come out with the old canards about “socialisation” and “what about exams?” I don’t think the fact that my children have a happy life with friends and good learning opportunities will ever make any difference to some people. Home education must be bad, so no evidence to the contrary will make any difference.
Just as the research that clearly showed how well home educated and from America homeschooled children do, was summarily dismissed by Badman and I noted by Sheerman. Meanwhile the opinion written in a TES article by Mr Webb was treated as though it was research by Paul Holmes MP (LibDem) who kept using it to make out AE was a bad idea.
I was very disappointed that so many people came to the Committee having done no research of their own and having no idea about home education. I was also saddened to see how predictable the MPs responses were. At least home ed children can think for themselves.
This in the Times H/T Carlotta and Philip Johnston is right to point out that parents should decide on their children’s best form of education.