Confessions of a registered home educator

I am a registered home educator. In the UK the way it works (at the moment) is this. If a parent puts their child into school they become registered with the school. Then if you decide to remove the child the school (not the parent) is obliged to inform the LA. This is because the school is obliged to say they are no longer educating the child (if they ever were-but that’s another issue) and so aren’t entitled to that great wad of dosh the taxpayer has been handing over for said child.

The LA will then contact the parent, usually by letter. Legally the parent is responsible for the education of their child. Bizarrely I was a bit surprised by this. Although I knew this and had obviously excepted it- hence the turn to home education-I still felt some ‘expert’ should be telling me what to do.

What if I was doing it wrong? Surely someone should check I was doing it right and give me some direction.

I was amazed that families who had never used a school did not have to have an ‘expert’ come and check them out.

Now where did this way of thinking come from? Didn’t I know natural law and even Church teaching on the role of parents? Yes I did, but I had also gone through the ‘mill’ that teaches us that professionals are trained and so know more especially about such sacred cows as education. And I had seen up close and personal the results for children who “miss education”.

I had worked as an unqualified teacher in FE with youngsters who had not made it through the school system. Most has been excluded and to honest those young people came from school to collage without much gap; but there were a number of youngsters who had simply dropped out of school, for a number of reasons and some as young as 7 and had never had education of a reasonable sort again. At the age of 15 or older they arrived at collage for someone like me to teach them to read and write and basic skills. At least two lads were desperately socially inept and one had been in care for a few months. ALL OF THEM HAD BEEN IN SCHOOL and therefore ALL OF THEM should have been registered with the LA. Not one claimed to have been home educated. I don’t think they had heard of home education.

Nevertheless when I began home educating my children I couldn’t help wondering if children like the ones I had taught were part of the EHE community. So far in my experience the answer is no.

This Bill conflates EHE with children missing education and it does so to the detriment of children who are electively home educated and children who are missing education. It is the usual attitude of the Government that far from every child mattering, just every child is the same.

There is nothing in this Bill that will truly assist any child missing education. There has been talk about training LA staff but only into more of the ‘all children are the same’ idea. Social workers also need a complete overhaul of their training according to anyone who has had experience of them and some reports after children died under the noses of social services. (In my experience children with a probation officer did really well compared to those with just a social worker; there must be something in the different training and approaches).

By the time the nice man from the LA came by, I had already got to grips with what needed doing and had muddled about with Alex until we found a way of learning that best suited him.

In the beginning I didn’t get much help from other home ed families. The one I knew well had no older children, so she didn’t know what would be needed for a teenage child. The next home ed family I met who did have children of similar ages to mine were just horrendous people.

Finally we settled into the whole education thing and found other people who were doing it. I never did find another home ed family close by who had older teens though. By now it simply doesn’t matter. How we educate and parent our children is our way anyway. The nice man from the LA admitted he knew of other teens in the area but wasn’t going to help us meet up. I gave permission to use my name and number with the other family he had mentioned but to no avail. The LA can’t even facilitate EHE families meeting up.

Back then we thought it best for the children to sit the much vaunted 5 GCSEs and as I realised that GCSEs weren’t up to much we decided that IGCSEs might be the way to go. They had a couple of advantages; first universities preferred them so it would give the children an edge in application and second the ones we wanted the children to take did not have course work so they could simply get on with it and sit the exam. Finally we even had an exam centre within easy reach. We had it drummed into us, by media ‘experts’ and others who had soaked up the message,  that children without the 5 gcses would never get gainful employment or access to higher education. (A load of rubbish but we didn’t know that then) The downside was I had a severely dyslexic child who struggled to write timed essays, and the COST was huge. Further downside was my inability to add up properly let alone teach Maths-so we had to get a tutor; more cost.

Back then the Open University was not available to people under the age of 18. I did look and I even wrote.

There was NO HELP AT ALL from the LA for any decisions, for sorting out the exams, for getting money to pay for exams. They just sent someone round for a cuppa once a year. One thing however that I am grateful for was the EWO decided he would write a front piece and reference for Alex’s portfolio to help him get a place in college-which worked. The collage had never seen a portfolio before and were very suspicious. I think he would not have got his place there if not for the ‘expert’ on the front page. Sad but true.

Now we have the OU offering courses to 16 year olds. The cost is reasonable compared the the cost of an A level plus exam and there are no travel costs. But still the LA offered no advice on this-I happened to find out.

All in all registration has been a pointless thing. But for us it has done no harm.

I can’t say that for some families I have met. I know one family who moved county to get away from the appalling behaviour of the LA who bullied and harassed them. This was a family using a classical curriculum which would end with an American High School Diploma. All very “suitable” you would think. But no. They were harassed and bullied until at last they simply had to leave.

So here I am some years later. I don’t mind that the LA has me on their little list but if I am to start applying for a license every year and still there is no good reason to do so for my children; no resources on offer; no free exams; no help to get them through the OU-I have to ask why should I? These remain my children, my responsibility. They will always belong to God and never to the state.

Frankly anyone who has worked with children in any capacity will tell you, the State makes an appalling parent. There’s a lot LAs need to do to ensure vulnerable children are a lot better taken care of, and coming after EHE families isn’t it. The money diverted to ensure we fill in forms and tick boxes is money not being spent of children and families who need it. The arrogant assumption that the LA know best is going to damage trust with families who may need support.

Too many of us parents have conceded to the assumption that permeates our culture that the state, officials and ‘experts’ know best and have a stake in our children’s lives.  It is a vicious circle of assumption that weakens families by removing responsibility from parents, grandparents and other extended family members and handing it over to a stranger who then insists they/he/she/it knows best and so it goes on.

Many home ed parents look on with horror and amazement as fellow parents leave their children to be bullied, sucked into a toxic culture and left to their own devices and still seem to think there is someone else out there who can fix the problem. There isn’t. It is the role and responsibility of the family to care for children and one another.  Use it or lose it.

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3 responses to “Confessions of a registered home educator

  1. I am a home educating parent who once trained as a teacher. I was idealistic when I started with all kinds of ideas about bringing children out of themselves, helping those with lower self-esteem, sharing what I knew. I found it impossible to do any of this – partly because of my own problems, but partly because of the culture of school, which is geared to procedures and containment. I once stood and watched a woman line up a number of boys in the playground ready to go into the building – and whenever one of them had a hand in a pocket, she would yell at him “Take your hands out of your pockets!” This pointless procedure went on day after day – I contrast it with our group of lovely (by and large) kids who just get on with stuff (and with each other) without ever needing to be lined up or subject to such procedures. The other day it was my son’s birthday and in the same room playing together was a range of kids, both sexes, aged from 8 to 16. That wouldn’t happen with schoolkids.
    You’ve inspired me to blog about Home Ed more:
    lizardyoga.wordpress.com

  2. The more home ed bloggers the better I reckon. You go girl!

  3. Brilliantly put. Thank God for trailblazers like you who make things much easier for the rest of us (in terms of knowledge, community feeling etc)… as long as the Govenment doesn’t succeed in sticking its oar in!

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