Knocking copy

One of the things which one cannot help but notice, both when talking to individual home educators and also while looking at Internet lists and forums, is that many home educating parents are more concerned with how awful schools are, rather than with how great home education is. Often, they will regale one with horror stories of their child's experience at school and also the terrible things that have happened at other schools and nurseries. It is quite possible to talk to a home educator about education for half an hour without the subject of home education per se being mentioned at all. It's all about school. This is what advertisers call 'knocking copy', when rather than extolling the virtues of your own product, you focus instead on the shortcoming of what your competitor has to offer.

There is no doubt that many home educators in this country have not chosen home education as a positive decision, but feel that they have been driven into it by circumstances at their kid's nursery or school. This is, I suppose, bound to give one a jaded view of mainstream education. I think that there is a little more to it though than this. The more one learns about the backgrounds of many home educating parents, the more one discovers that many of them had an unhappy time at school. Joy Baker, for example, one of the early pioneers of elective home education who struggled with Norfolk council during the 1950s, had a bad time at school herself and this was certainly a key factor in her decision not to send her children to school. The same is definitely true of quite a few of the more vociferous types whom one sees on the Internet. I am not going to name any names here, but this also applies to well known researchers in the field of home education, which is why I take their work with a pinch of salt. Many of those who set out apparently to investigate home education are doing so from the perspective of people who hate schools and are seeking to validate their own prejudices.

You can observe this underlying theme when some scandal erupts about schools or education. There is glee among home educating parents and they say, in effect, 'There you go, that's why I wouldn't send my own precious child to such places'. This happens with anything from poor academic results to the discovery of a paedophile gang connected with a nursery.

I did not have a brilliant time at school myself, but I have always thought that this was more to do with flaws in my own character, rather than anything wrong with the educational system as such! Readers may not be over-surprised to hear that I was just as much an irritating know-it-all as a child and adolescent as is the case today. This might have influenced my own decision not to send my child to school, but I have an idea that it was more the obvious educational advantages of unlimited one to one tuition in a relaxed domestic setting which recommended the scheme to me.

This idea, that many home educating parents are very anti-school and had a bad time were unhappy themselves at school, could shed light on home education in this country. It is particularly noticeable that often the reasons given by parents in Britain for home educating have more to do with things other than education; family life, relaxed and stress-free life for their children and so on.