Leave us alone (but keep sending the cheques!)

I was greatly entertained to read a sad appeal recently by a home educating mother who is now being encouraged by her local Job Centre to get a job. She is wholly reliant upon state benefits and hopes to continue in this condition until her child is sixteen. Nice work if you can get it! This started me thinking about the mental agility and sophistry which one would need in order to claim firstly that the state should simply ignore one's educational provision, while at the same time paying for it. In other words, requiring the state to back off and going absolutely mad if any questions are asked, while at the same time expecting regular maintenance payments to be sent to pay for it all.

I remarked yesterday that the state had a stake in home education to the extent that if they were later required to pay benefits to an unemployed and perhaps unemployable young person, then the mode of education which brought the youth to this pass is their proper concern. If one is home educating on a remote island and completely self-sufficient, taking nothing at all from the infrastructure of the state; then one might reasonably tell the state to get lost. Few of us are in this position. Our lives, in one way and another, involve us giving money to the state and the state giving money or other benefits to us. The welfare bill in this country is astronomical and attempts are now being made to reduce it. The welfare bill, in simple terms, means that people who are working support and pay for those who are not working. This is fair enough in the case of those who are unable to work. When one hears of a woman whose inability to work is caused by her refusal to send her child to school, one is entitled to ask, 'Why on earth should I subsidise this person?' In short, if somebody wishes to educate her child out of school, all well and good, but why should she think that I will pay for her to do so? Now if I, as a home educator feel this way, only imagine how those workers who send their children to school will view the situation!

I could name several able-bodied high profile home educators on social security, whose children are now also on benefits. I am sure that there are many more of whom I don't know. I am wondering about the implications of such a situation. Of course I have a perfect right to refuse to arrange for my child to gain any qualifications if this forms part of my principles. But this decision does not take place in a vacuum. Actions have consequences and one possible consequence of this particular action might be that the state has to pay, via other people's taxes, to support my child. This is especially unfair for society if it has had to pay for me not to work while I raise an ill educated and unqualified young person who will then go on to claim benefits himself. I am not saying that this is the case with most home educated young people. I know a number of such cases and I am sure that most readers will know a few themselves. Home educators make a lot of fuss about the money which they save the state by not sending their kids to school, but this two or three thousand a year, the Age Weighted Pupil Allowance, is dwarfed by the benefits bill of a non-working family.

I am wondering how these parents are able to square this particular circle. They want to be left alone and become angry if asked any questions about the educational provision which they are providing, but then they wish for plenty of money from other people so that they are free to pursue their unconventional lifestyle. I would be glad to hear what others think about this.