Time for home educators to stop expecting special treatment

I have remarked before that some home educating parents seem to feel that if all the normal rules are not bent in their favour, then this amounts to wicked discrimination against them! The latest example of this unfortunate mindset, encouraged I am afraid to say by some of the lists and forums, is to be found on the HE-UK list. A mother there, whose son will be sixteen in a few months, is upset because a local college will not admit her son. This is because he has no GCSEs.

The first thing which occurs to one here is to ask why the mother did not find this out years ago and make provision accordingly. Instead, she has a grudge about the business because the college won't take her word for it that her child is bright and self-motivated. Why on earth should they? Parents are the worst possible people to give references for their own children! I am sure that we all know slow witted children whose parents think they are little geniuses. Most of us also know children who are rough bullies, although their parents believe them to be boisterous and forthright. I am the last person in the world to whom anybody should apply if they wish for an objective description of my daughter. This is very right and proper; of course parents should think well of their children and believe them better than they actually are. This is part of human nature. It is also why colleges prefer to have references from teachers and see a bunch of GCSEs, rather than depend upon what Mum says.

A home educating parent of my acquaintance, not on any of the lists, was really pissed off recently when her son was refused a place at Edinburgh University. He has a glittering array of IGCSEs and AS levels, but wished to study history. Anybody doing a Humanity at Edinburgh is required to have a GCSE in a language. There are no exceptions to this rule. Being psychologically healthy, the mother concerned was pissed off not at Edinburgh University, but at herself for not thinking of this years ago and making sure that her son took an IGCSE in a language. She does not expect Edinburgh University to change their admissions criteria for her son.

Those giving advice on the home education lists and forums could do worse than adopt a similar attitude. It does the reputation of home education no good at all if parents are constantly trying to have the rules changed because they have been unable or unwilling to get their kids through the same examinations as everybody else. Instead of complaining about the admissions criteria, whether for an FE College or Russell Group university, parents might do worse than find out all about them years in advance and then make sure that their children are on a level playing field with everybody else. Home educating parents are often seen by education professionals as being a bit of a nuisance and every time somebody plays silly beggars like this, attempting to get her son onto a course for which he is not qualified, it simply reinforces that prejudice. It would be a better advertisement for home education if teenagers were to be turning up at FE colleges with more and better qualifications than the children from the maintained schools. If that happened for a few years, then perhaps it would help home education shake off this image of being something which is usually undertaken by cranks, misfits and troublemakers. This generally is what teachers and lecturers expect when they ecounter a home educating family and it would be nice to see more families which did not conform to this stereotype. This would, in the long run, benefit all home educators.