Thursday, 11 June 2009

Home education - there's a long way to go

There are more stories in the media in recent years about home education, and they're less negative than they used to be - it's gradually becoming more accepted as normal.

But there's still a long way to go. See this story today from the BBC. The assumption is still that it's a quirky choice. School is the norm. Of course, that reflects reality as most people experience it; school is assumed. But I think we should step back and ask - how on earth did something like that become the norm?

In home education one of the person who loves you most in the world supervises your education. It's also the person who knows you best. You likely have a class size of one to five (more kids than that and you probably do them in batches or the older ones have been taught effectively to self-teach 90% of the time). The schedule has maximum flexibility. The teaching approach can be tailored to the child's aptitude. No time is wasted on travelling to school, uniforms or the other paraphernalia. No time is wasted by the kids in the class who don't want to learn, or because the teacher changes every year, or on bullying, or staff strikes (well, not often!), or the like. The class goes at exactly your pace. You can choose your children's friends (it's nonsense today that home education has to mean social exclusion - in most areas now there are such large numbers now that you can link up with as many groups as you like as often as you please).

Given all those advantages, sending your kid to the local school ought to be the non-normal choice. Without exceptional circumstances, why would you choose what you find there rather than the above?

The only cloud on the horizon is that the government has over the last few years been trying increasingly hard to bring home education more under its all-competent (ha!) control. This can't be because the standards in state schools are so high that it'd be good if they spilt over into our homes too - it's surely much more to do with the government's belief in its unlimited competency and lack of realisation that government should govern, not parent. Also many secular and atheist groups have, with no data presented to back it up, successfully spread around the "meme" that home schooling is a cover for child abuse. As often, the scare story becomes the pretext for more centralised control.  It's following a familiar path, though we're at early days yet: government has consultations which don't get the required results, so it has more consultations. Then it says change is needed even though the overwhelming response to the consultation was that change wasn't needed. At first the government just brings in registration and oversight. Then once the foot is in the door, it gradually awards itself more powers. Eventually you might end up in Germany - where if parents wish to educate their children themselves instead of having the government do it, it's a criminal offence that will lead to your child being taken away (Google - you'll find plenty of cases; Hitler brought in that law and it's been used with some zeal by the German government lately). Here's a BBC story on the UK government's attempts to do more in this area. At first it'll be registration; then you'll have to apply to register; then the list of conditions to fulfil will grow longer and longer; before you know it the controversy will be that only the government-approved view of this or that can be taught at home... the time to pray to God and to campaign is now, before it all arrives.

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