Something which has been said of me in the past, and the same idea cropped up yesterday, was that I have not had much to do with other home educators and base my opinions mainly on what I read on Internet lists and forums. This notion says little about me and my life, but a great deal about the attitudes of those making the suggestion. I think that what people who make such assertions are really saying is that there is an Education Otherwise group which meets in North London and a strong home educating scene in Colchester. Because I have not been a member of either set; I cannot have met many home educating parents in real life. This shows a very strange and distorted perspective of home education.
It is true that there are quite a number of groups for home educating parents and that thousands of people belong to them. It is also the case that many more home educators simply get on with the business of home educating without joining groups or making any effort to seek out other home educating parents. I am one such person. Nevertheless, one way and another, I have still come across many home educators while teaching my daughter. Some of these were parents with whom I had professional dealings. This sample were not really typical of anything other than dysfunctional families in Inner London and may perhaps be disregarded for our purposes. How else does somebody who avoids groups get to meet home educators? Well, one bumps into them at meetings of the National Association for Gifted Children, to give one example. We used to belong to this and there is no shortage of home educators at some events and activities. One meets other parents with ‘school age’ children out and about locally and soon realises that these children too are home educated. We have got to know people in this way. A couple of our friends were so impressed with what they saw of my daughter’s experience that they tried it for themselves. This did not work out too well, although one persevered for a year before admitting defeat. Belonging to HEAS and Education Otherwise provided lists of individual parents who could be telephoned and arrangements made to meet up. Many of these parents too did not attend meetings. Finally, because my daughter and I have the habit of appearing in newspapers both local and national, some parents approach me in the street and reveal that they have just taken their children out of school and seek my advice.
Without knowing how many home educated children there are in the country and also knowing the number that attend groups intended exclusively for home educated children, one cannot make any confident statements about the matter, but I strongly suspect that the majority of home educators do not belong to groups. I think that most home educating parents simply plough their own furrow, neither seeking out nor avoiding other home educators. In other words, I think that I am pretty typical in this respect. The great thing about home education is that it is a collection of individuals of all sorts, linked only by the practice of home education. There are of course trends and distinct strands, but there is no such thing as a typical home educator. I might have something in common with other church goers or people who read Sartre and Camus. In the same way, I might have something in common with another person who does not send her child to school. However just because I share one interest with a person, church-going or home edcucting, does not mean that this is somebody with whom I will get on. We may well have very little else to connect us. I never thought of home edcuation as being in any way a defining chracteristic of mine. It was simply what I did and there was no reason why it should provide any sort of link to or common ground with others. For some parents though, it was more like a hobby or shred interest, something like birdwatching ot supporting a particular football team. These people joined together into clubs to meet others who shared their enthusiasm for the pursuit. This is fine, but it is not how I ever worked. I suspect that those who accuse me of not having met many home edcuators in real life belong to this group of people.