I sometimes find listening to the debates of home educators in this country rather like the conversations at the Mad Hatter’s tea party; incomprehensible and lacking in all logic and coherence. Take the exchange yesterday on one of the home education support lists. A woman whose home educated son plays the cornet, wishes him to take music examinations. There were three main suggestions. Two of these were that the mother should contact a school or use a private teacher. The third was from a man who felt that taking examinations in music were unnecessary. This is all very strange.
I am not at all musical, to say the least of it. Nevertheless, I thought that music should be part of a balanced education and felt that it was worth my daughter learning to play a few musical instruments. I accordingly taught her the recorder, piano and guitar. My only knowledge of all this was that I could read music; an ability which anybody could teach themselves in a week or so. I certainly cannot play the guitar or recorder! I mean literally cannot play a single note on either instrument. This does not matter at all. In the end, my daughter dropped the recorder and went on to get Grade 5 at classical guitar and Grade 2 at piano. This was easy enough. One can send off to the ABRSM for the syllabus and then buy the music for the pieces for the examinations. It is also possible to buy a CD of the pieces being played, so that one knows how they should sound. Scales will need to be learned as well, but this is just donkey work and rote learning. No musical ability is required. Anybody can teach any musical instrument at all without any prior knowledge or experience.
Why then all the talk of schools or private teachers? Surely the beauty of home education is that the parents take control of the process and wrest it away from professionals? This minor exchange on a list which has over one and a half thousand members seems to me to shed some light upon the state of home education, at least in Britain. As soon as something slightly out of the run-of-the-mill crops up, the natural impulse seems to be to turn to a professional, rather than to tackle it one’s self. I have been thinking a lot about this business this morning, wondering what it says about the mindset of many home educators. Have they been indoctrinated into believing that anything in the way of formal education must be conducted by a qualified teacher? If so, why are they home educating?