I am, as is generally known, a great enthusiasm for home education. Properly conducted, it can deliver at least as good education that offered by any school, independent or maintained. That for me is all that there is to the matter. I do not think that home educated children are special in any way, nor that they should stick to ‘their own kind’ in any way. For some parents though, there is a pleasing sense of exclusivity about being home educators. There are those who do not even like their kids to play with children who attend school, lest they are contaminated; tempted from the path of righteousness and end up wishing to attend school themselves! It is their duty, as these parents see it, to keep their children from following the broad, primrose path to destruction which schools represent and the best way to do this is to make sure that they only associate with other home educating families.
On one of the home education lists recently, a mother who is about to withdraw her child from school posted that she was feeling nervous about the decision; as well she might. Luckily, her child’s school was well disposed to the whole business and there was every prospect that her kid would be able to maintain friendly relations with those children with whom she had been attending school. Many dedicated home educators must have shook their heads in dismay at this point, wondering what could have possessed this woman even to consider such a course of action. Somebody decided to set her straight, saying:
‘we see other families almost every day) get-togethers with
other HE families and your daughter will thrive.(If you just spend time
socialising with families whose children are in school, your daughter will
very likely conclude that school is where all the really interesting stuff
Now the fact is that over 99% of children go to school. If you wish for your child to grow up normally and be able to relate to other young people of her age, she needs to know what is going on in school and be able to talk about it with her peers. It is definitely the case though that with some home educators, they feel that their way of education is somehow more virtuous and enlightened that school. Their children are special and spending too much time with ordinary children might have the effect of making them less so. They might even, horror of horrors, want to go to school themselves if they see too much of schooled children. I don’t see this air of being special and somehow separate from others as being at all healthy for a child. It is likely to breed snobbishness and make them look down on others and regard themselves as being specially favoured in some sense.
When I read the comment which I quote above, it put me in mind of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. I know a few home educators who are also Witnesses and their children feel doubly set apart from the ordinary world; saved in two senses. Perhaps the fact that the woman who made the comment is a fanatically devout Catholic has some bearing on the matter, maybe she is used to thinking of herself and her family as being specially blessed in some way. I have certainly encountered this perception among other home educating parents; a cult-like satisfaction about being on the right side against a generally corrupt world. Perhaps it ties in with what I wrote a few weeks ago about conspiracy theories. Maybe some home educators feel that they are right in a far deeper sense than the purely educational.
For me, the tremendous thing about home education was that it was an effective method of educating my child. I think that were I to have ended up feeling that she should not have been spending too much time with ordinary children who were at school, then I should perhaps have taken a wrong turn somewhere. I wonder if readers have come across this attitude themselves? I have an idea that it is far from uncommon, particularly among the more militant and well organised home educators.