Let us try and approach this topic with an open mind and see what common ground there might be; the sort of things with which everybody would agree. In the first place, it is almost certainly true that most home educating parents love and care for their children just as much as parents who send their children to school. Indeed, I would guess that on the whole, home educating parents tend to be even more concerned about their children’s welfare and education than those who do not assume responsibility for their child’s education.
We can probably also agree that among those parents who do not send their children to school, there will be some who neglect their child’s education and others who are abusive and cruel. This is the case with parents who do send their kids to school and so it would be unlikely to be any different with those who don’t.
So far, so good. I think that most home educating parents, as well as most local authority officers would find nothing so far to which they could object.
Local authorities fear that a substantial number of parents who do not send their children to school are neglectful of their children’s needs and that their children are possibly suffering harm by being at home, rather than at school. Is this likely? In other words, is there any evidence that children kept at home are more likely to be at risk than those sent to school?
The first thing that we must avoid doing is to judge home educators by the type of people one comes across on the Internet. Many of these people are unbalanced and do not give a brilliant impression of home educators to outsiders. One clue about the likely incidence of strange people is that groups of people committed to what most people would see as weird and far-out ideas do tend to have a pretty high proportion of individuals who range from eccentric to raving mad. This is so with animal rights activists, nudists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, home educators and various other fringe groups. Many of these people will be fairly normal, quite a few will be on the borderline and a good number will be extremely odd. The proportion of very odd people in such groups is likely to be higher than in mainstream organisations such as the Rotarians, a reading group or members of a bowls club.
The tricky part with home educators is that by definition, such people are more intimately associated with children than are the members of most, for want of a better expression, crank movements. This puts them into a different class from those who worship the sun at Stonehenge or drink their own urine. What adults do to themselves is in general not, or should not be, any concern of either the government or the local authority. Where children are concerned, the case is altered.
What I have done here is really to clear the ground and set out a few thoughts that most people would agree with. I shall build on tis foundation in the coming days.