Folies a Deux in some high profile home educating families

I have in the past been reproved for suggesting that many home educators are a bit strange. People commenting here on the notion have reminded me that home educators on the internet may not be at all typical. That there are strange home educating parents is indisputable; every time I shave in the morning, I see one peering out at me madly from the mirror. Could it be though  that I am arguing from the particular to the universal or even projecting my own manifest abnormalities upon others? It would be a rash person indeed who discounted this hypothesis out of hand!

I want to look today at some of the high profile parents who have a great influence on how home education is viewed. They are the ones who appear in newspapers, mount campaigns against local authorities and central government, make hundreds of Freedom of Information requests and patrol the internet looking for heretics.

Before I go any further, I want to make it clear that I am not saying that all, most or even many home educators are as peculiar as those whom I wish to examine. What I am claiming is that the behaviours displayed are unique to the home educating world and that this makes them worth considering.

I have now come across half a dozen well known home educating mothers who have the following in common. They have daughters to whom they are very attached, either because they are only children or because there is a large gap between the daughter and other siblings. They are all youngest children. The mothers all claim to suffer from various syndromes and typically, doctors are unable to find anything wrong with them. They are forced to either go private, insist upon further tests or resort to alternative medicine. Alarmingly, around the start of puberty, their daughters begin to display similar unidentifiable disorders, both physical and mental. The mothers say that the child is a ‘mirror’ or ‘carbon copy’ of themselves.

Here is one mother talking about her efforts to have herself, at the age of fifty nine, diagnosed with ADHD:

Two of my kids have an ADHD diagnosis (after 10 years of trying) and I have just had mine confirmed as primarily innatentive type. I am trying to explore in a less desperate way than I did when seeking diagnosis to see if I can learn little things that can make a big difference.
Getting diagnosed was a traumatic struggle (and that is no exaggeration), the cards are stacked against you if you have ADHD due to the incompetence and tendency to lose things of the NHS. I may blog about in another post if I find I can without endangering my blood pressure, not there yet … We are going around the houses with the NHS at the moment for a diagnosis for my last child, she presents unusually as well but is almost as a carbon copy of me.

As may be seen, the mother is determined that the child will have the same disorder as she herself. A few months later, the daughter is displaying strange physical symptoms:

whenever she ate something with even the tiniest bit sugar in the same thing happened and it was accompanied by stomach pain. Reluctantly, as you can imagine with a 13 year old girl, she gave up sugar. It is very surprising what has sugar in it and there were very few things we could buy, including most sliced meats.
So all was fine for a few months then she started reacting to all food…

A thirteen year-old girl whose mother is keen for her to have ADHD is now reacting badly to eating any food. She has, ‘hollow eyes and pale complexion and lack of energy’ Can anybody see a connection here? The mother’s remedy is a crank diet and alternative medicine.

Three other mothers of thirteen year old-girls have variations of ME and their daughters develop the problem at puberty. In every case, this involves endless rounds of visits to doctors, often combined with strange diets as the parents self diagnose food allergies, gluten intolerance and so on. This is usually after GPs have told them that there is nothing wrong with the child. Four of these mothers also believe, without any diagnosis that their children are on the autistic spectrum.

I am, as I say, not claiming that this sort of thing is very common. What I am saying is that some of the well known names in British home education are martyrs to this syndrome and it affects their outlook tremendously. Some of these mothers give interviews, appear in newspapers and represent their own views as being typical of home educators in this country. What I will say about this sort of business is this. I have never heard of a woman approaching sixty who is determined to have herself diagnosed with ADHD. This is completely weird. It is curious that at puberty, the  daughters of this group should develop problems with eating, auto-immune disorders, ME, ADHD and so on and that their parent should also be victims of these things. These are extreme cases, but one cannot help notice that while the parents of schooled children tend to shy away from diagnoses of things like ADHD or autistic spectrum disorder in their children, quite a few home educating parents are dead keen on the idea. One often hears home educating parents not only speculating that their children are on the spectrum or have ADHD, but wondering whether they themselves had these things as children.

I would be interested to know if readers have spotted this kind of thing happening. I am particularly keen to know if anybody has seen it in parents who are not home educating? I never have and at the moment I incline to the view that it is something which is exclusive to home educators. Not as I say all or even most, but it definitely looks to me like a well defined subset within the home educating community.


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