Most of the time when I mention I home educate people either ask me if it’s legal, or tell me they couldn’t do that. They don’t have the patience, or the knowledge, or the courage – I’m fairly sure I’m seen as some kind of a saint or perhaps superwoman.
I’m neither. Just a parent. Choosing a path that I hope is the best I can choose for my children. Isn’t that what all parents try to do? Or most, anyway?
But a little while back on twitter, where I do spend far too much time in between maths lessons, housework, nappy changes and cooking, I spotted a couple of conversations that really bothered me.
There was this:
— Krysta Parsons (@KrystaParsons) October 20, 2013
A what? A vanity project? I don’t really know where to start with that. I honestly can’t see how anyone can think that parents home educating are doing it out of vanity, or for their own benefit – it’s all about the children. And as for the social cohesion bit, well. My children are out and about in day to day society all the time. They meet children from a wide variety of schools, people from all sorts of walks of life, and I do my level best to promote tolerance and understanding at all times. I suspect by social cohesion the tweeter might actually have meant social conformity, and that is *not* something I’m about to promote. My children are individuals, as are all children, and I want them to have the time and space they need to grow into themselves, explore their own interests and choose their own paths.
But that conversation was one I only saw in passing, and didn’t really get to me. If it hadn’t been for the second one I’d probably have forgotten it almost instantly. The one that really bothered me was where an author I follow had a pop at the people behind free schools being the same as home schoolers, parents who think education is easy, right up until their children fail at A level and university.
I’m paraphrasing, as the tweets have been deleted, presumably because I challenged them. But this particular set of assumptions really bugged me.
I don’t know any home educator who thinks of this as an easy path. And I don’t know any parent who takes educational choices lightly. We all agonise over what is best for our children, I think, and expend blood, sweat and tears trying to set them up for life the very best we can. I know (oh how I know) what we’re doing carries some risks, and that if my children went to school and performed at least averagely, I would not be criticised for that, whereas if they do the same via home education, eyebrows will be raised. It will be my fault for making the wrong choices, gambling with their futures.
Except as my children grow, they are more and more involved in choosing the path they take. The older two have considered, and at this point, discounted school, even knowing that gaining qualifications will be more complicated outside the system. And don’t they have the right to make that choice?
I think our society benefits from a wide variety of educational provisions. I wouldn’t ban independent schools, I’m not convinced all the free schools are a good idea, but I’m not sure they’re all bad. In a different time and place, had things gone a little differently a few years ago, I’d probably right now still be working in a montessori school, with flexi schooled offspring and working on opening a secondary, which might well be a free school. And guess what, I’m not a qualified teacher. Not QTS anyway, though I am montessori trained and qualified.
I don’t think that QTS is the be all and end all. As long as it’s possible to get rid of teachers who don’t come up to scratch, I think that training on the job isn’t such a bad strategy. I actually think that having the majority of teachers who’ve been to school, university and back to school again is a bad idea, and that some outside experience and influence is a good thing. But that’s just my opinion, born of my experience on a (uncompleted) PGCE, in primary and secondary schools and through conversations with a number of teachers (quite a few of whom home educate).
More than anything though, I wish that people would open their minds to alternatives in education. Because the model we have now, which was set up a long time ago, hasn’t moved with the times, and isn’t benefiting our children or our society. Again, just my opinion. But there you go.