Written by Hazel Davis

Lifestyle

Hey! Teachers! I’ll leave my kids at home

Hazel Davis and her fella have decided to home-educate their kids. This week, Nicky Morgan’s ordered a review that’s set the cat among the home-schooling pigeons.

Illustration by Louise Boulter.

Illustration by Louise Boulter.

It’s been an interesting week in the home-ed community. The education secretary Nicky Morgan has ordered a review into home-schooling in response to fears that children are being radicalised.

This is where the libertarian and statist halves of my brain (I know, it’s exhausting) collide and start throwing pastel crayons at each other. On the one hand I think (and I am paraphrasing the views of most of the home-edders I know), “GET TO ACTUAL FUCK. I’ll do what I like with my children’s education until you can guarantee that your teachers aren’t working themselves into an early grave to reach unrealistic targets and when you can provide me with evidence that home-schooled children have a worse chance in life.” (In fact a book published by the Institute of Education in 2008 concluded that informal learning at home was an “astonishingly efficient way to learn”, suggesting it was as good if not better than school for many children, so, er, yeah.)

And the radicalisation argument doesn’t hold weight. If a child has fundamentalist parents (and remember there are fundamentalists in all belief systems, folks!), it’s likely they’re going to be enjoying a spot of radicalisation at home regardless of whether he or she is at school or not.

“Forums have been ablaze this week with fury at the journalists who want to ‘come along and see what happens’ in home-ed groups. The community has closed ranks, frightened and ready to march, ready to defend its closely guarded way of life.”

But THEN the tiny communist voice in me (it sounds like Billy Bragg) pipes up now and again and says, “But everyone should have the same, everyone should be getting, according to the 1996 Education Act, a ‘suitable, efficient and according to their age and aptitude’ education.” So with this equality comes a necessary bit of state intervention. And that part of me thinks there is absolutely nothing wrong with properly monitoring what’s happening outside of school.

It strikes me as a little bit bonkers that nobody can say how many children are actually home-schooled in the UK (it’s estimated to be between 20,000 and 50,000). So it appears there ARE whole swathes of children ‘unaccounted for’. It’s reasonable to want to know what’s happening with these children, isn’t it? It’s reasonable to want to know that there aren’t children who aren’t being taught to read and write and learn about the world or children who are being given a cock-eyed view of it (although, to be fair, I went to school and still grew up thinking it was normal to fry everything in lard and smoke 73 cigarettes a day, so…).

But I do have problems when this accountability begins to creep into the unrealistic – and, in my opinion, often counterproductive – expectations of the likes of Ofsted.

One of the biggest problems with this review is that the home-ed community (based on my minimal experience, largely on social media) appears to be reacting as it always does, with fear and aggression.

“To be fair, I went to school and still grew up thinking it was normal to fry everything in lard and smoke 73 cigarettes a day.”

I have lost count of the people I have seen objecting to a visit by a local authority (these differ from LEA to LEA – I, personally have never had any contact with mine) with what seems like unjustified defensiveness. And naturally, forums have been ablaze this week with fury at the journalists who want to “come along and see what happens” in home-ed groups. The community has closed ranks, frightened and ready to march, ready to defend its closely guarded way of life.

It’s a little annoying but not at all surprising they’re so defensive when public opinion still seems to be that it’s weird, bad for socialisation *YAWN* and educational attainment (despite the fact that one of my friends who home-eds just told me her daughter has got into a major national youth music group at the youngest possible age).

But if home-educating is a viable way of doing things, as I, and many others, think it is, then there should be nothing to worry about. If you believe you’re offering the best possible education for your child then there should be nothing to fear from better regulation and monitoring.

I don’t want to opt out of society, far from it. I just want to offer a proper and suitable alternative education from the one currently available. Oh and I want to hang out with my children when they’re not tired and crabby with too much homework. And if that means ticking a few boxes now and again and answering a few questions about what we’re up to, then that’s cool.

Read all of Hazel’s adventures in home-edding here.

@hazedavis

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Written by Hazel Davis

Hazel Davis is a freelance writer from West Yorkshire. She has two tiny children but the majority of her hours are taken up with thinking about Alec Baldwin singing sea shanties and the time someone once called her "moreishly interesting".