I’m going to go out on a limb here today, and speak about a topic that is hot in the news here in the UK at the moment. The want of the government to implement a home education register as home education rates increase. Some people think there is no harm in one, while others are dead against it. These are my thoughts.
When we were first looking into home education as an option for our children I did find it somewhat strange that there wasn’t such a thing – we didn’t need to tell anyone we were going to be home educating, we could just go ahead and do it without any hassle at all. For those families who have children already in a school, they must deregister, and then that can result in tensions, intimidation, and government authorities overstepping their legal boundaries, mainly by people who have the job of dealing with home educated families, even though they have not received official training in the area and believe that all children should be in a school, even if that school is underperforming or cannot meet the requirements of that child. However, if your child had never been registered within a school system, there was no need to do anything at all but get on with the learning that had been happening since birth.
What are some of the concerns about home education registers?
The fear for those who don’t understand home education, is that our children don’t learn enough, or even at all. They’re afraid that people use home education as an excuse to get their children out of school to hide abuse and neglect. They’re afraid that home educators are indoctrinating their children into cults. How can home educated children be controlled by the state if they’re not under the watchful and controlling eye of Big Brother?
Home Education Registration or Homeschool Monitoring?
Although the government may be saying that their intention is to keep children safe and only to have families registered, will it end there? There is the concern that the government won’t be happy stopping at a simple register. Now that they know who is home educating, they will want to ‘ensure’ that students are ‘keeping up’ with traditionally schooled children. How would this be done? And isn’t one of the great things about home education that students can work at their own pace?
At school, students are basically taught how to pass exams and the subjects of English and math are pushed so hard at the expense of other subjects because if the students don’t do well on the exams, it reflects poorly on the teachers and the schools. Students write an exam at the age of 11, and based on this test, it dictates whether they will get into a grammar school or not (grammar schools are more geared towards those who will later attend university). How can a 2-hour exam at the age of 11 be the basis of the rest of your life?
The risk of implementing a home education register could turn into the requirement to have to pass the same tests as school children, and then all this freedom of subject choice and teaching/learning styles would be lost and it would only hurt our children – the very children the government claims it will protect.
For a newbie, it was somewhat frightening to be totally responsible for the education of our children and not have to use a given curriculum or meet any standards. How could this be? I wondered. My previously very scheduled life run by deadlines and assignments were the only thing I knew. However, I soon found that children have their own schedules and interests, and that’s one of the beauties of home education, is that we can go with the flow.
We don’t need to ‘keep up’ with what the children are doing in school, nor learn the same things. My children don’t have to sit bored in class because the subject matter is too easy for them in one class, while struggling and not doing the best they can in another class because they don’t fully comprehend the subject matter but the class has already moved on to the next area that build upon what they don’t understand.
In some classes my children are working 12-18 months (or more) ahead of their school-aged peers. And that’s great! In other areas, they may not be quite at the same level, but I don’t generally allow them to move on until they have mastered a topic. If we had to follow a given curriculum, this would not be able to happen and their grades would surely suffer. My children learn at their own pace.
I also wonder about an educational system where 34% is considered to be a pass. This is not the education I aspire for my children to obtain.
Abuse and Neglect
The truth is that abuse and neglect can be instigated by anyone of any social class, educational achievement, race, religion, or any other metric you can think of. The government says that they need to keep an eye on home educated children in case they are in danger. However, it is extremely rare for homeschooled children to suffer abuse or neglect. The one case in the UK that keeps being referred to was a rare case, and the family was known to social services and other government agencies, as is most often the case with any child, including those children who are at school and are abused and not ‘helped’ by the government out of that abuse.
All home educators should not be tarred with the same brush ‘just in case’ and be looked at and made to feel like they are criminals simply because they want the best education for their children and find that it may not take place in a formal school setting. We should not be seen as guilty and then be forced to prove ourselves innocent over and over again.
There are many reasons to choose home education for a child. Wanting to raise your child according to the family’s religion is one. Another is the opposite and not wanting your child to be a part of the religion that is a part of school life. There are many religions, and they should all be respected, as should secular families.
The government may say they’re trying to protect children from being brainwashed in illegal schools. However, I hardly think that having a register would stop illegal schools. If they wanted to be legal from the outset, I’m sure they would be. And if the government thinks they can keep track of all the students, when authorities are actually sending students to unregistered, illegal schools, I just don’t know how that would happen.
Funding For a Home Education Register & Monitoring
How will the government fund a home education register? As it is, educational funding is being cut back again and again, and schools are begging parents for such basic supplies as toilet paper because the schools cannot afford it. Some schools are are even cutting hours to save funds. The scene is even more dire when it comes to pupils with special needs who cannot be accommodated at school and are left in limbo for 1 or 2 years without a place at any school at all. The demands on schools are ever increasing, and there does not seem to be any sign of reprieve for them.
With such a shortage of funds for education, how will specialists be found to visit every home and examine the educational attainment of every home educated student? The visits alone, never mind the red tape and paperwork involved would be horrendous. I can envision it being akin to registering to be a childminder where I had to follow and implement over 50 guidelines to the letter as a ‘minimum standard’ to watch one child – exactly the same rules and regulations as a huge daycare with several employees. The stress that created and the microscope I was under with a stranger coming into my home and evaluating my parenting skills; it really made me feel small. To put parents and children under that stress, when stress is one of the reasons many parents choose home education, is not right.
What’s next? Are all parents going to be sent to mandatory parenting classes?
I’m honestly surprised that the government isn’t actually pushing for more families to home educate as there is no funding provided for home educators; we shoulder the entire bill ourselves. The more families that home educate, the less the government has to pay for schools, teachers, and supplies.
Our Right, Our Responsibility
Just as home education is not for everyone, neither is school the right option for every child. Some parents may want extra support and resources to help them home educate their child, and when this is the case, that’s definitely an option that should be available, in particular, for families who were forced into home education by having their child ‘off-loaded‘ from the school in an attempt to improve the school’s rankings, and for those parents who are left in limbo without a school to send their child to when special educational needs cannot be met locally.
However, for those parents who do not want to do ‘school at home’ and follow the same teaching/learning styles and the same curriculum as the school system, this autonomy should be respected. Parents are a child’s first teacher, and home education is not an easy road to take, but we know our children much better than a teacher in school watching over 30 kids per day (or more for higher grades where there’s a different teacher for each subject).
I can understand why some people think that every child should be held to the same standards, but that forms a narrow society without the diversity that is required in the workplace, particularly when the UK wants to close it’s doors to foreigners. This also leaves many children behind to feel like failures, when they just simply haven’t had the time they need to mature and understand various concepts.
Yes, before actually home educating my children, I thought a home education register and guidance were a good idea, and in limited situations, this may still be a good idea if the parent wants it, or if there are extenuating circumstances to warrant it. However, having been in home education for 8 years now, I would hate to think how my children would have been restrained in what they were learning during that time, and the added stress and anxiety put onto my shoulders on top of the pressure of home education. It would be an unwelcome, and an unnecessary imposition of our freedom.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether a child goes to school or is home educated, the onus of ensuring each child receives a good education falls on the shoulders of the parents. Those children who succeed have parents who encourage them, who spend time with them, who are interested in what they are learning and how they can improve.