Saturday, July 27, 2013

Discuss: Should home-educators actively promote home-education?

Or, should we keep quiet about home-education being an option open to others?

Do you have a view on this?

This was a discussion recently on one of the Facebook groups I belong to.  It started off with someone asking about the promotion of home-education and looking for ideas and feedback regarding how to go about it.

I mentioned that over the years I had been part of a local group of a people that had promoted home-education at a variety of events.  I said that I had put cards in newsagents and on village notice boards, and leaflets in a holder on the gate of my house when we had lived on the main road with lots of passers-by.  It goes without saying that this blog is rather a good promotion tool too, and the (new and vastly improved!) Classroom Free website certainly gets a decent amount of hits per day.

The group discussion really got me thinking.  I wrote in my response that I believed one negative to the increase in the popularity of home-education, could be that the powers that be may wish to have more control when it comes to regulation.  At the moment we are such a small minority that we are relatively easy to 'sweep under the carpet' somewhat.  A large enough increase in numbers could get a few backs up in certain areas (Teacher Unions perhaps?  The NSPCC who already have a rather downtrodden opinion of home-educators maybe?) and I could see that that would lead to an increase in the calls for monitoring and registration.

A couple of replies from others suggested that we shouldn't actively promote home-education.  It was said that if someone looks for an alternative to school, they will find one.

Herein lies my problem.

If you had never read about home-education, heard about home-education, or had come across anyone actually home-educating, would you look for information about it?

If you have been bought up thinking that ALL children have to go to school would you seek an alternative?

If you had seen the sensationalised news stories of parents serving a jail sentence because their children didn't attend school (truants), would you not think that it was therefore a legal requirement to go?

If your child was having issues within the school environment and you had the apparent support of the headteacher, teachers, perhaps counsellors etc, who appeared to be on your side, would you feel the need to search elsewhere, particularly if you weren't computer savvy?  There are still plenty of families within the UK without a computer or internet connection.  There are still many parents not able to use a computer due to lack of knowledge.  Using Google and searching for advice isn't an option.  So where do they turn to?

You see, I feel very passionate about home-education.  I wouldn't class myself as being anti-school, indeed I have many many friends who have children who appear to be thriving with the school system.  I know it works well for some.  I am also well aware that home-education wouldn't work for everyone.

BUT...

I also believe that a parent should be able to make an informed decision regarding the educational provision of their child.

If you aren't aware of all the options open to you, how can you make that informed choice?

I have seen home-education literally put families back together, not just for me and mine, but for many many home-educators I have had the pleasure to cross paths with, both online and in 'real'.  I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that it was finding an alternative to school that turned my son's life around.  I know for sure that had we persisted with the traditional school route, that our lives would be very different now and my son would have had far more struggles than on the alternative journey we have chosen to tread.

I have received countless emails telling me of the damage that has been done to so many children, each and every one of them tugging at my heart strings.

I want to shout out to the world (or this country at least) that it doesn't have to be this way. That parents have choices.

Now, I know that the idea of home-education is a nightmare to some.  I know that for a large percentage of families it would be a struggle for many reasons - financial, time, work, lacking in self-confidence, to name but a few.  But, if you had a child that was struggling to cope in school for whatever the reason, would you like to know that there was a plan B?  Wouldn't you like to know that there was always another route to take, be it permanent or temporary?

Just very recently I have received messages such as (quoted with identities hidden):

"My son was severely bullied at school.  He shut down completely.  He wasn't happy.  He wouldn't talk, eat, sleep or anything.  He spent much of his time crying.  I took him out of school and the transformation is astounding.  I now have a happy and contented son.  Choosing to home-educate him was the best thing I could have done, I wish I had known it was legal before so much harm was allowed to be done."

"Now home-educating my son and daughter. Both have various disorders and difficulties.  Finally removed them from school in February 2013 and am trying to undo the damage school has done.  Wish I had know about home-education from the start."

"Started home-educating in December 2012 having spent the previous four years battling with the school.  Loving life now and haven't looked back, but wish we had known about home-ed sooner."

"Home-Educating my 7 year old daughter having found out that there was an alternative to school in December.  Wish I had known before, lots of damage has been done and I now have to try to put my daughter back together again."

I know that home-education awareness is ever growing.  I have received numerous messages seeking support from people who have chosen to home-educate from the word go.  They already know that they have various options open to them and they have decided on the route they are taking before their child even reaches school attendance age.  More and more people are telling me that they know a family of home-educators, or that they have read about a home-educating family or have seen one mentioned on a TV programme.  Sometimes the publicity isn't all that positive, but it is still planting the seed in someone's mind and that seed might just be enough for someone to want to find out more.

But what about those (like I was, many moons ago) who haven't had the luxury of knowing anyone that home-educates their children?  What if the only TV programmes you have watched involving home-education as a story line have been American based?  If you had had it drummed into you constantly, throughout your own childhood and beyond that "ALL children HAVE TO go to school!" would you really seek an alternative in your time of need?  Or would you believe that the 'professionals' have your child's best interest at heart - after all they keep saying they will help you and when you are at the end of your tether that 'we will help' offer is like music to your ears.

Many people that get in touch with me feel as if they are at the end of the road.  Their children are suffering and they, as a parent, are struggling.  The help they have received isn't helping or perhaps promised help hasn't been forthcoming.  The child they they know and love is disintegrating in front of their eyes.  Some speak of self-harm, others of tears and solitude.  Talk of suicide, self-hatred, and loathing of life is common.

If you were in my position, upon being entrusted with such tales (and I am not the only one, there are many many home-educators out there who also hear of such experiences), would you not wish it to stop?  Would you not strive to try to ensure that no-one needlessly goes through such things again?  Would you not want home-education to be talked about, openly discussed where it needs to be, just so that parents know they have a back up if plan A fails.

I'm not for one minute suggesting that every child should be home-educated.  As said, I'm not anti-school and I know that the lifestyle that comes along with the home-ed choice wouldn't suit everyone.  And that's just what I view home-education to be.  A lifestyle, not purely just an educational decision, but a decision that will affect many areas of daily life.

What I am suggesting is informing parents of their right to choose.  Just as I had the right to choose.  Just as many of the people reading this blog had the right to choose.  It may or may not reflect on their current or future choices, but they would be aware, and that awareness could, just possibly, save a family from sinking to the depths after months (or in some cases years) of traumatic suffering.

If, when Joseph was struggling, I had known that there was an alternative, I would have pulled him out of the environment that was damaging him sooner.  I would have still attempted to discuss things with the headteacher and his classroom tutor, and tried to find a solution that way (mainly because I lacked in self-confidence at that time), but I wouldn't have had to prolong his agony.  I expect that I would still have thought of home-educating him as a short-term, temporary solution, just as I did back then.  I expect that I would have still thought that we could make school work for him if we rebuilt his lost confidence and equipped him with a better understanding.  But, the decision to pull him out would have been made sooner and perhaps less harm would have been done.  I feel that is the case for many people.  I feel that by equipping parents with the knowledge that an alternative to the school system exists, we may well save many children and young people (and their parents) from severely damaging experiences.

So, should we all be hush and think to ourselves "I'm ok, and my children are ok.  I'm happy with home-educating families being such a small proportion of the population as it means I'm going to be left alone.  I don't want to rock the boat."

Perhaps self-preservation isn't a bad thing and we should be quiet and continue travelling on our own merry paths without hindrance.

Or, maybe we should we be thinking "Do you know what?  Home-education has been an absolute saviour for me and mine.  I don't know where we would be now if we hadn't known about it. I would love to share what we know with others so they too are able to make that choice if they want to or have the need to in the future."

No matter which way I look at it or how many times I think about it, I still think the latter.  I just can't be 'selfish' about home-ed.  I want to shout about it loud and proud.  I don't want to stay hushed and not rock the boat.  I am prepared to defend my right to home-educate if the need ever arises and my eyes are wide open to that possibility in the future, but surely if just one child, one family, can be helped by being informed of their legal rights, it's worth it?

So that is my view.  If you share it, do think about getting involved in Classroom Free.  You can see the how you can help page by clicking here.  There are some suggestions on there but I'm sure the list isn't exhaustive. You may have your own ideas, share them with me if you wish.  I envisage the website becoming community focused, with many voices, not just mine.  I'd love to have you on board if you share the same vision.

7 comments:

  1. I agree school is the norm I actually dont know anyone real life locally to me that home educates.
    I dont think my lea is hostile towards home ed maybe just not as helpful as others devon seems to be very home ed aware according to website and think I saw on ed otherwise high proportion home educators in devon.

    Maybe they could hand out leaflets at hv if you lucky enough to see a hv these days. Or posters up in surgery something like dont forget deadlines for schools is and to find out more about home ed visit this website links.

    Every lea does admissions for schools booklet i paper form or online they could have section in that book I guess.

    I guess I always knew home ed existed just dident know much about it or how common it was.
    Similar analogy to home births ended up having 2nd and 3rd child at home after good chat with midwife during antenatal class where another lady had a homebirth and discussed it. More detail I looked into more I thourght yes this could work. Even though my mum was against its not safe but afterwards she thourght it was fab.

    I first started looking into home ed last year eldest was struggling had bad year 1 when we decided we wanted to flexi school so i did reasearch typed up proposal with articles, rang lea they had no objection but its heads discretion and he said no.

    We ended up moving her to small village school which again led us to to home ed again as younger siblings due to start good chance they wont get in and backup option is to home ed but when I mention idea to people they look at me like im crazy.

    Lost count of parenting forum threads where especially in London child has been offered none of their school places.I think its good backup i cant face doing 2 schools and after going through system with 1 thinking whats harm in waiting if reception same efys as nusery with phonics why cant it be done at home?

    Twice over last week today at birthday party nursery freind and last week end of year preschool many of my middle childs freinds are leaving to start school in september. Some july /august and seem too young and not quite ready. Their parents say yes they worry but no one considers their legal right to defer or wait until term after 5t birthday. When I suggest idea they say no their child wont make freinds, they wont get school place or they be academically behind.My middle child is september so just missed starting which now kind of glad, my youngest is april and pretty sure wish to defer him.

    In scotland they start at five, many other countries usa/canada/oz age 6 and scandanvian countries age 7.

    With all this talk of testing and ranking for 5years olds and draconian laws on holidays I reckon more will seek to home educate,

    For me it makes sense. im at home, im highly educated myself and have started proper research and plannning into what I would do not sure im the total autonomous type like a bit of structure but there,s not many uk resources for home educating most of its us which lots of religion.

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  2. Hi I educated my daughter in her last year in junior school . She then wanted to go to high school . Six months in it was not going to work so began again home educating. I have to say its the best thing we ever did. Shes now nearly 22 and its still the best thing we ever did . The only downside is her qualifications as required by everyone else. When we began home education NO-ONE within my area, known to us, was home educating, hopefully that has changed. The more I read on the internet the more people seem to be home educating, either way, its still the best thing we ever did, why give your child over to someone else and expose them to things you don't agree with just to satisfy others. Anything you need to know can be found on the internet so what you don't know you can learn. Go for it whats the worst that can happen, someone wont agree , but whats new Marie

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  3. Hi Julia. This was a very well written and easy to read piece of journalism. I enjoyed your take of this topic and agreed with all you say. Home education should be known about by the masses as the law states that you have a right to HE your child/ren but at the moment it seems that you don't have the right to know about it.

    When you get the forms for starting school it should state the law and then explain 'otherwise', as very few people understand the difference between having to educate your child and sending them to go to school, most think it means the same thing.

    Carry on the good writing as I can't go a week with out my diet of classroom free and seeing how your 'farm' (the animals, not the kids lol) are doing. Jac xxx

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  4. This is such a hard question! When my son was 3 I 'knew' I didn't want him to go to school for many reasons. I had no idea it was an option as I thought 'all children must go to school'. When he was 4 a wonderful lady had a letter published in the local paper explaining that school is not compulsary. The rest is history - I spoke to her, researched online and he is now 13 and has never been to school. On the other hand I have a friend who is very keen to raise the profile of home education. Every time she speaks to a local politician the response is 'we need a register'. She tried to have an article in the local paper but they just twist it to sensationalise it as all television programmes seem hell bent on doing. I am so glad I found out about it but I have a great fear that shouting too loudly upsets people who have followed the 'normal' education route without really thinking about it. They then seem to feel that if they didn't get the chance to do it for their children then no one should. Maybe I am too pessimistic. I think my fear comes from imagining what would have happened if home education wasn't an option - it doesn't bear thinking about.
    I'm sure this hasn't helped in any way at all!

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  5. I happened to find out that homeschooling was an option when I met a couple who had been close high school friends with my husband. I met their family and learned that they were homeschoolers. The idea immediately appealed to me. Long story short, we started homeschooling our 3 young children. However, at the time my oldest son was in high school and I was too scared to pull him out and homeschool him. I didn't feel equipped to do that and I was afraid I'd do him a great disservice.
    Fast forward 10 years later. I wish I'd known then what I know now, or had the curriculum options that I have now. We use an online learning program called Time4Learning. The lesson plans are already done and the student's work recorded on a progress report. Time4Learning has just added high school to their program, which we are so excited about because my 2nd oldest is now in high school. This means we can continue with the program that we've used for years and like so much! If I'd had a program like this back then, or if someone had come along side me to guide me, I'd have pulled my high schooler out. Just the other day he told me he wished I'd homeschooled him too. :)
    So yes, I do agree that we should be getting the word out. Especially for families with kids who are struggling in school or who have special needs and are not getting the special attention they need.
    So thanks for being pro-active. :)

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  6. I can't remember how I first heard about home educating but it is something I have been thinking about for about 10 years. If I'd of known people who did or information was easy to find I may of done it before now but also think that if it was more people may do it without enough consideration or research and maybe not to such a good job, giving home ed a bad name in general. If what makes sense? I think if it became more common authorities would seek to control us more and rule over what we can and can't do whereas at the moment they see us as a small enough percentage to not really be significant to worry about causing many issues or effecting their influence over people and how they bring up their children.

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  7. Yes - in principle I do think that home educators have every right to promote home ed. And those that do it well will help many many families. But neither should they feel they have to. People are good at different things. I like to chat with people at the stage where they're almost there but have niggles ie they've found out about it from some other source, find their way to a forum and ask basic questions. I love to talk to people at that stage. I have helped a few people make that final leap.

    I do understand where the reservations come from - such as people promoting ideas that get us all looked at closely (as a completely autonomous HEor I do not want to be scrutinised by an ignorant LA bod). But I cannot imagine how difficult my life would be without home-ed and why should I deliberately stop that knowledge being spread. Actively promoting though - I hadn't really thought about that - I admire your brazen activity - putting cards on noticeboards - fantastic!

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