Looking around social media, it appears that once again home-educators are being forced to defend themselves, to speak up, to put forward a case and answer the the critics.
Back in 2010, we (as in home-educating families), were put under the spotlight. Accusations of hidden child abuse and poor education standards were been thrown at us from all angles. We were accused of living in isolation, of lazy parenting, and harming our children – some may well remember that even Munchausen Syndrome was mentioned as a possible reason for home-educating.
At the time it seemed like the world and its dog had an opinion. Politicians were speaking out about a topic they clearly knew nothing about, and the mainstream media pulled us apart – without good cause or evidence of course.
And here we are. 2019. Looking on in horror as the focus swings around to us once more.
Last night a TV programme was aired. I refused to add to their viewing figures, knowing full well that I would be shouting at the screen and my blood pressure would be rising. I knew it wouldn’t be a fair representation of home-ed life. I also knew that I would hear all about it via various media sources, video clips, groups, and friends.
Needless to say, it was a biased shambles of a show, based on very few facts but with lots of dramatic gasp evoking snippets of how home-educated children are lost. Hidden away. Invisible. Unsafe. How we should all be alarmed and concerned about the possible child abuse that could occur within the walls of these ‘hidden’ family homes and how parents are often failing their children with their attempts to play teacher.
Nobody wants a child to suffer unnecessarily. Nobody wants a child to be abused or to suffer horrendous acts in the name of discipline, faith, belief or sheer hatred. If I believed for one moment, as a loving parent and good citizen, that children in abusive situations could be saved by home-educators being registered, tested, applying for approval or whatever, then I would be the first to push for such measures,
But it won’t help them.
If a parent is going to abuse their child, they will find a way to do so. Ask yourself, if a parent intended to abuse their children and use home-education as a cover for doing so (as the media scaremongering and biased reporting would have you believe), would they bother to register or make themselves known?
The very few cases that have been banded around in the media cannot be used as evidence against home-educators and thus prove the failure of the current legislation, although the media propaganda would like you to believe otherwise. In these cases the children were already known to be at risk before taken out of school or the families were already known to social services or other agencies that could have stepped in. Suspicions had already been raised. In the Spry case, the teachers raised concerns about the children and the children were removed from school almost immediately – shouldn’t alarm bells ring at that instance? The children were seen by inspectors, and work was falsified and provided as evidence of education. Horrific abuse continued. Abuse that could have been stopped. We won’t even get on to the issue that this was in a Foster Carer environment…
In the Ishaq case, the schools where Khyra and her siblings attended had concerns before Khyra was removed to be supposedly home-educated. Social services were involved, staff at the school were involved, the Education Authority were involved. Still the abuse went on and a dear child lost her life, a life that could so easily have been saved if current procedures were followed correctly. There are already adequate provisions in place for child protection. The problem in these cases and in many others such as the appalling Baby P case, is overworked social workers, agencies not sharing information, nobody following law-given procedures properly, and people being too scared or just not wanting to intervene. In some cases it appears that agencies don’t know their legal powers and seem to presume it is up to others to do something. Why will spending millions on tracking, assessing, coercing, and generally meddling in the lives of such a minority that are home-educators, help this situation and protect vulnerable children? There are thousands of school-attending children being abused, despite being seen by teachers, dinner ladies, classroom assistants, and their peers on a daily basis – how can this be? Such a fact blows any suggestion that closer monitoring of home-educators would solve the problem as children would be seen right out of the water don’t you think? Why is nobody suggesting that powers are given to intrude into the lives of school children or pre-schoolers? After all, abuse can occur at any time of day, at weekends, during the school holidays, etc – nobody is saying we need to check all the homes of children “just in case…”
The current legislation is enough to protect children if followed through correctly, but once again there is an almighty sledgehammer of interference being discussed to smash apart the lives of innocent families.
Families just trying to do what is best for their children.
Some of these children have been let down badly by the schooling system. Some will have been bullied (by their peers or appallingly their own teachers), and will have lost faith in those that should have been there to help them. Many will be damaged with their parents desperate to help them rebuild their lost confidences and find their spark for life again – like me with my son, 15 years ago.
Living in England we expect to have freedom of choice. We expect to live within a democratic society where our voices are heard. We expect nothing less than being able to bring up our own children as we see fit. We decide on whether we breast feed or bottle feed. It is up to us, as parents, as to whether we choose to use cloth nappies or disposables. We decide when our little ones should be introduced to solid food, and when they are ready to start toilet training. We decide if we want to go to toddler groups or not. We choose when our child is ready to move from the cot to the big bed. As parents, the list of our choices and responsibilities goes on and on. We also choose when (or if) to return to work, and what child-care arrangements we use to suit ourselves and our child (financial restraints accepted). We can choose when our little ones should start Nursery school, if at all, and then our choices move on to schooling. We can (usually, placement numbers permitting) decide on what school our child will attend, or we can choose to provide our own form of education, at home.
I am tired of defending and battling for what is my choice. My choice as a loving, caring, human being and parent. The parent who watched the school system literally destroy my child. The child that was happy-go-lucky, full of fun, caring and considerate, and a lover of life, that downspiralled into an absolute wreck of a shell that dared not speak and clung to me for dear life due to bullying and desperate unhappiness. His struggle is sadly is not unique. Over the 15 years of being involved in the home-ed world I have heard many – perhaps hundreds – of similar stories. Stories of downtrodden souls and belittlement, of bullying by both peers and teachers, of suicide attempts, self-harming, and total, utter despair.
Home-education can be an absolute life line – it certainly was for Joe.
I always say that home-education won’t suit everyone, just as the school system doesn’t. But I am battle weary and I just want to be left alone to do what I feel is best for my children. To live the lifestyle that works for us as a family without feeling berated and examined. My children are out and about in the world for all to see. My old blog – Classroom Free – followed their journey for many years, with photographic evidence and tales of joy and heartbreak. That journey will continue here, in this new webspace, but I don’t want us to feel scrutinized or that we need to jump through hoops or put on a show. We are just living our best life, as decent human beings, that should surely just be enough.