UK novelist looks back on his time as a home educating parent
What’s been said?
An interview with UK novelist DB Carter was published by Euro Home Ed on 16 January. Carter and his wife, who live in rural Devon, were first inspired to look into EHE by the benefits they observed it bringing to his sister and her family.
This corresponded time-wise with their own increasing feelings of unease about putting their eldest into “the system,” and caused them to visit a local HE group with his sister to find out more. His comment speaks for itself, “We came away thinking that if our own children turned out as well-rounded, as grounded, and as pleasant to spend time with as the kids we met that day, we had very little to worry about.”
The Carters went on to HE their eldest, and things moved on from there. “He thrived so well, we never considered school for the others.” Looking back now, they value the ability HE afforded them to “teach in a child-led way,” to nurture each child’s different gifts and personality and to take advantage of their individual learning styles. They found space to allow each child some say about what they wanted to learn, then to learn in the manner best suited to them.
The youngest of their offspring has now started college. Dad has branched out into a new career as a author, and Mum “missed being around the home ed community so much she is now tutoring languages to other home-schooling families!”
The interview conveys really well this family’s appreciation of the wider HE community, with the father noting that “it would have been possible to home ed without the groups, but it would have been harder and lonelier, and many good friendships would not have been made.” He evidently misses the connections made between parents in those settings as well as the ones made between their children.
“Retired” HE readers may empathise with some of his more light-hearted reminiscences too. He speaks of their house being “a lot tidier these days!” But books are “like old friends”, and hard to part with. Some have been stowed away – “you never know when they might come in useful.”
Why does it matter?
This is an easy to read piece with plenty of human interest. It’s also a success story, valuable to those just starting out on their HE journey with those natural feelings of apprehension about how things will turn out further down the road. Honest and true to life statements from real people who have been there and done that can provide welcome reassurance to those thinking about HE:
“Perhaps some people did judge them for the fact they didn’t go to school, but they were often complimented on their manners, their ability to get on with others, and their capacity to undertake whatever activity they were asked to.”
On another level, the piece also provides serious and thoughtful responses to familiar FAQ’s. The “socialisation fear” receives robust come-back: “In my experience, home educated children are some of the most integrated into wider society you can find and seem to suffer fewer issues than kids in mainstream schools.”
Carter also highlights the woeful lack of awareness about what home education really is, citing the question once posed to one of his children by a peer, “Are you ever allowed out?” The children must have been good ambassadors for their family’s “unusual” educational choices though, as their father humorously observes that “quite often these conversations ended with the query, ‘Will your parents teach me?'”
His most insightful comment in the context of the HE Byte, however, has to be his response to the question about his biggest frustration with the legal aspect of home education in the UK, and what he appreciated the most.
“In the UK we are fortunate to have the right to home educate our children enshrined in law. Unfortunately, there recently has been governmental discussion of tightening legislation, to the detriment of home educators’ freedom, and there remains a worry that it will gradually erode people’s ability to function outside the state education system.”
What can I do?
The comment above reminds us that HE families have much work to do in countering that familiar combination of ignorance, fear of the unknown and general acceptance of the media-driven negative image of HE.
Carter’s words echo those of Yorkshire author GP Taylor’s defence of educational freedom of choice published in the Yorkshire Post in February 2019, “Why parents like me educate their children at home.”
Secondly, Carter’s comment reminds us of the need to remain constantly vigilant on the matter of HE freedom and that ever-present threat of eroding “people’s ability to function outside the state education system.”