What’s been said?
In February 2018, the BBC website posted a video describing the experience of unschooling. The parent concerned feels that unschooling differs from home education in that her children can also choose when to eat, when to sleep and how to organise their lives. In May, ITV News carried a report about a mother’s concern for the future of her right to home educate. In both cases, parents are passionate advocates of the choices which they have made for their children.
Why does it matter?
At one level, these videos express the essential concerns of the whole EHE community and the rights of parents to decide what constitutes a ‘suitable’ education for their children. But at a deeper level, they also encapsulate what is most frustrating to the DfE and Ofsted about children educated outside of their control.
There are, broadly speaking, two opposing schools of thought about learning. One perspective says that we construct our own knowledge from the information available to us and also from our previous body of knowledge and experience – this is known as the constructivist theory and it underpinned education policy during the Blair years. If the search for knowledge is provoked by curiosity, motivation is generally intrinsic. We reshape our knowledge as we encounter new ideas and no two people therefore possess the same body of knowledge.
The opposing theory, known as behaviourism, leans to a ‘teach and test’ or ‘drill and skill’ type of teaching, believing that being able to retain facts and recall them in a test constitutes knowledge. It relies heavily on external motivation and reward to condition the learner. This is the underpinning theory of contemporary education policy: it assumes that knowledge is fixed and that a complete group of people, even a whole society, can therefore be taught identically.
The contrast is brought into sharp focus in the second video, in which one of the children says that she’s glad she doesn’t have to ‘do’ maths. She’s preparing a meal, so she clearly understands halving, counting, calculating amounts, etc. For her, maths is something which relates to real life, rather than a thing which you have to ‘do’.
Although there are behaviourist inspired EHE programmes, the majority of EHE parents adopt a constructivist approach to learning and, to greater or lesser extent, holistic child development. It is this perspective which inclines the DfE towards attempting to control the education of all of those children who are not within their remit. This applies not only to academic learning but also, with their chosen implementation of the Equality Act 2010, to all aspects of morality.
What can I do?
As EHE parents, you are not just defending your legal right to choose how to educate your children. You are fighting to retain the right for your child to construct their own knowledge, for themselves, in the way which suits them best. That includes their values, beliefs and understanding of the world. It’s an individualism that opposes the government’s conveyor belt system of indoctrination and one which is a step too far for a government which has expressed its determination to know where every child is and what they are doing in every aspect of their lives.
Keep defending the right of your child to construct knowledge for themselves.