Setting the record straight
What’s been said?
On 12 November 2019, the Swindon Advertiser published an article on Susan Walklate, a former home-educating mum who has written a book, Radical Home Education, “about the journey of five families in and around Swindon who decided to educate their children at home.”
Ms Walklate decided to write her book “to tell the where-are-they-now stories of the children involved” in response to the Channel 4 Dispatches programme ‘Invisible Children: Skipping School’, which “put home education in such a bad light… They were not telling anybody about the successes.”
Her son, Simon Thorley Davies, was withdrawn from school shortly before his tenth birthday due to the lack of suitable support for his special needs. At sixteen, Simon attended New College “where he got qualifications including a Btec (sic) in software development and web design.” He “now owns his own gardening business” and is “a happy, well-rounded, functioning adult.”
A few days later, on 18th November, experienced home educator and writer Ross Mountney wrote a piece about her youngest daughter who is now an adult. Ms Mountney recalls those who questioned “How’s (your daughter) going to cope with a proper working life?” and opined “She’s never going to be able to hold down a job if she doesn’t have a routine of work.” Yet she now writes of a young woman in her twenties who “goes to work…like her home schooled contemporaries” and is “a conscientious, skilled, competent and empathetic manager, after only a few working years.”
These stories echo the success achieved by teenager Billy Arthur Walden whose story was reported in March 2019 by the Lancashire Post. Billy “overcame bullying and unhappiness at school and went on to discover an outstanding talent which has seen his camper van and boat conversions featured on TV” in George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces. He was home educated from age eleven, enrolling at fourteen on Lancaster and Morecambe College’s part-time bricklaying, plumbing and joinery courses. He is now “a licentiate of the Institute of Carpenters” winning “first place in the Regional Skillbuild contest” at the age of sixteen.
Read more about Billy’s experience of being home educated here.
Why does it matter?
Most people will not know anyone who is home educated, so their only awareness of HE comes from unfavourable media pieces. It is therefore important that there are positive articles about home education ‘graduates’ to show that HE children, like their schooled peers, become productive, well-rounded adults. Stories demonstrating the results of home education help to counter the political media stream of perceived ‘problems’ surrounding HE.
Susan Walklate is to be commended for seeing the injustice shown to home educators by the Dispatches programme and for acting to set the record straight by sharing her experiences. It is to be hoped that her book will prove popular!
Taking a different educational path can be hard work at times and it is easy for home educators to become worn down by the steady drip-drip of negative press reports. It is therefore both refreshing
and encouraging to be reminded that home educated children grow into adults who will make positive contributions to society.
What can I do?
Download or print off copies of these articles to show to those who question what happens to home educated children once they reach adulthood.
Challenge reports and articles which don’t portray home education accurately or which seek to smear home educators. Not many of us will write a book to do this, but it is easy to counter inaccuracies by sending a firm and courteous email to the paper or broadcaster concerned.
If you have older children who have ‘graduated’ from home-education, share your stories, explaining their home education journey, what they have achieved and what they are doing now. Press reports on home education ‘graduates’ may be few and far between, but friends, neighbours and colleagues see the adults that our home educated children become.