The Proof of the Pudding…

What’s been said?

The latest media coverage of home education came from ITV’s “Good Morning Britain!” show on Thursday 30 August 2018. [Update: the segment is available on GMB’s YouTube channel.]

Presenters Adil Ray and Kate Garraway introduced the segment by citing a 41% increase in numbers home educating over the past 3 years, stating that some parents say “they’re better at teaching their kids than teachers”.

A brief interview in a home educators’ home was followed by a lively discussion in the studio with guests Biba Tanya, who has been home educating her 4 year old for the past year, and former primary school teacher Sarah Relf.

Tanya’s decision to home educate comes from observing the impact of testing and pressure within the education system on her older son, who has ADHD and Asperger’s Syndrome. She felt that she could do a better job for her daughter, Tabitha, who is already reading, and ahead of what would be expected in Reception year at school.

Relf’s counter-arguments, as well as those of the two presenters, highlighted once again the ignorance and blinkered thinking that home educators encounter on a regular basis.

Why does it matter?

It is important to challenge the (sometimes ludicrously) biased and ignorant views that many seem to hold regarding home education, and to show how they often do not stand up to scrutiny.

See below for examples of negative or un-evidenced claims, along with possible responses:

  • Relf: university education of 3 years teaches how to “manage children, facilitate their learning, learn the best way of managing that (classroom) environment, how to give breadth of study, and make them (children) the best possible person going into the grown-up world”.

Response: A teacher, teaching other people’s children, would need such skills as they are dealing with large groups of children from differing backgrounds. Parents are already in the business of doing this for their own children, and do not require further preparation.

  • Relf: “If you don’t put a child in a classroom environment, how will they learn social skills?”

Response: For thousands of years, people learnt social skills without ever entering a classroom. Why would that have changed? Children learn social skills from their primary family unit, and then from their wider community. The classroom environment is by its very nature artificial, and not truly representative of society. For many children, classrooms represent anything but a happy, safe space.

  • Relf: Teachers spend the first six weeks of school “teaching children how to follow a routine, how to manage expectations, forming relationships, and learning how to resolve conflicts. They can’t learn this if they’re sat at home with mum”

Response: Much of what is described here involves crowd control and logistics (which can in fact waste a great deal of time in a school day). Yes, children do need guidance about negotiating life and relationships, but in an HE setting much of this takes place spontaneously in the course of normal living. As for the “sat at home with mum” allegation, this is rarely the case; many HE children are out and about regularly in their communities.

Relf’s later concern about “blurred relationships” could be refuted by a reminder that the very same parents who taught their child to walk, talk, dress themselves etc, are simply continuing to help their child progress in their learning towards becoming independent, self-supporting adults. To think that this would negatively impact the parent-child relationship is, frankly, absurd.

During the discussion Garraway asked “Do you think just anyone should be allowed to do this? Surely there is a standardisation?” Relf responded by claiming that Ofsted “check that the curriculum is delivered in the correct way”, and Tanya interjected with her own counter-argument pointing out that this is not happening in real terms – all one has to do is watch “Love Island” to see people who have gone through mainstream education who believe that Wales is a continent! It has to be admitted that whilst some have great educational experiences and are very successful within the school system, for significant numbers this is not the case, as participants in “Love Island” and other vapid reality shows demonstrate regularly.

What can I do?

Educate yourself on the benefits of home education as opposed to institutionalised schooling, using books, websites and blogs so that you can effectively counter ill-thought out and illogical arguments against home education.

Read our article from 24 March 2018 for suggestions of questions you can ask to challenge what people believe about learning.