There has been a surge in interest in home education recently and increase in the number of families turning to this option in place of school. So there have been varying reports in the media.
Unfortunately, media coverage of home education can be misleading. This is because it is usually based around misinformed dramatics, the odd negative family case, or based in general misconceptions. Even a journalist who recently contacted me agreed that this has often been the case.
A news item just before Christmas illustrates it perfectly. Nicky Morgan is raising again the issue of registration of all children who are homeschooled to try and prevent the threat (in her eyes) of radicalisation.
This is part of a crack down on all independent and unregistered educators, schools among them, that is intended to make sure that children are not influenced by extreme views.
Whereas any form of extremism may be unhealthy, the home educating community feel that to be daubed with the same brush as religious extremists is highly unfair. Or to use it as an excuse to bring up the subject of registration of all home educating families which has been a contentious issue for years and is little more than an attempt by the government to gain control over home schooling families.
Prior to this issue the risk of child abuse was used as an excuse to try and force this registration policy upon the home educating community.
Whilst both radicalisation and abuse pose very real threats to an isolated child, the reality is that most home educators are not isolated; they mostly operate within a wide community of groups where there is support and mutual care. As anyone with any first hand experience of the home educating community would be aware.
Yet as reported over recent years, there have been more cases of school children being both abused and radicalised. So perhaps it would be better for ministers and the media to focus their attention on fixing that problem, rather than picking on a minority community that very few have first-hand experience of.
But it is often the case that those making these accusations are the ones with the least experience. And I suspect Nicky Morgan has very little experience of the home schooling community, how parents approach their child’s learning, and how successful it is.
With the recent dramatic rise in the numbers of parents taking their children out of the system to home educate it’s provoked a more genuine interest and positive attitude to the option of home schooling. This was reflected in a discussion on Radio Five Live recently with the presenters displaying an attitude of real inquiry rather than hostility as has often been the case.
Increasingly, parents are becoming unhappy with the nature of schooling, the endless testing and pressure put upon their children under the guise of educating them. And as more online resources and support become available, the interest and awareness of home education is likely to increase even more.
So hopefully we will have more positive and accurate stories about home educated children as part of the media coverage.
Meanwhile, as ever, parents should be wary of what the read in the news and instead seek out accurate accounts from those who practice it!