Why home education is the hard, not easy, option

Are some home-educators drawing on their bad experiences at the school gate, wonders Rachel Moore.

Are some home-educators drawing on their bad experiences at the school gate, wonders Rachel Moore. - Credit: Archant

Home education is all well and good, says Rachel Moore - but is everyone doing it for the right reasons?

The head teacher who has written to parents asking them to stop smoking cannabis outside the school and swearing in the playground won't be a lone voice.

Parents can be far more badly behaved at the school gates – or Gates of Hell, as they were known in my world - than the children. Teachers have their work cut out trying to control their behaviour more than any riotous seven year olds.

Stories of intimidation, bullying and marginalising among the so-called responsible adults far outweigh anything their primary school-aged children endured in the playground.

Parents – male and female – can be vicious when it comes to their children or carving out their own place in and school 'community.' There's always a top dog, a queen, the workers and, scarily, a gang that could rival Harry Potter's Dementors.

I have palpitations remembering trying to swerve the various factions.

So, reading that more than 1,450 children in Norfolk alone are being educated at home by their parents, was not a great surprise. Home-educating is, in our minds, related to the child's experience at school, but researchers would surely be able to discover some link between parents' school gates behaviour, which spills over to their children's relationships, and home-schooling.

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To make a decision to home educate your child is a massive one. With a decent degree from a red-brick Russell Group university, years' experience running news rooms and training young journalists and bringing up two young adults, there is still no way I could ever contemplate teaching any small person, let alone my own child.

It would be a disaster for all involved. I don't have the skills – practically or emotionally - and am not renowned for my patience.

Our relationship would never have survived a teacher-up relationship cooped up in the house. However many guides, support and resources wouldn't have made it anything other than a living nightmare doomed to fail.

Teaching is tough. So it's hard to understand the motivation of anyone taking on the responsibility for the education of their child, when there's little socialisation or learning to work well in a classroom with up to 30 others.

I used to believe people opted out because they objected to the rigid curriculum, or the over-full to bursting classes, or the relationship problems their children suffered or simply because the do-it-yourself-play-outside-and-discover-yourself education suited their ethics.

But, witnessing and hearing stories about parents' outrageous behaviour at the schoolgates, some opters-out must be motivated by adult bullying or how the pack mentality at the Gates of Hell brought back horrific memories of their own unhappy school days.

It's like pushing your own fear of dogs or water on to your children. If you hated school, it's likely your children will pick up and adopt your twitchiness and uneasiness.

It's so sad when parents make an issue more about their needs than their children's.

Some have no choice. I have nothing but admiration for those parents of sick children who ensure they have some form of education between treatment and long hospital stays.

But I wouldn't know where to start - like the 21 sets of home-educating parents in Norfolk and Suffolk told to send their children back to school because they weren't learning enough.

Children need to be in school to develop those social skills they will need when they end up in the workplace.

The danger of one-to-one education is that the child can grow up believing they are the centre of everyone's world and the only person that matters.

The real world is learning to deal with everyone else in it.

Education is a joint venture of schools and and parents – one supports the other and, with good communications channels, it can be achieved.

Perhaps some of these parents opting out need to spend more time talking to the school and putting what their children will need when they're 20 and 30 than what they believe they need at 10.