What Critics really mean.
It’s really easy to feel overwhelmed with “helpful” friends’, family, strangers and busy-bodies raining on your Home Education party. In my experience there are two kinds of critics. Those who are afraid for you, and those who afraid of you. Some of it is cognitive dissonance. School for many is not just a way of life but a process that was fundamentally so important to them (how it is important doesn't matter) that they can’t imagine anything else. If you know teachers (as I do) I have seen some people never leave a school environment. It is literally all they know. It skews their world view so strongly they can not, and are terrified of looking outside of it. In an uncertain world there is a comfort to the predictability (even if it is predictably awful). I have seen teachers so physically and emotionally broken they end up in hospital, but “have to be there when the bell rings”.
“What about the real world?”
If the “afraid for you and your kids” critic believes they need to “save” you from being over protecting (being bullied gives you character) or from “being weird”. This normally comes from having seen first hand how people who are different are socially punished, especially in school.They believe that being made to conform to what they think of as “normal” is necessary.
So do the other kind. The “afraid of” critics. Bucking a social norm as a teen is seen as “normal” as a parent it makes you weird, difficult or a bad parent. The idea that you don’t have to follow the rules is just so “out there” for them it can make them foam at the mouth in outrage or stare at you blankly as they get an Error 404 signal in their brain. It is important to understand that most criticism comes from fear. Being different is a virtue not a failing. That examining the world from a different perspective is a gift. The people who changed the world the most are people who were different. Yes your children will be different and have different experiences. That is one of the benefits of home education not one of it’s failings.
And lo, the cry went out: what about socialization?!
The “afraid for” bunch are either overly romanticising their own childhood or fear that if a child is not forced to sit staring at a teacher unable to talk for hours at a time your kid won’t have friends. This isn't Mallory Towers. Or Hogwarts. Or Grange Hill. Also the idea that being home educated mean you never leave the house or speak to another human soul is frankly ridiculous. Much like prison, in school the friendships you make (and enemies) can be very intense at the time. However once that forced association is ended, the relationships often fade quickly. The “afraid of” bunch just do not believe that anyone could learn about how to deal with people in a non-school context. There is a seditious idea that without school the child will be “broken” somehow. If the child is allowed to express themselves, their gender identity, sexuality, personality and tastes freely we are tearing down society. Or worse trying to turn our children into what we want to make them. “Maybe they’d____ if they were at school”. Forced association is not that same as socialization. Say it with me! Home educated kids meet people of all ages, and backgrounds all the time. From clubs and groups to hanging out at the comic book shop or park. The friendships they make are just as valid and important as those of children at school. They are often based on similar hobbies and outlooks rather than being shut in a room for three hours at a time needing permission to pee.
“How could you spend all that time with your kids, you’ll be overwhelmed?”
Being overwhelmed by your kids can happen. However in you only spend time with your kids after they have been shut up in a stuffy box being talked at all day, they are not going to be the same as they are de-schooled. The “afraid for” tend to feel overwhelmed and frustrated and transfer their relationship or what they imagine it would be like onto your family. They don’t know that ending the school run and the rush to “cram” everything in being gone allows for a peace rarely known. The “afraid of” tend to think that you won’t be able to cope. In fact only trained professional, like teachers can cope with children all day every day. The thing is between groups and the slower pace it is much less overwhelming than having a miserable child at school.
Structure and Tests.
Although not many parents would say it there is an idea that if there isn't a school (or a school like structure) then there would be no structure and life for a home educating family is day-time television and lazily lounging around. No I won’t lie there are plenty of home educating parents and kids who don’t get out of the jammies if they don’t have to (why would you) but that doesn't mean we are lazy. It speaks to what they imagine or fear they would do if they could rather than anything to do with your life. Some home education is very structured and even if the education isn't they might still have set days out or groups as well as a set house routine. It may look unstructured from the outside but things like the times libraries close or events happening don’t wait for home educators. We too have weekly calendars and we have to be able to juggle quite well too.
A written test only really shows what a person knows on that day, at that time, under that stress. That is all a test shows. It doesn't take into account the person or the individual. It doesn't show the sum of their knowledge. It is a snap shot, not a film. Test culture and the corporatization of education went hand in hand. Tests and marking of them is big business. In fact the test business has more in common with Big Agro than nurturing the next generation. It is part of a business model that takes the human out of the equation. Yet that fear. The fear of failing a test will ruin your life is so pervasive in our society some people and even home educators can't see past it.
While certain fields require you do an examine or meet a certain standard a lot of university will allow to apply without any GCSE's or A-levels. In fact they care more about if you can pay your tuition fees than if you have any formal qualifications.
That fear that without that piece of paper (and all that by default comes with it) your future will be nothing, is a hard one to shake.
By coming away from that fear and looking at your child excels in, what sets their passions aflame and encouraging them you give them something far more than if they passed a test at school. It makes your child stand out and gives your child space and time to explore and think. When faced with 40 or 100 people applying for a job someone who is talented, driven, adaptable and self motivated stands out. You can always pick them up as an adult later should you find you need them for something.
Home education is far too important to take seriously!