Except that, for a growing number of children in the UK, school is not only unable to cater for their needs and learning style, but is set up in a way that is actively sabotaging their ability to engage, leaving them anxious, isolated and with low self-esteem.
The number of children in the UK who are home schooled has more than doubled in the last four years, and the reason is not because of an increase in covert child abuse or radicalisation – the apparent fears of those pushing for registration – but largely because so many kids are being failed by the current state-schooling model. Rather than create a moral panic around the motives of home schoolers, it’s time the government acknowledges its failings in the education system and puts effort – and funding – into rectifying them.
Many home-schooled children out there are “neurodivergent”, disabled, gender diverse or have strong cultural or religious convictions that stand them apart from their peers. Not only do many of these children find they are unable to engage in meaningful education in mainstream school because their needs aren’t being met, but they become a magnet for bullies. From the child with Down’s syndrome who can’t attend a school trip for “health and safety reasons” to the transgender children bunking off because of physical and verbal abuse the school can’t control, many children end up in a home-school environment not because of a philosophical choice, but because their desperate parents simply want what’s best for them, and this one-size-fits-all education system cannot provide it.
When your child is struggling at school your own emotional wellbeing takes a hit. In the UK, where parents have legal responsibility to provide an education, it has been possible to simply withdraw your child from school without having to justify your reasons, giving you the space mentally and physically to focus on their needs.
Home-schooling parents live in the shadow of the knowledge that educators can force them to return their child to an unsuitable institution at any time without providing additional support. Registering home-schooled children in the UK is the first step down a similar path of control. The updated guidance around home schooling, released this week includes a flow chart to show a local authority’s options if they’re unhappy about the education a child is receiving at home – all routes end in obtaining a care order.
If you parent an average, neurotypical and physically-abled child, alternative schooling probably sounds like “woo”. I know phrases like “school refusal” and “high anxiety” smack of “helicopter parenting”, but until you’ve seen your child self-harm to get out of going to school then you’ve got no idea.
Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin
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