I've been reading Enid Blyton's Famous Five books for bedtime stories, and it struck me how very school-biased (boarding school, even), the writing is. I don't hold her to blame for it particularly, but it did make me think how even now, we live in a society that is very focused on the idea that children must go to school. This, of course, is a big part of the problem with which home educators are fighting.
Everyone assumes children go to school, and I guess most home educators are used to the questions about which school, how the children like it and how they're getting on. I'm sure more than a few enjoy the effect of responding with "he doesn't go to school" or similar, even though that usually means rolling out the usual responses about it being legal, how socialisation is not a problem, what about exams, etc. I'm sure we've all done it at least once.
Of course, the government is very school-biased, both at local and national level. I've seen statements to the effect that they consider school is the best place for children to learn, and various bits of government propaganda make out that school is the only option. It's the way that the terms 'education' and 'school' get interchanged, mostly wrongly, that causes a lot of confusion. I've already mentioned Baroness Deech and her particular bias in favour of school, and she's not the only one. Yes, some home educators may claim to be educating children while doing nothing of the sort, but is that really less acceptable than the many schools pulling the same trick?
We have two main options here. Either we can just put up with it, and accept that home education is always going to be viewed as a slightly weird fringe activity by most people, or we can go on a publicity campaign and build on what's already been done as part of fighting Badman and Balls and attempt to pull home education into mainstream acceptance. When parents of pre-school children are generally aware of home education as an alternative to school and are prepared to choose it as a 'normal' option rather than thinking of it as some strange and possibly illegal thing to do, we will have succeeded. The downside of succeeding too well might be that the government decides it wants to impose control, but if there are ten times the number, there would be more than the not-inconsiderable noise we raised this time around. We will undoubtedly have to deal with government again in the future, so preparing and consolidating our position now will make that easier.
Have a good think about how to push home education in your area. Talk to radio stations, newspapers, leave leaflets in your local library, even see if playgroups would be willing to display some. We need to have the usual questions and the usual answers out there and common knowledge, so that we get asked them a lot less. One day I'll be able to respond to the school question from a random stranger when on holiday and instead of being asked a follow-up about socialisation, be asked what sort of home education philosophy we follow, or what C's current study areas are.
As a postscript, I noticed that Blyton's books have been updated a bit. They're now in metric and decimal money and certain bits have been re-written to please the Safely Elf, such as the firework scene in one of the Secret Seven books. They're still sexist though.