Thursday, 17 November 2016

'Good fun' Probably doesn't make for a great story.

Tuned in to Radio 4 just in time to hear the miserable child saga which leads to this week's Children in Need appeal.

Today, Skye is experiencing yet more misery with feckless irresponsible parenting: the bonkers dad (not even a 'real' parent) now attempts 'home school' with some conspiracy theories based around 9/11.

The drama depends on it - listeners who live in Mainstream Land where children are looked after, schools are safe community places where people care, and school dinners are free - expect 'home school prison', don't they?

Give us a drama, a book, a talk, an article, and the moment that trigger is given - home schooling - then we good, attentive audience all know what's next! Feral, chaotic, uncaring; starving neglected children and a lot of running away.

Incidentally, Skye and Dexter do a lot of running. I could say, well, at least this feral chaotic life is keeping her physically exercised. Imagine her peer group. They haven't run anywhere for days. They all sit at desks for hours because the school playing fields were sold.

Yes, take my tone as: I am wearily unsurprised. Home education - or, to give it the 'official mainstream label of home schooling' - is once again the casual, stereotyped meme of child deprivation. A means to an end in a saga of misery.

Tiger, Squirrel and Shark would probably give different interpretations to the words, 'home schooling' and 'home education'. As would the hundreds of kids in our community who have been, um, outside Mainstream Land, yet - get this! - happy, looked after, fed, living in the world, able to choose their own paths, not bullied, not abused, not beaten up, not taught conspiracy theories by feckless druggies with mad dogs, but just, um, educated.

What we home educators need, is a bit of help in this cultural loading of stories, books, plays and articles.

At the moment, it's all stacked against us. We don't often get stories telling Mainstream Land about our good bits; we usually get teen dramas where we are given roles as folk devils and ne'er do wells. Where home educating parents are uninterested and uncaring, where kids who don't go to school have no idea about social values.

We got a heroine of sorts in the form of Mina, child in David Almond's Skellig. Mina didn't go to school but was 'home schooled' (even though there was no evidence of school, only evidence of autonomous education, so wrong label); but she was still represented as being very much alone and outside society. Hmm. Home ed kids have lots of friends. The friends they have are in a different world than Mainstream Land, that's all.

Home Ed Land has greater mobility and flexibility; friends move in and out, move away, appear and leave. Friendships can be short-term and intense as they can be long-term and enduring:  Tiger, Squirrel and Shark have grown up with friends from age 5, and still dearly miss Short-haired Bee who left for Scotland. It's different, or it's just the same, I expect, to Mainstream Land. I dunno. Discuss at your leisure.

But if you are spreading some cultural knowledge in this week's misery-fest of the 'home-schooled' Skye, then please, remember, home education needn't be a short handle grab for misery, exclusion, despair, pain and child neglect. Tell some stories where - after all the difficulties we parents face and the negative assumptions made about our kids - home education can be just simply, quite good fun and a great choice in life.

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