OK the beginning diatribe of Channel 4’s Feral Families show assumed that all families that take their children out of school adopt this radical approach with their children, which couldn’t be further from the truth.
The assumption seems to be that those who de register are embracing and becoming “rule free households” – No!
Not that there is anything wrong with it. Tilda Swinton (sp) is off doing something similar with her children on an Island somewhere and no one bats and eyelid – why? Oh she’s rich and famous so different rules apply – right?!
(Still seething at some of the narrow minded tweets I’ve read this evening.)
Anyway let me get back to the show….
What gets me is the general Public at large don’t understand Home Education on the best of days, so when HE is mentioned alongside this radical unschooling approach and no rules lifestyle, the general public then think this is the only version of Home Education. It’s not!
Home Education is as varied as every family that chooses to take this approach to educating their children. There are commonalities, sure! But there are also so many differences. My readers ( all 19 of you ha ha) know that for me Maths and English are absolutely non negotiable. So even though I have been furiously replying to ill informed tweets on twitter, I couldn’t help but agree that it was neglectful not to facilitate your child to be able to read and write competently by age 13. Which was the case with the young boy in the show. (Taking into account ability.)
However children in schools in the UK have issues with not being able to read and write properly too. See here and I like this piece which distinguishes between illiteracy and functional illiteracy here. Google away lots of statistics to have a nose through.
As an ex secondary school teacher I regularly saw children that never surpassed level 3/4 literacy levels. I’ve seen what constitutes a G on an exam paper. However according to the government gaining a G means a child is not illiterate. No, they can answer their name and a few simple questions. For those with a learning disability this is a huge achievement (they’d make greater gains if teachers weren’t over burdoned and and schools underfunded) but for those without I see it as a failure by the school system. The the vast majority of children leaving school with low literacy rates is no fault of their own, rather the result of being rushed through a one size fits all education system. A reason many choose HE over a system that is not fit for purpose. And that a whole other blog post.
Now the show I though was pretty narrow, and a little bit of sensationalist viewing, so god knows how many hours of filming hit the cutting room floor to skew the programme the way it went. But I have to admit that at certain points in the show I was cringing – OK I was shouting at the screen – for the love of god woman move the knife.. why? Why let them film that?
Its a bit like when you have a visitor for tea you’re on your best behaviour – or is that just me.
And in all honesty I don’t know why these families enter into these programmes because they are never in a good light when it comes to HE and alternative lifestyles. NEVER!! OK that is a bit of an exaggeration but they are skewed towards the negative unless your a lovely middle to upper middle class family, or famous then it is applauded. And I’m over here like hey I do that too – applaud me. Applaud me please, but alas to no avail. Anyway I’ve digressed – again.
All these children are relatively young in the programme, so what they also don’t see is how lots of these children go onto study at college level and beyond, gaining degree’s and Jobs. And even those that don’t go onto to further study but do get jobs, they may not be Doctor’s or Lawyers, but then a vast proportion of schooled children don’t enter those careers either.
And here I am again going to my default of defend. When I am bloody angry and will direct that at the lazy Journalism. So much more could have been said by the bloody annoying voice over about the approaches to education that each family had adopted and what those where so people could get a better understanding. I had to reply to a Tweet when a woman said something to the effect “OMG that baby with a drill” my reply “You’ll pay good money to Montessori nurseries for your child to play with a drill.” See here and here its called risky play, but do it in your own home, under the supervision of mum and dad, and as those on twitter commented we’ll need to call social services because obviously it’s abuse.
Did the show represent Home Education positively – No! For the simple fact I could watch the show and recognise apporaches and see the benefits of what the families were doing but to the average person who schools their child they might not see what I can and other Home Educators might see in direct correlation of their own experiences.
Will it give joe public and other’s ammunition to beat us over the head with alongside countless other misguided articles that have been surfacing of late – Yes!
Will there be division within the Home Education community itself – Yes! I’ve already read the comments before the show even aired, and I must admit it worried me too. Not because of educational philosopshies that are different from mine.. Hell I lend from all approaches. If it benefits my kids then hoorah!! But because HE is alread attacked from the outside (law/policy etc) we don’t need to be divided as a community from the inside.
And because of this its left me bloody angry and in need of a strong coffee and bed.
One positive thing I will say before I head off to the land of nod is that the families were lovely. The children happy, loved and cared for.