Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Letter to Women's hour on hearing their discussion today about schools

Dear Woman's Hour, My reason for contacting you was the rather dismissive tone with which home education has been referred to already in the course of the programme about schools. My experience in home education/unschooling over the past twelve years has taught me that it offers a far better, more rounded education than any school. It isn't the measure of last resort that you implied.

I think parents should be supported in the choices they make for their children... by choosing to home educate I lost the financial assistance of my education authority... I saved them around £2000 a year per child (over the course of their home education that amounts to around £68,000) but was then expected to pay all costs forever, including entering any exams, myself. I think the system in Canada which gives parents an educational allowance and allows parent to choose where to put that, is far, far, fairer.

I also think that feminism in the UK has become a movement which tries to propel women into working at a career outside the home, instead of supporting the full range of choices, which includes the choice to stay at home to look after pre-school or children who are of compulsory educational age. The original suffragettes were campaigning for equal value to be assigned to the work which was traditionally the work of women, and instead it has become devalued and women are often the ones who are devaluing it.

In your programme it was implied that an after-school club would offer children care, like an interested and involved parent. No, it *won't*! An involved and caring parent will be able to set the things that they do with a child into the context of that child's history. They will be able to interpret and make sense of the world for the child, with that knowledge behind them. It is also highly unlikely that the ratio of children to carer is as high as it is likely to be at home. Having an interested parent involved in an activity is likely to provide much more educational value than a paid carer will be able to provide.

It seems obvious that it will provide more benefit to a deprived child whose parents are not interested in their children... but I don't think it sounded as though any of the parents you interviewed in connection with that segment fell into that category.

I worked for ten years in the city and had a good career before I had my children. I believed that a woman of value should have a career and was convinced by my teachers in the 1970s that no intelligent female would want to be "just" a wife and mother. I intended to return to work.

I have worked, but part-time and from home since I discovered that I adored motherhood and wanted to be at home with my children. I enjoyed every moment of it.

I know that not all women are like me, but a substantial proportion (80%) in several research studies have said that they would prefer to have the means to stay at home with their children than to leave them in the care of others. When I wrote to a national newspaper to talk about how little status we have in our society, as stay at home mothers, I was inundated with letters of agreement from other women who desperately wanted to be able to stay with their babies.

I feel severely let down by feminism, which seems to see the fight as a race to leave someone else doing the childcare or education, instead of a fight to give women free choices, and the support to do what she feels is right for herself, her family, her children.

It is interesting to note that Dutch women are apparently the happiest in the world, and that 60% of Dutch women with or without children, are working part time.

It is also interesting to note that the research in the UK and Canada shows that it is the children from homes in the lower socio-ecnomic area who benefit most from home education. Children from families who would be expected to fail in formal educational institutions do better in home education, and the difference in expected performance outstrips children from middle class families. It always astonishes me that the mainstream education industry seems uninterested in the differences between schools and the alternatives, and what they may learn from them.

If we were paying parents who want to, to stay at home with their children, properly supporting part-time work for parents who want it, and offering parents a free choice about how they spend a universal educational allowance, I believe that it would go a long way towards solving many of the problems which our society is suffering from today. It would help youth unemployment (by freeing up jobs), it would support parents who want choices about their child's care and education, and it would strengthen the bonds in families, potentially preventing children from slipping into gangs or bullying cultures.
yours with feeling