I recently contributed a post for purpos/ed (which is about opening a debate  around education) with my partner and son which I hope offered a voice for people outside the formal education system. I think we questioned that system and presented one view from the home education/home learning perspective and also from the perspetive of people living with autism every day…

The post actually had a really positive response (I confess I was a little suprised that no one challenged it – after all to a large extent is questions what most parents choose to do and what most educators are trying to do).

One of my colleagues has since said that they are enjoying the ‘purposed’ discussion so far but would like other voices from non formal education. He suggested some people  – all interesting thinkers for sure . But I would like to see more voices from people who don’t just speak from a ‘public’ or ‘professional’ perspective. There are many families who have experienced the same kinds of despair about the education system as we have…

People home educate for many reasons, and one of the issues in trying to represent this group of people is that the only thing that unites them is the fact that their children don’t go to school. They are as a diverse group of people you are every likely to meet. They have many different reasons for home educating. There is no one group that can represent the views of such a diverse group. So it is a group of many voices.

But one thing that home educators do have in common in the UK (although to a lesser extent in Scotland) is that we have just come through a very very tough year where our freedom to home educate has been seriously challenged by the previous labour government and several ‘well meaning’ charities…

This has affected the strength of our voice… it is tough enough to speak as one who has chosen a different path – our society doesn’t like difference. Hell that is why some of us end up home educating  – our children don’t conform to a norm and we choose not to force them to be the victims of daily abuse, sometimes physical harm, and poor educational opportunities. By speaking up we reveal ourselves… to well meaning members of the public who like to report our difference to the police or social services, to the local authorities who feel they know best, to the charities who think we hide our children and possibly abuse them, to a government who can’t monitor us if we are not in their databases…

I’m not exaggerating – last year England was very very close to passing a bill that would allow people into our homes to interview (interrogate) our children without us being present – yes really sensitive to our children with autism and other serious communication disorders. Thanks to a massive mobilisation and coming together of home educators (and several tory MPs with election goggles) England has a (probably brief) reprive… It wont last I’m sure…

So you can see why we don’t have a common voice, and why people might be tired, and why sometimes it is just easier to stay hidden…

And what about the voices of all those parents who do send their children to school. How can we add their voices to this debate, without it being a response to single issues – tuition fees, testing, etc.

Public debate is important but not everyone uses twitter or blogs. At best we can only capture some aspects. None of my family would contribute to this debate – for many reasons – lack of interest, lack of a public voice, lack of access to a digital debate, no concept that such a debate is possible.

We have to be realistic about what a debate like this can achieve and who it can include. We have to try to get many voices. We have to know that it will not be inclusive. I am not engaging in this debate for academic/intellectual pleasure but because it is important to me to have our voices heard.

Our voice was once heard at an exclusion tribunal but it was the voice of a family not a lawyer and it was drowned…

Our voice is a personal voice coloured by our experience. I cannot speak for others, but I do hope they join this debate because I know they have alot to say…

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