Over the last couple of days the home educating world has been rocked by an article which originally appeared in The Mirror. The story was then picked up by many of the tabloids and the television equivalent - This Morning. It was a wildly sensationalised article perfect for causing controversy and maintaining newspaper sales as people wait for Trump to provide the next shock event. It did just that.
As with any story the cold-hearted trolls came out en masse to comment on the articles. As one would expect the level of commentary provided was base and centred mainly around superficialities such as the appearance of the family in the article. Once again far too many members of the UK public proved themselves to be entirely lacking in empathy as with one breath they voiced concern for the children and with the next resorted to picking on the children in a shocking display of vulgarity. Let me be clear, these were non home educators.
I expected that the home educating community would come together in support for a family under fire from the readers of the toilet paper rags. I was wrong. By the time I signed back into my social media accounts late yesterday afternoon there were angry mobs bearing virtual pitch forks and a confetti storm of hashtags all denouncing the family who were the focus of the story. It was relentless. It was dismaying.
The family at the centre of home-edgate are unschoolers. If you follow their blog, as I have done for many years, you'll see the variety of activities that they take part in each week. Whilst these were covered in the article and subsequent television interview the focus of the piece was on the children playing video games for large portions of each day. The hook-in-as-many-readers-as-possible headline the journalist ran with was: '
'Mum homeschools her children by letting them play computer games for SEVEN HOURS a day'
It was guaranteed bait which set parent against parent but most disappointingly of all, home educator against home educator.
Whether I agree that the mother should have agreed to the interview or not is neither here nor there. The family have every right to agree to an interview - censorship is a very slippery slope. There isn't a home educator who leads from the front because the point is that we are equal, there is no one to ask for permission and thank goodness that is the case. Perhaps the media skewed the article to make the story juicier and possibly the television interview was pitched as a way to right The Mirror's misinterpretation of the story. Maybe the family were paid or quite likely they were not. The family might bitterly regret the interview or they may be celebrating their Warholian fifteen minutes. It doesn't matter what we suppose - it is done. What matters is how we react as a community.
The style of home education the family have adopted is completely different from our home education method. That is precisely why I follow their blog because it intrigues me and occasionally it offers me perspective, it makes me wonder if an idea might work for us with regard a particular topic. A few years ago I read of their trip to a museum to inspect rock and mineral samples driven from an interest in geology through Minecraft. It was a good idea and one I still haven't got around to trying. Even with people apparently wholly dissimilar to yourself you can often find common ground if you are willing to give it time.
There is speculation that this is a conspiracy by Daniel Monk to have the media cause public outrage about home education to support his Badman style agenda. It could well be but we have absolutely no way of knowing.
As far as I can see the best course of action is to let the whole thing blow over. It certainly shouldn't be a witch hunt as there is nothing to be gained from that whatsoever. A company divided is much easier prey than one that stands united. We all home educate and we all have one major thing in common - children. There isn't one family who educates like any other because each child is unique and each education is tailored to that child. Once one of us stands up and shouts 'that's not true home education' the next question is ' well, what is better?' Is it yours, is it mine, is it Mr Nobody down the road?
We should always seek to be a community that is inclusive and above all else kind because those, I am sure, are the qualities we all wish to encourage in our children.