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Monday, 21 December 2015

Why Home Educators Shouldn't Be Registered

Our freedom in this country to home educate, without interference from the state, is a freedom which we home educators value greatly. Once again, it seems that this freedom is under threat. The news about illegal Muslim schools, which are believed to have been "radicalising" children, has once again pushed politicians and the media into discussing some sort of registering or regulation for home educators.

To be honest, this doesn't surprise me. In our times, we expect the government to oversee every aspect of our lives, and to fix all problems in our society. Every tragedy is followed by questions about what the government should have done to prevent it, then action from the government of the day to prevent it ever happening again. Almost every conversation I have with others about home educating leads to incredulity that we don't have to register as home educators. We think, automatically, that the government needs to be involved to make sure that the education our children receive is up to scratch, and that children are protected from harm.

So, why do I think that the state should leave us alone? Wouldn't it protect children if they were "known" to authorities? If we, personally, have nothing to hide, then why does it bother us if someone inspects the education that we offer our children?

Here are some reasons:

1) Education is biblically primarily the job of parents.

Look at the book of Proverbs, or Deuteronomy 6, or Paul instructing the Ephesian Christians to bring up their children in the "training and instruction of the Lord". We often view education and parenting as separate entities; I see no Biblical reason for doing so. We can choose to send our children to school - but we never lose our responsibility for their education, and I know many parents who send their children to school but are (rightly) very involved with all their children learn.

2) Education is legally the responsibility of parents. Section 7 of the 1996 Education Act:
Duty of parents to secure education of children of compulsory school age. 
The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable—  
(a) to his age, ability and aptitude, and 
(b) to any special educational needs he may have, 
either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.
3) The state should not overreach into areas where it shouldn't have authority.

The state's role, surely, is primarily one of restraining evil (Romans 13). The state has no right, under God, to determine exactly what I teach my children, unless I am training them to steal or to kill or to break the law in other ways.

4) There is already enough legal protection for children.

We already have plenty of laws which mean that parents are not allowed to harm their children, or encourage them to break the law. We don't need new laws or regulation - there are plenty already, including those which prohibit inciting others to violence.

5)  What actual evidence is there that home education is a factor in harm to children?

Imagine, if as a result of the finding of illegal Muslim schools, we suggested that all Muslim families should be registered as such. We'd be outraged - and rightly so! Similarly, registering home educators would be intrusive, and based on suspicion, not on evidence. There are often stories in the news about young people who have suffered horrendous harm from people who should protect them. Sadly, we often hear of many who are taken up with the ideology of Islamic State. Was home education a factor in many cases - or any cases? It is a false assumption that if home education is regulated, then more children will be protected.

6) Registration is a step towards regulation.

I don't want the state to tell me what to teach my children. It isn't competent to do so. Ask teachers who are fed up of the government telling them exactly what to do all the time. We have freedom to teach well our children, who we know better than anyone - I don't want to lose that.

7) I'm suspicious of "British Values".

These are undefined - and seem to involve every church group or school or family having to agree to a government approved set of views and values. Seems pretty sinister to me! How long will teaching a biblical view of marriage, or telling our children clearly that only through Jesus can they know God be permissible?

We are not hidden away from society and doing something sinister. I work hard to give my children a good education, and am happy for anyone to know what we do or to look at the work my children produce.

We are, as it happens, "known" to our local authority, and have been visited at home by a lovely and supportive member of their team. She sent me a copy of a very positive report about what we do at home - including the fact that we choose to home educate our children in order to give them a Christian education. I have no personal axe to grind - but I am still convinced that the government has no place overseeing our homes.

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