The media and home education

Well it’s certainly been an interesting day among the home educating community today!

A lot of people will probably be aware by now about the mum who apparently ‘home schools’ by letting her children play games ALL day. The problem is that they probably haven’t read past the headlines, which is quite honestly not surprising given the tabloids have newspapers to sell and TV shows want people to tune in to their programmes.

The response from the community is mixed, as it ever is when these types of things pop up. While I don’t generally agree with doing interviews (I certainly wouldn’t offer to do an interview or accept one myself, nor give out my child’s details to the public) I find myself feeling frustrated.

I certainly don’t agree with everything that has been written, and no, the family doesn’t home educate their children the way I home educate mine because while our approach is similar in many ways, home education is tailored to each child! So how could their journey ever possibly be the same as ours? However when I logged into an influx of notifications today, I expected the article content to be far worse than it was (by no means am I saying it was a brilliant piece, but it’s not the worst I have read either.)

A quick google search gave me no less than 7 results in the ‘news’ tab.

A quick read of the articles (the story is now going worldwide) and I learnt just how sensationalist the headlines are, for example;

  • Their daughter wants to be a cook, and spends time pursuing that interest.
  • All their children can read, while not formally taught they have learnt through books, games and simply following their interests.
  • Their eldest has chosen to take English and Maths lessons.
  • They regularly go swimming and are in a local football club.
  • They regularly attend home ed meets.
  • Their children have a set time that they need to come off technology by ready for bed.
  • They read books together every night before bed.
  • They have visited lots of museums, galleries and nature parks.

But if you don’t read the article (and by read, I don’t mean quickly skim over it) you don’t learn about the cool things they are doing on their journey.

There have been strong feelings about this article, both from the public and the home educating community itself, but aside from the outrageously ridiculous headline, and however this article came to be (I don’t pretend to know her reasons for speaking to the media) the Mother hasn’t actually shown home education to be anything other than the wonderful and diverse journey it is for each family.

She’s made it clear that the journey is different for everyone, she’s made it clear that her family doesn’t ‘just’ game, she’s also made it clear that she doesn’t represent the EHE community. I’m honestly not sure what she could have done differently.

Would I speak to the media? No.

Would I give out my child’s details publicly? No.

This is because as media interest continues to evolve into the wonderful world of elective home education, and people such as Monk continue to try to push their own agendas. I fully expect that more home educators will be asked to give interviews.

However media-savvy we are (or not) the media will always seek to present it in a way that suits their own agenda. In this case they have made gaming into the big news, and what actually happens a smaller part of the story. So whose agenda are they actually working to? My only concern about this article is about how it will be further manipulated and to whose ends it will be for.

But while I don’t defend what has happened, I certainly won’t be withdrawing my support for another home educating family because of it.

What’s in a word?

A few months ago, after a ‘light-bulb’ moment I posted ‘Our unschooling journey’, however I’ve never been completely comfortable with the term. It’s a term that has crept across from the US, which in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however the US approach to Home Education is completely different to the UK, for starters in the US it’s called home-schooling, not home educating.

I’ve wondered why for a while, but it wasn’t until I spoke to a real-life friend, and took part in discussions on Facebook & twitter that I realised why. I don’t like it for the same reason that I don’t like the term ‘home-schooling’.

Schooling is not synonymous with education, despite the popular belief that they are one and the same. Being schooled doesn’t mean you are educated, and being educated isn’t dependent on being ‘schooled’.

In fact a recent article from across the pond has helped clarify things for me too. Okay Un-Schooling makes it kind of obvious what you’re talking about and it is most definitely more twitter-friendly, but for me it still just doesn’t make the cut when trying to describe what we do. I have used it interchangeably with the British term of autonomous education or autonomous learning but have found I prefer the latter two.

I have found that while they are very similar in many ways, because of the different nuances between US English & UK English and their education systems, they are also very different as some of the words used mean completely different things in each Country which can cause confusion. While some words have changed their meanings completely. To unschool initially meant to simply take your child out of school.

Another brief example of that is here: Unschooling: History and usage


In the UK, de-schooling means a brief period of settling into home education after taking your child out of school (generally 1 month for every year your child was at school, but it is very much dependent on the pace of the child).

In the US publication ‘Growing without schooling’, it means changing the laws to make schooling non-compulsory. In the US home-schooling regulations vary from State to State, and there seems to be much more in the way of regulations and assessments.

In the UK, section 7 of the 1996 Education Act gives parents the duty to educate our children. Meaning school is not compulsory unless you choose to delegate that duty and register your child in school, if you make the choice to take your child out of school then a de-registration letter to the school removes your child from the school roll with immediate effect and you are directly responsible for your child’s education as you are no longer choosing to delegate it to someone else.

Autonomous education/learning (okay, well autonomy anyway..) is founded in the roots of ancient Greek philosophy. It was originally the idea of self-mastery but now it is much more than that, it covers all areas of our life from education, to decision-making, to politics. Abraham Maslow found it to be an integral part for his Hierarchy of needs once the person’s basic needs were met, only by meeting the need for full autonomy, self-respect and realising your own self-worth can you meet the necessary needs to realise your full potential. That’s not to say it goes perfectly all the time!

My favourite autonomous education quote :)

My favourite autonomous education quote 🙂

I have found that while it is a mouthful to say, it is more widely understood. It’s also understood as a concept in its own right, not just in home education but in other educational settings (like University) too and there has been a lot of research done into autonomous learning in other educational settings. Which I find massively helpful when trying to explain what we do, as explaining things in person is not always my forte.

While the term unschooling has its merits and is right for the families who use it, I feel that Autonomous education covers SO much more, and is right for our family. It fully accepts that we have a duty to educate our children, not school them. It is also much more easily understood in the UK, and doesn’t get confused with de-schooling as easily.

Or maybe I’m just pedantic 😉

I couldn’t possibly teach my kids….

Is one of the biggest home ed myths ever.

We don’t teach.


We facilitate. We nurture. We encourage. We support.  We drink tea. We eat cake…. Mmmm…. Cake…. A good distraction as the list could go on a while… 😉

He plays. He reads. He plays. He socialises. He asks for help. He plays. He learns. He thrives.

Most importantly, we go at his pace and we have fun.


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