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Friday, June 1, 2012

Controversially Challenged

This was first posted right back when I started home educating. Some things have changed, for a start I'm not the only homeschooler in my region anymore. However the thrust holds true even after all this time. By the bucketload.

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Controversially Challenged

On a list stating who home education is right for I noticed a paragraph that said I was wrong for it.

Cos I am a "conformist".

Well I am not in the usual interpretation of the word, but when you read lots and lots and lots of homeschooling forums and blogs you pretty quickly work out what linguistic tendencies are broadly adopted. "Conformist" is used again and again in contexts where "conventional" is what is actually being described.

It's fairly standard in communities that feel embattled or misrepresented, individual terms get over-egged to match the rest of the souped up lexis.


Which would also explain why my eyes have been so regularly assailed by profile tags, blog badges and usernames proclaiming

"XXX homeschooler !!!!!"

The XXX standing for a range of the most floridly extreme adjectives.

If I were to take those self -descriptions as accurate and a good representation of the norm then I'd almost be scared to meet a real live homeschooler in the flesh.


I'd be expecting the love child of Lara Croft, all of the Greenham Common women and Joan of Arc.

Probably armed with a hot glue gun and singing "onward Christian/unschooling/pagan/classical/healing crystal soldiers" (delete as applicable) in a rather menacing soprano.


Set against that image, yes I am a "conformist" in comparison. I'm as radical as a wet weekend in Wolverhampton. My idea of a vigorous protest against social constraints on my freedom of expression is to not warm the pot before I make the tea.

I am the only home educator in Lomellina and probably the only one in the entire region (that's about 1/2 a million people).

But the act of home educating doesn't define me as a non-conformist. Quite the opposite. It makes me as conventional as they come. An English woman tightly gripped with the national obsession of getting the best possible education they can for their kid.

House price bubbles in the catchment area of a particularly well performing school.
How to hedge your bets when making your choices.
Tips and tricks for getting a place in your top pick,
Which headmasters are currently cowering under their desk cos they rescinded the "automatic entry for siblings" rule.
Advice for dealing with depression and anguish if you child doesn't get into the school you wanted.
How not to transmit your stress over a getting place in a good school to your child.
10 reasons not to kill yourself if you only get offered your third choice.

That lot above is bread and butter for a quality British newspaper. We lap it up.

Since the options in the UK are not the ones I have here I just transferred the convention into my geographical reality and HomeEd was the single realistic choice.

I didn't "think outside of the box", I ordered one. Full of books.


I didn't "shake up the system" or "mix it up" or anything as exciting as that. I did my usual, conventional, boring "sucking it up" and "getting on with it" (thought I'll admit to a few domestic hissy fits and bouts of imaginary banging fist on desk) and it was a road that led me to the same destination as the trailblazers when dealing with officious bureaucrats and relatives suffering from a fit of the vapors.

I didn't stick two fingers up to the "herd mentality" at mainstream school, I merely upped the number of times a week the mini representatives of the "herd mentality" came over to play. Just like they have always done, but a bit more often.

If the Homeschooling community promotes an image where non-conformism and being "alternative" is seen as an essential quality my biggest concern is there will never be the popular critical mass in HE that is needed to remove its secondary status.

Maybe that's the point. How can you keep calling yourself a rebel if the act that defines your rebellion has become as conventional and controversial as putting a child into mainstream education ?

(prints self T Shirt proclaiming "boringly normal, unspecial, somewhat flawed and rather conventional Homeschooler. Hear me roar put the kettle on!")

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