Friday, 20 September 2013
Don't call me brave!
I've no doubt that when people tell me I'm brave for home educating my children they think they are paying me a compliment but they are not. Bravery is knowing what you're doing is dangerous or difficult or even wrong in some way but ploughing ahead regardless. Everything that bravery applies to is relative. One man's bravery is another man's stupidity and so on.
So when somebody tells me they think I'm brave, what they're saying is that I am risking my children's education by doing something inherently fearful. They are projecting their own fears about home education onto my family. If I started telling parents of schooled children that they're very brave for sending their children to school the meaning behind the statement becomes more explicit. It would become more of a judgment. You send your kids to school? Wow! You must be brave to risk that. Or maybe crazy. It would be unthinkable to say this to a parent of a schooled child. But somehow I am different and it's okay to say this to me. I guess the lesson here is 'think before you speak'. Unless you're actually aiming for patronising, bravery is not a word to be thrown about so lightly.
I am not brave because I know that home education is right for my family and I do not fear it. It's not dangerous or difficult. I don't fear my children will grow up unsocialised because they are growing up in society, not isolated from it. I don't fear that they will have no friends because they already have friends, of all ages. I don't fear that they will grow up stupid because they are not stupid. They are free to find their own meanings and interests rather than being fed chunks of predigested, state-sanctioned knowledge. I don't fear that they will never do exams or get qualifications because I don't mind if they take them or not but I do know that they are capable of preparing themselves should they feel ready to take them. They can decide for themselves what qualifications they'll need, if any, based on the interests they're already determined to follow. If they want to go to college, for example, they can see for themselves what the entry requirements are and if they want to get there badly enough, they will work hard to achieve what is necessary. Children are not a different species. They achieve their goals in the same way adults do when allowed the freedom to do so, with independence, enthusiasm and persistence. My children are home educated and I am not afraid.
So if you meet a home educator, please don't tell them they're brave for doing it. They are simply doing the right thing by their children, just as you are. Save bravery for those who stand up to injustice even when they might find themselves punished for it. Save it for those fighting physical or mental illness and their families who provide unwavering support. Save it for the kids who face bullying every day because society demands that they don't run away. Save it for them because they are brave and I don't deserve it.