Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Another Website in Need of Input from Home Educators

From Anxiety Care:


"Parents cannot afford to allow school refusal to be ignored or treated in a haphazard and ineffectual manner. The law requires a child to be educated, and most parents are not able to pick and choose where this takes place. If children do not go to school, parents may be taken to court, and there is even the (very slight) risk of the child being taken into care. Nobody wants this to happen, so professional help is usually readily available, and it is vital for parents to make the best use of it.

Most current treatments for school refusing are carried out around the home and the school by clinical child psychologists. They will involve helping the child to deal with anxiety symptoms in the situation where they developed, while getting the child back to school as quickly as possible. Inpatient treatment compares poorly with this kind of 'live' support, though a small minority of children do fare better away from home.

Some parents may be tempted to take their child out of the school system altogether, but research shows that temporary home tuition is not a useful road to recovery, and works against the child's early return to school. Permanent withdrawal, even if some children do better academically, and feel more content outside the school system, has some dangers. The child with low social skills may not learn how to relate to the peer group, which can become a major problem. The child may also never resolve the underlying problems that generated, or were part of, the school phobia."

They may thus become prime candidates for a similar anxiety disorder later in life when faced with going to college, or to work. They may also be so handicapped by lack of the social and 'peer' learning gained at school that character traits such as timidity, over-sensitivity, and the tendency to have unrealistic expectations of themselves and others, may become a permanent barrier between the young adult and the rest of the world."

Now what research would that be, we wonder? And even if research does prove that temporary tuition out of school is not the answer, (to what? presumably on many an occasion, to overcoming a perfectly rational fear of school), that doesn't mean that it's possible to conclude that long-term home education is not the answer, because for many children, it has been just that.

For the record, we have now seen plenty of school-phobic, home educated children become extremely adept at managing social situations. Many go on to college and get degrees with no problems whatsoever or they have gone straight into sometimes demanding careers. Had they remained in school, it might have been a different matter, since there is a high chance that some of them would either have actually managed to commit suicide, or would be self-harming or would have long-standing depression. It is a wonder how any professional would want that on their conscience.

So yes, how about this plan: deregister, deschool and socialise with a lovely bunch of HE children who can show these anti-social school kids a thing or two, for HEKs are not infrequently appalled at the way school children are supposed to relate to one other. This doesn't mean that they can't cope with the anti-social behaviour they encounter. The other day, I watched and learned, as a group of HE children helped three recently deregistered school children learn about how to socialise in the real world, away from a hell-hole of a prison. The recently deregged children were throwing sticks and stones (literally and metaphorically) at a mixed age group of HEks. The HEks discussed the best course of action and decided that the school socialised kids just wanted attention, so the HEKs would offer it in the best possible way. A fun game of hug-chase ensued, with the HEKs chasing the deschooling children with open arms. No name calling, no anger, no stick throwing. The HEks just showing these other children how to have good, simple, kind fun. I was proud and amazed as such a solution would never have occurred to me.

Ho hum. Someone's got to put Anxiety Care right!


Wobblymoo said...

They are so far off the mark, I'd love to see their evidence, because I have seen it with my own eyes so noone is going to convince me otherwise

Carlotta said...

Thanks, Wobbly.

Having HEd now officially for about 5 years now, (unofficially for 11 years!), I too have seen quite a number of HEKs move on in life, some of whom had left school as a result of terrible experiences there which could easily have been passed off as school phobia. Most of them are now confident, responsible beings, happy in being autonomously motivated.

Ruth said...

Disappointing to see people who in theory should know better trotting out the tired and discredited 'socialisation' issue. OTOH they are in the business of anxiety as a mental health issue that needs treatment not as a perfectly natural reaction to a bad situation.

ruth said...

I wrote to them - "I wonder if you could provide a link to the research which justifies your statements about children taken out of school and home educated being at greater risk of anxiety disorders and other problems later in life than those kept in school. Anecdotal evidence suggests that 'school phobic' children who are taken out and home educated do extremely well, are well socialised and do not have all the scary problems you suggest. Unless you can come up with some evidence I suggest you remove this section as it is NOT helpful. If your concern is the welfare of school phobic children you should be a little bit more open to the possibility that for some school is the problem and home education is a perfectly viable solution which parents should not be scared of trying. Oh, and throwing the word 'may' into every sentence is not an excuse for dressing up person opinion as anything else."

oh dear, I've become someone who 'writes to people' ;)

Carlotta said...

I can only say that I am extremely grateful, Ruth. Thank you. Will try to follow suit when I feel more confident with my new email system.

Tara said...

Hahaha The misinformation out there is astounding!

"OMG Kids don't like being herded like cattle, told what to think or when to pee. They feel the urge to fight aginst oppression and tyranny! We had better throw them in counseling before they get any crazy ideas about living outside the box we've created for them!!"

The fact they believe people can't survive outside of such a box just goes to show you how inundated they are themselves. Feel pity for them. Until they are shown the light, the will forever feel safe in darkness. :]

Ruth said...

Better make that Another website that has no interest in input from Home Educators. Here's the reply I got:

"Thank you for your email and I will do my best to address the issues you have regarding same.

The article says that ‘the child who has low social skills may not learn how to relate to the peer group’ which in fact implies that this is present before schooling begins, whether this is home or otherwise. It is important to remember that this article is related to school phobia/refusal and not to the benefits/pitfalls of home schooling.

Referring you to research on the pros/cons of home schooling is not within our remit.

Placing the word ‘may’ in our article is an acknowledgement that each child is different and should be treated as such. Our information is based on many years of experience in supporting carers of children who experience this very distressing phobia.

I do hope that this has answered some of your questions and please do contact us again if you feel that we can be of any further assistance.

Kind regards,

Regina Byrne.

So that's "our anecdotal evidence is more important than yours and we're not in the slightest bit interested in backing up our claims". They officially suck!

Carlotta said...

Yep, that just about sums it up, though perhaps one could add that where Anxiety Care probably have absolutely no anecdotal evidence of the healing possibilities of HE and probably wouldn't want to acknowledge it even if it was staring them in the face, plenty of HEors have plenty of evidence that attempts at aversion therapy to help you adjust to something that is genuinely terrifying, abusive, boring or useless by no means necessarily works and can have truly terrible consequences, such as long-term anxiety and depression, personality disorders, simple inability to think straight, anorexia, self harm....

I will write to them too.

emma said...

I did my irate email just now.

"Your statement on school phobia is misleading (at best).

Children who are school phobic are often frightened of school for very good reason. these are real fears, not "real" fears, as you put it in scare quotes. And fear of bullying, or failure, of friendlessness, of loneliness, of any of the other factors you cite in your "factsheet" is not a phobia, it is a rational response to a ghastly situation.

Counselling a child to help them overcome their fears, or be desensitised to their fears is one solution, but a temporary one emotionally speaking (how many people do we know in adulthood who say "I hated school for reasons X, Y and Z, but I'm really glad I went for all those years"?).

You really should be putting the systemic solution on your factsheet as well. "Children who are school phobic are likely to become happy, fulfilled, achieving to their emotional and intellectual potential, well adjusted, confident and with as many friends as they desire, if their parents are able to remove them from school and home educate them. is the largerst Home Education charity in the UK, and is able to offer advice on the transition to home education"

You have to know that Home Education is on a massive increase, that bullying is a major factor in its increase, and that this is a potentially life saving solution for many school-phobic young people. It is not a last ditch solution; it is a positive alternative to school, which is legally on an exact level with school.

Please let me know how you will be correcting your factsheet."

Carlotta said...

Wow, Emma...sock it to them. I wish I'd written that!

emma said...

Do you think I should have told them what I REALLY think instead of sugar coating it...? :-D

I actually thought of several more killer things to say after sending the email, but fortunately they have mostly ebbed away now.

The thing is, of course, that people like this are invested in "school phobia" being treated as a problem in which getting children back to school is part of the solution - because that keeps them in business... they aren't actually interested in "curing" people of their phobia, because if they were their list of advice would be

1) find out if the school can change anything in order to take away the difficulty for the child

if not, then

2) find out if there are any available schools where the problem would not exist

if not then

3) home educate.

But this counselling is, I think, far from taking the fears seriously.

I didn't put any of that in my email, if anyone wants to add it as a PS to their own howler (isn't that what the shouting letter from Mrs Weasley is called in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets?)

Carlotta said...

I am such a Harry Potter ignoramus! Luckily DH copes with this side of things. In certain areas, there is a very clear division of labour in our household, but back to the point, I would very happily include that PS in a howler of the HP sort.

emma said...

Here's the reply I got:

"Dear Ms. Hornby,

Thank you for your email which expressed concerns about the information we offer on our website regarding school phobia. Read correctly, the information states that it is important that the childs anxiety is taken seriously and thus outlines possible methods for dealing with this. As we are an organisation that deals with anxiety disorders, our website is targeted at those people who are experiencing this and was designed in response to the needs of our service users.

We do not negate home schooling but use it to highlight that simply withdrawing the child is merely a way of avoiding the issue. Indeed we state that ‘ ‘the child may also never resolve the underlying problems that generated, or were part of, the phobia’. This is true of all phobias and, as this is our area of expertise, we know that phobias such as this are more often than not progressive. I refer you to our information under Professional Therapy for School Refusing, paragraph 2 where it is implicit that the child will already have difficulties that may be exacerbated through withdrawing them from school. It also states that ‘the child who has low social skills may not learn how to relate to the peer group’ which in fact implies that this is present before schooling begins, whether this is home or otherwise. It is important to remember that this is related to school phobia/refusal and not to the benefits/pitfalls of home schooling. "

I see she simply cut and pasted from her previous letter...

So sad, for all those children whose "phobia" is being addressed by trying to get them back in school.

I like the authority argument too. "This is our area of expertise". Oh. Ok. as you were, then.

Carlotta said...

Hopping mad now. I would write to them now saying that phobias may be their area of expertise, but could they possibly say that they were experts in home education? I think they should have a quick gander at the EO page where it states that many of these children who are forcibly returned to school then go on to experience emotional difficulties as adults. It is not a solution and we KNOW that HE can be!

Anonymous said...

I've been thinking about this, and I think Anxiety Care are completely right that avoidance exacerbates a phobia. However (and this is the important bit) I don't think what they are talking about is a phobia.

A phobia is an irrational fear that is inappropriately high compared to the "threat". So I would say that "school phobia" is not actually a phobia at all. We really need to get that horrible term out of use. :(

I'd write back toi them and say that you understand that phobias are their area of expertise, so perhaps they should stick to advising on genuine phobias, and stay out of areas they know nothing about.