This is all quite a normal day in the life of a home educating family, of course. There was nothing particularly special about this park visit that made it extra-educational or enlightening. But next we went to Sainsbury's and the checkout person asked Lyddie the increasingly inevitable question: "No school today?"
Lyddie just answered "No." I kept quiet and should have remained so on reflection, I think. Her way of handling it was probably far better than mine turned out to be.
"Are you ill?" persisted the woman.
"No," answered Lyddie.
"Oh! Why no school then?"
This is what I shouldn't have said, but did: "She's home-educated." I'm not going to respond in this way again, because by answering her question I justified her right to ask it. She wasn't even asking me, so there was absolutely no reason for me to take it upon myself to wade in and get involved.
Her next question to Lyddie (ignoring me) was: "What have you been doing today then?"
And, even after everything we'd just done at the park Lyddie came out with her standard reply: "Just watching TV."
She always says this to the question of 'What have you been doing?' and it is a bit much to ask of a five year-old to expect them to sum up their day's activities. 'Watching TV' means she can reply without having to think about what she has done. It's an automatic answer and it also has the virtue of being usually true to a small extent, even though it excludes everything else she's been doing. Lyddie usually likes to have Cbeebies on in the background at home while she's doing other things, though it's usually ignored.
Checkout person made an audible intake of breath and we could almost hear her thoughts as well: "*Gasp!* They're truanting then!" So I laughed and said: "She always says that!" and went on to talk about the renovation project at the park. Our interrogator was somewhat mollified but still obviously felt quite confident and right to be in the position of an 'interested member of the community', checking out Lyddie's educational provision.
Well, I'm not going to validate this position any more. Why should I contribute to the insane self-policing of society that says: "Every child should be in school." ? Next time someone asks Lyddie why she's not in school, I'm going to ask them why they're asking and at least force them to admit their suspicions. Even after that I will not supply explanations and will simply see what happens next. A call to the Education Welfare Department? The Police? Bring it on. We did more *education* in the park in that two hours than many school children do in a year, anyway.
Someone just said on one of the home ed lists that the phenomena of spot checks by strangers is increasing and our experience does bear this out. When we deregistered 8 years ago we were hardly ever asked. Now it's almost a daily occurence when we're out. Sometimes we're asked several times in one day to justify our reasons for not being in school.
The sight of a child in the company of its parent in school hours is increasingly treated with hostile suspicion when in fact this should be the natural, default scenario.