What is home education?
Home education or home schooling is a successful, workable, and legal option thousands of parents now choose for their children’s learning instead of sending them to school. Parents are able to provide a ‘tailor made’ education and learning environment which completely suits their individual child and his learning needs. There are many children who are unhappy in school or who are failing to thrive or reach their potential and many parents find through home education these difficulties can be overcome. Increasing numbers of parents are opting to take this route, including those who have children with special needs.
How do parents home educate?
Parents provide for their children’s education in a whole variety of ways. Some like to adopt a school-style approach where they timetable their day similarly to a classroom day and follow subjects on the National Curriculum. Others use a less scheduled approach and take opportunities that arise in their everyday lives to develop their children’s skills and knowledge. Many families find that once you look outside the traditional systematic way of learning we’re all familiar with through schooling you discover that there are many different approaches which are equally successful. As they grow in confidence they find there is a more flexible, child led approach where the starting point for learning comes from the child’s own interests and their daily lives which helps to keep the children more motivated to learn and avoid them becoming switched off. Some parents use graded work books and schemes of work available through the internet and publishing companies to develop their children’s learning, others develop their children’s skills through activities that occur in everyday life like play, constructive and creative activities, sports, enjoyment of books, outings, workshops, field trips, television and computer programmes, cooking, etc. And most families participate in learning activities and workshops with their local home schooling groups and are often beyond the home. Many tend to adopt a mix of these approaches based around their child’s individual preferences. Some use tutors and other experts to help them in specific areas. Others find their children learn all they need to know with no formal ‘lessons’ at all. Many home schooling families also find that work which would take a whole hour in a classroom session can be achieved in about twenty minutes on a one-to-one basis leaving much more time for the child’s personal hobbies and play. Stimulating play activities enhance a child’s learning and development as much as study does, as does physical activity, and home educating families make the most of those opportunities. Families find that they can be flexible in their approaches, changing as the child grows and their needs change. Home education can be completely personal to each family and as structured or as ‘tailor made’ as each individual family wants to make it.
Who can home educate?
Home education is a legal option open to any family. Any parents who have an open mind, a basic standard of education or an interest in improving, the ability to research, and are prepared to be flexible in their working lives would be able to home school their own children. It is not necessary to be a teacher or have any qualifications yourself. What’s important is to have a good relationship with your child and an interest in learning.
What about friends and interaction with others?
The numbers of families choosing to home educate grows all the time as parents become increasingly dissatisfied with schools and the education they provide. Therefore there are growing numbers of home schoolers’ networks which offer both learning and social activities, opportunities for interaction and making friends, and computer networking. These groups offer a high adult to child ratio that usually develops a social maturity in children which often exceeds that of their school peers. It also provides a safe and unthreatening environment in which children can overcome shyness, develop their personality, and learn how to interact well with others of all ages. Also, as with all children, home schoolers make friends through other networks and clubs like youth groups, sports clubs, other groups like cubs and scouts, etc. School is not the only place children can make friends and in fact some of the interaction there, both pupil to pupil, and pupil to adult, is not always the best example of a warm, loyal and respectful relationship. Most home schooled children find and enjoy friends as any children would.
What about exams and the future of home schooled children?
Children who are home schooled take exams and go onto higher education just as school children do. Parents usually decide on an exam board which offers the courses they want and use study packs associated with them and find a local centre where they sit the exam. There is information on the internet and the exam board websites. Some home educating families make choices about exams that differ from school in that they prefer their education to focus on a well rounded individual with a multitude of talents, rather than just exam passing, so they take the minimum of exams required for university entrance. Others decide to take other routes and other qualifications like Btec for example and use FE colleges. Some continue to use home study course like OU. Other children opt to go straight into work. Colleges and universities are beginning to recognise that home educated children have an aptitude for learning that exceeds their school peers simply because, having been out of the school environment, they are not dulled or bored, they are more motivated and have a greater variety of life and social skills which equips them better for life beyond school.
Click here for the Government Guidelines (For particular interest note para 3.13 Providing a full time education)
Or Listen to someone who knows first hand: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eej9PxRw_P0
And to see how it works first hand check out some of the blogs and sites listed in the Home Education Blogs page on this site.
Most questions are answered in detail in my book:
‘Learning Without School. Home Education’ published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers. http://www.jkp.com/search/index.php?s=Learning+Without+School
It describes what home education is and how families go about it, it contains tips and support if you want to home school yourself and how to get started. It illustrates how to suit education to your individual child, how to think beyond traditional boundaries, and to educate for a happy and successful future. And whether you want to home educate or not it contains a philosophy of education which will help you understand your children’s education wherever they learn.
You can view the contents list on the My Books page.
A personal educational philosophy
I’ve often been asked about my ‘educational philosophy’, especially in the light of it being something the LA often require! However, it’s a bit of a difficult one to answer because the concept of education is so huge.
At the risk of shocking myself with this admission; when I first starting out teaching I thought, like many others, that education was just something delivered by schools quantified by exams. I didn’t teach for long before I changed my mind about that.
I also soon worked out that ‘qualification’ was certainly not a measure of an educated person judging by the way some of them behaved. And teaching for exam passes didn’t necessarily make young people educated.
When we home educated our own two children we had to think about what education really was, if it was not something that was just learning a prescribed syllabus, delivered by schools for the purpose of grades, which by then I definitely didn’t believe it was.
What was it then?
Our ideas changed over the time we home educated and have matured even since then. And this is an attempt to try and note some ideas down that may help you decide upon your own.
A precise educational philosophy is quite hard to capture because it is entirely based on your definition of education in itself. And that has been influenced by our own schooling and by society’s definition of it as a grade-getting process that is measurable in those terms only. And accountable in those terms only – in terms of how many and how high.
But I believe education is something far broader than that. And I look at it not in terms of grades, or perhaps in terms of what education is, but more in terms of what an educated person is.
My definition tends to be person based. Not qualification based. Because it’s not the qualifications that matter – it’s what you do with them. And you need far, far more personable skills and elements of character to apply yourself to an educated life than qualifications. Elements like respect. Or responsibility. Or care. Or the ability to communicate.
Grades are no good without those.
You can have the most qualified, titled and knowledgeable person in the world who can be an arrogant arse and not care a damn for the next person. I wouldn’t call them educated. So care does come into it.
You can have a person who has been privately and expensively educated who looks down on those who’ve had less opportunity as if they deserve less respect. But I wouldn’t call that the behaviour of an educated person. So respect comes into it.
And you have people who seem to spend lifetimes collecting degrees but are unable to function happily, communicate and establish relationships, or understand how their awareness of others and the planet is important. Their educational qualifications don’t seem a lot of help. Awareness is part of being educated too.
So I believe that however ‘qualified’ or ‘educated’ in the conventional sense of the word a person is, it’s how he BEHAVES that matters and counts as to whether they are really educated.
And I believe that education is probably not something you can measure. It’s just something you can feel and know about a person from the way they are, and is unquantifiable. Yet we all know who we would regard as educated or not.
People who are educated are people who not only have knowledge and skills but are people who show respect, responsibility and care towards others both near and far, towards their environment both locally and globally and who show awareness, compassion and understanding, who are keen to be the best they can, make the best contribution they can, and who strive towards good, happy and fulfilled lives. And I know that now we’d need to define good, happy and fulfilled but I’ll leave those definitions to you!
But these are the types of qualities I expect an educated person to have, however many grades. It is about the quality of a person – not the qualifications.
And that’s very difficult to measure. But schools feel the need to measure something so they focus on the measurable bits and neglect the rest. That’s where it’s gone so wrong.
Now, this is all very philosophical but how do you home school to that?
Well – creating good, happy and fulfilled lives on a daily basis is a start! One day at a time; make each day a good one and you make for a good education and fallow days count here too. (See this blog)
I also understand that many parents worry about describing it to the Local Authority. We did too and I spent many hours contemplating it. I describe what happened in my book ‘A Funny Kind Of Education’ including the letter with our educational philosophy we finally sent to the LA. So I thought it might help if I copied it here too:
‘We are unable to fill in your enclosed form because it is inappropriate to our Home Education situation and the education we plan to provide for our children.
We plan for the education of our children to be centred around their needs, for the most part autonomous, deriving from their own interests and daily pursuits, at times democratic, where their learning is shared, helped, broadened and encouraged by our parental input. Our aim is for happy confident, self motivated children who take pleasure in learning. We hope to provide a stimulating environment in which they may do this, both in the home with materials, books, television, computers, and in the community and further afield with trips to libraries, visits to places of interest, field trips and activities which encourage an interest and curiosity about their daily lives and environment, all of which are sources of learning and educational opportunity.
We see learning as an integral part of our children’s daily lives and not separate from it or segregated into subjects. Therefore it is not timetables or structured; this would be unnecessarily inhibiting. It may take place from the minute they wake to the minute they sleep, over meal times, social times, unusual times, any time, by discussions and questioning, conversations, investigations and research, not necessarily in a formal procedure. We see it therefore as mostly spontaneous and unplanned. Thus we can take advantage of the purest receptive moments when learning potential is at its peak.
We are quite confident that contact with family, friends, social events, clubs and activities of this nature provide our children with plenty of social interaction.
Having said all that I’m sure you must appreciate that our children have to recover from the numbing effects of school, which has damaged their learning potential, and it may take us some time to settle into our Home Education. We look forward to this with enthusiasm and excitement.
We hope this fulfils your requirements.”
An educational philosophy doesn’t have to worry you. You will already have ideas about what education should be or you wouldn’t contemplate home educating. These ideas are the basis for a philosophy and they just need formalising and getting down, always allowing room for change and moderation. Allow them to develop over a period of time and read lots others. Use any of the ideas you like here to help.
Here are some tips to get you started:
- Think what you want for your children personally (things like confidence, keenness to learn, happiness, etc)
- Think what you might want for them academically – helps to focus on skills here – in line with where they’re at right now (it’s best to not look too far ahead at this point)
- Think about others – have you ever seen a model of a family or child that you’d like to strive towards (probably you have examples of the opposite – also useful!)
- Think what suits your child’s needs, your needs and your circumstances and what kind of lifestyle/approach will help you move towards the above.
- A final point to remember; children change, so their needs change, so your approach and styles and philosophy may change throughout your home education. Therefore it is wise to include this fact in any statement you may make to the LA
Allow yourself room for flexibility – the key to successful home education – and development of ideas as, like ours did, these will change.
Just as home education changes you. Exactly like life really!
For an entertaining story about our home educating family life, containing a lot more about education, see A FUNNY KIND OF EDUCATION. A memoir to move heart and mind, get you giggling and possibly even shedding a tear. Guaranteed to change your view of children’s learning for ever!
There are also many home education/home schooling websites and organisations to support home schoolers which can be found on the web. See the Home Education Blogs page.