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. Below is an extract:
…Making the adjustment from school to Home Education.
Most families require a ‘settling in’ period whilst they adjust to Home Educating. The majority of LAs are sympathetic to this requirement.
This time for ‘settling in’ will vary between families and will depend on how you came to Home Educate. For example, if your child has only just reached school age but is continuing to stay at home full time, you may only need to continue what you already do. If your child has been in school it is more of an adjustment. This is particularly true of children who are unwell or who have had bad experiences associated with their education. They will need special care and time to heal.
Apart from the needs of the children, the whole family will need some adjustment time. It is unrealistic to expect too much too soon, both in terms of education and personal management. It is no small change to switch from a school life to Home Educating. The worry about education, your children’s friends, leaving mainstream, and taking responsibility can be stressful. Most Home Educators experience this. Most adjust. Most go on to successfully Home Educate.
Here are some tips to get you through this adjustment period:
- Relax! This is the most important one. Education doesn’t have to be stressful.
- Give yourself time to explore Home Education, find out what others do, and learn what you can.
- Allow your child time. Work doesn’t have to begin immediately or last from nine till four with concentrated focus. This is not how it realistically works in school.
- Get in contact with other Home Educators.
- Some children may need considerable time to get over their school experiences and to become wholly well and wholly themselves.
- If your child is used to going to school and a scheduled approach, to continue with this approach is often a good starting point. Be aware though, that something that may take a whole period in school in a class of thirty with disruptions, may only take ten minutes to achieve at home. Your child will have much more ‘free’ time that is as valuable as ‘work’ time. Relax about this!
- Remain flexible. Don’t worry if your first approach is not working. Just change it. Home Education is a process of trial and error, with constant changes.
- Keep your child’s needs foremost and remind yourself why you’re doing this.
- Discuss a way of Home Educating together with your child. Talk about what you think they should do. Talk about what they think they should do. And why.
- Explore some of the educational resource books and workbooks in the major bookshops. Don’t be afraid to let your child choose.
- Progress gently rather than intently
- Enjoy yourself! Education is enjoyable. It is as valuable to visit a museum and chat about the exhibits, as it is to study a history book.
- Pay as much attention to your own personal organisation and well being as to that of your child.
- Plan time for yourself, when your child is busy with something, as well as planning your child’s time. Ask that your child respects this personal time, as you respect theirs, and does not disturb you. This is a good habit to develop from the outset.
- Remember; there’s no rush to do it all straight away.
Education is a rich, stimulating, enjoyable experience. Did you know that? Does your child know that from their experiences in school?
We tend to have developed an attitude that activities have to be gruelling to be educational. Or that if it is enjoyable then it can’t be educational. This is not true at all, as many Home Educators discover. But it takes time to adopt a different attitude and to find a different way to make it so. This won’t happen over night so keep it light until you find your way. An afternoon in the park observing and discussing what you see can be as educational as studying species in a textbook.
Some Home Educators may have a laid back approach, that they’ve developed through experience, which you may find too unstructured for you. Others may have a rigid structure that you find too restrictive. Stick to the ways you are comfortable working with for now and remain flexible.
The most important thing is your relationship with your child. So make sure you have fun. Schools can sometimes steal fun not only from education but also from the parent/child relationship and create conflict; e.g. ‘Do your homework or no telly tonight’! To Home Educate successfully there needs to be a different type of negotiation, always from a positive perspective; e.g. ‘Let’s get this written work done now then we can go swimming this afternoon’. Keep your relationship sweet and be prepared to compromise. Allow the child to take the lead sometimes.
Remember: progress never happens overnight.
It is the result of a series of steady and gradual steps made over a period of time.
Dealing with objections from others.
Most people respond to the choice to Home Educate with interest and admiration. However, to many, Home Educating is still a fairly unrecognised and alien way of educating your child. And how do people usually respond to aliens? Shock, horror and fear! People who are fearful can sometimes be quite unpleasant.
Home Educators are exercising a choice that is open to all parents. And quite often they make that choice because they are extremely dissatisfied with schools. Many, many, many parents moan about schools. But most are unprepared to instigate change. When they come into contact with people who do, like Home Educators, it threatens their position and this is what causes some people to be both objectionable and unpleasant.
Sadly, some parents experience this from other family members which can make their decision to Home Educate really difficult. This is where becoming involved with the Home Educating community and learning from other Home Educating families can help enormously. It will help you keep faith with what you’re doing and strengthen your position. It will give you support.
Most objections are made out of ignorance. This is why it is important that you have your ideas clearly thought out. This will enable you to answer people who may object to your decision to Home Educate.
The usual objections are things like:
- Kids have to go to school in order to learn anything,
- Kids have to go to school to mix,
- You’re depriving your child of a normal life,
- Kids need to get used to the hurly-burly of school in order to survive in real life,
- Kids need teachers to get an education,
- Kids need school discipline,
- Your kid will end up as a freak.
- They won’ get any qualifications.
None of these objections are accurate or based in truth. Hopefully you will learn why throughout the rest of the book. You will see why from the examples of other Home Educators. Understanding why will help you answer any questions you may have to deal with about your decision to Home Educate and cope with any opposition you may experience about that decision.
Meanwhile it may help you if you also understand that Home Education challenges much of what people always thought was true about children’s learning. It challenges a huge, traditional institution. It makes parents look more closely at the education of their own children. So it is no small thing that you do when you Home Educate. It’s a brave step that can make others feel threatened. But if no one ever made any brave steps there would be no progress. Thousands of families have already taken that brave step, made the decision to Home Educate and do so successfully.
There’s no reason why you can’t if you’re committed to your child’s education, prepared to do the research and put the time in, so have confidence in your convictions about the education of your child – trust your intuition.
You will no doubt be making the decision to Home Educate your child because you care for their education and well being above everything else – never forget that.
Or that school is not the answer to every child’s needs. Home Education is not necessarily the answer to every child’s needs either. So each one of us needs to remain flexible and accepting, rather than confrontational, towards other people’s choices whatever they are. Each one of us has the right to make individual choices.
From a Home Educator.
Once, one of my friends at drama club asked me, “aren’t you intelligent enough to go to school, then?” when she found out I was Home Educated. I said, “It depends on your definition of intelligence”. “Cor” she said, “you are intelligent!”
Sixteen-year-old student, Home Educated for eight years, now at college.
You are likely to be the one that knows your child best.
That’s what you need to have confidence in over and above everything else.
Having confidence in your knowledge of your child.
As parents we do know a lot about our children. Although many of us fail to give ourselves credit for that.
Many of us spend the first five years of our children’s lives exclusively with them. After they start school we still spend about fifty percent of their waking hours in charge of them. In doing so we learn a lot about them. We learn to understand them. And we are in a better position than anyone else to recognise what their needs are.
Teachers have learnt how to teach. They’ve learnt some child psychology. They’ve learnt about institutionalised education.
They have not learnt about your individual child.
A personal story.
There is no doubt in my mind that most parents know their child best. I doubted it at first, when I was a young arrogant teacher who thought she knew everything. But it didn’t take me long to realise that there was far more to children’s learning than just teaching classes of them. When you are teaching classes of them you can conveniently lose individuals. When you are answering the external demands that all teachers have put upon them you cannot possibly fulfil each specific need, even if you had time to recognise them. It wasn’t until I was a parent that I realised that no teacher can hope to understand each child’s specific need like a parent does.
Parents know best.
Unfortunately there are many professionals that don’t acknowledge this. After all, we all like to think that we are the best at our own subject. And many parents have been made to feel that their expertise with their own child counts for nothing. Many of us tend to think; ‘what do I know? I’m only a parent’.
Parents know lots. Parents who are interested in their children, who have been involved with their children, who have given their time to raising their children, have a far better insight into those children’s needs than anyone. Even educational professionals.
Educational professionals, parenting gurus, child psychologists all know their field. They know more about their subject than others. This doesn’t mean they automatically know what’s best for your child. Neither do family, friends, other parents, or other professionals. Parents know best. Have confidence in what you see to be happening. Don’t underestimate your judgement.
Most particularly, don’t underestimate:
- The understanding you have developed through time with your child.
- What your experience of living with them has told you.
- What you’ve observed.
- What your child is telling you.
- Your intuition about your child’s needs.
- Your skill and insight into your child’s needs as a parent.
- Your gut feeling.
Obviously other people and other professionals have good advice. They will know about things you don’t. Their opinions are valid.
So are yours.
Talk to others. Listen to their advice. Get a broader overview. Then, put that advice within the context of what you know about your child.
Education is not an exact science. And every child is an individual with individual needs. Have confidence in what you know about your child’s needs and what you think is right for their education. You do not have to make your child fit into what may be appropriate for other children and their education. The best way to fulfil your child’s needs is to make an education to fit them – not the other way round.
You’re the parent.
You have an understanding that no one else can possibly have.
Trust your judgement.
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.