Tag Archive | children’s learning

How do homeschool kids learn?

Following on from last week’s post I thought it might be helpful to talk about this.

It’s such a huge question. How does anyone learn? How do you learn now you’re a parent?

Discounting any specific academic courses you may be undertaking I think you’ll agree your learning otherwise, (say about your new technology, or looking up how to fix, cook, parent), has little resemblance to the way schools do it – you probably do most of it online and by asking around too. Yet it will be just as effective.

School learning structures are the way they are because the learning there has to be measured – not because they’re the best way to do it!

However, learning doesn’t have to be measured in order to be successful. And for most home educators it isn’t measured – it’s just experienced. Families just encourage, prompt, provide resources and engage with what their learner wants to learn, along with essential skills to do so, and find ways to facilitate it, practically, physically, mentally and most importantly interestingly!

They do it through a multitude of ways; online, out and about, through meetings and sharing learning with others, in the local community, museums, galleries, sports and play centres, libraries, workshops, visits to various sites, nature reserves and places of interest, all so the learning experience is as first hand as possible, along with practice of academic skills and study at times.

But it’s very hard to get your head round those unfamiliar approaches that home educating families take to their learning. So I’ve written a whole chapter about it in my guide to home education; ‘Learning Without School Home Education’ which may help you get to grips with it. (For more details scroll down the ‘My Books’ page above) If you haven’t got a copy and prefer not to buy, you can request that your library do so, then others will be able to access it too.

The chapter looks at both a traditional view and a broader view of how children learn, what they need in order to do so, how they learn without teaching from everyday experiences including play, and then goes on to look at different approaches families use in more detail, the pros and cons, along with some suggestions on how to choose an approach that’s right for you. The chapter also talks about motivation and about children having charge of their own learning which may be a really radical idea for some, but is still doable and effective.

From the book; Learning Without School Home Education

Learning and educating are such a personal experience – although schools tend to generalise it – every learner is different and everyone’s circumstances are different. But despite these diverse and idiosyncratic approaches which families take to their home education the young people all seem to end up in the same place; intelligent, articulate, socially skilled, and mostly with a portfolio of qualifications in line with their school contemporaries.

Don’t be daunted by an unfamiliar approach to learning that’s so different from the traditional. Traditions always need challenging to see if they’re still worth hanging onto, although I guess you know that already or you wouldn’t be challenging the tradition of schooling! By opening your mind about how children learn you will be able to give your youngsters a much more pro-active and enjoyable experience of learning that will set them up for life.

Ideas to get the learning out!

Wherever they went the children found things to experience and learn about!

There is an accelerating drive to take more learning outside. Many schools are trying to practice this as much as they can, not always with the support of parents some of whom think that kids should have heads down at desks ‘getting on’ rather than mucking about outdoors, as they see it.

At the start of a home educating journey, when the only familiar approach to education is that heads-down indoors one, it’s difficult to imagine other ways. But home schooling gives you the perfect opportunity to get the learning out!

We found, very quickly, that the further you move away from the structured and oppressive approach to learning that schools adopt, the more you understand that the children learn just as much (more probably, because they’re enjoying it) outside of these restrictive structures. They learn by experiencing as much as by study.

But how do you get away from the studious, often workbook and curriculum led, indoor, schooly type of learning that’s familiar?

By focusing on the experiencing first and letting the study be the follow up – if at all! And you can use facilities in your locality to do this, with a little imagination.

Experiences of science, literature, mathematics, history, geography, all forms of the arts etc are around us all the time if we spot the opportunities.

Take history, for example. A visit to your local church may start if off. Look at the dates on the gravestones, wonder (and later research) what life was like for those people, the age they died, the social history of the time, the type of headstone a clue to their wealth, ask questions, discuss and speculate with the kids. This often leads to some googling, documentaries, films, about the period, historical dramas as educational as a documentary if discussion is involved. Along with museums there will be other historical evidence in your neighbourhood among the architecture, industries, memorials, constructions like bridges, railways, tunnels etc all to be explored. So take your history out. Explore.

Science is another example. Science is around us everywhere, whether biological (gardens, parks, nature reserves, plant centres, woodlands, etc), chemical (from the make up of the food we eat to the fuels and substances we use etc.), the physics of the universe and atmosphere and climate science a major current issue that combines it all. Get out and explore the world from a scientific point of view – for real – even if you need the ideas in a curriculum related workbook to start you off!

Make use of what’s out there like: libraries not just for books but local resources, groups, clubs, activities and so on; galleries, art centres, exhibitions, buildings, riverbanks, estuaries, streams, ponds, lakes, local museums, theatres, community centres, sports halls, swimming pools, playgrounds, tourist information centres, all provide educational opportunities and physical activities, if you go out there with an investigative and questioning mind. Even the food shop brings learning opportunities; the weights, measures, costs, contents, countries of origin, transport and time, growing food, the labelling design and wording…the list goes on.

Basically your children learn all the time when out and about if you’re observant. So use imagination to take your learning out and have faith, they WILL be learning because they will be engaged.

Which cannot always be said for sitting passively at a table over a workbook!

An inspiring take on learning

Most of us have been deeply schooled! And that’s not just through being at school. We are schooled by our parents, by communities, culture, social media. Schooled to think, feel, act in certain ways and it’s very hard not to stick to these default biases (see this post), even when they don’t work terribly well. Consequently we obediently accept the school model of learning.

And for some, even those who are familiar with home education, it can be hard to get our heads round the idea that children can learn and become educated adults without this schoolish approach, or fully understand the concept of unschooling. This is an approach to parenting and raising youngsters in a way that allows them to engage with purposeful educational activities without being ‘schooled’ at all.

Unschooled’, is a book about that very concept.

The author, Kerry McDonald presents fresh and inspiring ideas about the way we see education and learning, how if we look beyond our traditional schooled biases and trust the learner, we can let go of the idea that they have to be schooled in order to learn and embrace the concept that learning is something that children naturally do. Like many of us, she questions how the one-size-fits-all style of schooling could possibly accommodate the diversity of the human experience, or work for all. And how, through looking at the way childhood and ‘schoolhood’ has changed, she has been led towards embracing an unschooling approach to learning and how this succeeds.

It is an inspiring and thought provoking book which will make you look at how the freedoms of past childhoods have been eroded and how this has impacted on children’s health, development, imagination and creativity – and learning abilities. And how schooling and adult-controlled learning environments have destroyed children’s natural and effective capacity for learning, creating learning and health issues in our teens – the group she believes is most let down by conventional schooling.

There are many first-hand examples of learning in the book, across subjects like literacy and numeracy, which are fascinating; eye-opening accounts of why and how unschooling works and why school-at-home doesn’t! And plenty of research and samples of other ‘non-school’ models and learning centres to be inspired by.

It also talks about how children are treated in coercive ways in our attempt ‘to educate’ them, which has always sat uneasily with me. Coercive practices destroy independence. The author shows how we build independent adults through self-directed education, in fact, we don’t need to educate young people at all – in the schooled sense of the word, they are completely able with our support to do that for themselves. If you’ve ever doubted that this is possible, this book may change your mind!

Although based in America, we can take much from it to apply to home education in the UK. It’s easy to read and each chapter is followed by a helpful summary of tips. If ever you’ve wanted to fully engage in child-directed learning, but never had the courage to go for it, this book will help you do it.

It’s an inspiring take on learning and education with thought provoking ideas on how we can rebuild a learning world for the future which abandons the out-of-date schooling system we have now.

Well worth a read!

Your questions about home education answered

It is true what’s written in the poster! Although many parents don’t realise, or begin to comprehend how this would work, conditioned as we are to believe that formal, school-style approaches to education are the only ones worth doing.

They’re not!

The more you home educate the more it becomes apparent that diverse, incidental and informal activities, like play, investigation and experimenting for example, educate as much as formal academic exercises do.

To help understand how this happens there’s a whole chapter devoted to it in my book;  ‘Learning Without School Home Education’.

The contents of this book are based around the general questions parents ask all the time about home education:

What is home education and why do people do it?

How do parents start home educating?

How do home educated children learn?

How do they find friends and become socialised?

What about curriculum, subjects and timetables?

What about tests, exams and qualifications?

What is life like for a home educating family?

What about children with ‘learning difficulties’ or ‘special needs’?

Where do home educated families end up?

The chapters answer all the above questions in detail and the answers may well surprise you. And, as one teacher reported, may inspire many ideas about education in general that you’ve never thought of before!

So don’t let the schooling style of learning monopolise your thinking about education. Don’t let the system make you believe that testing, classrooms, teachers, curriculum are required or your child won’t learn. That’s untrue. Or make you believe that school is needed for socialisation – it’s not. (Read this about weird social behaviour and baked beans!)

Schooling is one way of doing it – a very unsuccessful way for many – which is why thousands of families are choosing home education as an alternative and making a grand job of it!

Education involves the heart…

Why?

The short answer lies in the fact that without the heart to bring a balance to what the head knows we cannot live with care and compassion. And that’s important isn’t it? (See the links in last week’s blog post)

The longer answer has to do with what education is for. Education has traditionally been associated with academics only. With improving society through the learning of reading and writing and numbers and knowledge. That was back in the day, before everyone had access to learning. But since learning is accessible to us all now through new technologies, perhaps we need something different for our contemporary society and culture. What’s education for now? To help build societies that are inclusive, compassionate responsible and caring? That goes beyond reading and writing and scores and ticksheets.

We need human qualities as well as knowledge and academic skills. We need more personal skills. We need to know ourselves, what makes us happy, and most importantly how to live sustainably alongside each other and the planet. How to take responsibility. That requires a far bigger emphasis on care and compassion and understanding; heart skills as much as head skills, than is currently present in the education system.

There’s a longer version on why happiness is essential for education and why we should educate the heart as well as the head in this post here.

Meanwhile as your children are educated, however they are educated, listen to all your hearts as well as your heads. And be brave enough to educate the whole person, not just grade the head!

Home Ed kids on Home Ed

Someone recently asked it there were any videos of home educated kids talking about their home education experiences.

So I had a quick ask around and came up with a few which I thought I’d share here. Because wouldn’t that be a great resource? The more we have from the youngsters themselves on their experiences, the better illustration of how well home schooling works. (And I use that term lightly – not philosophically. Read why here)

It also shows that home educated kids are just normal every day kids and are not weird, anti-social or unable to communicate which are among some of the accusations the ignorant aim at the approach.

I know some parents are really anxious about show casing their home education. We all fear the threatening politics that would try and curb our rights. (Read a bit about it on this site)

But if we can be brave, if we can demonstrate how well it works in contrast to an education system that is becoming increasingly broken and unhealthy for many, the more people, parents and politicians will understand our aims and approaches.

Here’s a couple of films I found on Youtube:

From YouTube; Home Education, What’s that about?

10 things We Love about Home Ed

I Don’t go to School

And a very inspiring young man speaking at a TEDx event; Hackschooling makes me happy

And a more generic one my daughter did for me a while ago now; What’s Your View of Home Education?

There are plenty more on Youtube by parents and families like this one; Home Education – what’s that about?.

If you know of any more that the children have done about their experience, especially talking about their friends and social connections, do share in the comments below!

And your youngsters may even feel like making their own… 🙂

 

The Home Education Bill – a brilliant response

Rachel and her two lovely boys

Last week I read an absolutely brilliant post about the proposed Home Education Bill on the blog; Mini Man’s Home Ed Adventures. Since the author, Rachel Evans, writes far better than I could on the subject, I immediately contacted her to ask if it would be okay to copy it here to help spread the word a little further and was very happy to receive a ‘yes’!

So here it is. I know it’s long but it’s well worth setting aside some time to have a read as it explains everything so well:

Many of you will be unaware that a private members Bill is currently making its way through the House of Lords, proposed by Lord Soley (Labour Lord), regarding home education. I have read and reread the entire transcript of the second reading of the Bill a number of times. Before I even start addressing the points made as regards the Bill, I have to say I have been utterly appalled and aghast by the attitudes of all but one of the Lords who responded. The exception, Lord Lucas, showed great understanding of the situation and called for an evidence based Bill rather than an opinion based Bill.  Between the rest of the Lords, for me, they have displayed a frightening lack of understanding of education, home education, SEN, child welfare and the realities of life for ordinary people. In fact, Lord Soley himself actually acknowledged that he had “not had a great deal of involvement in education and do not claim to have that much knowledge of it”. I am perturbed that these unelected Peers are proposing, influencing and making laws/decisions that affect all of our lives, whilst displaying a total disconnection and distrust of real people. They have shown, in this case, that these proposals are based on their own opinions and views of life and not any evidence at all. In fact, and most worryingly, they appear to not actually be interested in the evidence or reality. They are displaying a shocking level of ignorance and arrogance in the power and stance of the State . This is something that I had not really appreciated until really looking into this, and something I feel we should all be concerned about.

So firstly, a quick foray into the legal definition of education and where educational responsibility lies. The legal responsibility for the education of a child lies wholly and squarely with the parents of the child, both in UK law and within European Convention of Human Rights. The Education Act 1996 states “The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable— (a) to his age, ability and aptitude, and (b) to any special educational needs he may have, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.” Schools must provide a “broad and balanced” education because it is providing education to thousands of children. The education parents provide is regarded as suitable providing it;

“… equips a child for life within the community of which he is a member rather than the way of life in the country as a whole, as long as it does not foreclose the child’s option in later years to adopt some other form of life if he wishes to do so.”

Schooled education is set up in a way that makes mass education easier to administer. Teachers do not have the time, staff or resources to find the optimal learning pace, style and preference for each child. Neither do teachers have any real flexibility to provide education individually tailored to the age, ability, aptitude or SEN of every child. National Curriculum dictates content, methods and standards irrelevant of actual age, developmental stage, ability, aptitude or SEN of a child – it is a one standard fits all system, where anyone or anything outside this is classed as substandard/failing. In contrast, home educators can provide educational content and methods perfectly balanced to their child’s age, development stage, preferences, learning styles, pace and SEN.

So in essence, what does the Bill entail? It would mean as a home educator you would be compelled, by law, to register all home educated children, you would be compelled to give access to your home to Government officials, at least annually, to determine whether your child is being abused, radicalised, whether they are being home educated against their will and to monitor educational standards (these standards have not been specified but I assume they would be National Curriculum levels). You could be compelled to allow your child to be interviewed by a Government official, in which you as a parent, you would not allowed to be present. The Bill, as it stands, means you would also be compelled to allow a Government official to assess the physical and emotional development of your child, at least annually (although during the second reading Lord Soley did concede that this was “unrealistic”). If alarm bells are not ringing for you already, let me explain why you should be very concerned over these draconian measures that are being proposed in the “best interests of the child”.

Compulsory registration

In UK law, as I have said earlier, parents hold ultimate legal responsibility for their child’s education. The default position is home education, if you do not wish to fulfil this responsibility personally, you opt into the school system by enrolling your child for a school place, then OFSTED oversee the quality of this on behalf of parents. Local Authorities have a responsibility to provide school places for those that wish it,  to identify children missing in education when on school roll and for identifying those children in home education who do not appear to be receiving an education. I can’t think of any other aspect in life where you have to register with the Government, when you rightfully and legally choose not to opt into something.

Compulsory access to your home

Some Local Authorities already cite that access to your home is compulsory. This is currently illegal under English law, it contravenes the UN Convention of Children’s Rights (which although never adopted into English Law was ratified) and human rights. Even the police and social workers need a reason and justification to enter a home. The Bill, as it stands, would nullify the these laws and rights for one subset of the population – which is discrimination and also illegal. This Bill would compel home educators to allow access to their home by the Government annually, so that they can speculatively look for evidence of law breaking. All this, because a family has taken the rightful and legal decision not to opt into the state school system. Are you worried yet? If not, you should be. Looking at another human right, the right to the presumption to innocence until proved guilty. This Bill runs very close to riding a coach and horses through the presumption to innocence.  Almost putting home educators in the position of having to prove they are not wrong doing. The Bill also contravenes the parental presumption to competence which is accorded all parents in England. The role of the State is as a 3rd parent, where it is proved the parents have failed.  If you are still not worried, then just consider how you would feel being compelled to allow Government officials into your home for them to speculatively look for evidence of wrong doing. And for those of the “nothing to hide” persuasion, there are plenty of blogs, articles and resources explaining why this is a dangerous position for everyone.

Interviewing of home educated children without their parents

Even the police need a reason to interview a child, and whilst this can be done without a parent present, they have to be very careful not to influence or intimidate the child. Yet this Bill wants all home educated children to be interviewed annually, without parents present, to see if a wrong doing may have occurred, presumably they hope to achieve this without influencing or intimidating the child. Given the disproportionately high percentage of SEN children in the home education population, many of whom are on the autistic spectrum, the very thought of an authority stranger demanding to speak to them in itself would be extremely traumatic. Baroness Deech, was particularly concerned that a home educated child, that was not subject to annual inspection, would be “muffled and unable to say whether they would like to be elsewhere”.  By the reverse logic I wonder if they are going to abide by their own standard and allow home educators to interview all schooled children, without their parents or teachers, to ascertain whether they wish to continue in school or be home educated instead. I don’t know, but I’m guessing not, which implies State muffling of a child’s voice is acceptable.

Radicalisation

Lord Soley suggests people are using the home education laws to deregister their children to radicalise them. A freedom of information request on all Local Authorities showed that not a single case of home educated children being involved in extremist activity has been recorded. Even if the Bill was enacted, compulsory annual inspection would hardly reveal this. Radicalised school children who have school contact for 1170 hours (6 hours x 5 days x 39 weeks a year) a year go undetected. There is no evidence that home educated children are more likely to be radicalised than their school peers.

Illegal and unregistered schools

Lord Soley claims he needs this Bill to prevent children being deregistered to be put into illegal and/or unregistered schools. I think the clue is in the name here – OFSTED has the remit and power to identify, inspect and close illegal and unregistered schools. They do not need this Bill to do this, they simply need to use their existing powers.

Abuse

Lord Soley claims that home educated children are deregistered so that abuse can be covered up, and that the Bill would prevent this. To the best of my knowledge, there has only been one case of child neglect that has been linked in any way to home education, and this was Dylan Seabridge in Wales. However, as Lord Lucas pointed out at the second reading of the Bill, concerns about Dylan were raised a year before he died and the authorities did not see fit to act – a failure of the State not of home education. Creating a compulsion to register all home educated children with the Local Authority would not prevent abuse. Those intent on abusing their children would presumably be unlikely to present themselves for registration, and hence not be available for inspection.

On the subject of abuse. One of the most prevalent reasons for deregistering a child from school is due to bullying, which is rife in schools. I have heard so many stories of concerned parents being told their child was “too sensitive”, “needs to grow a thicker skin”, “has to learn to deal with it as part of life”.  And sadly, bullying is not the preserve of children either, I personally know of children removed to home educate due to bullying at the hands of teachers, some of these children now suffer PTSD as a result.

I would suggest that tackling abuse and bullying in schools would reduce the numbers in home education in the first place over which he is so concerned.

“Disappearing” children

Lord Soley expressed concern about children “disappearing” once deregistered from school. Any child deregistered from a school has to be reported to the Local Authority by law by the school, so they are already “known” to the authorities, they have not “disappeared”. Children who have never been opted into the system are still known to authorities – they were registered at birth. Children are still registered with the NHS, doctors, dentists, opticians, libraries, child benefit etc. Home educated children are within their families, friends, community, home education community, at events etc. If a person really wanted to “hide” a child then this Bill would not prevent that, these people would be unlikely to come forward to declare their home education status with the Local Authority.

Off Rolling

Baroness Morris of Yardley was one of a number of Peers rightly concerned about “off – rolling” of students. This is where pressure is brought to bear on parents by schools to remove their child into home education, under the guise of being best for the child and largely against the wishes of the parents who feel forced into this. This can be due to the school feeling unable to meet SEN needs, the child about to be permanently excluded and/or the possibility of the child’s assessment results being detrimental to the school performance. This is a concern shared by many in the home education community. As soon as a child is removed from school roll the school must inform the Local Authority by law. Therefore, the current system captures this information already and therefore the Local Authority has the opportunity to intervene. The proposed Bill would make no difference to this at all.

Concerns of most home educators providing “substandard education”.

Many Peers raised concerns about educational standards within home educating families. Lord Addington said children were disappearing “into very substandard education”. He did not provide any evidence of this or what he felt the standard should be, one presumes the National Curriculum.

Whilst National Curriculum appears to be held as the holy grail of “standards”, I would like to ask the question of who sets the National Curriculum. Given the legal definitions and responsibilities outlined in my opening paragraphs, one would assume that parents, communities, teachers, children, business and workplace communities would be key contributors, as well as child development experts. However, given all the recent curriculum changes pushed through by successive Educational Ministers, against the advice of teachers, head teachers, parents and children, it would suggest that politicians are the drivers. There has been much debate and many articles written about suitability of National Curriculum, in particular its impact on childhood mental health. The Government’s own appointed adviser on childhood mental health found herself out of a job when she pointed the finger at the education system. There has also been much discussion on whether an education system designed in and on the principles of the industrial revolution is fit for purpose in today’s environment. Sir Ken Robinson explains this perfectly in his RSA Animated Lecture on Changing the Educational Paradigms.

Many home educators feel that the National Curriculum and school environment do not provide good quality education for their children, particularly if they have a child who is gifted and/or has SEN. They want a “curriculum” based on other things they consider important e.g. self motivation, curiosity, ability to self direct, evaluate, challenge, follow passions, ask questions, specialise. They see education in a more holistic way than simply cramming knowledge, being tested on it, forgetting it and then moving onto the next test. They see education as learning HOW to learn not WHAT to learn. Once a child knows how to learn, they can learn anything, at any time and anywhere. Many home educators feel that true learning does not happen to a Government dictated timetable, formula and process, at set dates, in set subjects and batched up with children of identical ages. Just because home education is not measurable does not mean it is substandard. And indeed what should the standards be? On the continent formal schooling often doesn’t start until 7 years, so a child unable to read at 7 years is the norm. In England, a 7year old child with no reading would be classed as “failing”. Given increasing evidence that we are pushing children with too much too young and that this is a significant factor in childhood mental health decline, then really it is National Curriculum that should come under scrutiny not home education. On a slightly flippant note when it comes to standards and appropriate education, I am finding it hard pressed to find parents, teachers, students and business leaders who feel that vital life knowledge for an 11 yr old consists of the intricate workings of subjective conjunctions and fronted adverbials. In fact, I suggest anyone agreeing that it benefits school childrens’ written English, should take a few moments to listen to Michael Rosen (Children’s Laureate June 2007- June 2009) on the subject.

Many home educated children take different qualifications, different paths to their careers rather than the school system of GCSEs, ALevels etc. But for those that wish to take this route it can be difficult and expensive. If Lord Soley really wished to help, then maybe pressuring the Government to make it easier to access these exams externally would be prudent. Once you deregister your child from the school system, you take on the full cost yourself, including the cost of entering your child into examinations. There are few exam centres, which are often hours away that take external candidates and often the cost runs to several hundred pounds per subject.

Special Educational Needs (SEN)

On a more positive note, there was some acknowledgement by the Peers that a number of children were home educated due to unmet SEN needs by the state school system. From my experience a great number of children in home education are there due to unmet SEN. This is a systematic failure of the State to provide a comprehensive SEN strategy and resources. A significant number of these failed children are autistic children who are too academic for special school but too autistic for mainstream school. Schools do not have the training, expertise, experience or resources for these very complex children. But this is a separate discussion. However, Lord Soley suggests help should be made available to families of SEN children. What this consists of and who was going to pay for it he didn’t outline. As a battle weary SEN parent, who is well aware of the reality of Local Authority “help”, I remain sceptical until I see it. School budgets are being cut, Teaching Assistants removed, SEN support dropped, EHCPs routinely rejected or providing very weak support, Local Authorities telling parents that they forfeit NHS Occupational Therapy, NHS Speech and Language therapy when you home educate (this is a lie by the way), Local Authorities refusing to give parents EHCP Personal Budgets and blocking access to help and provision at every turn (I have personal experience of this), NHS budgets cut, NHS service access thresholds so high very few can access them, practically non-existent CAMHS service provision in many parts of the country … I could go on and on. Given this backdrop, I somehow doubt the Local Authorities are suddenly going to be able to fund the “help” alluded to by Lord Soley.

There were a multitude of corkers by various Peers regarding home educating parents, including but not limited to “there are inadequate and disorganised parents who simply cannot get their children ready in time to go to school” this by Baroness Richardson of Calow.   Another of my favourites is by Baroness Garden of Frognal who expresses concerns that home educated families may not be able teach children to be “part of the community”. Home educated children are learning IN their community. They are developing personal and social skills that cannot be learned in schools when merely surrounded only by identically aged peers and authority figure adults. In fact, home educators worry about what passes for socialisation in schools. A perfect example, a local man here runs parkour groups for home educated children and schooled children. He informed a close home educating friend that in home educated groups he can mix all the age ranges (5-15 years) as they are all very supportive and encouraging of each other. In groups of school children, he has to split by year group because the older children belittle and mock the younger, less able ones. I could carry on giving evidence of patronising, ill informed and ignorant comments by some Peers but I will stop there as you likely get the drift.

The real questions …

Lord Soley acknowledges that the numbers of home educated children has risen dramatically over recent years. I don’t think anyone is going to deny that. This surely is a perfect time to ask the question WHY. Why do so many people feel so strongly as to remove their child from state education, lose an income, radically change their lives, take back educational responsibility and take on the financial burdens of home educating their children? Why are teachers leaving the system? Why is the Government struggling to recruit teachers and then retain them? Why are parents voicing concerns over relentless testing? Why is there rising childhood mental health issues? Why are SEN parents removing their children in droves? Why do teachers choose to leave their profession to home educate their own children rather than put them into the system? Why are businesses struggling to recruit staff with the right skills? Why ARE an increasing number of parents choosing to home educate?

Rather than address these issues, Lord Soley has focused on registration and assessment of home education on the basis of standards of education, radicalisation and child abuse. There is no evidence that these are even issues. He is advocating sweeping away the human rights of one subset of the population based on his own ill informed fears and suspicions. As Lord Lucas points out that if we [government] “lived up to our obligations to these parents and children under existing legislation, I do not think we would have a fraction of the worry and problem we have”. He went on to say “A lot of powers are not used because of lack of money or lack of quality of staff”. There are examples where Local Authorities work proactively with the home education community and within the law to great effect. This proves that when exercised well, the existing powers are fit for purpose. There really is no need for this discriminatory and costly Bill, which will not actually address the issues it proclaims it aims to solve.

Thank you very much to Rachel for such a thought provoking piece.

Anyone who wants to get involved further there’s a Facebook group here https://www.facebook.com/groups/stophl11/