Home Schooling

Education is a fundamental right for every child, but the one-size-fits-all approach isn’t the only – or necessarily even the best – approach.

I’ve written before about education before, and one of the first things I always think is that teachers should be given far more freedom, support, and investment to develop approaches locally that work. However, that’s not what I’m talking about here; I actually want to write about home schooling.

It’s a right in the UK for parents to choose to educate their child at home rather than at school. The main reasons for wanting to home school their children are;

  • Distance or access to a local school
  • Religious or cultural beliefs
  • Dissatisfaction with the system
  • Bullying
  • Child’s unwillingness or inability to go to school
  • Special educational needs

Homeschooling seems to be on the increase as well; a BBC report published in December 2015 showed that there had been a 65% increase in home-schooled children since 2009. Freedom of Information requests to local authorities showed 36,609 home-educated children in 2015 (out of an approximate school population of 9.5 million pupils) – although these figures only reveal those students that have been removed from school, rather than those who never started.The UK gov.uk website says that parents are legally required to ensure their child (over 5) ensures a full-time education, but it doesn’t specify how you offer that education; when homeschooling, for instance, you don’t have to follow the national curriculum.Oh, and in case you’re wondering, parents don’t need to have any specific qualifications, make detailed plans in advance, observe school hours, days or terms, give formal lessons, mark work done by their child, formally assess progress, set development objectives, or reproduce school socialisation.

Parents in most of the UK do not need permission to home educate unless the child is a registered pupil at a special school, but you should start by writing to your child’s headteacher if you plan to take them out of school.

Lia Haskett, Curriculum Manager at Explore Learning, says: “When thinking about home schooling your child it’s important to chat to other parents who have done it before so that you can get a really good idea of the resources available.” She also recommends parents plan ahead to ensure they are following all the core subjects – if you’re struggling, you can approach your local council for help in this area.

If you’re really struggling, you might want to get a private tutor: “Extra tuition provides a source of support for parents who want an external opinion on how their child is doing – and someone to talk to about their child’s development that they would have had through school.”
Otherwise, a great source of support are local home schooling groups in your area: “You can meet with other parents who are doing the same as you.  You can find these online through websites such as Mumsnet or Netmums, or chat with your local councils.”
If the council wants to find out what education your child is receiving, they can make an “informal enquiry” to check on the suitability of your plans. There are legal powers a local council can deploy to ensure your child is getting the education they’re required to have;
Parenting Order: This means you have to go to parenting classes. You’ll also have to do what the court says to improve your child’s attendance.
Education Supervision Order: A supervisor will be appointed to help you get your child into education. The local council can do this instead of bringing a prosecution against you.
School Attendance Order: They can also serve a school attendance order if they think your child needs to be taught at school instead of alternative arrangements.
Keris Stainton, a writer for The Huffington Post UK, has written about homeschooling her eldest son after he complained he couldn’t keep up with the pace of his peers.
“We de-registered Harry at the beginning of September,” she writers, “and I can honestly say we haven’t regretted it for a moment. I love the flexibility that home education brings. We have much more freedom than we had when Harry had to be at the same place at the same time five days a week.
“It’s scary to step away from the norm – the thing that my parents did, I did, my husband did. But what made the decision easier for me – and certainly for my husband – was that, even though it is a big decision, it’s not an irreversible one.”

Homeschooling is the traditional name, but there’s also “unschooling”, which can be described, very basically, as learning through living. No one teaches the child, the child is free to follow his/her own interests with the parent(s) acting as facilitators. It’s a rather radical approach, but it often seems to work.

The term was coined in the 1970s and used by educator John Holt, widely regarded as the father of unschooling. Critics of unschooling see it as an extreme educational philosophy, with concerns that unschooled children will lack the social skills, structure, and motivation of their schooled peers, while proponents of unschooling say exactly the opposite is true: self-directed education in a natural environment better equips a child to handle the “real world.”

So are you tempted? I’d be intrigued to home school my child in the future, but there’s a lot of time needed, and a big responsibility on your shoulders. I think I’d prefer to know that professional educators are teaching my child, but knowing that there’s another option is always nice to know.

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