De-cloaking the Home Education Mystery
Every week we meet people who either never knew about home education as an option or who has heard all the myths that surround this subject.
Can I change my mind?
Of course, many families find their way to home education after finding that the state schooling system (for many different reasons) hasn't worked out for their child or family. In these situations, you must write a letter to the head teacher and ask for your child's name to be removed from the school register as you will be taking legal and financial responsibility for your child's education from now on. If your child attends a specialist provision, you may need the permission of the Local Education Authority to be able to home educate. Advice for this can be sought from ourselves or other home education charities.
In the same respect, you never know what turns life will take in the future and you may find that home education isn't working for your family and want to put them into the school system. Whilst there is no guarantee of your choice of placement for your child, you can write to the Local Education Authority and it is then their duty to find a school placement for your child. Please note, whilst you do not have to follow any curriculum whilst home educating, schools do and if you place your child into school at a later date, they may struggle if they have not had the same knowledge in subjects as their school educated peers.
Some parents are also fortunate to have a highly supportive headteacher who will allow them to Flexi-School. This is the rarity, not the norm but it can sometimes be the best of both worlds and something that could be considered and explored. Flexi-schooling is at the discretion of each headteacher.
Is it Expensive?
There is no getting away from the fact that home education requires substantial commitment both in terms of time and energy, as well as financially. Whilst it is possible to home educate with both parents working full-time, it is extremely difficult, and if one parent has to give up work, there is the financial implication on the family for this. By the same token, single parents can and do home educate but it is not without its own drawbacks.
We are fortunate to live in an age where the internet has made many educational opportunities more cost-effective and freely available. However as stated, when you decide to home educate, you are taking legal and financial responsibility for providing that education. There is no duty on the state to provide any educational assistance to a home educating family.
What About GCSE's?
Although not needed, many families find that once their children become teens and decide what they would like to learn at college, that they need to study for a required amount of GCSE exams.
This is expensive, you will need course materials, possibly a tutor and you will need to arrange and pay for taking of exams. Home educators usually study for the International GCSEs (or IGCSEs as they are commonly known) as they require no coursework.
This decision is made because coursework is incredibly difficult and extremely expensive to arrange to be moderated. Whilst IGCSEs avoid the coursework element, this style of examination is not best for a lot of children as all the pressure is on the exam.
There are alternative qualifications but you need to consider if these will be acceptable entrance qualifications for colleges and employers.
Home educators also start completing GCSEs at earlier ages than school children due to spreading the costs for families as well as allowing children to take exams first in subjects that they have a talent and are interested in and then last those that are required but perhaps the child has needed the additional learning time to be able to complete the course.
The Dread S!
What about socialisation!
This is the most frustrating and yet regularly heard question home educators face on a daily basis from everyone - the supermarket checkout staff, GP, delivery workers anyone and everyone will question you on the choice to home educate. We know its not fair because no-one questions the handing over to school but home educators have the media to thank for creating this myth of weirdness and superstition around home education. One day we will get more to a position more like the USA and Canada, where the option to home educate is seen in the same light as sending a child to school but we have a LONG way to go in the UK before we get there.
There is a myth that home educated children are all kept indoors away from the world and therefore will go up to be socially awkward. So let's bust that myth!
Once you left school - in the real world, where have you ever been forced to spend every day of your life, only interacting with people who were born within the same 12 months as you?
And if you were to consider interacting with those born outside of that year, you would be questioned as to your mental state and if there was something socially deviant going on? It doesn't happen, does it? Yet this forced socialisation and over-arching weirdness of "peers and peer groups" is purely the invention of the school system. It does not reflect real life in anyway shape or form.
Forced association is highly damaging to the mental well-being of all and this type of confinement is more akin to life in prison or a factory than for a full rich happy life amongst the community.
Home education is an education for life, achieved through the living, experiencing and learning from real life. Home educated children meet and socialise with people from all different backgrounds, believes and abilities, they learn how to treasure and cultivate real friendships in the same manner as adults do once they have left the confines of school.
Home education requires parents to be more pro-active in arranging get-togethers, supporting and taxiing to activities and must always remember to allow their children the same autonomy as schoolchildren to pick who they are friends with. Not just socialising with those who the parents are friends with the parents of (that's the only home ed challenge for socialisation and its all on the parent).
There are so many home education organised groups, that you could easily spend every day of the work out of the house. Home educated children have better social lives than most adults! They are also regulars at other activities such as scouts, beavers, St Johns Ambulance etc.
Is it legal?
The law clearly states that education is compulsory but school is optional.
Every child has the right to a full and efficient education that is suitable to their needs and which will equip them with skills and knowledge for life and not fore-close their future options and as a parent, you can either choose to send them to state schooling system to provide this or make your own arrangements.
So what does this mean in practice?
It means it is the parent's responsibility to ensure that their children receive a full and balanced education which is suitable to their child's needs and abilities but one that does not stop them from changing direction later in life. So at age 5, a child might be insistent that they want to be a farmer or a vet, and whilst you can tailor the education to that end, it must not stop them from changing their mind at say age 14 or 24 and deciding actually I want to be a scientist or a plumber! Cover the basics and allow the child to follow their interests at the time is the best advice we can give for instilling a life-long love of learning.