Jo Wolforth
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Home Schooling in the UK

Many parents do not realise that home education is a legal option.


Why home school?

There are as many reasons for taking your children out of mainstream education as there are families engaged in the process. For some, home education is a choice made before the child is born, because they themselves were home educated or because of negative associations they themselves have with school.

Others find it's a choice made due to separation anxiety on the part of the child, leaving an upset child for the first time in a strange environment can give rise to an urgent need to protect and nurture at home.

Others find it offers academic opportunites not available in mainstream schools. Latin anyone? Ancient History? Philosophy? These are all studied by children in the home education community - or not! Many families take it as an opportunity to develop other talents, such as art, gymnastics or even circus skills. The limit is your own imagination as home educated children don't have to follow the national curriculum. As long as you provide an education suitable to the child's needs then you are free to follow their interests. And as any aware parent knows, different children have different needs.

Some parents withdraw their children because the child has special needs that they feel are not being met by the school. Whether this is a class focussed on tests moving at a pace too fast for a child, or a child with social difficulties who struggles with teasing or bullying. Many children freed from the social anxieties of school go on to flourish in the more nurturing environment, learning in their own home at a pace that suits them.

What about socializing? Will we be isolated?

Our experience has been the opposite. Most areas have a thriving home education community, and the numbers of children being removed from school increase year on year. We actually look forward to days spent at home as these are rare. On a weekly basis we have the option of attending drama, choir, horseriding, bmxing, maths club, science club, skateboarding, martial arts, football, play gym meets, art classes, computer coding classes and organised trips to museums, zoos, and other places of interest. The vast majority of these classes are organised by other home ed mums and soon fill the calendar with opportunities to meet other children and their families.

Exams?

Many home educated children take exams. Some join colleges at 14, sitting their GCSE's alongside children who have followed a mainstream path. Others sit their exams as external candidates. If you wanted your child to sit as an external candidate you would first need to locate an exam centre. These could be exam centres set up for adult students, often located in large towns and cities, or you might find a local school willing to let your child sit the exam there, usually for a fee. You need to know the board that the exam centre uses, and then you study the syllabus from home. There are specific home education groups set up on social media sites that guide parents through all this.

Of course one of the advantages of home education is that your child doesn't have to take all their GCSE's at the same time. Many home educators choose to stagger the exams, spreading out the pressure. Others might delay them, giving the child extra years to study. It's your choice.

What if we don't want to do exams?

Some home educated children don't do exams. A study of the careers of home educated children revealed that many become business owners. A significant number are employed in the creative arts, and others gain access to university with a portfolio of work done whilst home educated.

Can anyone home educate?

In England, any child in a mainstream school can be removed to be home educated. It's best to inform the school by letter and you don't need to give any notice. You do not need any qualifications in order to home educate. Many parents see themselves more as facilitators than teachers. Children have a great ability to teach themselves about what they are interested in, and home educating families often find that the parents are learning alongside the children.

The school has an obligation to inform the local education authority that the child has been removed. You may find that the council contact you to discuss your plans for the child. Meeting with the council is optional, and you may wish to connect with other home educating parents in your area to find out if such meetings are regarded as positive as this can vary depending on the council.

What next?

Find out more about home education in your area by connecting with other parents through social media. Facebook has many large active groups with thousands of members. You should be able to locate these using the search term “home education.” Expect to answer a few simple questions in order to join these groups.

Image source http://www.freeimages.co.uk/

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