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It’s the time of year when kids go back to school and some parents sigh with relief. Others dread it and wonder whether home schooling might be a better choice.

But what exactly is home schooling?

It’s an approach towards educating your children out of school by activities you provide yourself.

tutorhubIt’s more often referred to as ‘home education’ in the UK, as it is the processes associated with ‘schooling’ that drives parents to do it. Things like the prescriptive approach to learning making subjects dull and academic when they can be practical and inspiring. Things like bizarre social clustering where it’s considered weird to talk to others outside your age group or who are not wearing the ‘right’ gear. Bullying, both from kids and staff. Or a working pace that’s wrong for the child either leaving them behind or holding them back.

These can all be by-passed when you home educate. You can fit education to the needs of your child rather than make the child fit the needs of an institution more concerned with its own agenda than with individuals.

The term home educating is misleading. Most families work out of the home as much as in it on field trips, visiting museums, galleries, sites of specific interest, meeting others, doing workshops, interacting within the community where learning opportunities abound.

It is this diverse and tailor-made approach which makes home education so successful.

As a quick intro here are 8 FAQs:

Is it legal? – Yes. It is education that is compulsory – not school. (Find the legalities here)

Do you have to be a teacher? – No, you just need to be an interested, motivated and caring parent who has the time to give to it.

Do you need a degree, to know everything, have been top in class yourself? – No; just keen to research. All the information you need is available online and knowing stuff does not mean you have the skills to pass it on. What you do need are good relationships. The best teachers are those who build good relationships based on trust and respect which is part of parenting anyway.

Do you need a ‘school room’ or lots of resources? – No. Most use what they have. Once you home educate you begin to see that school rooms, teachers, quiet, fancy equipment and an academic climate are not essential for learning. There are many interactive, practical, investigative, hands on approaches (think how you learned to use your new mobile), which are equally effective. And children do not have to sit still at a desk. Lying on their bedroom floor is just as effective, or fidgeting if you’re prone to hyperactivity, whatever suits. That’s the advantage; you can do what the child needs.

Is home educating isolating? – No. There are increasing groups and opportunities to meet and network on the web. Most localities have a home school group who meet regularly for social interaction and learning activities. The home schooled kids I know have plenty of friends; other home schoolers, school kids, from clubs, groups and other activities.

Do you have to follow the National Curriculum? – No. Some families do, some don’t. It is a useful tool for reference but you don’t have to stick to it. You can learn what interests you. All learning promotes intelligence and an educated mind.

Do you have to do SATs, tests and exams? – No. Most don’t do testing as it serves no educational purpose. Many do GCSEs or similar later, using courses, tutors, or online networks to help, some use mock test papers for guidance. Home schooled children generally do very well in their exams.

Does it cost lots of money? – No. It can cost as little or as much as your budget will allow. It’s not having masses of expensive resources that educates. (See article – How much does it cost to educate a child). It’s having an attentive, caring person who has time to interact, encourage and show their child the real world. And parents are generally that already.

What about motivation? – Generally the young people are motivated because, unlike schooling, their education becomes a shared process which they can be involved in, enjoy and begin to take charge of. Education ceases to be something ‘done’ to them by teachers and other adults, and becomes part of their personal development, enhancing their life.

Which is really what education is for!

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2 Responses to “Back to school? Not necessarily: 8 FAQs about home schooling”

  1. James Moffat

    A couple more questions for your FAQs could be:
    Is Home Education scary? Yes, it can be as you have to work out for yourself what you re going to do.
    Do you get much support? In our experience, no – pretty well nothing at all.
    Do the Local Authority check what you are doing? Not much, although they are supposed to. It took over two years for them to get in touch with us after we took our son out of school and then wanted to come round to see what we were doing. The woman who came said they were not there to check up on us but to celebrate our success. They had nothing to celebrate and we couldn’t see what success they could claim to be part of. The success was all our son’s. Their role was only failure.
    Would you recommend home education to other parents? Probably not, although it can be very rewarding and very successful, it is not a route to choose lightly or because you have fallen out with the school. It can be a bit lonely in terms of support and you have to do everything for yourself, like decide on some kind of curriculum, find resources and pay for them if necessary, sort out exam entries and fees. And don’t forget, you are paying twice for your child’s education – once for the unclaimed school place and once for everything you do yourself.
    Do you have any regrets now you have reached the end of the process? No, none. It was a great success and the best thing for our son. It was the toughest choice we ever made, but a successful one. That doesn’t mean it is right for everyone, though.

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  2. RossMountney

    Thanks James for leaving your comments. You’re right in that it is not for everyone – but so much about education is not for everyone either! 🙂 I personally feel that I would recommend it as an approach, but you’re right again in that it is a challenging one and not to be done lightly. Although I assume that anyone considering doing it are likely to be thinking deeply anyway! And for us it was a challenge that was incredibly inspiring!

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