Taking the decision to home educate your child can be daunting and off-putting to many families who instinctively feel that school learning is not right for their children.
This, the first in a series of three articles, has been written for parents considering home schooling, to help clarify where they stand and the steps they need to take to get the process started.
From the age of five upwards, education is a legal requirement for every child in the country. If you choose to home school you are taking on the legal responsibility that the school normally has, so the key to starting a home schooling education for your children is in the planning. By law, you are required to provide your children with an education. How and when you teach them and whether you adhere to the National Curriculum is a matter for you to decide.
Section Seven of the 1996 Education Act (A document well worth reading, if you want to home school) lists parental responsibilities as follows: “To secure education of children of compulsory school age. The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable to his age, ability and aptitude, and to any special educational needs he may have, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.”
As a parent, guidelines state that you do not have to seek permission from the local authority, but that you are responsible for all costs incurred, including the cost of public examinations. The council, in turn, is meant to publish information online about the roles and responsibilities of both the parents and local authority in ensuring a home schooled child is properly educated. For example: click here for a link to Kent County Council’s website, providing the relevant information.
If your child is already attending school and you have decided that this is not for you, you must communicate clearly with the school about your intention to home school. If, for some reason, they aren’t sure if your child is still enrolled or not, a school that reports a child as long term absent has a duty of care to refer the issue to the local authority, so clear communication at all times is important.
There are no OFSTED inspections for home schools, so once you have satisfied the local authority that you are homeschooling, you have an immense amount of freedom to educate as you see fit, as we shall see in the next article, which is both liberating and challenging.
Parents who choose home schooling do not have to have any teaching experience, or have to employ private tutors, though those that do understand about how children learn have a much better chance of successfully educating them.
For home schooling to be effective and for children to receive the kind of learning they need to successfully navigate the world, a range of options should probably be considered.
It is advisable to find other home schooling parents in your area. Being able to count on support from other families who have similar ambitions for their children will be invaluable, especially on the days that home schooling doesn’t go to plan; teachers in the classroom have days where pupils find learning difficult and homeschooling parents are no exception to the rule.
Researching about the craft of teaching is also very important, understanding the psychology and the strategy of facilitating learning doesn’t mean you have to study for a PGCE, but there are some accessible books that explain clearly how effective teaching works. Geoff Petty’s excellent book Teaching Today is a great place to start, as is Ken Robinson’s latest book Element.
Next week I will examine some basic organisational techniques and ideas that can make learning at home a rewarding and effective activity, and steer you away from many of the pitfalls that occur in schools today.