Many people do not realise that education is legally a duty of parents rather than the state, because most parents do devolve their educational responsibility to the state by sending their children to school.
The reasons why some parents take responsibility for their children’s education are many and varied. Thirty years ago most home educating parents did so for philosophical reasons. They may have preferred an holistic education rather than one divided into “subjects”; many disliked the competitiveness of schools. Nowadays one of the main reasons for taking a child out of school (deregistration) is bullying and another is better to meet the needs of a child with a disability or even that a parent disagrees with what is being taught in school.
“Home” education is something of a misnomer as much of the children’s education takes place outside the home. Perhaps, “home-based” education would have been a better description. Home educated children visit museums, art galleries, sports centres, music festivals, or take part in any number of other activities. Some families have extended trips abroad, and their children learn about different cultures.
Methods of education vary according to the interests and beliefs of the individual family. Some families prefer a school-type, structured education while others prefer autonomous learning; in other words, making available opportunities for learning whatever their child is interested in at present. Most families begin in a rather structured way and gradually become more relaxed, using methods and materials which suit them. Resources for learning anything from mathematics and English language to guitar playing, science and cookery are freely available online. Research has shown that much learning occurs through conversations with adults in everyday life.
The children of families who take responsibility for their children’s education are able to progress at their own pace and develop their own strategies for learning. It is interesting to note that children learn very quickly when something interests them or when they need to learn something as a means to an end. And, of course, home education is more about learning than teaching. Many children never study a subject formally but gain knowledge of it through pursuing their interests. If this all sounds a little daunting to the would-be home educator, help is at hand. In the home education community there is a wealth of information and experience to help the new home educator. There are various emailing lists which discuss almost every aspect of home education, including resources, methods, pitfalls and much more.
Many people are under the impression that home educated children do not have access to academic or vocational qualifications but there are various paths to gaining the qualifications needed. The Department of Education for England (but not Wales) has recently decided to fund exams for 14 to 16 year old home educated children. More information is available from this emailing list http://groups.yahoo.com/group/HE-Exams-GCSE-A_AS_Levels-OU-Others/
A common criticism of home education is that the children will be unable to socialise. This is possibly because of the impression given by the word “home”. In fact, much of the children’s education takes place outside the home and there are groups of home educators who meet together in most parts of the United Kingdom. Each group consists of children of various ages and parents with different fields of knowledge which can be used by the group. Group outings are arranged, as well as courses, such as French, Latin, maths, astronomy or web design, and are run by a visiting expert. Experience has shown that home educated children usually become successful and valuable members of society.
Cost is sometimes cited as a bar to becoming a home educator but a family can spend as much or as little as they wish on education and, of course, if children are not attending school, there are no school uniforms to buy and no daily travel costs.
Before parents decide to home educate, they usually search the internet for information and there they will find several sites which will reassure them that what they contemplate is quite possible and that they’re not alone. Education Otherwise, universally known as “EO”, is a membership organisation which is the oldest and best known in the home education community. Its website provides information on the legal aspects of home education, deregistration, how to begin and how to write an educational philosophy. There are also links to the EO Yahoo support list and to the EO forum. Also listed are home education groups in England and Wales. Most importantly, EO has a Helpline, staffed by volunteers who are all home educators, which gives information and support to prospective home educators.
Education Otherwise web address is www.educationotherwise.net and the
Helpline tel.no. is 0845 4786 345