Many people assume that children are required by law to go to school. However, the law in the UK states only that children must be educated. People also tend to assume that it is the government's responsibility to educate children. This, again, is not the case.
The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable:
a) to his age, ability and aptitude;
b) to any special needs he may have;
either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.
- Education Act 1996, section 7.
Home education tends to be what 'otherwise' in the last part refers to.
Why Home Educate?
Many people equate the terms 'education' and 'schooling'. This is not always the case: a child may gain a suitable education at school, but many do not. Setting more and more tests and spending more and more school time coaching children to take these tests is unlikely to remedy this situation. After all, it is not even legally compulsory to take exams, a fact not often broadcast.
If one looks at people who can be considered truly educated, it is unlikely that any two of them have reached this state of being by following the same path. Each will have assimilated information in their own particular way and will have chosen their subsequent path depending on the way in which they did so. Each individual's prior experience and set of character traits sets the framework for the way information available to them is processed. This will not be the same for two individuals from the same family, let alone for 30 people gathered together in a classroom for no other reason than that they share a birth year. Home education allows each child to learn at their own pace and in a way which is specifically tailored to them, an impossibility in many schools. Of course there are home educators that try to do 'school at home', particularly as they get started. But research has shown that as time goes by even these parents learn to trust their children and relax and let their children's interests or their desires for the future lead the way and assemble their own curriculum.
Some Potential Concerns
Qualifications for Parents
A common worry for those considering home education is their lack of teaching qualifications. It is important to remember this: parents do not have to be or pretend to be teachers. Often it can be more constructive to find the answers to your child's questions in a collaborative fashion than to have them ready prepared. Parents need to be willing to facilitate their child's education by:
Being interested in and aware of their child's levels of competence and comprehension.
Providing input and materials their child may require.
Offering suggestions of useful and related ideas and skills that the child might like to investigate.
Facilitating social interactions and transport to places of interest.
Offering the child their experience of the world but being prepared for the child to have a different view.
Respecting the child and trusting that children are born curious and will naturally want to make sense of any information given.
Socialisation is always a concern that people have about home-educated children. In reality, unless you live in a very isolated place, this is unlikely to be a cause for concern. As more and more people are beginning to opt for home education, groups have sprung up for children to meet, play and learn with other home-educated children. The Internet has provided a new way for people to discover and get to know people and to organise events where more geographically spread out people can get together. Try asking if there are any groups or clubs your child could go to, perhaps a drama group or swimming at a leisure centre. Friendships can be maintained between children who do not live close to each other through email or conventional letter writing. Friends do not disappear just because your child is not in school.
Home education has its own pitfalls and problems, stresses and strains. It is sometimes difficult to find out the relevant information, although groups such as Education Otherwise are happy to help. It is worth bearing in mind that if you child wishes to continue with their GCSEs, they will need to choose a 100% exam option as finding someone to invigilate coursework is not easy. You also need to find out if any local schools and colleges will accept external candidates for exams as finding a centre for your child to sit their exams is another possible problem. However, everyone's circumstances are different and there are alternatives. Some colleges will allow your child to take a courses with them, or you could try correspondence courses from somewhere like the National Extension College. Both of these options have to be paid for, as do exams at private centres.
However, don't let the problems put you off. There is always a way around them and it is always worth considering home education as a viable alternative to the brash, bullying world that school can be.