Thinking about Homeschooling

In recent years, there has been a growing interest in home schooling or home education. A recent report by the BBC highlighted a 40% rise in the numbers of registered home schooled children in the UK between 2017-2018. Whilst this increase still only represents a relatively small 0.1% (48,000) of the school-aged population in the country, it is still important to ask why? The upwards trend that started back to 2014 and ties in with changes in school education and a greater focus on test passing rather than actual education taking place in the classroom and with greater numbers of children reporting mental health issues caused by unreasonable stress initiated in school.

Why are more people home schooling? Whilst reports on the subject are somewhat under reported by the schools and education authorities, the well documented struggles of state schools in recent years is likely to be a significant contributing factor. A number of councils across the UK have cited a lack of special educational needs places, qualified teachers and classroom resources, parental dissatisfaction with the school environment and an inflexibility of the curriculum as reasons that families have chosen to educate at home.

Many of our clients tell us that bulling and the school’s inability to keep their child safe is the number one cause followed by a close second with little or no provision for their dyslexic child or the environment for those on the autist spectrum is so hostile for the individual that they are over whelmed and they can’t cope.

Finally, it is our learners themselves who tell us that they were bored in school and not learning. These are great learners, who want to learn but are being ignored because they are polite, well managed, well behaved and above all not disruptive in class.

Who's home schooling? When you think of home schooling you might think of one of 4 stereotypes: trending festival types, bloggers with a certain lifestyle in mind, the mega-rich jet-setters and those who don’t want their kids mingling with anyone else.

Our families are just normal families. Some are living on council housing estates, some in static homes or caravans, some in high-rise flats and others in semi-detached cottages, some in very nice gated wealthly communities, but one thing they all have in common is they want an education for their children and not what they are being served up and told to put up with by the state.

Many have chosen to opt out when the schooling options are just inadequate to meet the needs of the learner. A proportion of our learners have mild special educational needs that are not being addressed simply because the pupil will make it over the test line and therefore are straightforwardly calculatedly not supported by the school. Their families are therefore making the choice to go it alone, to allow their child to get the individual attention they need and to get the most out of their education.

Whilst home schooling does require setting aside some funds for your children’s education, the figure needn’t be excessive and in reality, once you take out the cost of uniforms, travel and school dinners your left with resources and many schools ask for considerable contributions towards these any way.

Should you start homeschooling? There’s a wealth of reasons that people choose to home school, after reviewing our collective knowledge, scoured the internet, studied the research and spoken to the experts we have a few for and against thoughts.

For Homeschooling Thoughts:

Greater Flexibility in Curriculum - One of the most popular reasons for opting out of traditional schooling is the greater flexibility and choice in the curriculum that your child is taught. Many parents feel that the education offered in state schools is too results-driven, focusing only on teaching children to learn by rote, rather than teaching them to solve problems creatively. The concern is that children learn to pass exams but at the cost of developing a deep understanding of the subject.

Parents have the scope to choose exactly what their children learning and ensure that there’s an emphasis on the art of learning and the joy of learning and developing a lifelong mastery of learning.

The increased flexibility of the curriculum means that you can spend more time at inspiring places like galleries, museums and the great outdoors than you ever could whilst in school.

The biggest gain for most is that education at home allows you to tailor the learning to what your learner is interested in, teaching them that the pursuit of knowledge is in itself fabulous, learning is in fact fun and not a chore - rather than hammering the whole experience to a tested death.

Working at a pace and teaching style to suit your learner's needs - The old adage: you can please some of the people all the time and all of the people some of the time but not you can’t please all the people all the time rings out loud. As a classroom based teacher, I know this to be very true. With the average class size in state schools now exceeding 30 pupils and a wide variety of abilities in any one class, there are valid concerns around the ability to find a steady pace and teaching style for every student in that class.

When couple this with the growing body of evidence of how individualised teaching strategies works, this suggests the benefits of allowing the learner control over what they are learning.

Teaching one to one you choose what to teach and when, you can also choose exactly how to teach it. The importance of teaching children in a format that enables them to best take information in be it learning by watching, learning by talking and learning by doing learners can’t be more highly poignant.

Just as there are learning styles there are many different teaching methodologies too, there’s a lot to suit all parents and learners. The advantage of home education is that you can use what works for you both.

We are all individuals and we all develop in different areas at different times that doesn’t mean that we are ‘behind’ nor are we ‘less able’ it means we are different. We have one learner who’s the parents were told that their child had fallen ‘behind.’ They speak two very different unconnected languages fluently at the age of 5! Fallen behind whom?

Education at home allows parents to give their children the space to develop when they are ready. All of this also allows you to work to a speed that’s comfortable for your child, giving you the freedom to put more time into subjects they’re struggling with and to enjoy the process. Rather than being forced into a lower set, which categorically damages a learner’s confidence - which utterly limits their future attainment.

Individualised attention and instruction - the advantages of homeschooling is that your child or children have next to no competition for educational instruction. There are a number of studies that have shown the benefits of individual instruction for academic attainment as well as for boosting pupil’s confidence, with educators able to focus on building not just their knowledge, but also their character and mentality.

Many families choose to reinforce the work they do with regular tuition sessions. It’s not obligatory and each family will have their own views on the best way to home educate their children, but our learners find that having their sessions with a qualified teacher a huge benefit to reinforce key subjects.

Improved Creativity and Aptitude - there is very little academic research on the impact of home education in comparison to traditional schooling. What there is suggests that home educated learners score at least as highly in academic attainment as the national averages for state schools and consistently score much higher in this as well as being more socially adept than their peers.

Add to this, the well-documented benefits of 1-to-1 tuition, which have been shown to develop an increased depth of understanding, greater confidence and higher attainment in children and it appears to be a recipe for success. We know this as three of our learners last year where offered unconditional places and had their pick of universities. One of our learners has recently shared with us that they have been offered an opportunity to do a PHD at Oxford next year.

Potentially one of the most important aspects of educating at home is creativity. Due to the funding limitations schools are currently experiencing, subjects such as art, music and design are severely lacking. Parents are able to incorporate far more creativity into the learning curriculum, enabling learners to develop abstract and innovative thinking.

Life choices later on - at the moment, it feels like school are churning out 'workers'. Workers who will do as they are told by mangers and put up with poor working conditions. Workers who are grateful for a dead-end job. What we need with Brexit and what made the United Kingdom very productive in the past - were our inventors, our explorers, our entrepreneurial workforce.

In a recent American study of adults who were home-schooled, it was reported that not only were these individuals fiercely independent and involved in entrepreneurial and professional pursuits but that they also strongly emphasised the importance of family, suggesting a lasting impression from their home education on familial priorities.

Thoughts Against Homeschooling

Cost - You will likely have to have at least one parent who either works part-time or not at all, which is going to have a financial impact. You will also be entirely responsible for all resources, books, field trips and general teaching materials.

Another consideration is the cost of taking exams as an external entrant. Finding a school or college that will allow your child to take their exams alongside other students can be time-consuming, whilst registering for multiple exam boards can be a costly affair.

As a broad and basic estimate that actual spend per year easily comes under £1000, which is considerably less than many private schools charge per term.

Ultimately, the decision to remove your child from free state education will have a financial impact, but for many parents the cost is compared to the mental health of their child, the attainment of their child and the ultimate happiness of their child and that is like comparing apples with anything but another piece of fruit.

Socialising - It is true that homeschooling can be somewhat isolating with limiting the learner to a variety of viewpoints and personalities, but there is very little long-term evidence that homeschooling children are less socially adept than their traditionally schooled counterparts. If your child is being bullied, stressed or behaving anti-socially then socialising with the wrong sort - might just be the problem!

To resolve this, we offer Walking for Friendship, Study Buddy sessions and group activities.

Qualifications - a concern for many families is that they may lack the necessary experience and qualifications to teach effectively. Whilst recognised qualifications are not obligatory nor always necessary, it’s important to realise that as an individual, you may not have the knowledge or the capacity to provide your child with the same level of education as a fully qualified teacher can.

A qualified teacher has many hundreds of hours of experience and training under their belts so will have greater understanding for how to deliver a variety of subjects effectively. There are serious considerations to make surrounding the level of support you can offer your child in a subject you’re just not comfortable with. As a parent, the prospect of attempting to teach maths or grammar may be a deal breaker!

The potential for Local Authorities to get involved in homeschooling affairs can make this issue one that is far more important. Whilst many Local Authorities are happy to allow parents to provide their children’s education, some have experienced involvement from officials who are concerned by the ability of the parent to deliver a suitable level of education.

Access to higher education - can be a concern for parents choosing to homeschool their kids throughout the latter stages of their education.

It can be difficult for parents to lend the same level of knowledge and support to the selection and application process that experienced sixth form and college staff can. You will also need to think about who you can ask to act as a reference for UCAS, as ordinarily this would be a senior school teacher. But it is not insurmountable, as we have had a lot of success in either getting learners back in to school, in to college or in to university without then attending any state education.

Likewise, providing the support and resources required in science subjects, which require practical assessments, and require some forward planning. More importantly, it’s all about the ability to pass the exam and the exam techniques possibly prized more highly by the education system than the actual knowledge of the subject right now.

Whilst the attitudes of higher education institutions towards home schooled applicants will vary, many, including Oxford and Cambridge, are happy to accept home educated students, so long as they fulfil the necessary requirements.

Finally -one of the major factors to take into account is that it will become a way of life. Unlike most jobs, you won’t be able separate the day job from the parental job - home is most likely the place where you will be teaching most of the time, cabin fiver can easily set in quickly in the winter months, so it’s important to take that into account and build in solutions as early as possible.

It’s also important to appreciate that it can also put a fair amount of pressure on you as an educator to keep lessons interesting, drive the curriculum forward at an effective pace and to brush up on areas that you’re not so confident in. Being self-aware enough to also recognise when your child’s learning needs are beyond your current capabilities is vital to ensure that they are benefitting from home education, not suffering.

Home education isn’t going to be for everyone and whilst you can choose to go it alone, it does help to have a little bit of support along the way. We are always happy to help!

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