As a Home Educator I have people look puzzled at our choice often. Most people always have the same questions. I love talking to people about home education and the benefits of it. However, it can also be frustrating at times when I am unable in that moment or perhaps they don't have the time in that moment to full dive deep into the reasons behind our decisions or why we do things a certain way or even to be able to explore the myths around it. Often if it comes as a passing conversation I am only able to give a short explanation of our choices and how this impacts us. So I thought it would be helpful to write these questions and answers into a blog post so that it can be referred to if people want to know more. It's also helpful for parents just starting out in home education.
Isn't it Illegal?
Education is compulsory, school isn't.
Home Education or elective Home Education is completely legal in the UK. There are countries such as Germany and Holland and more recently France where is it illegal.
If your children attend school you can de-register them from their School setting if you choose to Home Educate them.
You do not have to inform the government if you are home educating unless you are taking them out of a setting already. The authorities/council will contact you at some point and offer support and help which you can accept or decline.
It is not legal for an authority to come into your home. You can discuss your child's education with the education authority over the phone, email, or in-person if you wish. You may be required to give a written report in some form to state what your child's education consists of.
How do your children socialise?
I will firstly re phrase this question. What do you consider it means to be social?
The meaning of socialise is:
1. Participate in social activities; mix socially with others.
2. Make (someone) behave in a way that is acceptable to their society.
I think this is the question that irritates me the most because it almost suggests that school is this super social place and home is a place where no one socialises.
Being social happens anywhere.
Interactions with family in the home and out of the home. Conversations and chats with our neighbours, chatting with shop keepers, librarians, on public transport, home education groups, forest school settings, teachers at clubs and groups, friends. Playing at friends homes. Out at the playground.
The phrase Home education suggests that we spend all our time at home and although we do spend time at home we also have friends around and family, we are out and about in our community, attending home education groups with other families as well as trips to various places.
My son is a very social person and so am I, we love to be with others. But we also enjoy our time alone. To suit both our needs we typically spend 3-4 days out with others a week. He also goes to a forest school on his own without me once per week and has done since he was 3. He is currently in writing this post 6.5
This time will consist of free play, exercise/nature walks, chatting and communication, learning about topics with others, meeting and groups or events. We have a social group that we see at least once per week consisting of the same 7 families we spend time with and have forged great relationships with.
I can't say what other families do as each are different. Some will spend more time socialising than we do and others less.
Our culture, if you hadn't noticed already does anything is can to stop us being alone. Have you noticed this?
It fills us with constant entertainment and advertisement with an answer for everything. It teaches us to dull our own thoughts, feelings, and emotions for short-sighted behaviour such as buying things or resorting to addictive behaviours in many forms.
I believe that it is important to spend time with others to enjoy one another's company, learn from one another but learning to play alone and be alone with your own thoughts is something I have noticed a lot of people in our society struggle with.
It is almost like people cannot bare the thought or idea of being alone as they have no one to entertain them or tell them what to do as they have gotten so used to the conditioning of our society that they become scared to be alone with themselves.
A healthy human will enjoy alone time with his/her own thoughts and feelings and enjoy being with oneself.
Quiet time is also important to connect to ourselves. To enjoy just " being" Humans need social interaction for healthy relationships but they also need to " just be" as well.
There is a balance and depending on your personality we each have different needs.
Socialising is a priority for our family needs and I make a consistent effort as my son is an only child and enjoys being with others.
How do you know that they are learning?
Children are learning all the time, Children are learning from the moment they are born. It doesn't change because they don't enter a School. Children are intrinsically motivated to learn. Babies learn to smile, to babble which eventually turns into words and speak the languages they hear around them. Babies learn to roll over and crawl and walk, the same can be said for reading, writing, numbers, social skills and so on. Children learn through play which is one of the highest intelligences. Through play, they learn everything and process their experiences of the world. Children learn in different ways and through many forms just as the wonderful Loris Malaguzzi wrote the amazing 100 languages of children. Children are always learning, from the world, from you and the people around them etc. The school has the idea that learning can be quantified and graded. But learning is learning and it is always happening. In fact, learning at school has become more about memorisation as opposed to long-term memory experiences that support us in later life.
School is just one option of learning but learning in a top-down approach where what children learn and how they learn is already determined. Home educated children do not have to learn in a particular way set out for them step by step. Learning can take many routes. Learning can be self - directed, inspired by many different educational philosophies, and intrinsically motivated by natural interests and developments. Every child learns differently and has different learning styles which schools do not provide all of. Read more about what learning styles are here
That is not to say a home educated child cannot join further education when they are older should they wish to pursue a particular career.
Isn't home education expensive?
It could be. It really depends what route you take. The first thing would be that there's the potential for many parents that would have to consider work, would you be able to work full time, part time or not at all whilst home educating?
Every family is different and has different needs.
Personally my husband works full time and I work part time, we have one day a week childcare.
I do spend quite a bit of books to read together, art materials, books to help me learn about children, development and education etc.
But you don't have to spend a lot but you could do.
Trips out with other groups of home education friends.
You really don't need to have expensive resources or cirriculums, you can keep things really simple and make your own resources, use nature. You can share books, resources with other families and have some things for presents for christmas and birthdays from relatives. I bought things that I realised I didn't need or that I could get for free or make, so it's best to really think about what it is you really need.
Some people may pay for a tutor for children who might be studying for exams.
How will your children have a career?
Is there only one way to get to a career?
A lot of pressure is put on children to "become" something. This is a big problem because this is not what childhood is about, childhood is becoming hi jacked with " stuff to do and entertain and to make better...but because of Schools and educational systems and now it's even being pushed into homes, there is this constant buzz of getting children as early as possible to do academics and writing and reading far too early than they are developmentally ready for. This is damaging. Young children need time to just be, the play, to connect, to be in nature, to have meaninful and loving connections. These early years are so crucial to the rest of the child's entire life and should not be interfered with.
There's this pressure of The Fear of missing out, which worries people about the future. In turn this creates anxious children who are having their childhoods stolen from them in pursuit to help them have a better future by their parents and teachers. It creates a toxic culture that becomes a perpetuating cycle. I know that teachers have the children's best interests but they are getting pressure on them.
Children who have a childhood, who have plenty of time to play, who are not rushed into the next thing and the next thing, who have a safe haven and envinronment at home with that of love, encouragment and support, who have parents who sit and read with them and connect and have conversations with them in their early years and growing up will be happy and content and motivated members of society who contribute in whatever line of work they decide.
If you support your child with their natural interests they will naturally be drawn to what they would like to do. At some point when they are older they may need to do exams or courses or degrees but if it's something they want to do they will be motivated.
I personally went down the route of leaving the School eduation system and into becoming a entrepneur and working for myself.
There is no one way.
Some people have many different careers throughout their life. I've known people who have changed university degrees because they didn't want to do that anymore, Iv'e known people to go and get life experience and then find their purpose and calling and go to univeristy or study online or go out and get experience.
There just is not one set way. It's OK to go to school and use the system and it's OK to home- educate and go down a different route.
How will they do exams?
When it comes to GCSE'S children can study them at home themselves, they may have a tutor, or work with other children in groups to study and usually take the exams at centres which you can pay for privately. If you wanted to go down this route it is absolutely possible.
Won't they miss out on important things?
What do you class as important?
You might say things like sports day, trips, concerts etc or it might be things like classrooms and teachers etc
As above there is no one right way. We do the things that the children want to do and we also bring in things we feel will help them and they will enjoy too.
In our what we can fun schooling group we have 8 families who we spend time with often usually once or more per week, we have a more structured session, but it's not like School. The children choose a theme and we pick it out of a hat each time for the next time. One week for example it was animals. The children could explore this is whatever way they wished. Most picked an animal they liked and shared something about it that interested them, they would have researched this using books or used a computer to find videos and interesting information and then they have created something to share in the group, usually a drawing, some writing and perhaps made or made items like sculptures or whatever they wish. They then present this whilst we are around a fire together and each child takes a turn and everyone listens. There is sitting together around the fire, singing, playing games, free play, eating lunch together, crafts, quizzes about different topics and working together. They are motivated and they are not forced to join in or do anything they don't feel comfortable doing. There is no top down approach, we call each other by name and both adults and children respect one another. The adults faciliate and support the space and environment. As things expand and the children change we will faciliate the space as their developments and interests grow and evolve. Not just this but as parents we are growing, we are learning about how to better cvommunicate with our children and in a group, We all have different skills to bring to the table. We have doctors and vets, accountants and ecologists, artists, teachers, people who have travelled the world and had interesting experiences, all of us want to create a different learning environment for out children. We wish the best for them, have been through the eudcation system ourselves and know that together we can provide something different, something alternative to nurture and encourage and cupport our chilren in what we feel is a healthier and more enjoyable envinronment.
We have a nature group which is ultimately about the children playing outside in nature, but we also share stories about nature, learn about the envinroinment throughout the seasons, and we have other groups where other skills are used to support the children like woodwork and knitting. The children can join clubs or have music lessons aside to the to nurture other intellingences they are interested in.
How much time do you spend studying a day?
I don't personally use the word study as my son is 6.5 and we do n't study. I would use the word Explore. You can read more about what a typicaly week looks like although it has changed a little now since I last wrote it here
Do you have to follow the National Curriculum?
No, you do not have to follow the National Curriculum. You can if you want to. You can access every topic online now. There are so many resources all over the internet for free and to buy. But you don't necessarily need to buy any resources. You can use the library and the internet. I personally read a lot of books about education and learning and child developmnet and I am very inspuired by different alternative approaches which help mw learn more about how children interact and learn in their environment. Some people will do School at home, and some people ie me will follow the child's natural deveopment and go on a path that follows the childs interests. I think you have to figure out what feels good for your individual family.
How are you qualified to teach your child?
I am not a qualified teacher, but do you have to have a qualification to be a parent? No, you do not. Does that mean that you should not learn about child development to help your child and understand them? You could do, if you wanted to, but you are not required to. Educating yourself would definitely help you to understand your child better though wouldn't it?
As a parent Educator myself, I am interested in creating my own life, not being a bystander and waiting for other people to dictate what I should be, do, and say. I was not willing to continue that life.
I once was there though. It took me many years to break free of the system and conditioning.
Now that I have, it is so freeing. I have gotten to truly know myself and what is important to me and I believe that my interest in observing children and understanding their world, has led me to become more interested in child development, how children learn and a greater understanding of how I can support my child with a nourishing life to nurture all of his growing intelligence's not just the ones that schools deem appropriate.
We are too quick to follow. I listen to myself now. I see how this way of life is radical to the norm and it was a scary change to come away from what I knew and step into the unknown but I am surprised every day to see the magic that happens when real learning occurs.
I know my child better than anyone else.
I am not a trained teacher who has 30 other kids in the class where they are all required to do the same thing.
But don't get me wrong I appreciate all the work teachers put into the work they do, and I don't say this lightly or disrepsectfully either but I believe I can do a good job as I am dedicated to supporting my son because I only have on child to think about and support.
I can pay attention to my child's Interests and create an education that is completely bespoke to his needs.
I know that I don't know everything, and I'm OK with that.
I'm OK with learning as a go and educating myself and unlearning to see things from a new perspective.
I'm OK to ask for help and I'm OK to follow my sons interests and support him and learn alongside him.
Western culture doesn't teach you how to nurture all of your child's intelligence's. It prepares you for a world that will no longer exist. It is not prepared for the future.
To be prepared for the future and an uncertain world, we must nurture all of the intelligence's.
We must be bold and do bold things.
We must be OK to go into the unknown and to explore things and to learn things.
Learning is the asking of great questions, it's being curious and ultimately it is being in flow and PLAY!
I really hope this post is helpful you and if you have any questions about Home Education please do write to me in the contact and I will blog about it.