Home Ed: Most common questions

Around this time of year as the summer holidays come to an end, and the schoolchildren enjoy the last few days of their holiday before going back to school when everywhere becomes a little emptier. There seems to be an influx of new people to the home education groups, full of parents wobbling about sending their children to school because for them it doesn’t feel right, or their child has been badly bullied, or….. (insert many other possible reasons here…)

Frequently it is the same questions that keep popping up, so I have decided to do a post and hopefully answer some of them 🙂

Why do you home educate?

This is one that commonly gets asked on groups. Home education still seems to be so ‘out there’ in society, parents can often feel a need to find something in common with this huge group of people that they have just let into their lives. Especially when, perhaps personally some find they are coming up against of negativity from those that they would normally feel able to talk to and they need some support. The thing is, there are as many reasons as there are families.

For our family, we are second generation home educators and we have many reasons for choosing to home educate. The main one being that it just didn’t feel right to send our just turned 5-year-old into school, now we home educate because it still feels right and we can’t imagine living our lives any other way.  Choosing how to educate your child is always a deeply personal one and you just have to do what is right for you.

How do I do it?

Well, that depends on who you ask 😉 there are as many ways to home educate as there are families. First and foremost though, if your child is in school you must de-register them in writing. You can find some fab templates here – please note these apply to England and Wales only:

Education Otherwise
Education Otherwise – De-registration letter for Special School

Home Education UK – England
Home Education UK – Wales

Schoolhouse – Scotland – Please note the de-registration process in Scotland is different to England & Wales.

If you’re home educating from the start then you don’t need to do a thing, just carry on as you were.

Section 7 of the 1996 Education Act states:

Duty of parents 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—

(a)to his age, ability and aptitude, and

(b)to any special educational needs he may have,

either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.

This is supported by the Elective Home Education guidelines for Local Authorities, specifically 3.13.

Providing a full-time education

3.13 Parents are required to provide an efficient, full-time education suitable to the age, ability and aptitude of the child. There is currently no legal definition of “full-time”. Children normally attend school for between 22 and 25 hours a week for 38 weeks of the year, but this measurement of “contact time” is not relevant to elective home education where there is often almost continuous one-to-one contact and education may take place outside normal “school hours”. The type of educational activity can be varied and flexible.

Home educating parents are not required to:

  • teach the National Curriculum
  • provide a broad and balanced education
  • have a timetable
  • have premises equipped to any particular standard
  • set hours during which education will take place
  • have any specific qualifications
  • make detailed plans in advance
  • observe school hours, days or terms
  • give formal lessons
  • mark work done by their child
  • formally assess progress or set development objectives
  • reproduce school type peer group socialisation
  • match school-based, age-specific standards.

So now we’ve got the official ‘gumpf’ out of the way… How you home educate is completely up to you and your child (after all they are part of this too!) and the age-old adage of everyone is different, seems particularly apt here. All children are different and have different needs, even siblings within the same family. They come with their own personalities, quirks and general awesomeness. Approaches range from school-at-home (though I’m yet to meet anyone who actually does this) to structured, all the way through to radical unschooling. Most families fall somewhere in the middle, us included. Our approach changes on any given day depending on the needs of small, and what he wants to do, we have leanings towards unschooling but realistically we’re more semi-autonomous. Home education is completely personalised and individual to your child, what works for small won’t necessarily work for your child and vice versa.

When will someone visit me to assess me?

Well, first and most importantly do you want a visit? Do you want your child to be assessed? If the answer is no, then anything else is a moot point. The decision to have a visit is entirely personal, and completely up to you. In the UK Local Authorities have no monitoring duties. They may contact you after you have de-registered or in the case of children who have never been to school if/when they become aware of you but what form that contact takes is your decision. Personally I would never choose to have a visit or give information about the provision annually. But that’s my decision, and my partner’s decision. Not yours. I could give you chapter and verse about why we’ve made that decision, but I won’t (plus I’m sure if you’ve read my other posts you can probably work it out!) The same as your decision to possibly have a visit or not, is not mine to make. I shared a link above to the EHEGLA there are also sections about this very topic in there too.

2.7 Local authorities have no statutory duties in relation to monitoring the quality of home education on a routine basis.

However, under Section 437(1) of the Education Act 1996, local authorities shall intervene if it appears that parents are not providing a suitable education. This section states that:

“If it appears to a local education authority that a child of compulsory school age in their area is not receiving suitable education, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise, they shall serve a notice in writing on the parent requiring him to satisfy them within the period specified in the notice that the child is receiving such education.”

Section 437(2) of the Act provides that the period shall not be less than 15 days beginning with the day on which the notice is served.

2.12 Local authorities also have a duty under section 175(1) of the Education Act 2002 to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. This section states: “A local education authority shall make arrangements for ensuring that the functions conferred upon them in their capacity as a local education authority are exercised with a view to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children.” Section 175(1) does not extend local authorities’ functions. It does not, for example, give local authorities powers to enter the homes of, or otherwise see, children for the purposes of monitoring the provision of elective home education.

3.6 Some parents may welcome the opportunity to discuss the provision that they are making for the child’s education during a home visit but parents are not legally required to give the local authority access to their home. They may choose to meet a local authority representative at a mutually convenient and neutral location instead, with or without the child being present, or choose not to meet at all. Where a parent elects not to allow access to their home or their child, this does not of itself constitute a ground for concern about the education provision being made. Where local authorities are not able to visit homes, they should, in the vast majority of cases, be able to discuss and evaluate the parents’ educational provision by alternative means. If they choose not to meet, parents may be asked to provide evidence that they are providing a suitable education. If a local authority asks parents for information they are under no duty to comply although it would be sensible for them to do so. Parents might prefer, for example, to write a report, provide samples of work, have their educational provision endorsed by a third-party (such as an independent home tutor) or provide evidence in some other appropriate form.

What about socialisation?

Well… And don’t shoot me here. What about it? How do you socialise as an adult? How do your children socialise out of school hours? And what is so great about school socialisation anyway? Why on Earth would your child suddenly be incapable of socialising simply because they aren’t in school? I mean credit where credit is due, our kids are a fairly crazy, hyper, chatty bunch in their own way for the most part. Okay they have their shy moments, but they LOVE socialising, they socialise just going to the shops and talk to the shopkeeper or the person on the till, why would that change? Socialising isn’t just about being around people of the same age all day every day. Just let them be.

Oh and for the record… most areas have some type of home ed group 😉 and if they don’t, there’s always after school clubs etc. 🙂

How will they do exams?

Before I answer that, can you answer this:

What would you see as a successful result of home education?

Now before you roll your eyes at me and tut for even daring to challenge your thought process, just humour me for a moment. At school the focus is on results the majority of the time. There’s a reason your child is no longer in that system. Whatever that reason may be.

With home education you don’t have that same pressure. You have the ability to focus on the whole child not just the academic side. Exams aren’t compulsory, they don’t have to be taken. There are many different paths to take, depending on your ultimate goal, and a lot of employers value experience which home education will give your child the time to gain. Or they can always decide to be self-employed. For our family, we would see success as being small living independently, doing something that makes him happy and fulfilled not how many qualifications he may or may not have. If he wants to take exams he can, if he doesn’t that is fine too. The same applies if he ever wants to go to school.

Also education is a lifelong process, home education doesn’t have the same limits that school has. Exams can be taken at any age, they don’t have to be taken at 16 or 18. Certain professions will need qualifications, but worry about that when your child has made a decision about the path they want to follow, not at right at the beginning when you are getting used to the new path your journey is taking.  It will take you longer to ‘de-school’ than it will your child. Make sure you take that time.

You can take exams as an external candidate, which will cost you money. Google is your friend for finding exam centres in your local area. Resources wise you can usually find workbooks and revision guides in WHSmith, depending on the topic being studied. Colleges also accept students from ages 14-16 now as well and are able to directly access the funding themselves from the Government. Though some colleges do still request a reference from the LA, make sure you have a portfolio to hand.

How much is it going to cost?

Home educating can cost as much or as little as you like. Believe it or not, not all home educators are rich and swimming in money!!! In fact, I’d hazard a guess as to say that a lot of home educators aren’t. Families range from both parents working part-time, to one working full-time, to families on benefits etc.. just like in any other walk of life. At the higher end you may find that buying a curriculum is right for you, but this can cost £100’s, searching on google is always worth a shot as you may be able to find what you need can be printed off for free or very cheap. Some families spend a lot of money to then find that they could have it from elsewhere for much cheaper and used the money in a different way that could have been just as beneficial for their children. Don’t buy anything until you have found an approach that works for you and your child and you’re sure which path you are taking with home educating.

We home educate on a small budget, we have found that we don’t need to spend massive amounts as the majority of resources we use are free or very cheap, what is important is knowing how to shop around to find what you need. We’ve found the following places really useful. In the interest of transparency. Any link with a * means it is an affiliate link 🙂

Poundland – Depending on the time of year they have workbooks in and they ALWAYS have art and craft materials in.

Home Bargains – Again they are invaluable from workbooks, to stories, to arts and crafts. They also sell things like strawberry plants, tennis racquets, packaging, pens, pencils, erasers, folders for storing any worksheets and notebooks.

European Commission – They often have free publications that they will post to your home address (you don’t even have to pay for packaging!) we’ve found this really useful in the past.

The Open University – Again, they have free publications for download or they can be posted to your home address, postage and packaging included. We have a lot of their booklets/posters covering small’s bedroom walls at the moment as he thinks they are brilliant!

Educents * – They often have deals and discounts available. The prices are in $ as it is an American site. We’ve had a few freebies from there too. Some small has enjoyed, some not so much. All kids are different! 🙂

Futurelearn – They have lots of free courses, small is too young to do them at the moment, so if he finds any he is interested in I sign up and we do them together. They are a great resource and they can be really interesting.

Eurotalk – I’ve found this great for introducing small to languages (at last count we were up to 5 languages!) we have a CD-ROM of theirs and they also have a free section so that you can test them out and see if you like if before you buy. They also have Utalk on Google play which we intend to try out.

Amazon UK * – Amazon has some great deals and they often have free Ebooks if you look at the right time. Recently Ross Mountney’s book ‘Who’s not in School’ was available, which small has thoroughly enjoyed reading 🙂

Google Play – We have found some great free and cheap apps through here. Readings eggs, mathseeds, surface languages, cbeebies are good too. NASA also have some apps on there 🙂 it can be hit and miss though, some can be pretty rubbish!

LittleBird – This is an amazing site, it has some really good deals (Currently you can buy reading eggs and mathseeds for £35! That’s cheaper than the home ed deal!)

Home education groups are also massively useful, deals are often shared in groups so keep an eye out! Oh and make sure you always have ink in your printer! (Laminators are a good investment too!)

How do I prove I am a home educator?

I have previously covered that, so I am going to be lazy and link directly to it, rather than re-hashing the same topic again 🙂

Proof of home education

That’s all for now…. If you can think of any more questions please add them to the comments and I will try to answer them as best I can 🙂

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