Sunday 29 September 2019

A Parent's Perspective - Home Education

When I was younger home education was extremely rare. Often seen as something that was more popular abroad than here in the UK, home education was usually for children unable to attend mainstream school due to health or behaviour. These days though it's a little different and home ed is becoming more and more popular, with more children being educate at home.

My 5 year old is educated at our local primary school but there have been times when he's really struggled that I've thought about making the change. Last year, and our son's reception year at school, there were often occasions that I considered making the switch to home education. Days when he came home exhausted, grumpy and disappointed that he wasn't learning things like phonics as quickly as his friends or when he was struggling with separation anxiety, where definitely the days I thought about it more. In the end we stuck it out and so far his school life as a year 1 kid is going OK.

Having given this serious thought last year, I wanted to gain the perspective of a parent that home educates and share that with you, in case you are currently in the position of deciding whether mainstream school or home education is for you.

So, I asked Hayley, mum of 3, Sparkles and Stretchmarks blogger, and home educator, about her home education experience and I'm super grateful that she has kindly given us an insight into home ed life.

What lead you to choose home ed? Had it always been a possibility for you and your family?
It's something I'd always had an interest in, in fact I first joined the Home Education UK Facebook group back when we were applying for school places for my eldest child. I was interested in it and loved the idea of it, but I lacked the confidence to take a route that was so out of the ordinary in my social circles. I knew that people around us wouldn't approve because it was different, and so I thought I had to "tow the line" and make the decision that the majority of parents make - to send their child in to formal education.

However, after a few months it became clear that it wasn't working out well for us. Tyne hated school from the very beginning, he had very severe separation anxiety and after months there he still wasn't settling. After a while he started to complain of a particular child who had threatened to bring a gun to school to kill him, so we approached the school for support in reassuring Tyne that this wasn't going to happen but they were incredibly unhelpful.

We were left feeling that our child was nothing but a number to them, and that short of him being there on time every day to make their records look good - they really couldn't care less about him or his happiness. So, as he wasn't yet compulsory school age, we made the decision to remove him temporarily while weighing up our options. During that time we immersed ourselves in the local home ed community and Tyne we decided against school completely.

Have you decide to home ed all of your children now?
Yes, all of the children will be home educated. There would be far too many difficulties that would arise from having some in school and some out of school, we'd lose all of the perks and freedom of the home ed lifestyle and it would also seem unfair to educate them differently. Plus we're home educating because we don't like the current schooling system in the UK and don't feel it's right for the children - so that means all of them.

What preparations did you have to make before home schooling? Did you have to speak to the local education authority? Did/do they visit you?
Because we removed Tyne from school before he reached compulsory school age, we didn't need to make any preparations or speak to anybody. We simply informed the school that he would be leaving and receiving an education at home. It's then the schools responsibility to inform the local authority of this when removing him from their register.

Most people don't realise this but home education is actually the default choice for educating children in the UK - or you can opt in to schooling (which, obviously, most parents do). But because schooling is an opt-in system and not the default, the local authority don't currently have any legal right to demand visits with home educating parents or have any involvement in their educational plan. They can request visits and information, but home educating parents are not legally obligated to allow them/give it.

What subjects do you cover?
The answer to this question will vary hugely depending on who you ask, as home education takes many different forms. Some people choose to "unschool" which means that no or very little formal education takes place and children are instead encouraged to learn organically from their life experiences and the world around them.

Some people choose a "structured" approach (this is more commonly referred to as "home schooling" as the school environment is recreated at home - with particular subjects being covered, a curriculum being followed, etc). Our own personal approach is what we call Semi-Structured - we do some formal learning with work books, subjects, print outs, classes that Tyne attends, etc. But we also allow a couple of days per week without formal learning too.

At the moment, Tyne regularly covers the following subjects: English, Maths, History, Geography, Science, Art, Music, Coding & Computer Technology, PSE.

Do you have set days that you cover certain subjects?
We do, yes. I find it helps me with planning our weeks to know that we cover certain subjects on certain days, but we're always flexible and plans can often change depending on what we're doing that week - quite often opportunities will pop up to go along to a home ed day out and so we'll change our plans to make ourselves available.

Where do you get your ideas from? Do the local education authority give you ideas or guidelines?
We don't get any input from the LA. I get most of my ideas from home education groups on Facebook and other home educators online, home ed families that we know personally, Pinterest, and Twinkl.

I've seen that you're part of the home ed community, how did you find your fellow home ed families?
Facebook! I did a quick search and found the main Home Education FB group for our county, which has 1,200 members in as an idea of how popular home ed is here. From that group, we then found our local area have their own FB group and through joining that we started to go along to the regular meetups and days out. Both Tyne and I made friends in the community, as did the younger children.

Have you had any points where you've questioned your decision to home ed?

Oh yes absolutely! I never really question the educational side of things, I'm happy with how Tyne is progressing and his level of knowledge, but I often question how much easier it would be on me as a work-from-home parent to have them in school. I'd struggle far less to get my work done! And our house would also be much more organised and tidy - I won't lie it can be incredibly difficult to manage home educating when it means that you have 3 young children at home with you all of the time. But it always comes back to what do I think is best for the kids...and I think home ed is best for them.

What's been your favourite part of home ed so far?
Seeing how much my son has grown in his self-confidence. It's been mind blowing to witness! He's gone from an anxious, easily-upset child who struggled to make friends and was full of self doubt to a confident, bubbly little boy who loves socialising, has no separation anxiety when joining new classes etc now. It's been such a huge, positive change.

Thank you so much to Hayley from Sparkles and Stretchmarks for sharing her parenting perspective. Hayley sharing her experience of home education and making the change from formal education, has certainly opened by eyes more to home ed and given me the insight I needed if I reconsider our education decision.

My son and Hayley's children experience educations that differ from each other but what they do have in common is that they are being educated in a way that suits their needs and most of all they are happy little individuals. So, whether you love or loath mainstream school, like or dislike home ed, try and see the decision from a parent's perspective and the chances are, regardless of the path taken, the happiness of the child is the most important thing in the world.

Mummy Snowy Owl

1 comment:

  1. Home education is becomming much more popular, not all children cope in main stream school. Loved reading this and hope it inspires others to follow this route