“I’d love to home-educate, but…”

We’re reaching the end of August and, for many, thoughts are starting to turn to the start of the new school term. I want
ed to write this post because, when I say to people that we home-educate, a response I often get is ‘I’d love to do that but I can’t because…’ – and, indeed, I often find I have many of the same concerns. I want to encourage you that, if home-educating is something that you really are considering, that it is something you can do. Of course there are hurdles to overcome, but they’re often not as large as we might imagine.

This isn’t a post about why we chose to home-educate or to put forward the argument to home-educate. Hopefully I will write that one day, but it’ll be a much longer post, and I’ll need to re-read some books to write that. This is a post to encourage those who genuinely do want to home-educate but have reservations. I’m hoping to cover the main ones I hear, but if you would love to home-educate and you have some questions I don’t answer, do feel free to ask in the comments.

I wish I could home-educate, but…boaz samuel

…I don’t know how to take my child out of school.

Believe it or not, this is actually surprisingly simple. The law is clear that a child’s parents have to ensure that a child is suitably educated – but that this does not have to happen at school. School is one option parents may chose to ensure their child gets a suitable education, but it is byno means compulsory and certainly doesn’t need to be considered the default.

So, if your child has never been to school then you simply don’t send them. You don’t have to ask permission or register: your child’s education is your responsibility, not the state’s, and you have the option to choose to send your child to school, but equally the option not to. If your child is already at school, you will need to send a de-registration letter to the school informing them of your decision. You may find the website www.educationotherwise.net helpful in giving further information and draft letters. Click on the ‘HE and the law‘ tab to find the relevant information.

…I’m not clever enough.

I think there are three things I’d like to say to encourage you here. Firstly, there are an awful lot of resources to help out there: books, dvds, online courses, home-ed group classes, one-to-one tuition. You don’t need to hold all the necessary information at the outset.
Secondly, there are various different home-education methods and philosophies, but a lot of home-educators take, to varying degrees, something of a child-led approach. That is, we explore what the child is interested together in and learn alongside them, rather than ‘teach’ them in the traditional sense of the term. Obviously there’s a lot to be said about this, and it is very different to the ‘norm’ and so may jar a little, but books from the likes of John Holt, Raymond and Dorothy Moore, Ross Mountney, and Jan Fortune-Wood will help to explain it further.
Thirdly, I have the utmost respect for teachers: I think they do a phenomenal job for very little respect. But, they’re not omniscient either. There are things they don’t know too. They may know the national curriculum far better than me, and they may know more about child development than me, but they don’t know my child better than me, and they simply don’t have the time to help my child explore the particular questions and interests that they may have.

…I don’t have any teaching qualifications.

Nope, me neither. And there’s no legal requirement for you to at all. If you’re worried that this might mean you are not capable of teaching your child, remember that a lot of teaching is about helping a class of 30 learn together – that’s not what you’ll be doing. You’ll be helping guide your child’s exploration and education. Also, there are a lot of teachers who home-educate because they don’t want their children to be a part of the school system – they find that the whole school system inhibits their ability to actually teach.

…I need my ‘me time’.

I absolutely agree that we all need a chance to re-fuel and to prepare ourselves for the work God has given us. However, I’m not sure I agree with the notion of ‘me time’, as I explain in a previous blog post. It is, of course, important to be intentional about building in rest time and ‘re-fueling’ time – I often have a bit of a lie in on a Saturday morning and during the week I like to go for a run and have a bath in the evening. But it’s also important to remember that raising school aged children is a calling and requires sacrifice – and if you truly believe that home-educating wouldbe beneficial to your children, perhaps that sacrifice is in giving up some of what you need for a season, to provide your children with what they need.

…I work.

I guess this is similar to the above point: if you truly want to home-educate then, for a time, it may be that your job needs to be sacrificed. I know this seems easy to say from my point of view – we’ve only ever had one income as Boaz was born so soon after I finished my degree that I’ve never worked, and so we’ve always lived within the means of one income. We’ve never bought a house, or gone on holiday abroad (apart from our honeymoon), or eaten out often, or had two cars, or had contract smart phones – and so we’ve never had to give any of those things up for me to stay at home. But I have had to make sacrifices to do this – turn down opportunities, come to terms with it being unlikely that I’ll ever have a ‘career’, losing touch with friends because I can’t afford to do many of the things they do. But I would readily make the same decision again, because I believe home-educating to be that important to the nurturing of my children.
It’s also worth noting that there are home-educators who do work – they figure it out with their partners so that one of them is always at home, or they have family who are able to help out. I know not everyone has this option, but sometimes it’s worth thinking creatively.

…My children are so different.

I hear you on this!! I really don’t know how it’s possible to have three boys all 5 and under who are already so so different!! And not just because of their different ages, but they are just so different in interests, personality, temperament, skills and learning styles. The reality is, your child is unlikely to be the same as the other 30-ish children in their class! And if they seem to be, it may well be at the detriment of their own unique selves being able to flourish.

…I can’t afford to.

Home-educating does bring with it some extra costs – there’s no denying that! The resources and facilities that school-educated children get freely, home-educated children don’t. That said, with the current surge in home-education a lot of places are offering ‘home-education’ rates which match the school rates. And there are a lot of things that can be done for free, and resources that can be picked up second hand. Also, if you like an annual holiday, you won’t need to pay peak prices to go during the school holidays! And you don’t have to do everything – one thing I’ve really learnt to value is simplicity of life and how children can flourish with time simply spent together reading or baking or playing board games.

…I’m a single parent.

I’m afraid I can’t really speak into this: I’m married and my husband is very supportive of our home-educating. There are single parents who home-educate and are doing a fantastic job! If you’re a single parent who is interested in home-educating, perhaps I could help put you in touch with someone who might be able to alleviate some of your concerns.

…Getting my children to do their homework is enough of a challenge.

As I’ve already mentioned, the approach to education in home-education is often very different to that in school education. This means that that horrendous experience sat at the kitchen table trying to get your uninterested child to please do their home work or else therewon’t be any fun ever again while you empty a bottle of gin each evening won’t have to happen. Your child will be exploring things that interest them and developing skills that are suited to them – and so are likely to become much more motivated, self driven learners. Do hunt out some of the authors mentioned above if this sounds exciting but a bit crazy!

…My children won’t have enough socialising time.

I think the response to this is twofold. Firstly, there is plenty of time to socialise! In fact, I have to make sure that I keep in check not over scheduling us. But secondly, and perhaps more importantly, I think we maybe need to reassess what it means to socialise. As adults we socialise with, usually, smaller groups with people of varying ages, andbetween all of whom there is some element of ‘give and take’: we offer friendship and support, and we receive friendship and support. This, to my mind, is normal socialising – but it bears very little resemblance to the school classroom or playground where there are 30+ children of similar ages all with very similar needs to be met from a very limited number of adults. By being with (or near) my child during a lot of their social interactions, I’m able to help guide them through the ups and down and complexities of social interaction which will, I hope, enable them to become compassionate, resilient, understanding and sensitively assertive adults. In the school classroom and playground there are simply not enough adults to give what, I believe, is the necessary attention to children’s interactions to help them grow into the kind of adults society needs.

…My child is thriving at school.

I ask this sensitively – but are they? I was a typical ‘thriver’: high grades, gifted and talented registered, good reports, nodetentions, solid group of friends, got on well with the system, deputy head girl, certificates and awards. But, as I’ve reflected on some of the issues and attitudes I have today, things that have held me back and caused me hurt, I’ve found that I can trace a large number of them back to my school years. I would say my conclusion is this: I conformed, so it seemed I thrived – even to myself. The truth, it has turned out, is very different. I would tentatively suggest that the school environment, which needs so much conformity to function, cannot be a place that allows for the true thriving of individuals.

…My child won’t get to play sports.

I think sometimes we have rose tinted glasses when we think about the sports that children get to play at school. So many sports resources are not allowed during breaks because of health and safety, PE is not exactly a huge part of the timetable and, when it is, trying to get 30 children to all have a go at whatever is being played means not a massive amount of time for each child. In reality, to actually play any sport consistently, it needs to be done in an extra-curricular setting – which you’ll have a lot more time for home-educating.

…I’d worry I was failing my child.

I worry about this everyday. I don’t really think I’d worry about it any less if my child was at school: I’d just find other things to worry about failing them at. And I’d worry the school was failing them (though at least then I’d have someone else to blame!). The authors I’ve mentioned earlier in the post might help to calm your fears as they explain the benefits of different approaches to education. Something else I’ve found help
ful is to really think and reflect on the question: What’s the point of education? And what’s the point of childhood? What do they need to learn? Why? What are they going to do with it? How should they learn it? Who should decide what they learn? What do I want to shape my child? What do impact do I want their childhood to have? What kind of childhood do I want them to have? What kind of adults do I want them to grow into? Where do I want them to find their identity? How do I want them to treat other people? What do I want them to value and pursue? These are questions that I can’t answer for you, but I found that there was no place for the state school system in my answers to these questions.

I hope that this may encourage you that home-educating is not something unattainable or with too many hurdles to overcome. Of course it’s not easy – something with such a high calling as parenting should never be easy. But it is absolutely doable, and school-educating does not need to be the default just because we’re scared of what home-educating might mean.

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One thought on ““I’d love to home-educate, but…”

  1. A really interesting article Bethan and I agree that home-educating should be considered as equal to the traditional school system, in fact with hindsight I may have chosen to home-educate one of my children for the first few years at least.

    I’m sure you will have spoken with friends with children at school and have done lots of research into this, but I do feel teachers and schools have been portrayed in a way that doesn’t match with my own experience with the school system, and so I hope you won’t mind me adding my personal thoughts. You are right that teachers will never know the children as well as a parent does, but good teachers, especially at primary school level, know their children well and plan lessons with their children in mind, differentiating to meet the varying levels and needs of their class as well as listening to parents views and working in partnership with them. Although I agree that the curriculum doesn’t lend itself to allowing children to explore their own interests in the same way that you can do at home.

    With sports at school I have found that all the local schools that I have experienced do offer a variety of sports equipment at break times and some even arrange team games and, although I agree that PE doesn’t feature heavily enough in the timetable, it does give every child the opportunity to try many different sports and learn how to play in a team. It is also worth noting that schools are also required to make sport accessible to all, whereas sadly we have had personal experience with external sports clubs where my child has been asked to leave because they were unable to meet his needs, so this is something to consider for those with children that have SEND.

    I totally agree that however we choose to educate our children we still worry about failing them, and leaving them for 6 hours a day in someone else’s care can add to that worry. Looking at the questions of values, identity, respecting others and thinking about what kind of adults we want our children to become, I do believe that with research it is possible to find schools that meet with our own values and beliefs. My choice to send my children to a Christian school was partly based on the fact that the school aims to show the love of God in all they do and spends time exploring Christian values with the children.

    As I have said these are all just my personal experiences and I hope I haven’t come across as too ‘pro school’ as I do believe that home schooling has lots of benefits and wouldn’t want to discourage those interested from giving it a go, I just wanted to add a bit of balance so that they would choose it from the viewpoint of ‘yes this is what I want to do’ rather than being scared of the alternative.

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