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Home Education and Remote Schooling

There is no question that home education and remote learning have become more prominent in recent years. They are seen as a solution to anything from school refusal and anxiety among young people through to the price of summer holidays. They are also seen as a way for parents to remove children from the ‘education rat race’ and ensure that they have a well-rounded childhood and education.

However, is home education really the panacea it sometimes seems? And if you do want to home educate, what are your options, especially if you do not feel able to ‘teach’ your children yourself? This page answers all these questions and more.

What is Home Education?

Home education, also known as homeschooling, is simply the education of children at home, or more generally at somewhere other than a school.

Home Education: The Legal Position

The legal position on home education varies by state and country. It is therefore advisable to check your own country’s rules before embarking on home education. In the UK, for example:

  • Parents have a duty to ensure that their child receives a suitable education. This might be by attending a state or private school, or through home education.
  • They should inform their local authority if they are going to home educate their children. If your child was already in a state school, the school will do this too.
  • Parents do NOT have to follow the national curriculum, and their children do not have to take national tests such as SATS or GCSEs.
  • The local authority can intervene if it believes parents are not providing a suitable education. However, it does not have a right to enter the house or speak to the child being educated at home without a court order.
  • Parents are encouraged to cooperate with the local authority about home education.

Home education is often used by parents as a way to provide more flexibility for the family either permanently, or for a period of time. Parents everywhere will understand the advantages of being able to take family holidays at any time of year, or being able to visit family in other parts of the world for extended periods. This is perhaps the more traditional view of home education: a matter of choice and convenience.

Case study: A family experience

When their children were in Years 5, 3 and Reception (aged 9, 7 and 4), Hannah and James decided to remove them from school and home educate them for a few years.

Both parents worked shifts, and had always managed their work so that at least one was at home all the time. They would therefore be able to continue working while home-schooling.

They explained to friends that they had chosen this route because it enabled them to be more flexible about education. They liked the children’s schools very much, but wanted to try something different. They wished to be able to visit family in the Far East and spend a few months there for the children to experience life in another country. They also wanted to be able to visit museums outside holidays.

However, there are other children for whom school is extremely stressful.

For them, home education can provide an alternative to school that will enable them to thrive.  These children may include those with conditions that make school environments very difficult, such as those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or forms of autism, as well as mental health problems such as anxiety. Children with physical health conditions that mean that they have to spend a lot of time asleep or receiving medical treatment may also find home education is easier to manage.

Some parents also say that their children were simply unhappy at school, and they did not feel that the school responded to that suitably, if at all.

Case study: Home education linked to illness

When Isabel was 15, she was diagnosed with anorexia and spent several months in an eating disorders unit. When she was discharged, she and her parents agreed that it would not be good for her to go back to her previous school, which was a large grammar school, some way from her home. Instead, she joined a small private school. The new school was extremely supportive and encouraged her to start part-time and extend her attendance when she felt able. All seemed well.

However, half-way through the first year at the new school, Isabel started to feel more and more anxious about attending. Before long, she was unable to get out of the car at school. The school continued to be very supportive and sent work home by email for Isabel to complete.

At the end of the school year, Isabel and her parents met with the headteacher. Isabel still felt unable to return to school, and they agreed she would be better with a fully remote education provider. Isabel’s parents enrolled her into an online school, which she started the following year.

In Isabel’s own words, this gave her ‘the bit of school I enjoy—the learning—without having to deal with the rest’. For her parents, it was a huge relief to feel that she was happy at ‘school’ again.

Forms of Home Education

Home education can take a wide variety of forms, including:

  • Non-education, or even ‘un-education’, where children are given access to resources such as libraries or the internet and expected to ‘educate themselves’ by pursing their own interests. This type of home education has a wide following but is probably best suited to children who are able to motivate themselves.
  • Facilitated learning describes a situation where the parents are acting as facilitators of learning. They are likely to use experiences like shopping, cooking, walks, or visits to places of interest as a way to encourage their children to learn. Some may also choose to include some formal learning each day, or on particular days.
  • Remote learning is provided by schools or other educational providers on a remote basis. Children are enrolled, and may be expected to attend actual ‘lessons’. This may be either at the time or by catch-up if they have a timetable clash. Alternatively, they may be set work to do to a timetable, which will be marked. This is often the approach used for children who have a long-term illness and need to be absent from school for several weeks, but there are also fully remote schools in operation.
  • Tutoring is the provision of face-to-face teaching by someone other than the parent. It may be subject-specific or more general. It is usually on a one-to-one basis, but several home-educating families may also club together to hire several tutors to teach the children in small groups.

Parents therefore have a wide choice about whether to provide teaching and education themselves, or outsource it, either to their child, or to a registered education provider. There are advantages and disadvantages to all these options, and it is very much a matter of personal choice and what suits the family.

Some people may also choose a combination of these options: perhaps enrolling their child in remote classes for maths, having a tutor for science, but encouraging them to read widely to cover other subjects. They might also teach their own subject and employ one or more tutors to cover other subjects.

A Final Thought

The key with home education is that there is no ‘one size fits all’.

Indeed, if there is one thing that unites all home educating families, it is a desire to avoid that sense in formal education that children simply have to conform and fit in.

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