Considering Home Education Part 1

Considering_HEToday’s Handy Tips and Advice post is from Suddenly Mummy, who as well as being an adoptive parent and foster carer, has much teaching experience. In this, the first of a two posts, she shares information about Home Educating your children.

 

Considering Home Education

The path to choosing the right educational setting for our adopted children can often be a twisty one. In addition to questions about academics, socialisation and extra-curricular opportunities that any parent would have, we also have to consider a range of complex and sometimes challenging additional needs that our children may present with at different times in their lives.

After nearly 15 years teaching in the UK and abroad, I’ve come to realise that while many children (including adopted children) learn and blossom in the right school environment, there are some who struggle to thrive in our mass education system. ‘One size fits all’ doesn’t always work!

If you have wondered about an alternative to school then you are by no means alone. EHE (Elective Home Education) is gaining in popularity year on year. It is estimated that as many as 80,000 children in the UK are being home educated for a variety of reasons including ideological choice, concerns about bullying, catering for special needs and abilities, lifestyle choices, etc. All over the country, and online, there are communities of home educators.

Education ‘Otherwise’

Section 7 of the 1996 Education Act actually places the legal responsibility for a child’s education on the parent, not schools or local authorities.

“The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive an efficient full time education suitable a) to his age, ability and aptitude, and b) any special educational needs he may have, either by attendance at a school or otherwise.” (Emphasis added)

 

Education ‘otherwise’ includes education at home, employing tutors, educating as part of a cooperative, etc. Education is compulsory, but school is not. In home education, there is no need to follow a specific curriculum or take national tests or exams, but you can if you want. You do not need to follow a timetable or have specific ‘term times’, although you can if you want. Learning can be at a desk, out of a book, on a nature walk or a visit to a museum, or in your garden, or on your family holiday. As the parent and educator, you can devise your own activities or you can use a complete pre-written curriculum, or a mixture of the two. Any of these options are acceptable as education ‘otherwise’.

Getting Started

If your child has never attended school or accepted a school place then you may simply begin home educating without informing your local authority. It is possible that they will contact you at some point once they realise that your child hasn’t taken up a school place in order to fulfil their statutory duty to identify children who are not receiving an education, at which point it is wise to provide some evidence that you are really educating your child at home (this could be photographs, written work, your current planning, etc.). They do not need to visit your home or meet your child unless you agree to it.

If you wish to withdraw your child from school in England or Wales then you should write to the head teacher, inform them of your decision to home educate, and ask them to withdraw your child’s name from the school register. The head teacher will inform the local authority that the child has been withdrawn. In Scotland and Northern Ireland, you need to gain permission to withdraw your child, but this cannot be unreasonably withheld.

Children with Special Educational Needs

If your child is in mainstream school and is on the SEN register, or has a Statement of Special Educational Needs, then you can educate them at home following the procedure outlined above. It would be advisable to contact your local authority to discuss how this will affect the provisions in their Statement. If your child is attending a special needs school, then you will need the consent of the local authority to withdraw them, although this consent cannot reasonably be withheld. In this case you may need to provide evidence to the LA that you are able to provide an education suitable to your child’s specific needs.

Teaching and Learning

The key to teaching at home is lots of patience and excellent resources! Believe me when I say that even the most highly-qualified teacher doesn’t know everything there is to know about their subject area. We all have to learn as we go along. If you want to stick to the National Curriculum, then your local bookstore or supermarket will have racks of workbooks for each stage and websites such as Primary Resources will help with free worksheets. Alternatively, there are many complete curriculum solutions designed for home educators which you can work through at home. You may prefer an online or correspondence course option, or if you are feeling confident enough to plan your own learning then there are literally hundreds of websites offering free downloadable resources that can support what you are doing.

The key is to find a style that is right for both you and your child, and it might take some time and ‘de-schooling’ before you settle down to your preferred routine.

Next week, we’ll continue with the subject of Home Educating, as Suddenly Mummy talks about Exams & Tests, Networking and share some useful links.

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