Just lately I am hearing more and more about parents who have pulled their kids out of mainstream education in order to teach them at home.
|Home schooling is not an easy option
Now I can fully understand this if there are medical and social reasons for doing so. For example, if a parent is unwell and unable to take their child to school and is not receiving sufficient support in order to assist the child. Or if the child is being bullied and the school refuses to deal with the situation.
If that happened to my children, I would not think twice about home schooling or “Elective Home Education” as the Government calls it.
But there seems to be a ‘home schooling movement’ whose rationale for adopting this form of education is about following a trend.
A few months back I read a blog post from a home schooling parent (the child was around 5 or 6) who listed their “learning outcomes” for the day as walking round a park, looking at daffodils and meeting friends for coffee.
Those, to me, are not learning outcomes – no matter how many rather fetching Instagram pictures it creates.
I wonder what teachers think about this new trend. I imagine they feel incredibly frustrated by the fact that their training is considered almost irrelevant by some parents.
I worry that home schooled children are missing out.
I can hear the howls of indignation from here but surely there is more to a child’s education than running barefoot in the park with a handful of other kids whilst their parents chat and play with their phones.
Early years education sets the scene for later learning – and academic performance. Whilst the system is not perfect, at least it creates a roughly level playing field upon which our children’s educational growth can be measured and, hopefully, improved.
I have to say at this point that the Government’s latest plan to turn schools into ‘academies’ seems hopelessly out of touch with what schools must surely be wanting – better funding, better training, more support. The academy approach seems to be an enormous sticking plaster for a system which would work a hell of a lot better if only the Government would stop meddling with it (and I’d apply the same argument to the NHS).
Currently the law states that all parents have a duty to ensure that their children receive an efficient,
full time education suitable to their age, ability and aptitude, either by regular attendance at
school or otherwise (under Section 7 of the Education Act 1996).
This means that parents may educate their children at home if they fulfil certain conditions.
You will also be offered regular appointments by your Local Education Authority to see how you are getting on but you do not have to accept these.
After that, you are on your own as regards the curriculum you set – and that includes all costs as well as examination fees, should you wish your child to sit them. No grants will be made available.
I have previously worked as a Home Tutor for both Early Years and GCSE students and tutoring required an in-depth knowledge of the school curriculum and a great deal of lesson planning and reading around the subject.
And that was just for a few hours a week!
These are the questions I find myself asking.
Won’t home schooled children miss out on social interaction?
Surely it’s about mixing with a wide variety of children of different ages and backgrounds that teaches us valuable skills about fitting in when we go on to college, university, our first job.
School is the place where life-long friends can be made
Are all parents sufficiently able to teach their child the information on the ‘mainstream’ curriculum?
Would it be unreasonable to suggest that if you were a complete academic duffer yourself, you might not be the best teacher for your child?
How will you know how your children are progressing compared to their peers?
You may feel it doesn’t matter but much of success in life depends on competition.
How do home schooled kids compare with those who have a mainstream education when it comes to university and jobs?
There are many stories about entrepreneurs who have been academically poor and gone on to create vast business empires. Success is not impossible without an education but I reckon it takes an awful lot longer unless you have the business mind of Richard Branson or Steve Jobs.
How will home schooled kids feel about the educational opportunities they have missed out on?
None of us have a crystal ball of course but I’ll bet some of the current home schooled children may well grow up wondering why they are excluded from well established school social networks and why their friends seem to be fitting in much better.
Choosing elective home schooling for your child is a very personal choice but the consequences of that choice if home schooling is ineffective, may have long-term consequences we parents might not be around to see.
As for me, it’s a case of “never say never”.
More information about Elective Home Education can be found at www.gov.uk/home-education.