We asked Wendy Charles Warner, chair of the UK charity Education Otherwise to tell us the most frequently asked questions that she receives on the charity’s helpline. Here is what she shared with us.
Parents who home educate have wide ranging levels of academic and vocational qualifications and some parents have no qualifications at all, but are nonetheless able to home educate their child successfully.
Parents will often describe learning with their child and gaining knowledge as their child gains knowledge.
How to Home Educate
Home education takes many forms and can range from a highly structured approach, using a school style curriculum, to ‘unschooling’, or a mixture of methods.
Home educating families will often refer to facilitating their child’s learning, rather than ‘teaching’, as home education will often look very different to school education. Parents do not have to adopt a timetable and many families take quite a relaxed and informal approach, such as autonomous learning.
Families often find that using a project-based approach covers many different subjects and disciplines and helps to develop essential research skills. Children should however, be enabled to be literate and numerate, in accordance with their individual characteristics.
Parents often adapt their education provision as they and their child become more accustomed to home education, so it is wise not to spend large sums of money on educational materials at the outset. Parents should spend some time working out how their child learns best before committing to significant purchases.
One of the most important aspects of home education is that it allows the child to be treated as an individual, rather than a class member and to learn in a style best suited to them.
Equipment and facilities
No specific equipment, or facilities are required to home educate a child and learning is often hands-on or experiential. The child need not for example, have a desk, a set classroom, laboratory equipment, or set materials. However, a child will learn better if given a quiet area without distractions in which to learn when involved in tasks that require concentration.
Parents often worry about how their child will learn subjects for which specialised equipment is used in schools, such as science subjects, but they need not do so, as there are a great many experiments which can be undertaken at home, using basics found in the kitchen, or tool box.
Parents can access literally hundreds of learning materials, many of which are free of charge, on the
Education Otherwise web site at: educationotherwise.org. These include bought in lesson plans, science kits, worksheets, videos and a wide variety of subjects and information. There is no need for parents to design learning plans if they do not wish to do so; the choice is for the parent to make.
Home education is very different to school education, in that a child can take as long as they wish to in learning about a topic of interest, rather than having their day broken up into lesson sections, or their learning set to start and end on certain termly dates.
It is important to remember that schools educate large numbers of children in a standard way. Home education is not usually subject led as school education is, but child led. This means that the child is the focus of the education, rather than the curriculum being the focus. By putting the child first, a home educating parent allows the child to reach their full potential, rather than a goal set by someone who does not know their child.
Home education often includes subjects which are absent from school education such as: geology, music tuition, voice training, drama, human performance, parkour, flying, palaeontology and archaeology. Learning often takes the form of using topics as an introduction to numerous subject areas, rather than studying a subject and looking for topics within that subject, which are limited by the subject. ‘Lego learning’ (below) is an example of this approach.
A parent is almost always best equipped to know their child and to support their child.
How to arrange social opportunity for a home educated child is an understandable concern for those first deciding to home educate, which requires an understanding of what normal socialisation consists of.
Children in school spend most of their days in a group of others of the same age and similar background to themselves. Our society has developed to view that as the norm, but normal socialisation is very different to school socialisation. Home education provides a more natural form of socialisation for a child, as they will usually spend their time socialising within their families and their communities.
Home educated children do not usually socialise with children of set ages, but are more likely to spend time with people of wide ranging age, culture, ethnicity, socio-economic background and outlook. This form of socialisation is often considerably richer than a school can provide and some home educating parents consider this richness of social opportunity to be an important part of their decision to home educate. This is particularly true of those who home educate in order to travel widely and to experience different nations.
There are home education groups throughout the World where families get together to socialise and to arrange group learning opportunities and outings. In addition, home educated children may wish to join clubs such as scouts, cadets, special interest, or sports clubs.
This is an example of the type of questions a child may ask that lead to further exploration just from a simple topic such as a beloved toy (lego)
- Child, or parent ask, ‘what is Lego made from’?
- What is a Polymer?
- How big is the factory?
- Where do workers live?
- What food do they eat?
- Which country are they in?
- What is the national flag?
- What sort of Government do they have?
- What other industry is there?
- What is the population?
- Do they have a national costume?
- Which famous people lived there?
- How much Lego is made?
- What are the profits?
- How much do workers earn?
- What transport system do they use?
- What animals live there?
- What do they eat?
- How do they reproduce?
- How is Lego made?
- Where do the chemicals come from?
- Is the process environmentally responsible?
- What is the environment like?
- What is the geology like?
- How was it formed?
The possibilities are endless and can include many subjects such as mathematics, English, geography, history, geology, music, social studies, art and science.
Home educated children can and do, sit examinations such as GCSE and A level in the UK, however, it can often be frustrating trying to arrange examinations and parents should do so in plenty of time.
Many home educating parents choose to arrange International GCSE (IGCSE) for their children, as these examinations are considerably less likely to involve a coursework element. IGCSE is offered by Edexcel and Cambridge examination boards and is accessible through international schools in several countries.
Children with special needs
Children with special needs often thrive in home education as it creates a less anxiety provoking environment, particularly for children with ASD.
Starting home education
Home educating families do not have to work to set hours, set days, or any specific periods. What they do have to do is to ensure that the education is full time and that it is suitable to the child as an individual. Some children thrive better in the morning, whilst others are night owls, just as some children love structure and others prefer to be unfettered. A home educating parent can allow for such differences.
It is often useful for a parent to obtain the child’s school records at the earliest opportunity, as these can provide evidence of the child’s standard of attainment prior to starting home education and act as a reference point to identify progress.
A ‘suitable’ education is an education which equips a child for life within the community of which he is a member and which helps the child to become an independent adult who is able to take part in everyday life, where the child chooses to live.
Safeguarding and home education
Many parents become understandably upset at media and public conflation of home education with safeguarding concern for children. Home educated children are no more likely to be subject to genuine child protection concerns, than are other children. In fact, home educating families are actively seeking to act in their child’s best interests and therefore, child protection concerns become less likely.
Home education brings enormous advantages to he child and some are listed below:
|Comparisions between home education and school|
|Elective Home Education:||School|
|Child has her choice of approach||Set curriculum|
|Can study at her own pace||Set hours for set lessons|
|Child can spend as long as they wish on each topic until she understands it||Child can only have set time to study topic|
|They can take their choice of exams at any point where appropriate||Set exams at set times, with courses set by the school|
|Their education is individualised and incorporates their interests.||Designed to provide a set amount of information, to a large group of children, in a set way.|
|Learning is one to one or in small groups.||Teacher cannot provide one to one or small groups to class of children.|
|They learn in a quiet and nurturing environment||Noisy and busy environment|
|They have a wide range of friendships and natural social interaction||Limited friendships of one set age|
|They have the opportunity to attend events and trips at any time throughout the year||Only able to take trips and events at holiday times.|
|They are the central focus of the learning. This enables them to achieve their potential.||Subject led. The curriculum is the centre of the provision. Pre-determined set standards.|
|Their needs are met according to age, ability and aptitude||Curriculum designed to test schools’ delivery.|
|They enjoys supportive and nurturing relationships with other home educated children.||Competitive and peer pressure.|
|They are never subjected to peer bullying.||Bullying common.|
|Every experience is a learning opportunity for them||Learning opportunities limited by curriculum and set lessons.|
|Most home educated children are ahead of their schooled peers. .||Concerns about low level of attainment in school, children|
|As young adults, unemployment is rare amongst home educated children and further education common.||High levels of unemployment|
|Fosters entrepreneurial spirit, creativity and originality||Fosters conformity and not originality|