I am afraid to say that this is a huge question and it takes some answering. We have been home educating for over 10 years but it took us several years to make the decision. We kept coming towards it before backing away and I think that was mostly driven by fear. I admit to being a bit cross with myself when I look back on the indecisive time because a lot of it was influenced by what other people would say. Ten years down the line and I have learned that the opinion of others is, largely, irrelevant.
Everyone who home educates has different reasons for doing so and I think that is the first thing to consider in any decision about home education. Our reasons were focused on a belief that we wanted our children to become passionate about learning and we were unconvinced that the school environment was meeting that need. Children in the UK are among the most assessed in the world and our preoccupation with assessment has literally starved the life out of the joy of learning.
Eventually, we decided enough was enough and we took our chance agreeing with the children to try home education and see how it went. We have never once looked back. Home education has brought our family the greatest joy and reward and we are unanimous in agreeing that it was the right choice for our family. That said, we do not believe that it is right for every child.
I have been asked many times if I think a parent has to be a qualified teacher to home educate. The answer is always the same….No. In fact as a trained teacher I had to unlearn quite a few things in order to make home education everything that it needed to be. I am sure when I started I tried to teach my own children as I would one of my classes. I rather missed the point of home education. Home education is not about artificial barriers between subjects, formal assessments and lesson plans. It is about providing your children with the space and freedom to learn about the world in which they live and their place in it. Home education is, thus, a more organic and flexible approach to learning and it is this that has delivered way beyond expectations. When Molly began home education she informed us that she was ‘rubbish at science’ and when we asked where that had come from she told us that her teacher had told her that. This is shocking but, sadly, these things do happen in school from time to time. Pete took on science and maths with Molly and after a few short weeks her attitude had changed completely. She sat her maths GCSE a year early and passed and is currently in her final year of a conservation biology degree.
This is an example of letting the outcomes speak for themselves. Let us ask the children what they think about their home education experience….
Molly says ‘The real benefit I believe I have gained from being home educated is that it gave me insight into the wide range of career choices that were linked to working with animals. This led me to find, and then focus on, my real passion which is wildlife conservation. Beyond this, I achieved superior support that I required in certain subjects. For example, it increased my ability and confidence in maths and I previously thought this to be an unattainable goal. Other subjects became more interesting through one to one tutition, particularly English and science which had almost been ruined by previous boring and/or inept teachers in school. Home education also gave me enhanced self-motivation, learning and organisational skills that were vital preparation for university. As a family, I believe it has brought us closer in the sense that we spend more time together and engage in more activities together. Our understanding of each other has also improved and we respect that we are all different although remaining a tight family unit.’
Harry says ‘home education gives me the opportunities to study what I am interested in. It is more flexible and it has brought us much closer as a family. Home education has given me the time to learn things properly. ‘
George says ‘There was never enough time to finish the work at school and this made me frustrated. We learn things that we didn’t do in school especially outdoor activities. We walked around the island as a challenge and we studied the geography of the island as a family. I have had a lots of time to read which is one of my favourite activities and we have also had lots of opportunities to practice our art skills. ‘
Max says ‘We do lots of different and interesting activities in home education. One of my favourite subjects is science and we have had a blast doing all the science experiments. We have done a lot of cooking and we can all make bread, cakes and meals. Home education has kept the family close and we all encourage each other in what we do.’
It is worth noting that Molly chose to stay in school when we first began home education. She was in her first year at secondary school and we thought that was a good decision. However, after her second year when she had to start thinking about options she decided that some of the subjects she wanted to study such as psychology were not available in school so she elected to join her brothers in home education. Harry and George were 9 and 7 respectively when they began home education and Max never went to school.
Pete and I believe that educating our own children has blessed us with the most amazing relationship with them. We learn alongside them each and every day. I am never quite sure when home education starts and finishes as it seems to endless meander through all our lives. For me personally, it has been a complete privilege and honour to become involved in my children’s learning and I am incredibly proud of all the decisions they have made along the way.