Some myths about home education

As the name of our blog suggests our children don’t go to school – this is our fourth year of choosing home education and we are all thoroughly enjoying ourselves. Obviously this doesn’t make us experts on the matter but we’ve certainly learnt a lot about how home education can and does work, both for our own family and lots of other lovely people we’ve met along the way. I thought it would be interesting to consider some common (and maybe some not so common) myths surrounding home education (in England at least). These are all things that people have told us they believed to be true.

Please remember that this is just my personal understanding of the current situation. If you are searching for the most up to date legal information about home education then check out this page – I shall be posting details of some websites we have found useful on there.

You have to follow the National Curriculum. This is not true and not only for home educators – for instance private schools are not required to follow it either. The law states that all children must receive an ‘efficient full-time education’ that takes account of their ‘age, ability and aptitude’, and to any special educational needs they may have. This can be ‘either by regular attendance at school or otherwise’ (Section 7 Education Act 1996). It is education that is compulsory, not school, and it is parents who are responsible for their child’s education whether or not they attend school.

You have to do testsDefinitely not. Individuals may wish to test their own knowledge and skills in a variety of different ways, this is entirely their choice. There are a number of reasons why testing is used in schools, the ‘setting’ or ‘streaming’ of pupils and the compilation of school league tables immediately come to mind – these have no relevance in education at home. In our experience it has become increasingly easy to identify evidence of learning without any need to use formal testing. Is testing an effective measure of real learning anyway? Cramming our short term memory full of facts to regurgitate for an exam and then forgetting it all a few days later familiar to anyone? And speaking of exams…well, being home-educated does not prevent children from taking them and many choose to do so often achieving excellent results!

You have to be a teacher to take your children out of school.  As a parent, and so responsible for their education, you do not have to send your child to school at all. As for the suggestion that you have to be a teacher for anyone to learn from you, well that’s an interesting notion! Clearly our children start learning from us the moment they are born and maybe even before. The amazing skills of walking and talking are great examples of learning without any teaching involved. Of course that doesn’t mean that as parents we don’t play an important role in helping our children to learn to walk and talk. Along with modelling these skills and offering other opportunities to see them in action, there is a lot of support and encouragement given. We stand right there alongside them to help deal with any stress and to manage any risks they face along the way. We supply useful resources and make sure that the environment is organised to maximise opportunities for them to learn these highly complex skills – sounds like a good starting point for the provision of an ‘efficient education’ right from those early days!

You have to be inspected by Ofsted. No inspection required! If you have a child in school and then decide to de-register them and home educate, you just have to let the school know, in writing preferably, and away you go. You do not have to tell the local authority although the school should inform them. There is no duty on the local authority to monitor the education you provide but they do have a role in investigating where there are concerns that no education is being offered. What this means in practice is that you may be invited to meet with someone or asked to give written evidence of what you are up to – best to consult those links again for detailed information on this if it concerns you.

You have to wear a uniform. Maybe not many people would think this, but at least one person did so it gets a mention…

You have to do school-work in school hours and follow school terms. Home education offers flexibility for children to learn in all manner of different ways whenever and wherever – some of what they do may look like the work that is commonly undertaken at school and some of it may bear no resemblance whatsoever. Families have the freedom to organise their life however best suits them.    

You won’t be as clever.  The skills and knowledge that are seen as valuable will vary between individuals and cultures, and across space and time, so it is hard to pin down what clever actually means. However any online search will reveal many examples of people who were home educated and have done amazing things with their lives, all clever in someone’s eyes!

Home education may not suit everyone but neither does school…

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