Thinking of homeschooling
Updated: Jan 18, 2020
Education is compulsory - school is optional
We're thinking of homeschooling. I've always thought of it as a bit rebellious and I'm well over that phase. But there it is. We like the school the children attend but we don't much like the system. This from someone who has worked in education for over 20 years looking at the statistics and outcomes of schools. I've been a school Governor and I know the National Curriculum. I've been a tutor but I'm not a teacher.
Our kids, aged 10 and 6 are quite bright and do well in school but the classes of 30 and the National Curriculum don't push them enough in my opinion. They both love extra curricular activities like sports and drama as well as academic studies like English, maths and science.
I've started to look into homeschooling, triggered by a separate life-changing opportunity (which I'll come onto when we know more detail), and it's been inspiring. The first good blog page I came across was this one which helped me look at homeschooling as an opportunity not a challenge. The idea that I don't have to prescribe the learning, instead letting them take the lead.
Having done some searches, the positives seem quite high and the negatives are from people who seem to have an issue with the idea. Lots of people seem to choose home education because their children aren't getting on at school because of special needs or bullying. Those situations don't apply to us, so I'll not consider the arguments which relate to those. We each have to do what we feel is right for our children. I've always said my job as a parent is to give them as many opportunities as I can to allow them to make decisions, when they're old enough, that they can be confident with or so they can recognise when they've made a bad decision. Because I know that they will struggle to get a job without a few GCSEs I plan to make sure they get some of those. But apart from that, the world is their oyster, right? They have to learn about how life is fairly ordinary most of the time, about supporting each other, responsibilities and how you have to figure out how to get along with people you don't like much. But this I see as basic parenting, not schooling. Learning, surely, is about wanting to know more about what interests you, about finding out, about passion for a subject. Not learning the same thing as everyone else. Come on, when was the last time you used trigonometry? Or labelled the parts of a kidney?
Some of the obvious questions: How do you keep them occupied all day? (aren't we going to get fractious?) They only have to do actual learning for a few hours a day - think about it - they're at school for around 6 hours with an hour lunch break plus play times, plus however long it takes to put away coats and book bags and take the register twice a day, that leaves around 4 hours actual teaching time. This remaining time is shared with the 29 other children in the class (including the one who takes a disproportionate amount of the teacher's attention) and is aimed at the educational level of the average child. Granted, they do add challenge for the more capable children, but for the most part they're learning as a class. This blog suggests only 51 minutes a day would be equivalent to actual classroom learning time. This takes the pressure off a bit. I'd been thinking I'd have to spend 9 to 3 with them at a desk studying but that's because I'm stuck in a classroom mindset. I need to think "outside the classroom". There are plenty of on-line resources for home learning, day-trips (which will be quieter with everyone else at school) and groups of home educators to join.
What about friends? Kids make friends easily, their school friends, as we parents would generally agree, will not likely be their friends as adults. Mine attend out of school classes already: karate, football, drama club so will be spending regular time with those like-minded children. Research on home educated children (Paula Rothermel, University of Durham, 2002) states that 19% of their respondents "believed their children would suffer if the parents did not find friends for them, although this 'left out' feeling was very much a parental issue and not one echoed by the children". It also says "families found they were constantly questioned in the street and their children were asked questions about their maths and reading skills. In the questionnaires, this constant questioning and related feeling of being different was given as the main disadvantage of home-education. There was however, evidence of increasing acceptance within the community." This worries me a bit to be honest, but this research was in 2002 when they estimated around 25,000 children were being home-educated. The BBC recently estimated it at 48,000 so hopefully more people will be understanding now.
How long to do it for? That's a "cross that bridge when we get there" kind of question because we don't yet know how it will work out. It might suit one of my children better than the other because of their personalities and/or their ages or their skills. We might want to time it so that when the older one goes to secondary phase we have the option. I'm worried about exams and qualifications and my need to conform but I'm hoping this outlook will change once I get going. I'll come back to this question over time.
How to fund it? I'm in a flexible role working part-time already, so I can juggle my time to suit us. I know this is a useful scenario and not everyone is in the same position, but I suppose I wouldn't be considering home education if I didn't already have that sort of time.