What Parents Say about Home Education

What’s been said?

Little has been said in the media recently about current issues concerning HE. This is almost certainly because all eyes were on the political conference season, with both Houses of Parliament only resuming normal business on Tues 9th October.

However, on 25th September Huff Post (UK) published an interesting and wide-ranging investigation by Rachel Moss entitled, “What It’s Really Like To Homeschool Your Kids – By The Parents Actually Doing It“.

Featuring five sets of parents from all over the country, their reasons for choosing HE and how it plays out for them in the reality of day to day living, Moss also incorporates some important background issues relating to HE in general.

Having established that the legal requirement in the UK is for children to be in full-time education rather than necessarily in school, Moss opens with comments from Dan Rust of Birmingham to suggest a “growing focus on community within home education” as one conceivable reason behind its increasing popularity. It is quite possible for parents who join forces to provide their children with a varied and stimulating “alternative learning experience”.

Rachel Plummer from Edinburgh has a similar opinion, frequently attending community meet-ups with her two young children where “parents contribute in any way they can”. She is also said to appreciate the freedom from some aspects of school such as “bullying [and] an emphasis on conformity” and is pleased that her children can “follow their interests and work at their own pace”.

Gee Gardiner from the Cotswolds brings an interesting perspective to the table, having been partially home educated herself and now HE her own two girls aged eight and two. Her comments begin with the observation that,”Mainstream school is very much a square peg, round hole, tick-box scenario”, and she empathises with overstretched teachers trying to support many different learning styles.

Moss’s account also provides a fair representation of the variety of approaches to structure and curriculum, ranging from those who “do not plan set sessions each day”, asserting that “learning ‘evolves naturally’ from the family’s surroundings” and taking a child-centred approach, to a former headteacher from Lincolnshire, Cherry Newby, who adhered quite closely to the National Curriculum when she home educated her eight-year-old daughter for a year.

Despite Newby’s counsel to other potential HE parents to keep the NC in the back of their minds, her observations about home educated children were generous and unbiased: “However, I often have found that home educated children are far ahead of their peers in communication, language, social skills, resilience and independence – all of which are as important, if not more, than being able to recite their times tables.

Why does it matter?

This article is easily accessible, with plenty of human interest. Although Rachel Moss is reticent about her own views on HE, her piece does not have negative overtones. It could help to raise awareness of HE amongst a different readership or boost confidence in those still considering their options.

Her article covers a good range of reasons why parents may opt for HE, addressing concerns such as school being perceived as “too rigid”, or children being too young when they start school. It is honest about the physical and emotional demands upon parents, citing Rachel Plummer’s advice about learning “how to pace yourself or you’ll burn out.”

The financial implications of being a one income family are clearly articulated, but the closing quotation from Bethan Armstrong of Birmingham shows that for her family at least, the benefits clearly outweigh any disadvantages: “self-directed learning is the biggest gift we can give to our children for their whole lives.”

What can I do?

Keep this article to hand for those occasions when you’d like to cite examples of other HE families unconnected with yourself or your own immediate sphere. Bookmark the page in your browser so you can easily forward the link to those friends who may question the wisdom of home education.