Getting started home educating

If you are uncertain about the legal requirements of home education, which are minimal in the UK, then you might like to read the pages about preparing to home educate a pre-school age child, or de-registering an older child from school.

Home educating with a young child

If your child is young and has never been to school or any kind of structured educational environment, then you will not need to do much adjusting. Your child has learned to walk and talk, and to listen to stories and ask questions… and most children, if encouraged to learn in their own style, at their own pace, will absorb information and figure out most of what they need to know from everyday life.

This can seem a bit scary to those of use who grew up with the ‘compulsory schooling’ model which involves classrooms and curricula, and age-related expectations. Yet natural learning has been around for millennia, and makes far more sense than trying to fit thirty or more children into the same mould.

If you want to celebrate, in some way, your child reading so-called ‘compulsory school age’, when education is officially required, then you can of course get hold of a few suitable workbooks from a large bookshop, or find a time each day when you do some reading or writing together. Some young children enjoy the structure, and the feeling of being ‘big enough’ to do ‘schoolwork’. However, unless your child asks for something like this, he or she can learn just as well through casual conversation, books that you would read anyway, and everyday life.

There are separate pages discussing how to help a young child to learn to read, and how to introduce simple maths concepts to young children, with links to further examples of overt education. But please treat these as a last resort; many children will essentially teach themselves, or at least determine how they are going to learn, without any direction from parents. Trust your child’s innate curiosity, and you are likely to be pleasantly surprised.

Starting to home educate an older child

If your child has been in school for more than a year or two, and particularly if you have taken them out of school due to problems such as bullying, you may want to begin home education very slowly and informally. Another page describes the process known as ‘de-schooling’, where parents and children (or teenagers) together learn to adjust to life without school, and to determine together what they want to learn, and how they will go about it.

During your first few months, it’s a good idea to observe your child’s learning style and general interests, to get an idea of what kind of education will work best. Talk with your child about how he would like his education to continue. If an older child or teenager has ideas about a future career, consider any qualifications he might need, and how he might go about obtaining them. If he has no ideas, see what he considers essential – if anything. Some older children manage to educate themselves entirely autonomously, by – for instance – reading books, playing computer games, watching documentaries, and asking questions.

If you or your child are treating home education as a temporary measure, you might want to stay at least roughly in touch with the National Curriculum for core subjects. The easiest way to do this is to pick up a few workbooks from a large bookshop such as WH Smiths, and go through them together. Written work isn’t necessary – you can chat about what you find, or digress to different topics, and can take as long (or short) as you wish.

However, if you don’t plan ever to use a school again, then there’s really no need to use any kind of workbook or curriculum unless it’s what your child wants. ‘Education’ is a very loose term, and most motivated children will, sooner or later, want to learn for themselves.

Talking to the Local Education Authority

You might also want to think about how you would like to discuss your child’s education with the LEA if they approach you with a request for information. They have no right to stop you from educating your child at home, unless they are convinced that no education of any kind is happening, but they are able to make informal queries, after the de-schooling and adjustment period. There is no guarantee that they will get in touch, but it’s better to be prepared than to become flustered by an unexpected query.

The two most popular approaches are inviting the LEA visitor to your home for a meeting (with or without the children present) or writing them a letter. Each involves explaining your educational philosophy. Some people are more comfortable meeting strangers and explaining things face-to-face, while others prefer written communication, and it’s your right to decide how you wish to communicate. Whether or not you give them a list of resources you plan to use is up to you. Every home educating family is different.

Note that you are not obliged to follow the National Curriculum, nor to have visits at home from the LEA although you may decide to choose to do either of these. You are not obliged to have a room set aside for educational purposes, nor to have any qualifications, nor to use any specific books or other resources.

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