Getting started home educating

If you are uncertain about the legal requirements of home educating, 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. 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. We can assume that education involves classrooms, curricula and age-related targets. Yet natural learning has been around for millennia. Children learn and absorb information through conversation and everyday life. This makes far more sense than trying to fit thirty or more children into the same mould.

Making an official start?

Some children want a ‘proper’ beginning to their home education, when their friends start school. Or perhaps you’d like to celebrate your decision together. Some local home education groups have ‘not back to school’ picnics in September. These can be a great way to get to know others who are in the early stages of home educating.

If your child wants to do something ‘schoolish’, then you could perhaps get hold of a few suitable workbooks from a large bookshop.  You could then find a set 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, it’s not necessary.

There are separate pages on this site 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 teach themselves, or 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.

Home educating an older child

If your child has been in school for more than a year or two, you may want to begin home education slowly and informally. This is particularly the case if you have taken them out of school due to problems such as bullying, Another page describes the process known as ‘de-schooling’. This is where parents and children learn to adjust to life without school. Over the first few months you can decide 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. This should help you get an idea of what kind of home educating 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 obtain them. If he has no ideas, see what he considers essential, if anything. Some older children manage to educate themselves autonomously. This can happen 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 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, and go through them together. Don’t worry about written work. You can chat about what you find, or digress to different topics, and can take as long (or short) as you wish.

However, many home educators don’t plan ever to use a school again. If so, there’s no need to use any kind of workbook or curriculum unless it’s what your child wants. ‘Education’ is a very loose term. Most motivated children will, sooner or later, want to learn for themselves.

Talking to the Local Education Authority

You might  want to think about how you would discuss your child’s education with the LEA if they approach you. They have no right to stop you from educating your child at home, unless they believe 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 prepare in advance 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. 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 do you have to have visits at home from the LEA although you may choose to. You don’t have to have a room set aside for educational purposes. Nor do you have to have any qualifications, nor to use any specific books or other resources.

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