Perhaps you have researched the topic fully, and are fairly sure that your child would benefit from home education. But what do you need to do in advance? This page looks at the legal aspects in general terms, and covers questions you might ask while preparing to home educate. It assumes you will be starting before the child has ever gone to school.
If your child is in school, see the page about de-registering a child from school. If you have not done that, or if you are well-informed about home educating, see: getting started with home education.
Pre-‘school’ children and home education
If you live in the UK, and your child has never been to school, and if you have not applied for entry at any school, you do not need to do anything if you decide to home educate. It is your right to choose how to educate your child, and you do not have to inform anybody.
If your child is under 5, and his or her name is down for entry at a local school, it would be a good idea to phone the secretary and explain that your arrangements are changing, so the name can be removed. This is a courtesy, not a requirement, since you could have put him down for several schools, or be moving away. You do not have to explain what other arrangements you are making.
If you have formally accepted a place for your child at a local school, in writing, then you should write a further letter, informing the school that you no longer require the place. Again, you have no need to let them know that you are intending to start home education. You can say that you are ‘making other arrangements’ and that is sufficient.
If your child has attended a nursery class attached to a school, his name may automatically be entered on the school register. He is not technically ‘registered’ until the first day he starts in the Reception class. Nevertheless, it is important to ensure that the school remove his name from the school register. You do not need to send a formal de-registration letter, as you would if he had already attended school (see below). But you should inform the school, in writing, that you do not require the place. It may be worth having a word with the school secretary, to ensure that they remove your child’s name from the register.
Your right to educate your child at home
If friends or acquaintances ask questions about your child’s education, you might want to think of general replies that will not involve you in a lengthy discussion. You could say, with truth, that you are planning to ‘educate your child privately’. However, if you feel confident in your rights, this can be an excellent time to let people know about the legality of parents educating their children at home.
Reading the book ‘Free Range Education’ (see Books about home education for details) may give you some ideas. It’s probably not a good idea to be defensive. Remember that it is your legal right to choose how you want to educate your child. It is not the responsibility of the local education authority, or the local school, or, indeed the health visitor! It may be a good idea to talk about a year at a time, rather than trying to answer questions about the teenage years.
Some families plan to try home education until their child was seven or eight, and then continue. Others may decide to make use of the local schools if and when the child wants to go there. Nothing needs to be final. It is always a good thing to keep your options open as far as possible.
Some families have clear ideas about how they want to educate their children. You might want to use a curriculum, for instance. Some people like to use workbooks related to the UK national curriculum, which you can find in most bookshops. But you don’t have to do anything in advance. You probably already have plenty of resources, and have already taught your child a great deal. There is no need to mark the start of home education, if your child never goes to school.
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