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      02.09.2012 20:51
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      This isn't so much a 'how to get started' more answering the most common questions I get asked!

      Now I will freely admit to having a bit of a vested interest in this given that we Home Educate. This may turn into a bit of a rant sometimes and I may come across like I am anti-Government. I'm really not; I just resent how the majority of Local Authorities conduct themselves. It's just a subject that I'm very passionate about and it's very close to my heart. Have been working on this for a while so sorry if it's really long! These are my own thoughts/opinions and I do not in any way represent the Home Educating community.


      **** A little background ****

      In 2004, on an idle afternoon (in which I was supposed to be revising for my GCSEs) I got bored, so I downloaded some software as MSN chat rooms had closed and I was an avid text-based RP'er. On there, I met a boy who I found absolutely charming; he was very knowledgeable and challenged me when we talked. So I asked his age and it turned out he was younger than me. As it was mid-afternoon I asked if he'd snuck on at school. The answer was no, he was Home Educated. For almost three years we talked on and off, with long periods of not speaking for one reason and another. Eventually we met, sparks flew, and we are still together over 5 years later. I passed my GCSEs by the way ;). To this day he still challenges me daily, whether that is with what I know, the way I think, and more importantly knows how to debate respectfully without insulting other people. A skill a lot of people these days don't learn how to do unless they go to University unfortunately, it certainly wasn't something I learnt at school, and even now I still sometimes feel like a fish out of water when we get into heavy debates. A few months after the sparks flew; we found out rather unexpectedly that I was pregnant. So we discussed whether we wanted to Home Educate or send him to school, it took a long time for us to reach a decision and I researched the different ways to Home Educate and the laws surrounding it. We decided that we are Home Educating, at least until the age of 7, but if our son decides he would like to attend school we will follow his lead.

      *** So what is the legal position regarding Home Education? ***

      In the UK we are extremely lucky to have the legal option to Home Educate, and not only that, for there to be no restrictions on how Home Education takes places giving parents the right to tailor the education to their child's needs. This section may get a bit tedious as I have quoted directly from the 1996 Education Act.
      The law is very clear. From the term after a child turns 5 up until the age of 16 (soon to be 18 if it isn't already) while Education is compulsory, receiving that education through school is not. It is also very clear that a child's education is always the parent's responsibility whether it is provided by school or otherwise.

      Under section 7 of the 1996 education act it states:
      'The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable

      a) to his age ability and aptitude,
      and b) any special educational needs he may have, either by attendance at a school or otherwise.'

      You do not have to register to Home Educate, take any tests, or have permission to Home Educate nor do Local Authorities have any requirement to monitor (though they do tend to 'conveniently' forget this).

      Under section 437 of the 1996 education act it also states:

      " If it appears to a local education authority that a child of compulsory school age in their area is not receiving suitable education, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise, they shall serve a notice in writing on the parent...."

      Putting it simply, this doesn't give the Local Authorities any extra duties. It just gives them the right to intervene if it appears that absolutely no education is taking place. And they have to PROVE that NO education is taking place. In which case they can issue a School Attendance Order which leads us to the other relevant bits of section 437.

      (2)That period shall not be less than 15 days beginning with the day on which the notice is served. (This gives the parent the chance to show that a suitable education is being provided)
      (3)If--

      (a) a parent on whom a notice has been served under subsection (1) fails to satisfy the local education authority, within the period specified in the notice, that the child is receiving suitable education, and
      (b) in the opinion of the authority it is expedient that the child should attend school,
      the authority shall serve on the parent an order (referred to in this Act as a "school attendance order"), in such form as may be prescribed, requiring him to cause the child to become a registered pupil at a school named in the order.

      (4)A school attendance order shall (subject to any amendment made by the local education authority) continue in force for so long as the child is of compulsory school age, unless--
      (a) it is revoked by the authority, or

      (b) a direction is made in respect of it under section 443(2) or 447(5)."

      It looks crystal clear no? Section 437 is regularly used by Local Authorities. Unfortunately they are not upfront about the fact and they often give out information that is questionable at best. Which is why a lot of Home Educators choose to have nothing to do with them as far as is possible to do so. Though some Local Authorities have a good understanding of the law they can quickly become a bad one once there is a staff change or someone retires.

      If it comes to a Local Authority's attention that a parent is Home Educating, they can make informal enquiries about the parent's educational provision. It is advisable for the parent to respond otherwise the Local Authority may assume that no education is taking place. However legally, that is all the Local Authority can do.

      They do not have the right to:

      Monitor annually (or however often they want to check up).
      Arrange a meeting either at your home or elsewhere (This can be declined by the parent and they have no right of access to your home).
      See the child's work.
      See the child.
      Threaten with a School Attendance Order if you don't cooperate.
      Doorstep you at your home.
      Put your child on the CME (Child missing education) register without sufficient reason.
      Ask why you are Home Educating.
      Grade the educational provision.
      (I may add to this section later)

      *** But if children are Home Educated doesn't that put them at more risk of child abuse? ***

      Putting it simply, no they are not. While of course there will be exceptions to this, statistically Home Educated children have one of the lowest child abuse figures. A few years ago 90 LAs had FOI requests sent to them asking for the statistics for Home Educated children that they knew about who were known to social care (Known doesn't always mean they were abused - sometimes parents are reported to social services not the LEA for not sending their child to school and by law social services have to check it out). Only 25 replied but it was found that (these are estimates given the poor response):

      Abuse rate in HE Community 0.32%
      Abuse rate nationally (all children) 1.30%
      (It won't let me add the link as it goes above the character limit, message me if you want the link to view the statistics)

      It is important to note that Home Education in itself is not a welfare issue and it should not be treated as such.

      *** The Badman Report ***

      A few years the Badman report came out, and it very nearly came into legislation, however it was fought tooth and nail and the Government never managed to get it passed. It was a very difficult time for Home Educators and our reputation was smeared on more than one occasion.

      I have tried to put the link to it here but if says it's too many characters, if you want to see it then feel free to message me.

      The main recommendation was as follows:

      "This scheme should be common to all local authorities.

      - Registration should be renewed annually.
      - Those who are registering for the first time should be visited by the appropriate local authority officer within one month of registration.

      - Local authorities should ensure that all home educated children and young people already known to them are registered on the new scheme within one month of its inception and visited over the following twelve months, following the commencement of any new legislation.
      - Provision should be made to allow registration at a local school, children's centre or other public building as determined by the local authority.

      - When parents are thinking of de-registering their child/children from school to home educate, schools should retain such pupils on roll for a period of 20 school days so that should there be a change in circumstances, the child could be readmitted to the school. This period would also allow for the resolution of such difficulties that may have prompted the decision to remove the child from school.
      - National guidance should be issued on the requirements of registration and be made available on-line and at appropriate public buildings. Such guidance must include a clear statement of the statutory basis of elective home education and the rights and responsibilities of parents.

      - At the time of registration parents/carers/guardians must provide a clear statement of their educational approach, intent and desired/planned outcomes for the child over the following twelve months.
      - Guidance should be issued to support parents in this task with an opportunity to meet local authority officers to discuss the planned approach to home education and develop the plan before it is finalised. The plan should be finalised within eight weeks of first registration.

      - As well as written guidance, support should encompass advice from a range of advisers and organisations, including schools. Schools should regard this support as a part of their commitment to extended schooling.
      - Where a child is removed from a school roll to be home educated, the school must provide to the appropriate officer of the local authority a record of the child's achievement to date and expected achievement, within 20 school days of the registration, together with any other school records.

      - Local authorities must ensure that there are mechanisms/systems in place to record and review registrations annually."

      Under recommendation 7 it was also suggested that:

      - That designated local authority officers should:
      - have the right of access to the home;
      - have the right to speak with each child alone if deemed appropriate or, if a child is particularly vulnerable or has particular communication needs, in the company of a trusted person who is not the home educator or the parent/carer.
      In so doing, officers will be able to satisfy themselves that the child is safe and well.
      - That a requirement is placed upon local authorities to secure the monitoring of the effectiveness of elective home education as determined in Recommendation 1.

      - That parents be required to allow the child through exhibition or other means to demonstrate both attainment and progress in accord with the statement of intent lodged at the time of registration.
      If the Badman report had been successful it would have removed the fundamental right to a family life as it was invasive, and bordering on dictatorial. On the surface it doesn't sound that bad however the last person to introduce something like this started WWII. Now I am not in any way, shape or form comparing Badman to him, but if we ever did get a Prime Minister that way inclined it would have devastating consequences. Not only that but even the Police don't have right of access to your home unless they have reason to believe you have broken the law or are assisting social services.

      It would make it harder for those children wanting to be Home Educated because of bullying to be de-registered from school. It would also make it harder for parents to tailor-make the education to their child's needs as the majority of LA employees (not all, there are some good ones who understand the different approaches) see Home Education as being school at home.

      It is the Badman report that contributed to some Home Educators not trusting LAs, when the review was taking place LEA officials infiltrated Home Ed groups without stating where they work, and used quotes out of context to make abuse look more likely. As a result, understandably some Home Educators want nothing to do with the LAs and can get very defensive about their choices.

      Not only that they used horrific child abuse cases and blamed them on Home Education. E.g. Victoria Climbie and Khyra Ishaq. Victoria Climbie was never de-registered from school and Khyra Ishaq was never electively Home Educated. Both were known to social services and both were let down by the system. They were truly tragic cases and instead of the authorities admitting it, they blamed Home Education. Eventually it was resolved in court (in the Khyra Ishaq case - I'm not sure about Victoria Climbie, although the NSPCC were forced to make an apology to the Home Ed community because of a public statement they made) and the authorities were rightly blamed and dealt with.

      The LAs were fully expecting the Badman report to be passed, and as a result we are still suffering the after effect years later, as they had already started implementing the policies, which now have no basis in law.

      It was also covered in the press but it's too many characters so can't add the link, again message me if you want to see it, or look it up on 'The Guardian'

      *** But how do they socialise? ***

      Ah, that old chestnut.
      There is a quote:

      "Forced association is not socialisation"

      Home Education does not mean that the home is the only place education takes place. Home Educated children don't stay at home all day, and they don't only get to socialise with their own age group. They can socialise with anyone they choose, whether that be in shops, at the park, drama groups, scouts, brownies and many more. In fact I personally would argue that it gives children more opportunities for socialisation as they're not confined to one place all day.

      There are also active Home Ed communities throughout most of the UK and in most areas you will find a group that meets regularly for Home Educated children, my son has benefited massively from these and really enjoys them and he is very sociable. He also attends groups where some children are not Home Educated and loves going to the park with his friends and making new ones while he is there!

      *** How will they pass exams if they've never been to school? ***

      The bottom line is, children who are Home educated do not have do take the national curriculum; therefore they do not have to take the exams that come with it. However, some parents choose to follow the national curriculum and some children may find that the career they are interested in requires certain qualifications.
      There are many ways to take exams or to get the qualification required. Some parents go through the LEA to register their children for the exams. Some go through the Open University, ICSlearn, NEC to name but a few. There are plenty more available.

      Some parents choose to do Autonomous learning, which is completely child-led and follows the child's interest. The theory is that if they learn about what they are interested in then other things will be learnt as a by-product. My partner was taught autonomously and has taught me things I'd never even heard about through school. This is the approach we take with our son, however as he is still very small this may be subject to change in the future. Child-led doesn't necessarily mean unstructured either, some children naturally lean towards a more structured approach and prefer it that way. but there are as many approaches to Home Education as there are to parenting. The Home Education community is so diverse, and in my opinion it is what makes it so great as well as being so supportive and respectful of each other.

      *** Do you need any qualifications to Home Educate? ***


      Quite simply, no.

      *** So how do you know you're giving your child a suitable education? ***

      In law, there is no definition of a 'suitable education' it is classed as 'achieving what it sets out to achieve' with reference to Home Education.

      The reason schools are regulated is because they have to prove that they are giving the children a suitable education on the parent's behalf. This doesn't apply to Home Educated children because the parent is educating their child directly.

      You know your child best, and they are always learning, even when it looks like they're doing nothing. However because school is seen as the 'norm' these days it can be difficult concept for other people to grasp.

      Schools were never meant to be the main source of a child's education, in fact their original purpose was to be supplementary to a person's learning because a child's education is the responsibility of the parent, it was originally assumed that a parent would teach their child and then if there was anything extra they wanted to learn they would attend school. Somewhere along the line this was changed, however education being the parent's responsibility never did.

      *** Isn't it expensive? ***

      If you Home Educate there is no funding allocated to your child, like there would be if you sent them to school. So the full cost falls to you. It is as expensive as you make it. There are families who have a decent income and there are also families on a low income who Home Educate. Having a low income doesn't mean you cannot Home Educate. There are lots of free sources available both on-line and via the library. There are also places you can visit which are also free, including some heritage centres. There are also lots of educational programs on TV via the discovery channel etc. and if you have free-view the BBC has some good history shows, cooking shows etc.

      *** If you are constantly with your children, how do you work? ***

      It's not as difficult as it may sound. While there are some parents who claim Government benefits for one reason or another (like in all walks of life). Recent Government changes however have made it much more difficult to be a Home Educating parent who needs benefits as they are based around parents who send their children to school, and don't take into account any exceptions to the rule. Disabled parents can also find it difficult, as although they are not supposed to be, they find they get judged on the fact that they Home Educate and it is sometimes given as a reason for not getting the points they need to qualify, in some cases it has been used by assessors to show that they can stick to a routine and work, even though in most cases they work around their disability. (Though obviously this is not confined to Home Educators, some people have been denied points on the basis that they can send E-mails and use a computer! Even though they can only use it for a few minutes at a time) Even though it is illegal for them to do so, the majority of cases win their appeal because of this fact. Just because a person is disabled doesn't mean they cannot Home Educate and as I listed in the advantages you can tailor the education to the child, and make up your own timetable with them and work around any challenges either of you face.

      There are also parents who work full-time. Like you would if your child was in school, you fit your hours around their education. For some it means both parents working part-time, or having one parent working full-time, for others they work from home freelancing, or set up an on-line business. These are just a few, there are lots of possibilities, some even do child-minding in their home.


      This may get updated again in the future.
      For more information on Home Education visit: http://www.home-education.org.uk

      ** This is also posted on ciao under the same name **

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      • More +
        01.05.2012 16:47
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        Makes learning fun - most of the time :)

        I have read a number of articles entitled "Is Home Education right for you?" These really focus on the costs and time issues from the parents perspective. Many seem to start with the assumption that home education is the best form of education there is, so it is just a matter of a pep talk for Mom. Don't get me wrong, I think home education is wonderful - but it isn't for everyone. If you are considering home education, I feel the most important factor is whether it is right for your child or not. If you have more than one child, you may find that home education is the best choice for one, but not for another. I think the most important aspect is whether home education is best for the child, but the whole family must be considered. Home education requires a lot of time and commitment, and there will be some expenses as well.

        WHY HOME EDUCATE?

        The reasons to home educate are as varied as the families who choose this path. Our family started with home education simply because I felt the school starting age in Northern Ireland was to low. P1 in Northern Ireland starts when children are only 4 years old, with most children starting nursery at age 3, or even as young as 2. I had only intended to teach my son for the first year or two - but the old saying "If it isn't broke don't fix it" applies here. My son is happy with home education, and does not want to attend the local primary. I believe he is learning much more at home, and still has more free time. I'm afraid there really is no local school - he would need to be bussed - and there are several problems with the school he would attend - the most glaring being the large number of boys who never learn to read, but violence, supervision, and other issues have also been raised.

        Many families home educate simply because they feel there child will learn more at home. The flip side of this are families who home educate because they feel children should not be forced to learn academic subjects until they choose to do so. A large number of families began home home educating in rural areas as a result of school closures. Others just like the idea of the family spending more time together, having more free time, and being able to let each child explore and develop their own interests.

        I think the most serious reason for home education though is bullying. A large number of home educated children are in home education because the school was unwilling or unable to cope with serious bullying issues. Yes, we all faced bullies growing up. Even with home education, my son is not immune to bullying, it is something children must learn to cope with. But when a child can not get away from it, day after day, and no one seems willing or able to help, it is certainly going to lead to some problems. Some children have their entire childhood blighted by bullying, living every day in dread. If a child is really miserable due to this type of treatment - home education can be a real life saver --- literally in some cases.

        IS HOME EDUCATION RIGHT FOR YOUR CHILD?

        I think the best person to answer this question is your child. If they are already in school, they will know very well if they are happy and thriving in that environment. If they haven't started school yet, you can still discuss with them the idea, perhaps plan a visit and look at several books on the subject. With a young child it easy to give home education a trial period, and see how it works for everyone. Even with an older child, you can discuss what would be expected and give it a trial period. They can always go back to school if it isn't working.

        ARE YOU QUALIFIED TO TEACH YOUR CHILD?

        If you are reading this review, then in most cases the answer is yes. Home education does require a literate parent, but if you can read, you can learn anything you need to know as you go along. There are exceptions. I certainly would not be able to teach a teenager studying for their A levels, but if you have time you can take adult classes, get books and learn as you teach if need be. Teaching a younger child is really not complicated. There are several excellent online resources, and plenty of books to help you get started, but it is far easier than most people think. If you spend enough time reading to a child, they can learn almost anything - throw in some maths workbooks and programmes, a few home made books, mad science experiments and plenty of trips out and about and you should do splendidly. In all honesty - I don't teach very much. We just read, explore and experiment together. Sometimes I learn as much as the children do.

        THE LAW

        The wording of the law varies for different parts of the UK, but in short all of the UK requires that a child shall "receive efficient full-time education suitable to his age, ability and aptitude, and to any special educational needs he may have, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise." It is the otherwise clause that home educators use. The law does state that children must receive an education ( although it is extremely vague on what constitutes a suitable education and I feel they are unlikely to clarify this as a great many schools would fail any realistic standards - such as learning to read). If your child has been previously attending school - you will need to submit a letter of reregistration.

        Once we get beyond the basic premise that home education is legal though - it can all get very confusing. Just how much right the local education authority has to intervene is a matter of much debate and I have no intention of offering legal advise where I am clearly not qualified to do so. Personally, I chose to inform the local school board. I have a good relationship with them and welcome yearly visits and advice. Other parents refuse any contact. Many parents are already upset with the school board before pulling their child out of school, but if at all possible, try to stay calm, rational and as silly as this may sound - be nice. I've found most people are much more cooperative if approach them politely and in a friendly manner. I would advise parents very strongly - do not take one persons word for anything on legal issues . They may mean well, but they may also be mistaken. I would suggest contacting Education Otherwise for any clarification of legal issues.

        CURRICULUUM:

        There are several pre packaged curriculums that offer everything you need for each grade level. These are very expensive though. Most UK home educators create their own curriculum. We use a combination of a few educational computer programmes, various maths workbooks, primarily Kumon, a couple of phonics sets, a few reading and writing workbooks, home made books and lots and lots of books on everything else. I feel having a child help make their own books ( an idea stolen from Steiner schools) is very helpful, and we have many books we made ourselves using photo albums or document display folders a wonderful way for children to learn reading, writing and several other skills as well. Some of our home made books include alphabet books, a book on space, dinosaurs, the seasons, and a few fiction titles. We also keep a large variety of fiction and non fiction books, making sure both children always have plenty of reading material to choose from encompassing a wide variety of subjects and formats.

        COSTS:

        I have read several articles stating that you can home educate for free - all you need is a local library. I expect this is possible, assuming you have a decent library, but I also feel it is very unlikely. I spent £100 when I first started home educating for a lifetime membership to an excellent educational site. This would otherwise have cost me £8 a month. I also subscribe to National Geographic Kids and currently have a 2 year membership on another educational site - but I was able to get these free through Tesco clubcard points. I would also recommend home educators with children who are not reading yet invest in a really good phonics programme. This could easily cost £100, although you might try to make do with much cheaper versions, and some can be purchased a bit at a time. I would suggest a set of levelled readers as well, such as Oxford Reading Tree and this may cost you anywhere from £20 to a few hundred pounds. A few trips are really necessary too, but some, like the seaside, forest or museums can be very low cost. A computer is pretty high on my list of resources, but if you are reading this, I expect you have one. We also have a very good microscope, a telescope and several other gadgets, but you could make do without most of these.

        Of course there are many educational items you probabley already own. You may have a good collection of books already. You quite likely have scales, measuring jugs and baking supplies. You may have magnets, magnifying glasses, and all sorts of art materials. A jar of coins can be highly educational, as can a box of cars or lego. I think children can learn a lot from cooking, baking, and even shopping. Nothing teaches maths skills quite so easily as giving them x amount of money to spend! Board games, dominoes, blocks, cards etc.. can all be turned to educational purposes, and there really is a lot of material available free online as well.

        That leaves us with art supplies, science kits, building kits and models, paper and pens, folders and most importantly books. I don't even want to think of what I spend on books. Of course I would buy a number of books anyway. I feel like having children without books is like keeping fish without water. But as a home educator, you really do need more books than the average family. You need a large variety of reading books, and preferably a set of graded readers as well. You will need books on history, science and whatever subjects your child takes a fancy too. Then you will need bookshelves too - lots of them :) I would strongly suggest combing car boot sales, charity shops, ebay and Amazon for real bargains on second hand books, but I would also be prepared to spend a very minimum of £15 - £20 a month on books. Of course if you have more than one child, most of the books will do for both. And while I am suggesting a minimum spend of £15 - £20 a month - in all honesty that is nowhere near what I have actually spent. I have a small fortune in books. I am just saying I can't see possibly getting by on less. I would expect either an initial outlay of £100 or more, or to double this amount for a child just learning to read as well.

        Finally, when considering costs - one must take lost wages into account. One parent really does need to be at home for home education to be considered. On the plus side though, you will save on a few expenses - the school run, school uniforms, school lunches and such. You'll also be able to take family holidays at off peak times, saving a bundle on this, as well as various activities at discounted times - like early afternoon movies.

        SOCIALIZATION:

        This is the biggest issue for non home educators, and a very minor one for any home educator I have spoken too. Of course children need to spend time with other children. But home educated children have more time for hobbies and clubs. My own son participates in karate, Boys Brigade and Sunday School. We spend a lot of time at a family caravan, and he has many friends there, as well as local neighbourhood children to play with. I can remember many teachers telling us we didn't go to school to socialise - yet many people seem to assume that is now the primary function of schools. Certainly some children will not want to leave school and miss seeing their friends everyday. Others are very involved in school activities like football, or other sports. I say if the child wants to go to school - by all means send them. But there are a great many opportunities to socialize without school, and as a parent, I like the fact that my son can choose whom to socialise with, and can avoid children who are excessively violent or disturbed. I do feel home educated children really benefit from having some regular activity away from home though. I feel children need to learn to work with other adults, and participate in some structured activity where things might be run a bit differently than at home.

        YOUNGER SIBLINGS:

        Many parents worry what to do with younger siblings while busy teaching an older one. Of course there have been times my oldest has had to wait while I took care of his brother - but for the most part - my youngest child joins in. I will try to simplify some things for him - but I think he has learned an incredible amount while his brother is being taught. Also as Montessori taught, there are 3 steps to learning : watching, doing and teaching. Being able to teach a younger sibling a new skill is a wonderful way to cement that skill for the older child as well. One of my great joys in life is watching my oldest read to his little brother now - it's definitely one of the "oohhh" moments.

        PROBLEMS:

        I'd like to say home education is all sunshine and light. It isn't. There are times when it can cause conflict between my son and I. The biggest issue is if he takes it easy all day and then wants to go out and play as soon his friends are out. Then I have to be the bad guy and insist he finish his work before running out to play, but I expect this happens with ordinary families and home work as well. I could see this becoming enough of an issue with older children though, that it might make home education too difficult. I feel that if we ever reach the point that it is a constant argument over schoolwork, then it will be time to call it quits. Home education is a privilege in my opinion. Children need to hold up their part of the bargain to keep that privilege. But we are human, and at times we can both get frustrated. If I find a subject is really getting on our nerves, I may scrap it for a day or two and try to come at the problem from a different angle, or even just with fresh attitudes.

        There are also several issues where my sons ask questions I can not answer. Thank the Good Lord for Google. I often tell him a subject will have to wait while Mommy finds out more about this, selecting appropriate websites and ordering books where needed.

        There are also just those days where nothing seems to go right. I do have medical issues, and pf course other things crop up with a family. Some days it is hard to get anything done at all. When we had major work done on the house, I just took a few days off school, but I have resorted to educational videos and computer programmes or just a stack of books on the sofa from time to time. Board games, science kits and various projects can also lighten things up when we feel bogged down with academics.

        OVERALL:

        In spite of the money I spend, and the time it takes, I'm really happy to have been able to teach my son at home, and look forward to doing so as long as he chooses to continue with home ed. I like the fact that we spend so much time as a family. I love reading to my sons, and listening to my son read as well. I really enjoy all of our projects as well, and we have lots of fun memories and keepsakes. I especially like the fact that my son reads well, and reads for pleasure, a rarity where we live. I like that he can pursue his own interests and learn about anything that catches his fancy. I did consider school as a prison sentence when I was young, and I love the fact that my son can look forward to discovery instead of drudgery.

        My son says the best things about home education are: Not having to go to school - having more free time - getting to go to the caravan when everyone else is in school, art and science, getting to choose things to learn about, getting to pick lots of good books to read, reading wherever you want ( like in a ball pit, in bed, or in the garden). He especially loves things like museums, working on things with Dad - like fixing a motorbike and science experiments. The absolute top of the list is anything with explosions, with our quest for the perfect stink bomb a close second.

        He says the worst thing about home education is having to finish your work before playing video games or with friends, workbooks and writing.

        SO - DO YOU WANT TO GIVE A TRY?

        If you are considering home education with a child who is not yet school age, I would say, start early. Find a local home ed group, get a few books and learn all you can about it before hand. Then if you want to give it a try - go for it. You'll find it so much easier than you might expect, and much of home education is just spending time doing things together. I don't believe in formal curriculum for very young children, but it is never too early to start reading. Read to your children as often as possible and explore the world around, making learning fun from an early age.

        If your child is older, and already at school, they really need to be involved in this decision. Sit down and work out what you both expect from home education, even draw up a contract if you wish. Set a trial period and conditions which will allow for home education to continue - or under which it must be scrapped. Ask your child what they want to do when they grow up ( so what if it changes 100 times before then) and let them choose some subjects too. I think unit studies are a great place to start with older children. Pick there favourite subject and let them learn everything about it. I still like the idea of creating your own books, but an older child might also do a video production, a you tube series, or web page on their favourite subject.

        WHAT IF IT DOESN'T WORK - WILL MY CHILD FALL BEHIND?

        This was my biggest fear starting out - what if home ed didn't work, and my son ended up far behind his peers starting school? I did my research, including a chat with a local headmaster. When I realised how little would put him ahead of his peers, I had no worries, but in a better area, things might be different. If this is worrying you consider this:

        Most of what is taught over 12 years of full time education was once taught in 2 years of part time education - missing a few months - or even a year won't make much difference. The average home educated child starting school with their peers will be 2 years ahead of their friends. For those few starting behind on some subjects - usually with unschooling, where there has been no formal education at all - most will catch up completely within a couple of months. You really have very little to lose other than the costs of books to start out, and a whole world to gain. If you feel able to devote the time and resources to home educating, and your child wishes to try it - I say give it a go.

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