This month, children across the UK will be nervously preparing their school bags, making sure their school uniform still fits and getting ready for the early morning starts for the return of the academic year. But just imagine if they didn’t have to do that. Instead of buying a school uniform, nervously waiting to find out which classroom they’ll be in and the dreaded early mornings – what if they simply had to wake up, get dressed and start a routine to learn at home?
Home-schooling in the UK has risen significantly in popularity in recent years with an estimated 80,000 children being home-schooled each year. It has increased a massive 20 per cent over the past five years and the number of children known by councils to be home educated bumped to 27% higher from 2018 to 2017. The figures for 2019 are yet to be revealed.
So, what are the benefits of home-schooling and could it be right for you? Many parents supplement their child’s home learning with outside tuition in English and maths. It’s a fantastic way to get an outsider’s expert opinion on how your child is doing and ensure they’re on the right track when it comes to targets for their age group.
There are plenty of advantages of home-schooling so long as you’re prepared to take on this huge responsibility and willing to do your best! You need to be up to speed on what levels they should be at and fully understand what you’re teaching so you’re ready for any questions. The key positives that people who home-school their children love are:
- You can be flexible. You can fit your child’s school timetable into your family’s lifestyle. This works particularly well for families who are on the road a lot or have an inconsistent schedule. Others like the option of flexi-schooling where your child could go to school for a part of the week and is home-educated for the rest of the time.
- Your child will have more attention. Of course, there is so much media hype around ever-increasing class sizes and if you teach your child at home they will have one-on-one attention all the time! They’ll have the chance to get through more work, more quickly, giving you more free time to do other things and learn in other ways, whether that’s by going on countryside walks, visiting museums or in the library.
- Learning is tailored. You know your child best so you will know where, when and what they will enjoy and can tailor their learning accordingly.
- Learn at their own pace. Whether your child is super quick at certain topics or might take a little more time to get their head around things, they can work at their own pace and not feel pressured to keep up with other children in their class, or feel held back. You can cater for both scenarios with dedication and understanding.
Of course, there are some down-sides to home-schooling that you’ll need to consider before making the commitment of bringing your child out of a formal school setting. The most notable are:
- Commitment to learning new things. Being a teacher is not easy so you will need to not only learn all about everything you will teach your child, but also techniques in doing so. This skills gap can be very challenging to overcome, and parents have talked to me about how they’ve stayed up to the early hours of the morning learning about things they need to teach their child the very next day. It can be exhausting. To counter this, tutors can help you and you can work with a number of different people dependent on the subject.
- Family tensions. Switching between being a parent and a teacher can be tricky, particularly if you’re trying to discipline your child into focusing on their studies one hour and then playing a fun family game the next. It can also be difficult if you have one child who is home-schooled and another who isn’t as the latter could become jealous of all the time and attention the other child is receiving. Talk about it as a family, be open and don’t panic if it doesn’t run smoothly when you first start; everything takes time.
- Costs – Not only will you not be doing paid work during the day when you’re home-schooling your child but you’re also going to be responsible for paying for all your child’s resources, trips, exams and extra tutors. Make sure you’ve thought about this before making the commitment. While schools are lacking in funding these days, they do cover an awful lot that you might take for granted.
- The social side – Being at school means they get to meet lots of children the same age as them. However, being at home every day can be isolating for both you and your child. Create a social network for your child via friends or family – people with children the same age that you, and they, can relate to. To help build their confidence when talking with other children, sign them up to extra-curricular activities like cubs or brownies, sports or music lessons. Help them make friends and build their social skills a different way.
- Dependence on you – Your child will be so used to you being at their every beck and call so it’s important that they spread their time with other family members too, giving you the chance for some ‘me time’ and help them not to become overly dependent on you.
So, if you are considering home-schooling, my first tip would be to speak to other parents who have gone through the same experience to find out if they’ve enjoyed it and just how much time and work it entails. Hearing first-hand stories will help you to make a judgement.
Do your research online before making any big changes. There are lots of sources of support out there including the charity, Education Otherwise, which actively encourages learning outside the education system. Check out www.educationotherwise.org.
Plan ahead; make sure you know how you’re going to teach your child before you make any drastic changes. You’re not required to follow the National Curriculum but if you want your child to receive qualifications, take the relevant tests or return to school when they’re a bit older, there are plenty of facts you need to know. Many home-schooled families attend Explore Learning so they can check they’re on track and top up the work they’re covering at home.
Finally, make sure you speak to your local council to see if there are any ways that your Local Authority can help you.
Charlotte Gater, Head of Curriculum at Explore Learning
Charlotte Gater is the Head of Curriculum at Explore Learning (ww.explorelearing.co.uk), the award-winning English and maths tuition company with 145 centres located all over the country. Over 35,000 children aged four to 14 attend their centres each week and over the course of the last 18 years have helped over 250,000 children. Explore Learning’s aim is to help every child reach their full potential and get the best results they can, developing a generation of fearless learners.