Following the Home Education Path

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My two boys are aged 8 and 10 years and they have never been to school. When my husband and I chose to have children we always assumed they would go to school, but only because, like so many others, we didn’t realise that school wasn’t compulsory. It was only when I was being told that my then 2 1/2 year old eldest boy ‘should’ start going to play group by himself because he had to get used to the idea of going to school (2.5 years down the line!) that I started to question the system. It was also at this time that SATs were constantly in the news and school appeared to be more about the children passing tests to appease some league table figures than providing a fun, nourishing environment.

My eldest son, at the age of two preferred to be at home playing with his new brother, why should I prevent that relationship from blossoming by seperating them for hours at a time? So I went to the library (we had no computer or internet at the time) and soon discovered that within English law it is the eduation of a child that is compulsory from the age of 5 and not school, and that this education can take place ‘in school or otherwise’….we are the ‘otherwise’.

As in all aspects of life, there are many paths to home education and as many different reasons and ways of doing it. All are valid as every child is different and has different needs and different ways of learning. Our children have chosen the autonomous, self-didactic route where I am a facilitator of information rather than a teacher. We do not sit down and do regular, formal ‘work’ (no we do not have to follow the national curriculum and no, I do not have to be a qualified teacher), and yet they can both read, write, do amazing mental arithmetic, have engineering skills way beyond my scope of comprehension, an extensive knowledge of history and are bright, happy, confident children. All of this has arisen simply through carrying on the life we were living before the magical designated age of 5. We chat (alot!!), play games, watch TV, read stories, go on the computer, visit friends, have trips to museums, parks and other places of interest, go for walks, bike rides, bowling….and all the time they are learning, absorbing, living.

No, they are not socially isolated, there are numerous organised Home Educators’ clubs and activities on offer, all arranged by local home educators, and we used these a lot when my children were younger. However, I have found as they have got older that they prefer to see friends individually rather than en masse, but then, for us, that is what home education is all about, individual choice. Our children know they have the choice between home education or school, they have friends from both areas and know the options….so far they continue to choose home education.

Home education is not for everyone and I would never say it is better than school, simply different. It is another path that is there to be explored should you choose to take it!


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  • Morag Gaherty

    Damn! Beaten to it! Having home educated my children for a year (when they were 8 and 6, I think), I was thinking just last night that I could offer Mary a post about this. And then I turn on my Mac, and lo and behold …. :) Like you, Kate, I was exploring different education options for my children than school. They both did a few years of state school, but Bob (elder) is so bright he was just sleeping through the lessons, whereas Tom was allowed to bumble along around the middle of the class, even though I knew he had lots of curiosity to offer. Children in both situations are just one step away from becoming troublemakers by senior school age, and I didn’t want that for them.So I home educated them. It was intended to be for longer than a year, but as a single parent with very inquisitive children, that was about all I could handle!As you say, the key thing is communication both ways. I have friends whose idea of communicating with their children is to tell them to wash their hands or come to tea. Me, I was busy psycho-analysing Harry Potter with Bob!Do you know about HesFes? Even though the boys are now at prep school and boarding (I promise I’ll do a piece on this, Mary!), they still insist we go to this week long festival each year because they love it so much. It is for home educated families and involves all sorts of activities and things for all the family. Never have my children stood out less than at HesFes, because it is full of 8 year olds (and younger) going off to spend the day on their own, making their own decisions etc. It is a JOY to meet up with other parents who trust their children enough to make their own mistakes, without them always hovering at the sidelines in case they can’t manage it. There was a time when I thought I was the only one.Here’s the website: It looks like it is being held in a new venue in South Cambridgeshire in 2011. Simple camping, limited resources. The kids love it.

    • Morag Gaherty

      Oh, and that old chestnut about socialisation!!!! I got sick of hearing it. The point is, my kids are perfectly au fait with sociability because they DIDN’T spend their whole time cooped up with 30 other kids of the same age and similar background.

      Do the proponents of this fallacious argument imagine that we have all simply allowed our children to grow up feral until they went to school??!

    • Editor

      Sorry Morag! I’m sure you’ll have something else up your sleeve for me though ;)

  • Kate Scott

    We’ve not been to hesfes yet but friends have been and enjoyed it. I like that it’s moved to Cambridgeshire now, we’re in north Yorkshire so at least that is slightly closer! We tend to do smaller camps with home ed friends closer to home. I agree with you that home edding as a single parent must be tough, I’d love to hear about your decision to choose to go private though :-)

    • Morag Gaherty

      We have been three times now, twice in Essex and once in Kent (which was most convenient for us geographically, but the camping resources were very scarce). I’m glad to see the new venue is accessible from public transport this year, as I’m not driving for a while.Many of the families we know from HesFes go to a number of different events during the year. There is so much for everyone to do and learn.The trouble with raising your kids to think for themselves and to talk is that they do tend to do this, when maybe you sometimes don’t want it! And if you don’t have another adult to take up the slack, it can feel pretty 24/7 at times. But I don’t regret that year out. It just didn’t work so well for one of my boys. :( We didn’t do any formal learning as such, for the most part, but I left them to choose for themselves. The first thing Bob did was teach himself (on his DS) how to play poker and how to play chess. And even today he’s a pretty monster chess player. I’m hoping he’s not involved in too much late-night poker!

  • Ana Cristina Hitrof

    Hi! My son is 10 now, we have been home-educating him since he was 8. He attended school until the beginning of year 3. Up to then, he seemed happy enough but in the first term of year 3 things went terribly wrong; he seemed to be lost in school. Meetings with his teacher were very negative, there was nothing positive being said about my son and I started to get really fed up with the school environment.The social environment was clicky, Courtney played with other children but never got invited anywhere and I started to notice it was because we, as a family, didn’t fit into the school environment. I sat with Courtney and told him he didn’t have to go to school, if he preferred, he could be home-schooled. He could hardly believe it! I am a registered childminder and manage to combine work and home-education quite well. We follow a semi-structured approach; English, Science and Maths are very much based on the National Curriculum but I also teach him Portuguese and World History- a subject he loves. We are becoming more relaxed and less structured now, doing everything at Courtney’s own pace. I very much doubt he will ever go to school. I ask him now and then, he is adamant he won’t go back. I worried about socialisation too and, I must admit, attempts to make him new friends have not been very successful. When he was at school, I worried he was not making friends too! I think he is just like me, happy to have one or two friends and fiercely independent and self0contained, so I am letting it all happen naturally. He is happy, I ask him how he feels and what he wants and he seems happy, much happier than he was at school, surrounded but hordes of kids!

  • Kate Scott

    Morag, I can totally understand needing a break from the talking!! It’s pretty non-stop and I find that even when their Dad is sitting right next to them they’ll get up, find me in another room with the ever present call, ‘Muuuum??’ I’m always reminding them ‘There IS another parent in the house!!’ However, that said, they ARE turning to him more and more as their interest in engineering develops :-)
    Cristina, we find it’s the same for us with the socialising. Both Steve and I are self-contained and don’t need many social contacts and our boys are the same. I must admit I am glad that they are such good friends, there is only 21 months between them and they get on so well that I’m always quite surprised when I see other siblings fight so much! We see two other families on a weekly basis but no longer attend regular home ed groups…however, when attending a home ed camp they had no qualms about meeting new children and were both off playing all day :-) but also quite happy to spend time alone in the tent just reading for an hour or two :-)

    • Morag Gaherty

      Oh yes, the warring sibling thing! My boys have never done that, and are quite bemused when their school friends do it. I don’t think it was home edding which stopped them from doing it, because they never have done. I think the big difference is that home ed parents communicate with their kids on a two-way basis.

      I have to say, I was not that keen on the local home ed group children for various reasons, but that’s a story for another time. Kids at HesFes, though, is a different matter. We spend the entire week there, and I rarely see my kids. Often, I’ve gone to bed before they even return. No idea who feeds them sometimes!