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Home education: a different but equal choice

As a parent I am surprised at the lack of information freely available toparents on the options for their child’s education and that parents need to search for this information themselves. We have been taught that when our child reaches compulsory school age they are supposed to go to school.

This is why, when seven months pregnant, I considered home education. I asked Google, ‘is home education legal?’

I look back now and laugh; information about home education was not as freely available as the seemingly obligatory option to opt into state education!

I spent the first five years of my daughters’ life learning everything I could about home education; reading parents’ experiences, learning about different approaches, discovering the importance of learning through play, guidelines governing what educating parents must and do not have to do and where to go if I need support.

A child knowing that they have choices is vital too. Imagine a future society of adults who have experienced autonomy in education as children and been given the choice of how to be educated, whether that be at home, at school or another means of their choosing. Imagine how these adults would experience life, in terms of mental health, for example. How would this self-direction have an effect on the future mental health of these children?

This thought, and many others, were reasons why I gave my child the opportunity to be home educated at five and would always give her the right to choose whether or not go to school. This notion also really drives me forward in my mission to help parents make decisions about their child’s education. Part of this is informing parents that children can be very good leaders, if they are empowered to choose how to be.

Of course, for some children school will be the best fit. Many home educating families have children at school and children whom they home educate; as a parent the key is to make the right decisions in light of the individual children’s needs.

I made the initial decision to home educate while keeping very much in mind that this was my daughter’s education. Therefore, if at any stage it became clear that her educational needs would be best served at school, or she asked about going to school we would have a conversation and make a decision. This is a really important part of my parenting.

From when children are born, we are advised to follow their cues to know when they need to feed, to sleep and their physical, educational and emotional developmental demands and needs. As babies grow into toddlers and older children, this cue following continues and it can continue in terms of education too. For me, observing and responding to these cues is a must.

The school application form that all parents receive has no mention of the fact that school is opt in and home education, as it was from birth, is the default. Society as a whole, or family members, may pressurise parents into thinking the view that ‘school is best,’ but each child is an individual and has their own individual educational needs.

Parents can often experience health visitors asking if they have applied for a school place yet and even being persuaded to rethink their decision. School appears to be promoted from almost all quarters as the norm, whereas home education is not mentioned as a perfectly legal choice. This is where educating the wider public comes into play.

Having the correct legal information regarding home education is vital to parents and for many of us; it is completely new set of informationm which we have to educate ourselves on. This is why the website Education Otherwise is an invaluable source of information and help. It is a one-stop-shop for everything home education related, including template letters, fact sheets, insurance, report reading service and more.