14 Reasons Why Home Education is on the Rise in the UK
The School Places Crisis
Home education is entirely legal in the UK. Often referred to as Elective Home Education or Independent Learning, parents often unearth home education communities via hard research and often without the help of The Department of Education.
Whilst raising children, many parents are choosing home education as their preferred choice. They choose to educate their children independently, by means of a tailor-made learning path that suits their child’s own educational needs. Alternatively, some parents are more hesitant to take the plunge and spend their time researching its benefits and successes, in order to make an informed decision.
On occasions where the education system has failed to meet the needs of a child, some parents feel ignored. They often feel forced to 'get on with it' due to the failings of local schools, a lack of additional support for children with special educational needs, insufficient bullying policies or poor teaching techniques. On some occasions, parents are deprived of the knowledge that home education is a legal alternative, leaving them feeling helpless and unable to put a stop to their child's unnecessary anxiety.
During my research, I witnessed government-funded organisations who lacked knowledge about home education and who frequently misinformed parents of the law. Some officials purposely mislead parents and even tried to convince them that home education isn't a suitable option for their child, when in fact, home education is proven to be successful and has been the preferred option of parents, for hundreds of years. I've heard of health professionals who fully supported home education, and who suggested it to parents of children who required special educational needs, or sometimes, for those who suffered trauma from a school experience.
A quick Google of Home Education presents a wealth of knowledge, statistics, and lists about the subject. If it's evidence of success you're looking for, research Famous Homeschoolers. The proof is out there; home education is indeed a great method of education.
With school places being in increasingly high demand and many school admissions preferences not being met, some UK parents are finding themselves with few options, other than to de-register their children from mainstream school to find a suitable alternative.
Information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act shows evidence that in Surrey alone, a total of 805 children were registered under ‘elective home education’ during 2014/15, an increase from 747 the previous year and 522 in 2010. This evidence shows a growing trend and may be as a result of parents being unable to obtain school places, in designated catchment areas.
As Surrey County Council try to find an extra 13’000 school places in the next 5 years, it looks highly likely that these figures will rise again. This information doesn't take into account the families who decide to home educate their children from birth, so in fact, the figure could be much larger.
As the home education community grows, so too does the support for it and the need to educate parents of its legalities.
So, Why Choose Home Education?
What makes home education so appealing to parents in the UK? What is the secret to their success? How do they go from relying so heavily on the education system to being solely independent providers of their child’s education?
Here are 14 reasons I think may help explain why many UK parents are taking a leap into an ever-growing community.
14 Reasons Why Home Education is on the Rise
- No More School Runs – For some, the idea of sitting in traffic queues or walking for miles (come rain or shine) can be soul destroying. If you add up all the time spent commuting for a whole year, you could probably achieve a term’s worth of education in that time alone. By dropping the school run, fuel costs become significantly reduced and you don’t feel so much like a chauffeur. For those parents who commute on foot, they gain some of their own lives back in the process. Mornings become family focused and enjoyable, with less rush and more living.
- Private Education costs serious money – For many parents, even those on high incomes, private education has become unaffordable, especially for larger families. Some parents fear that the same problems experienced in mainstream school could also be endured in private education. For many, it isn’t worth the risk or the funding. The money saved from paying tuition fees can be put into a pot for further education or even college fees, not to mention rainy day activities and that holiday of a lifetime you’ve been putting off.
- Children thrive out of the classroom – When a child is taught how to think, rather than what to think, they learn how to solve problems and how to use their imaginations more effectively than when sat in the classroom with a set curriculum. Children see that there are alternative ways to do things rather than one way that may help them pass a test. Children thrive when learning things of personal interest to themselves and they are guided by people who love them, without financial motivation. Children have a stronger sense of enthusiasm, curiosity, ambition and security. Many parents have seen evidence of their children blooming into better learners who think more independently. Children complete work because they want to, not because they are forced to or threatened with punishment. I have witnessed parents talking about how they feel they’ve rescued their children back from a system that put far too much pressure on them to pass tests, tests that measure the teacher’s ability to teach, rather than whether or not the education system is working for the child.
- Anybody can home educate – It’s not rocket science but if you do choose that subject, you can always look up the research you need to teach it. Home educators are people from a diverse range of backgrounds, they are parents, teachers, doctors, homemakers, builders, artists, the self-employed, and many more. The education they provide is in the form of a tailor-made education which suits each child’s learning aptitudes individually. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ system of learning. Most parents, however unconfident they may feel, have to remind themselves that their children already learned a wealth of life skills from birth to school age. The same children don’t stop learning and fall into ignorant savagery, just because they didn’t enter school and learn a curriculum dictated to them by so-called experts. If that were the case, we as adults would remain at an intelligence level of a 16-18-year-old. Both parents and children are ideally based to develop a unique sphere of expertise. Many of the resources they use are free. Many resources come from the internet, libraries, learning apps, paid subscriptions, online support forums, free teaching resources, Youtube videos and educational workbooks. Home educators use the great outdoors to teach and inspire, on a regular basis. They have forest schools, rock climbing, nature clubs, biking, camping trips, National Trust venues and even their own back gardens. It’s all about researching what’s happening in the big wide world.
- It makes better parents – Sometimes parents feel reduced to the role of taxi driver, cook, a banker, dishwasher, nanny and cleaner. With home education, the family unit runs smoothly and everybody begins to gel a lot better than they do in a rigid routine. The school system has its own demands on parents as well as their children. By the time you get to the weekend, you have a pile of homework to oversee, reports to read, school trips to pay for, lunches to prepare, p.e kits to wash, bags to pack, reading to supervise, let alone your own responsibilities! Before you know it, your weekend has drained away like the sands of an hourglass. By swapping mainstream school for elective learning, you can live a lifestyle that suits you and your family, or you can go with the flow of life.
- They get to enjoy their own children in their finest hours – School days steal away an enormous amount of quality time and when you get your child back, they are winding down, tired, grouchy and ready for bed. Some children also have after-school clubs to attend which means they have even less time to spend sharing moments with their families. In the end, we may steal a couple of hours before they head off to bed. Some parents I know have even admitted craving their children’s bedtime to arrive when their children reach high levels of exhaustion and end up fighting with siblings. With home education, parents see the best parts of childhood and can monitor when things become too heated, or if they need to take a break. Parents enjoy that precious time that flies by when they’re at school. They watch children as they bloom and flourish, without having to deal with the afflictions of the system. Their school days are shorter and education is more varied.
- Parents learn too – Being around children all day, motivates parents to establish better discipline and communication skills with their children. Yelling becomes a rare event and parents teach children that in order for their learning journey to work, they must all work together and respect each other’s personal boundaries. Time apart is implemented to deter sibling rivalry and children can gain one-to-one attention from parents who don’t have such busy lives. Children and parents choose to deschool and tend to feel better for it.
- Children’s imaginations grow – I’ve read articles written by teachers, who write that children’s imaginations and their ability to think creatively are being deterred by mainstream schools. If true, this is such a sad story for the world of The Arts. Government-implemented targets, tests, and reduced funding have taken over many subjects in mainstream schools. Children have set core subjects to study and they cannot manage to set aside time for things like poetry, crafting, creative writing, painting, music and much more. When they get home, they have limited time or enthusiasm to explore personal interests. Home education helps children to grow a love of the arts and, in fact, any subject they feel passionate about. They can really run with any topic and tend to show real enthusiasm when completing a project independently. Home educators lead by example and encourage children to think outside of the box. Lessons can be as long or as short as they choose and if they don’t think it’s necessary to test children, they simply don’t.
- Children begin to unwind and become who they choose to be – Home education encourages children to create their own journeys. GCSE’s become an option, rather than the expected and other avenues of attaining qualifications open up. In many cases, children get ahead of their school educated friends and often complete exams a year early, begin degrees when they choose to or even attend college before the age of 16. Parents begin to realise that the expectations of school are just a guide and shouldn’t be the preferred rule. When a whole family wakes up to a big wide world of possibilities, they wonder why they didn’t deregister their children sooner.
- They are free from ‘the system’ – Home education provides children with ample time to contemplate and explore their own interests, without facing deadlines. They do not dominate their children, nor do they seek to encourage poor practices of consumerism, discrimination, arrogance, violence, misuse of authority, lack of choice, greed, humiliation and deprivation of some basic human rights, for example, going to the toilet and drinking water when needed. Need I continue? Home education is a chance to grow a person who respects others freely, who shows gratitude, an understanding of equality, self-sufficiency and life skills, without any dogma or ulterior motives.
- Better socialisation skills! – Yes, they are sociable. Children no longer feel pressured to mix with a class full of children of the same age group. They do not need to brave cold weather and endure bullies in the playground. They choose whom they play with regardless of age, race, or social circumstances. What are the benefits of standing in a playground full of loud, sometimes boisterous kids, in the freezing cold? What are the benefits of having to endure conflict on a daily basis because you are told to ignore the bullies? There are no benefits, in fact, scientists discovered that most workplace bullies were firstly bullies in the playground. FACT. As adults, we choose our own company, we choose our venues and the time we spend with friends, as should our children. As for the social stigma, home educated children have as much, if not more interaction, as they are out in the community experiencing real life situations, just as any other human being does. The ability to say hello does not disappear just because they are not sat in a classroom.
- Health Benefits – Research suggests that home educated children get more sleep than those that attend school. They get up at a time when they’ve restored energy supplies and are able to enjoy later bedtime routines. Home learners may have less stress and a bigger sense of security. Many children who have experienced negative school behaviour may in time learn to forget about their bad experiences and gain back some self-esteem. They become the children they were meant to be and realise they are safe. Children who may have special educational needs, enjoy a tailor-made education that may not be offered at mainstream school, due to many funding cuts across the UK. Parents can fully adapt their lifestyles to benefit their children.
- Holidays – Being in school means that you follow a strict school calendar. You take your holidays when you are allowed to and you celebrate festivals along with your classmates. Home education allows parents to adapt their school calendars to suit their family’s needs. If you want to holiday in September, you can! If you feel like going to Lapland in November, why not? There are no fines to avoid and no prison sentences to fear. You aren’t owned by ‘the man’ and you do what the heck you want. Your children benefit immensely by being able to enjoy longer weekends away, term-time holidays, more frequent holidays and quality holidays, due to prices of term time breaks that are more affordable. The memories made are treasured and the pressure is off for the families who feel they must worry about deadlines and the law.
- They do it because they can – Home education is 100% legal. Section 7 of the Education Act 1996 applies to England and Wales: Compulsory education 7: Duty of parents to secure education of children of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable- a: to his age, ability and aptitude, and b: to any special educational needs he may have, either by regular at school or otherwise.
Is Home Education For You?
As our society evolves and becomes more flexible and event-driven, the UK education system still produces a preponderance of people more suited to an outdated system that is so desperately in need of change.
Home Education doesn’t suit every family’s needs and in some cases, may not be possible for families where both parents work full time. The decision to implement home education comes with huge responsibility, but the benefits of it are enough to convince a rising number of UK parents that it is the best decision.
Unfortunately, a minority of parents make poor and misguided judgements about those who choose to deregister their children from mainstream school. I can only observe that this is due to ignorance, envy, or a lack of understanding of the subject. It is the responsibility of home educators and the media to correct poor attitudes and share positive experiences with the public, who may even find themselves considering the same route of education in the very near future.
The better the education we seek to offer our children, the more likely it is that our children will adopt the same learning attitudes and pass them on to the generations of the future.