Home educating families are the exception to the norm. Most children in the UK attend school, meaning there are many people not familiar with home education. Home educators may find themselves being asked things such as is home educating legal, what about socialisation, are you qualified to teach, what about exams/further education, do you need to follow teh curriculum, why are you home educating, is it not important that your child gets to experience school? In my experience it can feel a little overwhelming at first, but the more non-home-ed people you come in to contact with, the easier it gets. Equally, the more home educators you meet and the bigger your support network grows, the more normal it seems to home ed. To me, peoples comments are often like water off a ducks back. I have grown pretty thick skinned. In fact, over the last 10 years of home educating as awareness of home ed has grown, strangers have become ever more accepting of the fact that Inky does not go to school. There have been more positive than negative responses…
To those new to home ed, not knowing any other home edders yet, as a parent the development of social skills can be an issue of concern – it’s also one of the most prevalent criticisms of home education by those who are opposed to it. Some will argue that a home schooling environment shelters children from the ‘real world’ (what utter rubbish!) and limits the number of people, including other children of their own age, who they will meet, thus damaging their personal growth and development, as well as their awareness of social rules, conventions and relationships. (This is NOT so). It MAY be true that within a school environment, there are countless opportunities for some children to interact with their peers, as well as other adults such as teachers, staff members, and TA’s. This MAY help children to learn how to behave and interact when meeting new people, but this is not the only way, even if it’s the most accepted and expected way. School is NOT for everyone. But then neither is home education. Critics of mainstream school say that schools are an unnatural setting, children are artificially grouped by age rather than interests, spend too many hours and days a week essentially being raised by the system, are kept at the same level according to age, are within the same room or building for hours every day, and only meet a few adults, the teachers that surround them. There are some good teachers out there, but there are also the miserable, Im-in-a-place-of-power-so-i-will-make-school-life-hell-for-you types. The critics echo my sentiments about the system. Since when is forced association socialisation? As an adult, I’d hate to be herded in to a room of 30 or so people my own age and be forced to ‘socialise’ with them. As a child/teenager I didn’t like it either. I have friends of all ages now, but it took me a while to realise that it was OK to be friends with people younger or older than me.
Meeting other home educators is important – its reassuring knowing you are not alone. Find online support groups, join a local home ed group – this a great way for your children and you to make friends and to find like minded people. Inky has made many good friends (all different ages :0) ) through home educating, as have I. We talk about all things home ed, the good and the bad. Sometimes we discuss how we and others have dealt with peoples questions, giving each other advice. Some of the questions require a personal response of course – there are countless ways and reasons for choosing to home educate. everyone has their own story. We also do things like go on nature walks, go to local attractions (some further afield), to parks, to each others houses, do fun projects together, organize playdates etc. We have several memberships for places like the national trust and wetland centres. Inky does extra-curricular stuff that isn’t home ed exclusive, so is constantly mixing with a wide variety of people of all ages.
Encourage your child to join clubs, after-school sports, youth groups, music classes or similar organisations. By doing so, they will be able to enjoy one of their extra-curricular interests and at the same time meet others who share those interests. It’s also good for home ed kids to mix with school goers and make new friends. They will have the chance to discuss home schooling with mainstream educated children, perhaps learning from each other in a positive way about their different education systems.
As for legalities, the following link : EducationOtherwise discusses the law and home ed in the UK. Have a read and get a few facts you can use to answer questions. The same website contains home ed groups in Scotland, England and Wales, as well as template de-registration letters if anyone reading this is wanting to take a child out of school. Also – you do not have to be a qualified teacher!
Related link: Benefits of Home Schooling