Parents as Home Educators

A recent post from Special Needs Jungle, focusing on Education Otherwise Than At School (EOTAS), considered what parents can expect from their child’s Education, Health and Care Plan. This post caused me to further consider why the parents of any child, not just those with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) – choose to home educate.

According to research, parents educate their child at home for a range of reasons. Some feel that state schooling does not offer the right education for their child. Home education may also free a child with problems from the effects of peer pressure or bullying. For other parents, the issue may be one of religion.

There has been a huge increase in home schooling: not solely because of this pandemic, although fear of infection has caused many more parents not to send their children back to school following the lockdown. More children are being educated at home than ever before.

Unfortunately, parents may also feel a need to home school for negative, or irresponsible, reasons – to avoid their child being excluded, or to avoid prosecution for non-attendance. Many parents of children with SEND opt out of normal schooling as a last resort when they feel that the school is not offering their child what is needed. Special Needs Jungle reports continually on the problems being faced by parents because the system is not working as it should.

Children who are home schooled are tested annually, using standardised tests, and it seems that many do well on these. There is, however, no requirement for home schooling to abide by the National Curriculum. Home schooled children often go on to college or university and thrive accordingly.

What about the social issues? I can appreciate that if a family lives in an isolated environment, and travelling is difficult, maybe it makes sense to educate siblings together. If not – how does home schooling enable a child to join in social activities and develop as a member of a peer group?

Home schooling places a huge responsibility on parents to ensure that their child is receiving as good an education at home as they would at school. The legal requirement is for an ‘age-appropriate full time education.’ What is age-appropriate? How do parents know at what level to present subjects? Surely, some parents may say, teachers are trained to be educators – not parents.

The choice must therefore be a difficult one. Any parent who decides to relinquish a free state education must have good reasons to do so as there is no financial compensation – the costs of home schooling fall on the parents.

Recently, since COVID, the Commons Education Committee has announced an inquiry into home schooling. Its Chair, Robert Halfon has reported the need for,’ ….the right support…. for home learning to ensure every pupil….whatever their background …..can receive the education they deserve.’ We await the outcome of the inquiry.

Following lockdown, pupils are reported as being (on average) about three months behind their normal learning, with black and minority ethnic (BAME) pupils being even further behind. Given also that white working class boys are also said to be at the tail end of education, what now needs to be done?

Andrew Jeffrey’s (Twitter) mock up of an OFSTED report, of the home-school operating from his kitchen table, with the outcome of ‘Requires Improvement’ has caused a great deal of parental laughter. Rightly so. At the same time, it serves as a reminder to parents of the dangers of any home schooling decision that subsequently fails to adhere to the discipline: of time, resources and a dedicated approach on a day to day basis. Laughter aside, learning is a serious business and children’s futures depend upon its ultimate success.

Home schooling is a huge decision to make and parents need to ensure they have the skills and knowledge needed to become full time teachers. For example, how should phonics be taught – in which order of letters and sounds? What is the accepted way to teach multiplication and division? Fractions? Or at secondary level – the dreaded algebra? So to ensure success, parents who become home-teachers need to get clued up on what and how to teach at least the basics – of reading, writing and maths.

My books will help. If your child has SEND, Book 1: Support Your Child with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities: a guide for parents, offers all you need to know about the SEND system. Books 2 to 5: Support Your Child At The Early Years Foundation Stage, At Key Stage One, At Key Stage Two and At Key Stage Three, also offer a comprehensive outline of WHAT should be taught, WHEN and HOW.

These guides are a must for any parent educating their child at home and will also support other parents seeking the know-how – in order to play a more effective role in their child’s education.

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