As hundreds of thousands of children settle back into the classroom for the year ahead, others will be at home. Because while children are legally required to be in full-time education in the UK, school is not compulsory. Huffington Post talks to home educating parents.
Homeschooling, or ‘home education’, as advocates prefer to call it, is gaining popularity, but it doesn’t necessarily mean staying cooped up in the house all day. A growing number of parents are joining forces to provide their children with an alternative learning experience.
Dan Rust, who home educates his six-year-old daughter and plans to do the same for his two-year-old son, says the home ed community in Birmingham is flourishing. A highlight of “last term” was sports day, he says, where around 80 home educated children of different ages competed in a local park.
“Home education is a bit of a misnomer because we are hardly ever at home,” he tells HuffPost UK. “I think home educated kids are better at socialising than other kids because they’re out and about talking to other people all the time. You’re not just among 25 to 30 other six-year-olds. You’re talking to children of all ages – and a lot of adults.”
This growing focus on community within home education could be one reason behind its increasing popularity. The Department for Education does not keep a central record of how many children are home schooled across the country, but a BBC investigation earlier this year suggested the figure was as high as 48,000 children in 2016-17, up from around 34,000 in 2014-15.
Rachel Plummer, from Edinburgh, has thrown herself into the home ed community since making the decision to keep her children, Audrey, seven, and Robin, two, out of traditional school. The trio attend community meet-ups every day of the week, with classes ranging from art to science. Parents contribute in any way they can. As an award-winning poet, Rachel runs two creative writing groups. The community also creates its own Christmas show and harvest festival. With such a group focus, is it so different from regular school?
“I think that school can sometimes foster unhealthy social environments, with bullying [and] an emphasis on conformity,” says Rachel. “I want my children to be able to follow their interests and work at their own pace. So much time in school is devoted to, essentially, crowd control.”
For those temped to take the plunge, home education can be draining, Rachel warns. “You don’t get any breaks ever, and it is physically and emotionally exhausting. You have to build that network of support from other home ed parents, and learn how to pace yourself or you’ll burn out.”
Read more interviews including the parents reasons why they home educate and it’s pros and cons What it’s really like to homeschool your kids – by the parents actually doing it
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