Home Schooling – Is it better or worse for your child?
One of the biggest growth areas in terms of education in the last six years has been that of the home schooled child. In fact, the number of kids now receiving their education at home has increased by some 65% over the period and the reasons given for the decision are very varied – from lifestyle and special needs to bullying, religion and a dissatisfaction with either the school or the school authority. But is this method schooling better or worse for the children?
Legally, parents are not obligated to send their children to school but they do have to provide what is termed a ‘suitable education’ for them at home. The current school age population stands at 9.5 million currently and around 37,000 of these are now schooled at home. This figure may even be an underestimate as children who never start school are not recorded in the figures, only those that start and are then withdrawn from the system.
Parents don’t have to provide a reason for withdrawing their kids from school but 41 council areas across the country do ask and the information given provides a cross-section of the reasons behind the move. Top of the list of reasons given is philosophy or lifestyle reasons, around 13% of those who answered. Some areas of the country see a higher number for this area.
Reasons for the change
Dissatisfaction with the school, council or a conflict come in second while cultural or religious practises is the third most common reason. Bullying and special needs/medical issues come in fourth and fifth. Lastly, around 3% of people take their children out of the system because they couldn’t get the school they wanted and were unhappy with the one they could.
Another reason that parents cite for keeping children away from the schools is the emphasis currently placed on testing and school league tables. Many parents feel that this does little for the children and those inclined to home school find it another reason to go with their own style of education.
The style of education itself is an issue for many kids as a classroom simply cannot accommodate all learning styles at once. For example, boys are shown to poorly in literacy subjects because they don’t naturally take to the long periods of inactive study. The formal nature of the learning doesn’t suit many kids whereas home schooling allows parents to focus lessons specifically on the way their children learn.
The positive of home schooling
For parents who have successfully home schooled their kids, the system has huge benefits. As one mother put it, her bright seven year old was complaining about school. But it wasn’t the normal complaints – the intelligent child said he hated learning and that ‘learning is boring’. This prompted her and her husband to research on home schooling. She was able to dedicate her time to schooling the children in a way that may not be possible for all parents.
The growth of online facilities to help with education has corresponded to the growing number of people who home school their kids. Online tutoring organisations, sports and cultural activities, these are all being organised around children who don’t attend normal schools.
The wealth of information available online to aid parents in home schooling means that there is no reason why they can’t receive as well rounded an education as other students – perhaps more so given the lack of time constraints placed on the school day.
The negative of home schooling
Other parents have tried home schooling and found it didn’t work. One mum, Sara, tried home schooling her three children and found that the strain it put on her relationship with them and they with each other was enormous. She took her children from school after one was bullied and wanted to provide a more ‘relaxed, natural and playful education’ away from the obsession with exams and the curriculum.
Sara was involved in the whole home schooling thing in a big way and a visit from an education welfare officer saw her receiving praise for the quality of education she was providing her kids. And while trips to the wood to explore or to educational or sciences centres were brilliant, the cost was unsustainable to do on a regular basis.
She also found her life was dominated by either schooling or planning for it. She had no time for herself and the stress began to tell as she gained weight and stopped looking after herself. However, the biggest problem was keeping all three kids engaged all of the time, due to the age differences.
Soon the kids were bickering constantly, Sara was worried about her oldest child approaching GSCE study time and a separation with her husband led Sara to change her mind and was luckily able to return the kids to school. They thrived upon their return and continue to do well in classes.
The worrying side of home schooling
While quality of education and variation of subjects taught is a concern with regards to home schooling, there are other, more worrying sides to the subject. Some parents have resorted to home schooling have been forced into it by the school themselves, particularly if their child has problems that reflect ‘poorly’ on the school and its league table position.
However, the single biggest concern is that children are not being monitored when they are home schooled. A case such as that of Dylan Seabridge, young boy of 8 who died from scurvy and was being home schooled, is an example of the very worst case scenario. While the boy’s parents were charged with neglect, the case was dropped. A leaked report showed that the mother had mental health issues that raises the issue of whether she was fit to home school the child.
Others worry that children are being listed as home schooled but are actually attending illegal, unlicensed schools and these could include extremist teachings such as radical Islam. As no-one currently checks these kids, no-one knows what is happening to them or if they are even alive and the numbers of those never attending school are a black hole the depth of which is completely unknown.