Is Homeschooling Legal in the UK?

is homeschooling legal in the uk - chimney school

is homeschooling legal in the uk - chimney school

We’re around half-way through the summer holidays now, and people are starting to think about uniform shopping, school supplies, and the dreaded first day back at school.

For some people, though, the dreaded first day is enough to make them consider ditching school altogether.

Ever wondered if there’s an alternative?  Is homeschooling legal in the UK?  Is home education a viable alternative to sending your children to school?

The short answer to that one is ‘yes’.

There’s a little more to it than that, so here’s my guide to the ins and outs of whether homeschooling is legal in the UK.

You Get to Decide What’s Best for Your Child.

Parents are responsible for ensuring that their child receives an appropriate education.  Not schools.  Not the education authority.  Parents.

Section 7 of the Education Act 2006 says that “The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education.”

Your job.  You need to make it happen whether you choose school or otherwise.

Incidentally, home educating is the default option in the UK.  You have to actively choose to enrol your child in a school if that’s what you want to do.  Once they’re in school though, you have to make sure that they keep going unless you’re providing an alternative means of education – in which case you need to formally deregister them (more on that later).

Is Homeschooling Legal in the UK?  Yes, if…

is home educating legal in the uk - chimney schoolHome education is legal in the UK.  I’m in England, so everything here, unless otherwise stated, refers to England and Wales.  Other areas of the UK have different procedures to follow.

  • If your child has never been registered in a school, then you’re already home educating. Congratulations, you can skip the rest of this article and read something else
  • If your child is at a mainstream school in England or Wales, then you need to send a deregistration letter to the school. Once you’ve done that, you’re free.  You can literally send the letter now and not even have to send your child back on the first day of term.  (You can even do it mid-term if you want to).
  • If your child is at a special school then there’s a different process to follow – I’m not familiar with it, but I can share some links to help you out.
  • If there’s an SAO (School Attendance Order) or an ESO (Education Supervision Order) in place, then you will need consent from your local authority.

More on each of those situations in a moment.  First though, let’s look at what you don’t need.

5 Things You Don’t Need in Order to Home Educate.

is homeschooling legal in the uk - chimney school

  1. You don’t need to take SATs or any other exams. It’s perfectly possible to take exams as a home educated student, and plenty of families choose this route, but you don’t have to.  Remember – your responsibility to figure out what a suitable education is for your child, and if exams don’t feature in that, then that’s your decision.
  2. You don’t need permission from anybody (assuming your child is in a mainstream school in England or Wales, and there’s no SAO or ESO in place). You need to write to the school to tell them what you’re doing, yes, but you’re not asking.  You don’t need permission from the school, the local authority, or anybody else.
  3. You don’t need the national curriculum. You can follow it if you like, you can follow bits of it and ignore others, or you can do your own thing completely.  Schools are bound by the national curriculum, home educators aren’t.
  4. You don’t need a teaching qualification – but I bet you’ll be surprised at the number of teachers and ex-teachers you come across in home educating circles. You don’t need any qualifications at all – just a willingness to work hard at this and to keep going until you figure out what works for your child, your family.  If you’re reading this then you’re interested enough to make it work.
  5. You don’t need a timetable. You don’t need to divide what you do into subjects unless you want to.  You don’t need to work at set times of day, or on set days of the week.  You can if you like though.

How Do I Deregister My Child and Start Home Educating?

Deregistering Your Child from a Mainstream School.

If your child is at a mainstream school in England or Wales, then the process is simple.

  1. Send a deregistration letter to the school.
  2. There’s no step two, that’s it.

The process is the same even if your child has a statement of special needs.  Providing that he or she is in a mainstream school (and not a special school) then you don’t need permission to deregister.

Education Otherwise is a great source of information for home educators in general.  They also have a deregistration letter template that you can use.

In short, you’re informing the school that you are now taking personal responsibility for your child’s education and asking for your child’s name to be removed from the school register in accordance with the Education Act 2006.  Most people also like to ask for a return letter confirming that the child has been removed from the register.

The Education Otherwise template link has all the information you need to fulfil your part of the arrangement.  It also, crucially, has the information you need to make sure that the school does what it’s supposed to do too.

If you’re in Northern Ireland or Scotland, then you can find deregistration information on the Educational Freedom website.

Deregistering Your Child from a Special School

If your child has special needs and has been placed in a special school, then you do need to ask for permission from the local authority to home educate them.

This isn’t something I have personal experience of, but there are plenty of people who have.

Education Otherwise has a template letter for deregistering from a special school.

I’d also recommend that you join some groups on Facebook that are specifically geared towards home educating children with special needs.  Whether you love Facebook or loathe it, the support you’ll find there is invaluable when it comes to homeschooling.

School Attendance Orders and Education Supervision Orders

These are both areas where you need to exercise caution.  You do need to seek permission from the local authority before beginning to home educate children who fall under SAOs or ESOs.

I’ve got no personal experience of either situation, so my best advice is to seek legal advice before doing anything, and to make contact with home educators who are experienced in dealing with local authorities.

Will I Need Ofsted Inspections?

Nope, no Ofsted inspections.

You can expect some contact from the local authority, but they’re not there to inspect you, or to tell you what you can and can’t do.

You will probably get contact quite early after deregistering.  You’re within your rights to ask for more time to settle in to home educating.  You can decline any local authority visits, or you can arrange to meet outside of your home, for example in a café or at the local library.

I recommend that you spend time finding out what the local authority’s responsibility is before you get this first contact.  The Ed Yourself website is a good resource to start finding this stuff out.

Considering Home Educating Your Child?

Has this made it all sound a little more doable?  I hope you can see now that you’re allowed to home educate if you want to, in most cases you don’t have to ask anyone’s permission.  You’re simply returning to the default position of taking full responsibility for your child’s education.

Here’s a brief list of websites you might find useful when it comes to learning about home ed.  If you’ve found a home education site you love, share it in the comments so we can all see.

Ross Mountney’s Notebook – this lovely lady has two beautiful grown-up daughters and her family is a beautiful example of how easy and successful home educating can be.  Her books are definitely on my recommended-reading list for new and established home educators alike.

Home Education Advisory Service – HEAS has a good range of publications available to help you with different areas of home educating.  Their FAQ section is also worth looking at as it answers lots of commonly-asked questions about homeschooling.

Education Otherwise – perhaps the most common starting point for new home educators.  The EO site is full of practical, easily-explained information about the legality of home educating, and the ins and outs of it all.  You can choose to pay a membership fee and join up with them – we did this for a while, but in all honesty I haven’t found that it offers anything I can’t find for free in Facebook groups and on blogs.

Home Education UK – a long-established site with a massive collection of resource links that will send you down an Internet rabbit-hole, so leave plenty of time for browsing!

Educational Freedom – the website and the associated Facebook group both offer a wealth of information including a useful printout of information relating to your rights when it comes to home education and accepting visits from the local authority.

By far my most-used source of advice, inspiration, and support when it comes to home educating, is Facebook.  I have a love-hate relationship with the platform, but when we started home educating the second time around, it quickly became obvious that all our local homeschooling events are organised through Facebook groups.  Putting ‘home education Cornwall’ into Facebook’s search box and then clicking the ‘groups’ tab brings up a wealth of local groups, and it’s more than likely that a similar search for your local area will yield similar results.

Likewise, ‘home education’ will give you plenty of groups to look at.  My approach is to join anything that looks interesting, and then leave the groups that don’t resonate with me.

So, the answer to ‘Is homeschooling legal in the UK?’ is a resounding ‘Yes!’ – it’s legal, there are lots of us doing it, and the Internet is full of success stories from families where it’s worked really, really well.

If you’re an established home educator, what were your favourite sites when you were starting out?  What advice would you give to people considering homeschooling?

If you’re new to the idea, what would you like to know?  What information haven’t you been able to find?

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Nobody Should Have to Lie on a Toilet Floor

#SpaceToChangeIf you follow me on Facebook or Twitter you’ve probably noticed that I share quite a few toilet-related posts.  This is quite a new thing for me, and tangentially related to my home ed journey, so I thought I’d write and explain what it’s all about.

We had a home ed group meet-up yesterday.  We’re out and about at different places each week for the summer months, and I wanted to get to be there early to welcome the expected newcomers.  We were late leaving, though, after the kind of nappy change that required an impromptu bath and a complete change of clothes.

Jude is barely two, so that kind of occurrence is less frequent than in the newborn days, but it’s not uncommon.  I was grateful it had happened before we left home – always so much easier to clean up in our own bathroom with everything to hand.

It made me think, though.  I’d have managed if I’d had to change him while we were out.  Even without a changing table, he’s still small enough that I can lay him on my lap if needed.  Also, if the toilets are really grim, no-one bats an eyelid when you change a toddler wherever happens to be easiest.  Not ideal, but I’ve happily whipped a nappy off with the baby laid on the grass before now.

By this time next year, I probably won’t be changing nappies anymore.

I’ve never had to lie him down on the floor in a public toilet and worry about where he’s putting his hands, and how to keep him contained on the terry nappy I carry as an out-and-about changing mat.

For many people, though, the toilet floor is the best option they have.  Changing Places says that there are a quarter of a million people in this country for whom a standard ‘disabled toilet’ is not sufficient.

These people require an adjustable changing bench and hoist in order to be able to use the facilities.

In Cornwall, where I live, there are ten such toilets.  Ten public toilets in the whole county that are truly accessible.  Remember that we’re not just talking about a small handful of people here.  Thousands of people need these facilities, and yet it’s still perfectly possible to spend a small fortune redeveloping a town and fail to consider this need.

I imagine most people reading this have tried to take a pushchair into a toilet cubicle, or found themselves unable to shut the door while helping a small child use the toilet.  For wheelchair users, this is the norm.  Having that little wheelchair logo on the toilet door often means little more than a slightly bigger room, maybe with an emergency alarm fitted.

Rachel at Ordinary Hopes is one of our home ed friends.  Her son is the same age as Edward and is a full-time wheelchair user.

Before we met them, I had never really thought about accessible toilet facilities.  Why would I?  Most places have an accessible toilet now, and if there was something wrong with the existing offerings it would have been fixed by now.

Even when we first became friends it didn’t really come up in conversation.  Adam is quite small for his age, Rachel has had years of practice at lifting him, I didn’t give any thought as to how Adam used the toilet.  Again, why would I?

Last year Rachel injured her back.  She can’t lift Adam anymore, and that’s closed their world up considerably.  With only ten Changing Places toilets in Cornwall, planning a day-trip becomes quite a challenge.

Imagine living surrounded by some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, but being unable to spend a full day there because you can’t use the toilet.

Imagine being unable to visit most popular attractions for the same reason, and meeting with a complete lack of understanding when approaching these businesses for help.

Rachel’s on a mission.  Frustrated at having to explain to her son yet again that they can’t go somewhere, or that they’ll have to leave early, she has started contacting the places he’d like to visit and seeing what they can do to help.  She’s had great success with Cornwall Services who were more than willing to provide a Space to Change toilet.  Already we’ve been able to head up there for the Clip and Climb session and have Adam join in with the soft play.  My kids are delighted.

At this moment in time, neither I nor my family have a personal need for Changing Places toilets.  I still think they should be made standard.

Why is true accessibility not a mandated part of the planning process for large businesses and attractions?

How can it be that the small childcare facility that Adam attends can make appropriate accommodations for him while big corporations make excuses about lack of space?

Knowing Rachel and Adam is a privilege in so many ways, and it’s opened my eyes to the needless difficulties that are added to an already very difficult life.  These toilet facilities make an enormous difference to people’s quality of life.  They are far more than ‘just toilets’ and I would love to see them become the standard of accessible toilet.

I’d love it to not be newsworthy that a business has chosen to install a bench and hoist.

I’d also love it if you’d pop over to the My Changing Place Facebook page and click the ‘like’ button – invite some of these stories into your newsfeed and be part of this important mission.

If you think that this needs to change, then please consider taking a moment to email your MP and help raise his or her awareness of the issue.

Home Education Resources

Home Edcuation Resources

Home Edcuation Resources

The Internet makes home educating easier.  The ability to share our stories, experiences and ideas is a big part of feeling part of a wider community.  I love being able to draw strength from the stories of others.  I also love being able to fill Pinterest boards with ideas for activities, and to find something quick and easy to do when boredom strikes.

Home Education Resources

Here are some of my favourite sites at the moment, in no particular order.

Classroom Free – this lovely site was one of the first I came across when we were deciding to home educate the first time around.  I love the mixture of ideas for activities and down-to-earth blog posts that show real family life.  When you feel like you haven’t been doing enough lately, it’s reassuring to see a family that are home educating very successfully in the midst of a busy daily life.

Imagination Tree – Ideas, ideas, and more ideas.  The lady who runs this blog is a former primary teacher, and she’s full of amazing ideas for fun activities.  Mostly geared towards younger children, but I find a lot of inspiration there for older ones too.

Khan Academy – Khan Academy is a free resource that we’ve barely scratched the surface of.  They cover maths (which is what we’ve mainly used it for), science, computer programming, and lots of other things.  Some of my children actively love it, some just see it as a tool to find things out.  We tend to drift in and out of using it as a home ed tool.  I love it, though.  I’ve used it to refresh my long-neglected maths skills.  My eldest finds it useful to look up Khan Academy videos on specific areas that she’s struggling with.

Project-Based Homeschooling –  I love this site.  Lori Pickert is the homeschooler I want to be when I grow up.  I bought the book a few years ago and have tried since then to get project-based learning really working for us.  Edward’s in the process of making Athenian Hoplite armour for himself, and I’m in the process of learning how to step back and let him take the lead.  The blog and Facebook page are great places to find new things to read to help you on your home educating journey.

Twinkl – This website is a favourite of classroom teachers.  It’s full of worksheets and other printables that cover the UK primary curriculum subjects.  My husband’s a supply teacher, so he has a Premium subscription that I use to access the full range of resources.  I know a lot of home educators who pay for the premium subscription for themselves – I’m not sure we use it often enough to do that, but it’s definitely a useful site.

Muddle Puddle – This is another site that I found long ago when we were first starting to home educate.  I still check in quite often, although Merry hasn’t blogged there in a while.  The archives are a great resource – full of articles on home ed and activity ideas.  I need to give a special mention to one of Merry’s other sites, Bead Merrily.  Her free Hama bead patterns are responsible for Hama beads being in constant use here for the last decade.

Other Places to Look.

I can’t even begin to list all the sites in my Internet history that I visit time after time.  The above are just a few of the places I visit most weeks, places that have been consistently useful to me.

I also get a lot of inspiration from museum websites.  The British Museum has more than 3.5 million artefacts from its collections online and searchable.  They also have hundreds of worksheets and lesson plans that can be used either in conjunction with a visit, or independently.  @Bristol is well worth a visit in person, but the website also has a lot of useful links and we like their YouTube channel too.

I’m planning a post shortly on the various YouTube channels we’ve subscribed to.  It’s definitely one of the first places the children look to find out about things.  This week we’ve watched an interview with a Hoplite and found out what would happen if there was a black hole in your pocket.  We’ve also listened to The Duck Song often enough that Jude thinks the question ‘Got any grapes?’ is hilarious.

Share your favourite resources in the comments.

I Am A Project Killer

I Am A Project Killer

I bought Lori Pickert‘s book, Project-Based Homeschooling a few years ago. I’d been following her blog for a while and fell in love with her way of doing things. I’ve read the book at least twice a year since then, and I’ve done her ‘master class’, but we’re still not where I’d like to be.

I realised the other day that I am a Project Killer.

The foundation of the Project Based Homeschooling method is to pay close attention to your children’s interests, journaling to help you do this, and then to facilitate the things they want to do. The idea is to wait for a spark and then to carefully feed it with tinder and then kindling, letting the child lead the way.

I struggle hugely with this. As I mentioned in my post on deschooling, I’m still carrying around a lot of baggage from my twenty years in education. I circle round over and over trying to shed a little of that weight each time, but there’s a long way to go.

Edward is almost ten. He’s in a phase of not wanting to do anything if he thinks I’m too interested in it. We’ve been reading Percy Jackson and the Greek Heroes off and on for a while now, and Edward is also very involved in playing Civilization at the moment.

This is all perfect project fodder. It’s something he’s interested in, something that can easily spin off in all kinds of directions, and it’s something that isn’t limited to the computer as some of his previous interests have been. He has been reading about Alexander the Great, a direct result of his time playing Civilization, and we’ve been talking about who controlled which parts of the world while he was in power.

This should be easy to navigate. I’ve read the book, I’ve done the class, I know what I need to do. Step back, listen to what he’s asking for and help him figure out how to get it.

Why, then, did I find myself on Twinkl printing out a world map and suggesting he look up the information and outline it on the map?

Why, when he said he didn’t really want to carry on after working on it for a little while, did I try to persuade him to keep trying just a while longer?

There’s such a fine line, and it’s so hard to step back when you have an idea that you think would make for a good activity. I cross that line so often, especially with Edward.

I am a project killer.

Thankfully, rather than killing this one completely, I think I’ve just derailed it a little. He’s changed direction and is now planning to make himself a Hoplite costume. He’s researched what they would have worn, he’s found some ideas online, and he’s made a shopping list.

Will I be able to bite my tongue and wind my neck in for long enough to let him make this happen? I hope so.

Making The Decision To Home Educate

Deciding to home educate.  Making the decision even when your family aren't supportive.Deciding to home educate.  Making the decision even when your family aren't supportive.

It’s settling-in season, the time of year for taster days and reception visits.  Everyone is talking about school places, nursery places, and whatever ‘next stage’ their child is headed towards.

It’s also the time of year when home ed support groups work overtime answering questions from people who are really not sure that school is what they want.

My eldest three children all started off at school.  We signed up for nursery and reception places along with everyone else.  It worked well for Emily.  The boys, not so much.

Between now and October we’ll expect to see a few new faces at home ed meet-ups.  They’ll be the families with four-year-olds who aren’t certain that their children are ready to start school.  Later, they’ll be the families with five-year-olds who are convinced that there must be a better answer, a better way than what they’ve experienced so far at school.

The decision to take children out of school, or to home educate from the start, is, for most people, a decision to reject the norm, to go against what ‘everyone else’ is doing, and to choose something different.

It’s a difficult decision, made even more difficult if you’re the only person in your circle who has any idea what home educating really means.  You know because you have researched, you’ve been eagerly reading everything you can find, gradually educating yourself about the possibilities.  Your friends, family, maybe even your partner, might not have done any of that.  For them, it can seem like a crazy decision.  They haven’t yet learned to see past the general perception of isolated, weird, unsocialised children.

It’s hard to stay positive when people are saying these things.  It’s difficult to stick firmly to what you’ve decided – especially when you might not be completely convinced yourself.

One of the best pieces of advice I read when starting out, is to make sure that you are moving towards something better rather than running away from something bad.

There might not seem to be much difference between the two.  If your child has been unhappy at school, then you are naturally going to think in terms of removing them from that situation.  If you’ve spent a long time battling the school, trying to get help for a child with special needs, then it can feel a bit deflating to suddenly have nowhere for all that energy to go.

The problem with all this is that if you’re constantly criticising schools, repeatedly going over the details of your negative experiences, then other people seem to switch off.  You’re probably the same if you have a friend who moans endlessly about something but does nothing to change the situation.

So how do you change that?  How do you make everyone else see home educating as the perfect solution you’re certain it can be?

You can’t.

At least, not at first.  If the biggest voice against home educating is the child’s other parent, then things will be more difficult, but if it’s anyone else then you just have to find a way to respectfully acknowledge their opinions and then continue on your planned route.

Does it help to know that lots of people face opposition from friends and extended family when starting out, but that lots of them report amazing about-turns from grandparents and others who see the improvement in happiness after a few months.

These people love your child, and they want the best for them.  If home ed hasn’t been on their radar until recently, then they’ve got a whole lot of learning to do, and deschooling, before they’ll be able to see what you’re seeing.  You might well have been planning to deregister for months and only started talking about it a few weeks ago.

Let your loved ones have the same luxury as you, let them come to it in their own time.

You need to focus on the positives of your new situation.  Don’t think about how sad you are about school trying to carve your ‘square peg’ to fit into one of their ’round holes’.  Think about how much time you’ll have to listen to what that square peg really wants and needs.  Don’t think about the times he came home too tired and overwhelmed to function.  Concentrate instead on how you can make your daily routine fit with his natural rhythms.

Start with happiness.  Start with learning the things that make your child happy, learning the things that make you happy.

Happy children will ‘sell’ home ed to your friends and family far more effectively than another rant about school.

Deschooling

Deschooling. What is it? How do you do it? Why?

Lots of people are about to embark on their new lives as home educators.  People take stock as we approach the end of the school year, and start to think about whether they want their children to start at, or continue in, school in September.

Particularly if you’ve been anticipating this moment for a while, you’ve probably got a lot of hopes and plans for this new adventure.  Maybe you’ve been trawling the home ed Facebook groups and bookmarking useful sites, and filling your Amazon wishlist with homeschooling books?

All of that is natural.  It’s a new adventure, exciting and terrifying in equal parts.  You want to be organised and ready for anything.

In a lot of cases, new home educators feel like they have something to prove.  If your family and friends or professionals involved in your child’s life are not supportive of your decision, it can be tempting to jump in and start trying to cover everything on the school curriculum, and fill in any gaps in knowledge.

It feels like you need to show everyone how successful this path can be.

Stop.

Take a breath.

Think about why you’re taking your child out of school.  What is it you’re looking for from this new way of life?

Very few people seem to choose home education because they’re keen on their children spending more time at a desk, or because they feel like there just aren’t enough worksheets in the National Curriculum.

You need to take a breather.

You and your child both need to deschool.  You need a period of time where there are no pressures, no expectations.  A period of time where you just figure out what life without school will look like to you.

The deschooling period lasts for as long as it takes to get school out of everyone’s system and to adjust to the fact that home education works differently.  Lots of people start out thinking that they don’t need to deschool, especially if they don’t feel like their child was particularly unhappy in school.

It’s not just about the children.

In most cases, the parents also need to deschool.   In fact, I’d argue that it’s even more important for parents to deschool than it is for children.

I started school at five, went straight through infant school, juniors, secondary and sixth form.  After that, I spent four years at university and another three as a teacher.  I know who took the most time to get out of those school-y habits in our house, and it wasn’t the children.

What Does Deschooling Look Like?

From the outside, deschooling might well look like doing nothing.  For many families, it looks like watching a whole lot of television, perfecting back-flips on the trampoline, or reading your way through everything Terry Pratchett has ever written.

The point is to just go with the flow for a while, to learn to tune into what your child is really interested in.

You’re likely to hear a lot about school over the coming months.  I was shocked by some of the things that my boys just dropped into conversation, things which had clearly been so ‘normal’ at school that they’d never paused to consider whether they were ‘right’.

A lot of children come out of school after a long period of being very unhappy there.  Home education for these families is often seen as a last resort, or a temporary measure while the family figures out what to do next.

If your family falls into this category, then it could take a very long time for your child to trust that this new way of doing things is something you’re going to stick to.

I’ve often seen it suggested that, as a rule of thumb, people need a month of deschooling for every year of schooling.  For some people it might happen more quickly, for some, it will take longer.  It’s certainly taking me longer than twenty months to leave behind my twenty years in the education system.

How Do I Deschool?

The short answer is to plan to spend a few months following your child, doing things that interest you both, finding a tribe of home educators and like-minded people to hang out with sometimes, and just enjoying one another’s company.

We spent a long time doing just that when we first deregistered the children, and every so often, we spend a while doing it all over again.  (Usually shortly after my inner teacher has jumped out of her box and insisted on everyone doing a SATs paper or something equally ridiculous).

After a while of doing nothing, or nothing productive, or nothing like learning, you’ll start to notice a funny thing.  It’s pretty much impossible to stop children from learning.

Actually, I’d go even further and say that it’s pretty much impossible to stop learning.  All of us, adults and children alike.  I’m pretty certain that I’ve learned as much as any of my children since starting on this route.

Go on some adventures.  Pretend you’re a tourist in your own town.  Spend time at the beach and in the play-parks while everyone else is at school.  Do whatever seems fun at the time.

Lean Into The Questions.

None of my children ever really did the ‘Why’ thing, but I have a houseful of what-iffers.

If you’re prepared to lean into the questions rather than fending them off or just offering the answer immediately, then you’ll learn a lot about what interests your child.  We’ve all started out searching online for ‘how to fix a dripping tap’ and somehow found ourselves reading about Giant Pandas.  Learning can be as simple as following those rabbit trails and seeing where they take you.

All of the above is just my take on deschooling.  For me it wasn’t a one-time process, it’s something I have to spiral back to again and again.

Every time you feel like you’re not doing enough, not doing the right things, or that it’s all a big mistake, step back and see what’s really going on.  For me, nine times out of ten, it’s my  perceptions of what we should or shouldn’t be doing, my school experiences, my hang-ups that are causing the problems.

Here are a few more links for more reading on the subject:

Sandra Dodd‘s site has a big directory page full of useful reading on the subject.

home-ed.info

Educational Freedom

a2zhomeschooling.com

What Home Educators Do All Day. How Home Ed Works For Us.

What Home Educators Do All Day. How Home Ed Works For Us.

First up, I know there are plenty of opinions about whether it’s right to use the word ‘homeschooling’ or whether ‘home education’ is better or something else entirely.  I’m not overly bothered about which term people use.  We don’t do ‘school at home’ as such, but I do use the terms ‘homeschooling’ and ‘home education’ pretty much interchangeably.  If you have a preference, then please feel free to just make a mental substitution, it shouldn’t make any difference to the content of this post.

I’m an active part of the organising committee for our local home educators’ group.  We get to meet a lot of people who are in the early stages of making the decision to home educate.  Sometimes these people have very young children and are trying to decide whether they should ever send them to mainstream school.  Sometimes they have children who, for myriad reasons, are unhappy and not thriving in school.  Almost all of them share worries about making a decision that is so very different from most of their friends and family.

One common question is some variation on ‘How does home educating work?’ or ‘What do you do all day?’

There are as many answers to that as there are home educating families.  Even within the same family, different children might be taking a very different approach to their education.  That said, I’d like to give a little bit of insight into what happens in my family  at the moment.

What Do Home Educators Do All Day?

At Chimney School, we do have a reasonably predictable pattern to our days and weeks.  Sometimes that pattern slips and slides for weeks at a time, but I’m usually happy to resurrect it, make a few changes, and get back into a routine.

Broadly, our ‘timetable’ (it’s not a timetable, but lots of people ask what our timetable is, so it’s as good a word as any, especially for people considering taking their children out of school) contains maths and English as separate subjects, and everything else as ‘project work’.

We do lots of maths and English in everyday life as well, and in our project work, but I like having them separate so that I feel reassured that the children are getting a decent grounding in these subjects.  That’s more about me than it is about their education.

The way we’re tackling this at the moment is to use Literacy Planet and Maths-Whizz.

Usually, Edward and Rose will do around an hour on each of these sites each week.  Sometimes we switch up the maths and use Khan Academy instead, but we’re mostly in a Maths-Whizz groove at the moment.  Rose likes Literacy Planet enough that she’ll often use it at other times as well.

Using these sites lets me feel like there’s consistent progress happening even in the weeks where we’re either doing other stuff or not doing a lot of anything.  I like that they can be mostly independent using them, and I just need to be on hand to help out when needed.  I also like the Maths-Whizz reporting system that lets me see exactly how each child is getting on in different areas.

I try to make the best use of the Maths-Whizz progress report by using it to inform other things we do.  If I notice that someone is struggling with the rapid recall exercises on multiplication facts (rapid recall is the bane of Edward’s maths life), I’ll try to come up with a game that might help with that, and we’ll play it a few times over the next week or so.

As far as ‘everything else’ is concerned, we tend to go with the flow.  Both children usually have an ongoing project or two, and I find that we can cover pretty much everything through these.

At the moment, Rose is all about cooking.  She’s started a website to share her progress, and we’re working our way through The River Cottage Family Cookbook.  Each chapter focusses on a different basic ingredient, so she learns a bit about that, and then we cook a few recipes from the chapter.  I don’t tend to think too much about which school subjects we’re covering in any given project, but it’s easy enough to see the science, maths, literacy, and IT skills here, without even delving too deeply.

Edward is doing a robotics course from Supercharged Science.  He’s also got various Minecraft-based things on the go that I don’t claim to fully understand.  He spends a lot of time working on Scratch programming (as does Rose).  We’re also about to make a working pinhole camera (just waiting on me to buy the supplies) so that he can have a go at developing his own pictures.

The pinhole camera idea is a spin-off from a home ed photography class we’ve been participating in.  We’ve had a spell of not doing much more than our basic weekly home ed group, but we seem to be entering a season of joining in more again.  It goes like that, I find, ebbs and flows.  Rose has a higher need for mixing and socialising than either Edward or I, so it’s a definite balancing act to make sure that we’re all happy and thriving.  We’re lucky to have some amazing groups locally that cover a huge variety of different activities.  We dip in and out of those, doing things that appeal to one or other of us, and skipping the things that don’t resonate.

While the literacy, maths, and projects are the cornerstones of our days, there is so much else that happens without us even really thinking about it.  A car journey can turn into a lengthy discussion about how cars work.  This week we’ve spent a long time talking about Europe and the referendum – and most of that was me listening and asking rather than ‘teaching’.  Conversation is probably the single most important thing in our home ed life.

Watching my children form their ideas as they speak.  Seeing them refining and changing their opinions even from one end of a sentence to another is a privilege that I only rarely got to experience in my time as a classroom teacher.

Home educating, homeschooling, whatever you want to call it, is far more about learning and discovering than it is about teaching.

People ask ‘How do you know what to teach?’ and tell me that they’re scared they don’t know enough.  Your many years on this planet, and the fact that you are interested enough in your children to even be considering home educating, these are ample qualifications for the job of ‘teacher’ in your own home.

This, obviously, is just my family, and it’s just what we do right now.  I’m planning another post shortly that will go into some common home ed styles.

Welcome.

engine house

Hi, come on in and take a seat.  The kettle’s on, and there are biscuits in the tin.  I hope you’ve time to stay and chat for a while?

I’m mama to five amazing children (I might be just a little bit biased), and we live in beautiful Cornwall, where the sun always shines (kind of).  We’re a home educating family, although my two eldest are currently in school.

This is the first post in my new attempt to begin documenting our home educating life a little bit.  I’m suddenly aware that it’s all flying past too quickly.  I vaguely intended to start blogging about home ed once I’d got it all figured out.  I really believed that, at some stage, I’d begin to feel as though I knew what I was doing.  Three years in almost, and I’m not there yet.  In fact, I think it’s a bit like growing up: when you’re eighteen you know without a shadow of a doubt that you’re a grown-up, when you’re thirty-eight, you know without a shadow of a doubt that you’ll never be a grown up!  So, I’m starting.

When I first started home educating, I devoured blogs on the subject, filling my reading time with the stories of families who had trodden this path before us.  It was an enormous decision, pulling first one child, and then the others, out of a system that my husband and I had both invested heavily in, a system that we, especially my husband, believed in.  We both trained as teachers.  I stopped teaching soon after having our first child and haven’t gone back to the classroom since then.  My husband still teaches.  We circled around endless possibilities before finally agreeing that removing Thomas from school had to be at least worth a try.  I know that it’s an issue many couples argue about when they’re considering home educating.  We were no exception, but that’s a story for another day.  The final decision was that we should try it, that I believed enough in the idea to take responsibility for it, and that my husband believed enough in me to agree to giving it a go.

I often tell new home educators, or those perched precariously on the edge of the diving board, that nothing has to be forever.  It’s perfectly possible for children to integrate back into school after being home educated, and we’ve done it, twice with my eldest son, and once with my eldest daughter.  If you’re wobbling about taking that decision, then just do it.  You can go back if you want to, but at least try.

Why Chimney School?

The name ‘Chimney School’ was coined by the children’s godmother, who felt that we should have some kind of name, some identity.  We live in an area that was once at the heart of the Cornish mining industry, and we have a big chimney (this one) on our doorstep.  So, we’re the Chimney School.  The name goes in and out of favour with the children, but the other day, at an arts workshop, Edward and Rose both wrote ‘Chimney School’ on the covers of their workbooks, so it’s as good a name as any for this blog.

Our Journey.

I’m hoping that this blog will be useful to those considering the path, and interesting to those walking alongside us.  I’m also very aware of time slipping away.  My eldest two are back at school now (both chose to join secondary school at the start of year seven), and the other three are very much in the thick of learning and growing at home.  There will never be time to write this, there will never be the perfect moment when I feel as though it has all come together.  There will never be a book of right answers.

I hope you enjoy our journey, and my random musings on our lives both in and out of traditional schooling.