Home education: the facts

Thinking about choosing home education for your child? Here, we speak to mum of four Jax Blunt on why she educates her children at home. Jax blogs at Making It Up and her kids are 14, 11, 4 and 2 so she has a wide range of ages to educate...

Jax, what made you opt for home schooling?

Well 'home schooling' is a very American term - here in the UK, we tend to refer to ourselves as 'home educators'. Although some people do 'school' at home. My argument against that is that if school is so great, why not use it? We don't do school at home - we have a balance of some structured education, and a lot of child-led free time.

How old were your children when you decided to home educate them?

I chose home education before I actually had children. Which I know sounds peculiar, but I was on a PGCE, training to be a maths teacher, and I came across the writing of John Holt, primarily how do children learn and how do children fail. It was all about how teaching is the wrong approach, and letting children learn works much better. And since then, my older children did spend some time in a Montessori nursery and school, and I trained as a Montessori teacher, and now I blend all sorts of activities into our home education.

Letting children learn is a really fascinating approach...

Yes and it's all to do with motivation. If you want to learn something, you'll learn it, won't you? You'll find a way that works for you, like following an online course, reading a book, or searching out someone to help. But if someone just tells you you've got to learn it now, this way, and stands over you, it's likely to be a lot less successful. Children are just the same, if not more so. They're set up to learn, but learn best in set ups that are more like family settings - so multi age Montessori classrooms involve older children teaching/ demonstrating to younger ones.

How much work is involved, ensuring you follow the curriculum?

Absolutely zero - you don't have to. The national curriculum isn't actually national. It doesn't apply to private schools, academies or free schools, and it doesn't apply to home educators. You can teach (or let your children learn) whatever you feel is most appropriate. The law states that children should receive an education suitable to age, ability and aptitude and case law states that the education should suit a child for life in their community without foreclosing alternatives. None of that implies a specific curriculum.

How expensive is it, buying text books and teaching resources?

Home education is as expensive as you want to make it, really. There are a lot of free things out there, ranging from web resources, to places to visit, museums and so on. If you get to needing to study specific curriculums for exam courses, that can cost though, and you'll often have to pay for exam costs too.

How do you ensure they learn to read well, when they're four or five?

There are so many resources available to help learn to read, it's really easy. The main thing is to have a reading environment - so books through the day as well as at bedtime, board books for little ones, seeing older ones reading. Library membership and visits. I did reading schemes with my eldest (not knowing any better!) and lessons, and it was fairly awful. My second learned to read in Montessori by using the resources available - in the September that he was 5, he hadn't done any of the prep, but started it himself, and by the January he was reading Harry Potter. I put that down to self motivation.

How do you ensure your child is learning everything he/she needs to, in order to eventually pass exams?

In the same way as anyone does when preparing for an exam - check curriculum, use tests or past papers. But not all children choose to take exams - there are a variety of different routes through life, after all.

What's the best thing about home education?

For us, it's being able to suit education to each child and our family life.

What's the toughest thing?

It's hard navigating expectations, and getting unbiased information - so much of it is actually proprietary to the education system, and it's not easily accessible to parents and children.

What's the biggest misconception you come up against?

Probably the biggest misconception is that we have to be registered and monitored - we don't. Parents are responsible for education in this country, not the state or schools. Local authorities only have the power to intervene when it appears there is no suitable education taking place.

Why should someone reading this consider home education?

I'm not sure anyone should consider home schooling as such. I think that what people should do is think about what their child needs in the way of education, and what's the best way of them getting it. For some people school may be efficient, but to me, what's going on there looks less and less like education and more and more like hoop jumping every year. The real thing to do is inform yourself about what education is, and who is in control - it's not the schools, it is always the parents.

For more information about home education, check out Jax's handy guide.

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