Thinking of Home Schooling your Child?
If you answered 'yes', then I’m sure there are many reasons that have prompted you to give it serious thought. But! Is it really a viable option for you? What about your child? There are many factors that need to be considered, before making a decision, and one that should not be taken lightly.
Why do parents elect to educate their child at home?
Believe it or not, it is more common than you may think, with numbers steadily increasing, for which some of the reasons that influence a parents decision to home school can include but not limited to:
1. Location and reputation of a school
2. Control over topic matters being taught
3. Religious beliefs
4. Work not challenging enough
5. Not enough support due to social and/or learning difficulties
6. Special educational needs and gifted children’s needs not met
8. Travel due to family commitments
9. More flexibility for parents that fit individual lifestyle needs
The list is far more extensive than one can go through here, so are you ready? Scared? Not sure where to start or what to do? It's not as difficult as you may think, but it is not easy either with the amount of work that goes into teaching and preparation. Nonetheless, it is rewarding when you see your child progressing and eager to learn - maybe, a spark that was once there, and lost within the school system. The hardest part is going from Mum to Teacher.
Essential questions that you need to address
Think about Who? What? Where? When? And, How you will teach? Not to mention extra curricular activities and opportunities to provide an all-round balanced education which will add to costs, in addition to teaching and learning resources.
Who is going to teach your child?
You don’t have to be a qualified teacher to home school your child, but it would certainly help. What you need to remember is that, teaching young children (Early Years/Primary), up to the age of 11 is within the realms for many of us, but do you possess the knowledge and skills in order to challenge your child in English, Mathematics and Science in upper Key Stage Two (years 5 and 6) age 9-11? Can you do fractions and basic algebra, for example? It is at this age that teaching and learning steps up a level. Remember! In school, the primary teacher is qualified to teach all core and foundation subjects for the 5-11 age group, although some schools will employ a specialist for music for example, but this will vary from school to school depending on funding. However, in secondary school (11-16 years of age) the same does not apply, teachers are subject specialists, so the teacher who teaches physics will be different to the mathematics teacher unless their skills and knowledge afford them the opportunity to teach two subjects such as History and Geography.
What subjects will you teach?
This is entirely up to you, but a good place to start is the British Curriculum. It outlines schemes of work that cover each subject and year group. You can use this as your guide and adapt it accordingly to your child’s individual needs and level of ability, not to mention your child’s own personal interests which makes the learning process more interesting and enjoyable.
I would strongly recommend following the British or even International Primary Curriculum for English, Mathematics and Science, in the event you decide to send your child back into mainstream school. This way, you can be assured that they are covering essential elements in line with peers - making the transition back to school so much easier for your child.
Other subjects can be combined through topic work, such as history and geography, with creative and artistic activities to support lessons. Educational visits to museums, art galleries and places of historical interest extend and enhance knowledge and understanding beyond what is taught at home. These visits can be incorporated into lessons and a great way to learn about the world around us, not to mention the different countries you may visit.
Lesson planning and keeping records
At present, it is not a statutory requirement in the UK, but you would be well advised to keep a record of your lesson planning and your child’s work ensuring it is all dated, and whether lesson objectives have been met and any informal and formal assessments sat, and the grades achieved. It will certainly help with future planning (e.g to review elements where there is a weakness) and in the event you send your child back to mainstream school. It will help the Head and Class Teacher provide the necessary support if and where required from the start. And, if you do send them back, make sure you have taught them leading up to this point, and in line with their respective year/keystage (higher if they have the ability). This onus falls on you!
You will find a plethora of teaching and learning resources on the internet, with publications that you can purchase with lesson plans and so-forth, already laid out, if you don’t want to do this yourself, or unsure about how to go about this. Any planning that you use can be easily adapted. The Hamilton Trust is one such program (British) which is very good for the main core subjects for the primary phase.
Where will you teach your child?
Do you have a dedicated room that is light, airy and quiet? This is important as distraction from the TV, or other disturbances is not conducive to the learning environment. Can learning aids go up on the wall along with the children’s work? While this is not essential, it will certainly aid their learning as well as encourage and promote their efforts to have their work displayed, as well as a sense of achievement.
How? The methods you will implement
Lessons can be formal or informal, or better, a combination of both, whereby creating a balanced learning environment and one that offers a holistic approach. Remember, all children have different learning styles and this needs to be taken into consideration. By not doing so, you could be doing your child a disservice.
Do you understand what it means by ‘different learning styles’? It is the way in which children (and of course adults and what makes us unique) absorb the information they receive, how they process and comprehend the information, and whether such information will be retained. Much of this is influenced by how we learn. One example, a Visual learner learns best when they can see objects or visual images and words written down compared to listening to verbal information, such as following a set of instructions, only for this information to be lost in transition, thus the instructions are incomplete. As a result, the instructions to complete a task is not fully understood and therefore, unable to progress to the next stage (it may take a while to get there). A visual learner is able to see and process the information because they understand it, enabling them to retain and retrieve the information more readily. It is also why very young children learn best through play and a hands on approach to learning, and is a preferred method, because it relates to real life experiences. To learn more, put Learning Styles into your search engine to ensure you are prepared with the different methods of teaching and learning. Watch videos. You will find it useful. Before you know it, you’ll be bursting with ideas to implement. It’s a learning curve, but even professionals who have been teaching for years are always looking to reflect and improve teaching and learning methods for their students, as well as enhancing their creative skills.
When will you teach?
There are no set hours per day or week that you must fulfil. Again, it is down to you and what fits in with your family's schedule. Most parents will try to set a routine each day for Maths and English with other subjects or topic matter spread out throughout the week. For example, Maths and English in the morning with an hour spent on each across 5 days, followed by Science one afternoon and Geography the next, and so on. You may cram all teaching into 3 or 4 days as opposed to 5. It is this freedom and flexibility and the ability to have more control over what your child is learning that parents favour. Regardless, you do need to be disciplined to home school and having a structured routine in place is better for the child, so they know what they are doing from one day to the next. Create a timetable that works for you. Get your child on board to create it and feel included in the process.
What does it cost to educate your child at home?
This brings us back to who will teach your child? Will one of you have to give up work? Are you financially secure to be able to do this? What about employing a private tutor? If you go via this route, I strongly recommend a professionally qualified primary teacher with a PGCE or B.Ed, who is able to cover all subject matter for the primary years, and independent subject specialists (ideally combined subjects making it more cost effective and continuity for your child) for those aged 11 and above. Again, it is better to employ a professional teacher for this age group, but equally doable to employ a person whose degree/s cover specific subject matter. There are those who know their field inside out, but do not necessarily make a great teacher, so be selective and choose wisely by doing a trial lesson making sure both you and your child is happy. Depending on your child’s level, some primary teachers are happy to teach beyond the 11 age group, depending on their own knowledge and skills, and ideal for those who are struggling in certain areas.
The cost of hiring a professional teacher will vary according to your location, age of child and subject/s to be taught and whether you intend to hire on an hourly, part or full time basis. For an hourly rate, expect to pay around £30 to £50+. Like anything, you can get cheaper, but can they deliver! If money is not a problem, then opting for a professionally qualified teacher part or full time will cost you anywhere between £500 to £1200+ per week. Maybe you know another family with children the same age who are opting to educate their child or children at home - you could share the load drawing upon each of your strengths when it comes to teaching, or share the cost completely. There is nothing to say you have to teach the same amount of hours as your child currently does in school - again, this is down to you.
Teaching materials such as books (you could join your local library if you have not done so already), stationery, learning materials, entrance fees and other extra curricular activities (swimming, tennis, judo, ballet, learning to play an instrument etc.) all need to be factored in when weighing up the costs.
Educating your child at home and the law
According to the law in England, you do not need to:
Have any formal qualifications
Teach the British National Curriculum
Provide a broad and balanced education
Ensure your home is fully equipped to teach
Stick to a set timetable
Teach for a set amount of hours day or week
Provide lesson planning
Carry out assessments
The list goes on and the opposite of what I advised. My advice is simply that - advice, which I hope helps is some small way. In addition, there is no requirement for you to let an authority body in to your home to asses it for suitability, or your child and work whatsoever. If someone turns up, you can refuse entry. There are special circumstances where this may be overruled if your child has special needs. But, If you are serious about home schooling, then some of the pointers that have been noted throughout this article will ensure a smoother, organised and clearer approach, to ensure you can give your child the best education possible in order to meet their individual academic, social, spiritual and physical needs.
The topic for home schooling is a lengthy one, but hopefully the information provided in this article will help you reach a decision, along with additional reading through research, which you should undertake. Most importantly, talk to your school and your local educational authority - they are there to help and will advise about de-registering (essential) your child and will provide you with all the information you need.
To learn about the difference between a Teacher and Tutor click the on the blue link.