Perhaps you have really enjoyed home education and think that it would be something you’d like to continue. Beginning to home educate your child is a big step- first things first the school would not be providing you with resources!
There’s a lot to think about when you’re getting started with home education, from working out what you’re going to teach your child to finding the resources you’ll need. My step-by-step guide walks you through those early stages.
1. Remove your child from school
If your child attends a school you will need to write to the head asking for their name to be removed from the register. If your child hasn’t yet started school but you’ve accepted a school place for them, you will need to let the local authority know that you no longer wish to take up the place.
There’s no obligation for you to tell the local authority that you’re about to start home educating although they may contact you when they realise your child isn’t registered at a school and ask what provision you’ve made for their education.
2. Reach out to find some fellow home educators
A great idea for novice home educators is to join a home education group. This will give you the opportunity to pick the brains of people who are already home educating. They can tell you where to go for resources and learning experiences in your area, share materials, provide group learning opportunities and give your child a chance to socialise with other home-educated children. Education Otherwise has a comprehensive list of groups throughout the UK.
3. Work out what approach you’ll take
Head of operations, Greg Smith, at Oxford Open Learning, ‘If you had a hundred home educators in a room, each of them would be likely to have a different approach.’ The company provides distance learning courses for home educating families. Teachers are skilled at educating lots of children at the same time, but home education is all about tailoring learning to suit you and your child. Generally, there are two methods – structured and autonomous – and most families find their own way between the two.
Structured learning is formal, using a timetable for lessons and a curriculum of subjects. If the plan is for your child to return to school, this might be a useful approach, keeping them familiar with the structure of school life. This method is also great for a child with special needs who thrives on routine. Alternatively, if you are home educating because your child is a gifted sportsperson for example, structured learning will be necessary in order to fit lessons around training sessions.
Autonomous learning is flexible. This is child-led, allowing them to decide what, when and how to learn according to what interests them most. If your child is self motivated and does not respond well to structure this may be a good method. You act as a facilitator more than a teacher, providing the opportunities, experiences and resources your child needs to follow their interests.
4. How does your child learn?
Think about your child’s personality and how best they retain and enjoy information. Are they self-disciplined enough to decide what they wish to learn and then follow it up, or do they manage better with workbooks at the kitchen table? Do they learn better by being hands-on and active, do they find they remember things better by reading, do they like to make lots of notes, or have music on while they’re working?
5. Devise a scheme of work
This a plan that details how you’re going to cover a particular topic. Involving your child in devising a scheme of work will help them feel involved and motivated. This is not a necessity but it might help if you are using a more structured way of learning. Things to think about:
- What are your aims?
- What do you want to produce?
- What resources will you need?
- How long will it take?
6. Work out your ‘working hours’
Not every home-educating family has a timetable, but it can help, especially in the early stages, while you’re setting up a routine and encouraging good study habits. It can be a loose framework of subjects you intend to follow each day, or a more detailed hour-by-hour plan.
A typical school day includes literacy (English) and numeracy (maths) for about 50-70 minutes every day up until age 14 with weekly (or more regular) lessons such as science, geography, history, PE, religious education, art, music, drama, modern languages, computing, design and technology (woodwork, metalwork, textiles, food, graphics) and personal, social and health education. Each school works to its own timetable and timings will differ from school to school. Generally most have 50-1hr for lunch and at least one play of around 15-20mins.
A home education timetable could be based on the above, depending on your child’s interests, attention span and any other commitments . Perhaps you will spend a portion of the day away from home – meeting other home educators and their children; going for a nature walk in the woods; visiting a local attraction or listening to an afternoon music performance at the community centre. Alternatively, you may decide not to follow a conventional school day, and instead do a shorter period of formal learning seven days a week, or start earlier in the morning and finish earlier, for example.
7. Invest in your equipment and tools
- Somewhere to work: this could be a desk in a room that’s dedicated to your child’s learning, or the kitchen table, depending on your space and approach to home education.
- A dictionary.
- An atlas.
- A pencil case, including a maths set and handwriting pen.
- Resources like paper (plain and lined), glue, felt tips, crayons and a stapler.
- A computer.
- Somewhere to store your child’s work.
Avoid spending money too quickly (have a look at the School Run’s home educating on a budget). Can you borrow resources from other home educators? Could you link together to get better prices on resources?
8. Familiarise yourself with good resources
There are lots of great educational resources for home educating families, many of them free. These include:
The library: for books, CDs, DVDs, reference material and computers. Don’t forget you can also order items if they’re not in stock.
Your local council. You may be able to use some of their resources and you might also be entitled to a discount at local leisure centres or museums. Many attractions such as museums may offer home educators a discount- so it is worth asking at the individual attraction.
The Department for Education: you can access the National Curriculum and use it as a guide to what to teach your child and what they should be capable of by age, or just for inspiration. Particularly useful if you intend on your child returning to school in the future.
The BBC offers school television programs and radio, from beginner’s Arabic to A Level maths, plus good educational resources online.
LETS: these are local exchanges for people living near each other to swap goods and services.
Distance learning: there are a number of companies in the UK, such as Oxford Open Learning, offering educational support at varying costs – from sets of workbooks to resources for individual subjects to exam curriculums.
9. Keep on top of progress
For many parents, the aim of home education is for their child to follow their own learning development curve, whatever form or pace, but without formal assessments or other children to compare them to, it can be difficult to see if they’re making progress. If your child continues to ask questions as they learn, is enthusiastic, confident, happy and keen to learn, then they are making progress. If you’re following a structured learning program, you can access the National Curriculum and follow your child’s progress that way. Regular self-assessment tests and assignments can help consolidate learning.
10. Adapt with your child
Unlike school, which has to cater for the majority, home education means you can follow your child’s lead. Take it slowly and be flexible, and you and your child will fall into a routine that works for you both.