Homeschooling is becoming a much more popular choice for parents; especially now that people can work from home and access many quality teaching resources online.
Despite growing in popularity, there are still many misconceptions and misunderstandings surrounding homeschooling. This guide aims to walk you through what homeschooling is and the many aspects involved.
- Why choose homeschooling?
- What to think about before you take the leap
- Steps to start homeschooling
- The cost of homeschooling
- Social effects of homeschooling
Why choose homeschooling?
There are many reasons that you might decide to take your child out of the schooling system and choose to educate them at home instead. You could be unimpressed with the education system, have concerns over your child being bullied at school, or you might think your child would respond better to home education.
If homeschooling is something you’re seriously considering, you won’t be alone in your decision. It was reported in 2018 that homeschooling in the UK had increased by a massive 40% over three years [i]. Choosing to homeschool ultimately comes down to your circumstances and what you think is best for your child or children, but some of the most common reasons include:
- Providing more one-to-one tutorage[ii]. Some children respond better when they receive one-to-one attention while learning. This isn’t possible in most public-school settings without having the aid of a teaching assistant.
- Going at their own pace. Children must have time to absorb the information they’re being fed, and every child does this at a different rate. If a child struggles to keep up, it can be a significant knock to their confidence. Teaching at home means you can go at their pace and put more time into helping them understand topics they struggle with.
- A flexible schedule. The typical school day often doesn’t fit into our modern-day lives, and your child’s natural body-clock (especially as they hit adolescent years) may not respond well to early starts[iii]. Homeschooling presents an opportunity for a more flexible schedule – and eliminates the stress of the dreaded school run.
- Choose your own curriculum. One of the biggest plus sides of homeschooling is the ability to pick and choose the taught subjects. This allows you to put more time into teaching subjects your child has a legitimate interest in.
- Schools are usually limited to lessons in the classrooms and on the school grounds, but some children learn best when the task at hand is interactive. When homeschooling, you can plan your timetable to include trips to subject-based locations like museums and plan fun, activity-led lessons.
- Valuable time with your child. Your children won’t be children for long, and they hit significant milestones in what feels like the blink of an eye! Many parents choose to homeschool so they don’t have to miss these milestones and make most of their little ones before they fly the nest.
What to think about before you take the leap
There is a lot to consider before jumping into homeschooling. Ultimately, it would help if you decided what is best for your child’s future.
Although homeschooling is the best option for many students, you have to understand that it’ll change your life and be willing to accept the extra responsibilities that come with it. You’ll be both a parent and a teacher, and how you decide to balance this role will alter your relationship with your child forever – whether this is beneficial or detrimental. So what should you be thinking about before you take the leap?
Will your work-life fit in around your homeschooling activities? If you have a partner and both of you work, will one of you leave your job to take on homeschooling responsibilities?
Suppose you’re able to do your job remotely. In that case, this can run relatively smoothly alongside homeschooling – but you need to be realistic about how flexible your job role is and whether this balance would work for you and your family. It wouldn’t be fair to expect your child to self-teach all day while you’re on conference calls. It would also help to consider whether you’d be able to work effectively and productively while teaching.
The key aspect to consider when thinking about homeschooling is your child. If your child has been struggling in school for a while, both socially and with their learning progress, it’s an infinitely easier decision to make than if they excel in one or both fields.
What is best for them? Make sure you have a series of honest, open conversations with them about what they’d like to do, and don’t make the decision based on what works best for you.
Homeschooling can turn your life upside down (not necessarily in a bad way!). Have a sit-down and think about whether you’re equipped to educate your child; if you’re not overly confident in your abilities, you can always take an online teaching course, but this isn’t a necessity. Although homeschooling can have a considerable number of benefits for your entire family, you’ll need to be ready to accept that your whole routine will need to change for the times your child would ‘normally’ be out of the house and in school.
It won’t always be easy!
People like to paint a perfect picture of their homeschooling experiences on the internet, but there will always be days that are more of a struggle than others. Not everything will go to plan or work out the first time around, and you have to expect that your child won’t be a perfect student every day. Remember that the good will always outweigh the bad and take each problem as it comes.
Steps to start homeschooling
If you’ve weighed up your options and decided homeschooling is the best educational approach for you and your child, there’s a busy road ahead!
The following explains everything you need to do to homeschool effectively.
1) Legalities – removing your child from school
In the UK, you’re within your rights to educate your child at home if you want to, but in most circumstances, they must be in education from 5 to 16. If they’re already enrolled in a school, you should tell the school that you’re planning on educating them from home[iii]. They’ll walk you through any administrative procedures, but they must accept this if you plan on homeschooling full time. The school will contact the local education authority to tell them you’ve taken your child off their register.
If your child isn’t of school age, but you’re planning on homeschooling them, you don’t legally have to inform anyone, but it’s sensible to contact your local education authority to let them know.
In either case, your local authority may contact you to discuss your educational plans or to arrange a home visit. This isn’t anything to worry about, and under most circumstances, they won’t stop you from homeschooling. These checks ensure your child will be receiving a good standard of education[iv].
2) Choosing your homeschooling style
There are many homeschooling styles. Each style supports a different learning way, and what suits some children may not work for others. Below, we run through the most popular homeschooling styles – from more traditional textbook-led methods to child-led methods.
- Classical – This is a popular approach to homeschooling, where learning is focused on three stages of education, the Grammar stage, the Logic stage, and the Rhetoric stage. This method uses hands-on experimentation and living texts to support learning instead of textbooks[v].
- Charlotte Mason – This curriculum style is based on Charlotte Mason’s own beliefs that “Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life.” The idea behind this curriculum is that a child’s education goes beyond just educating their mind – it also applies to every other area of their life, focusing on developing good habits, cultivating a healthy home life, and learning from living texts, thoughts, and ideas[vi].
- Montessori – The Montessori style of educating is popular across nursery schools and homeschool families. Montessori teaching is that children dictate the learning by their interests, and parents facilitate learning by providing relevant resources. This method also involves setting up pre-prepared areas and situations that children can choose themselves.
- Unschooling – Often referred to as child-led learning, this method ditches textbooks and curriculums to focus on learning from living.’ There is a structure for necessary reading and writing skills, but this often doesn’t follow conventional teaching methods or involve testing and periodic evaluations.
- School-at-Home – School-at-home teaching is similar to what you’d find in a regular school setting. It’s curriculum centred, and work is organized by school year. This can be taught entirely by a parent, but plenty of online schools use this model that parents can sign their children up to (though there is generally a cost involved)[vii].
3) Find a curriculum to suit your style
Instead of blindly diving into different curriculums, it’s wise to research the homeschooling styles above and decide on your curriculum based on that. The key to choosing a curriculum is finding one that is the best ‘fit’ for your child. As well as considering your child, you need to think about your capabilities and situation. Many parents pick and choose subjects from different curriculums, while others follow one verbatim. Whatever you decide to do, remember that there is no shame in changing tact if the curriculum you choose doesn’t work for you!
Remember that your curriculum is only there to guide you, and you don’t have to follow it to the letter. Generally, you’ll have to pay for more comprehensive curriculum packs, but there are some great free resources available.
Here are some popular providers for you to explore:
- Briteschool – education for both primary and secondary school children
- Wolsey Hall – core subjects at primary level and courses for GCSE & A-Level students
- Interhigh – education for students aged 10+
- Twinkl – free home learning resources for ages 5 – 16
4) Timetables/working hours & holidays
Legally in the UK, your child should spend no minimum amount of time learning each week. As a guideline, most schools offer 22-25 hours of education a week and are in session for 38 weeks in the year. This is an excellent model to follow to ensure your child can keep up with their peers.
One of the main appeals of homeschooling is the freedom to create your own timetable, schooling hours and to plan holidays that fall within regular school term times. This flexibility opens up more opportunities for educational travel and family trips and takes the stress away from planning everything around a set school timetable.
However, it’s wise to have an open plan on the amount of time you want to spend homeschooling each day, the topics you’d like to cover, and when your holidays will fall. Although some parents like to stick to strict homeschooling hours, others let lessons seep into ‘after school’ time. This all depends on your preferences. Either way, accept that you won’t cover everything you want to every day; there’s always time to catch up!
5) Support network
Even though it’s easy to try and tackle everything alone as a parent-teacher, you’ll function better with a stable support network. Homeschool groups are communities of parents who also educate their children at home and are ideal places to seek advice & share ideas. Often, homeschool groups will also organise social events for children within the community, so they offer great opportunities for your child (and you!) to make new friends. These connections could be vital for you during your first year or so of homeschooling.There are hundreds of groups that have been set up expressly to support homeschoolers. You can find some local groups here.
6) Classroom set up
Naturally, homeschool lessons will take part in many places of the house, but here are some classroom area ideas to consider:
Light and space – a desk near a window with ample space will create a productive environment that doesn’t feel oppressive.
Limit distractions – where possible, don’t set up your classroom or study space in a busy, high traffic part of the house.
Organisation – dedicated cupboards, drawers, and folders for learning resources & curriculum content must make sure lessons run smoothly. Providing your child with their own desk with organisers will also help them feel more in control and responsible for their space, so they’re more likely to keep it tidy.
Visuals – use whiteboards and print outs to show your child their timetable for the day and to illustrate any relevant curriculum materials
Personality – your child will spend a considerable amount of their time in their homeschool classroom, so you need to make sure it’s an environment they enjoy being in. Let them help you pick decorations, fun stationery, and posters.
Furniture – to an extent, you need to pick furniture that will work with your space, but make sure the furniture you choose is comfortable and durable so it’ll last a long time. Be mindful that desks and chairs may need to be replaced as your child grows.
The cost of homeschooling
A lot of parents have put off homeschooling because they’re concerned about the cost of it.
Although education through schools is free in the UK, there are no home education grants, and you can’t get financial help from the government for homeschooling[viii]. If you choose to educate from home, this becomes your financial responsibility.
So, what costs do you need to consider?
The potential loss of income – If one parent needs to stop working to become a parent-teacher, this means less income for your household.
Homeschooling supplies – You will need to stock up on stationery, organisation materials, teaching materials, furniture, and more. Although this can all cost a pretty penny, being savvy will help you to cut costs here.
Cost of resources – The cost of a curriculum or subject packs if you choose to use them to support your child’s learning.
Paying for exams – If your child isn’t enrolled in school, you’ll have to cover the cost of any GCSE or A-Level exams. The cost of exams will depend on the subject and the exam board, but you need to be prepared for the cost as exams can be anything from £40-£60 each. You can see the most up to date prices on the exam boards websites:
Despite the extra costs, you will also be saving money in several areas:
- You won’t have to buy a new uniform each school year. Uniforms can cost parents anything upwards of £100, so this is a significant saving.
- You won’t have to foot the bill for school trips and choose activities that fall within your budget.
- There won’t be any transport costs; you will save money on petrol or school bus fare.
- School lunches can add up to be quite a lot over the school term, but if you’re homeschooling, the cost of food each week can be much lower.
Social effects of homeschooling
One of the most controversial topics surrounding homeschooling is the supposed psychological effects it could potentially have on a child. Not being in a ‘typical’ school setting will affect them in later life. When children experience homeschooling, they can end up:
- Being better socialised by attending homeschool meet ups, clubs and other events
- Having more confidence and a higher self esteem
- Showing less antisocial traits
- Feeling better equipped to make new friends
Although home education can have a negative impact on children, this is usually due to parents homeschooling for the wrong reasons, such as wanting more control over their child. In later life, this small minority of children may experience:
- Loneliness from a lack of socialisation
- Lack of confidence and motivation
- A dislike for education
Is homeschooling worth it?
The answer to this is for you to decide. If you feel that homeschooling is what your child needs to thrive and succeed, and you are equally equipped to handle the responsibilities of it as a parent, there is a world of positive benefits that can be reaped.
Chilton, V. (2019, February). Why choose to Home School in 2019? Retrieved from Oxford Homeschooling: https://www.oxfordhomeschooling.co.uk/blog/why-choose-to-home-school-in-2019/
GOV.UK. (n.d.). Educating your child at home. Retrieved from GOV.UK: https://www.gov.uk/home-education
Issimdar, M. (2018, April). Homeschooling in the UK increases 40% over three years. Retrieved from BBC: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-42624220
Lane, M. (2018, December). Homeschooling: good for your child & your finances? Retrieved from Money: https://www.money.co.uk/guides/home-schooling-good-for-your-child-and-your-finances.htm
Minges, K. E., & Redeker, N. S. (2016). Delayed school start times and adolescent sleep: A systematic review of the experimental evidence. Retrieved from PubMed.gov: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26545246/
Simply Charlotte Mason. (n.d.). What is the Charlotte Mason Method? Retrieved from Simply Charlotte Mason: https://simplycharlottemason.com/what-is-the-charlotte-mason-method/
TBS Staff. (2019, November). Homeschooling: Which Model Is Right for You? Retrieved from The Best Schools: https://thebestschools.org/magazine/homeschool-style-right/
The Homeschool Mom. (n.d.). Classical Homeschooling. Retrieved from The Homeschool Mom: https://www.thehomeschoolmom.com/homeschooling-styles/classical-homeschooling/
The School Run. (n.d.). The legalities of home education in the UK. Retrieved from The School Run: https://www.theschoolrun.com/home-education-legalities