While sending your child off to school once they turn four is the norm in the UK, there are other options. A growing number of parents are making the decision to home educate their children and there is a thriving community in most areas to support them. If you’re considering Elective Home Education for your Child, here are some of the many benefits of homeschooling in the UK that you should take into account when making your decision.
(If you’d like a balanced view, you can also read this post on the disadvantages of homeschooling)
A note on language: In my posts, I refer to “homeschooling”. In the UK, the correct term for educating your child at home is “home Educating”, with homeschooling referring to a child doing work at home that has been set by school. I use the the term homeschooling in my posts because many people who are new to home educating will use the term homeschooling when searching online and I want to make sure they can find the information.
Academic Benefits of Homeschooling
Many people worry that if children aren’t attending a school they will “fall behind” in their learning. In truth there is no such thing as being “behind” when you’re homeschooled. In the same way that all children walk when they are ready, they will also learn to read, write, add and subtract when they are ready.
Learning can be Child Led
The Law relating to homeschooling doesn’t specify what you must teach. Children are naturally curious and so when they are homeschooled they can be allowed to follow their own interests. This means that they are motivated to learn instead of being forced to learn something at a time when they have no interest in it. It also means they can explore the subject to whatever depth they want rather than having to move onto the next topic because that’s what the syllabus says.
Learning can be Tailored to the Child’s Needs
In a classroom environment, teachers have a limited number of sessions to get through work. If your child hasn’t grasped it when it’s time to move on, tough.
I saw this very clearly with my first child who is summer born. He was simply not ready for a lot of the learning that took place in the early years of primary school. The problem would also snowball because each thing that he hadn’t grasped mean’t he couldn’t grasp they next thing that was taught. It took him until the end of Primary school to catch up with his peers.
Now that we are home educating, we can ensure that a topic is fully understood before we move on to the next one.We can also move on from a topic if he has grasped it quicker than expected. This means we cover work both more quickly and more efficiently than if he were in school. We can also use whatever resources suit us best (including plenty of free ones!)
You can also learn in any style that suits your child. While children in school spend a lot of time sat at a text, writing or listening to a teacher speak, home education doesn’t have to look like school. You can use project based learning, games, online resources, television, visits and anything else you can think of the educate your child.
Home educated students in the UK are able to sit GCSEs and other qualifications. It is possible that my son will go back to school at some point in the future. I’m actually convinced that he will do worse in his GCSEs if he does.
At school he will be expected to take 9 GCSEs, all at the end of year 11. The type of course and career he would like to pursue post 16 require 5 at most. While some providers may ask for 6-8 GCSEs to study A-Levels, 5 is the average. Only the most competitive careers (for example, medicine or veterinary science) would be negatively impacted by doing less than 9 GCSEs.
If you’re home educating and deciding how many GCSEs to take, have a look at the requirements for jobs or courses your child might consider after and make your decisions based in that.
As a not particularly academic child, I suspect that having to spread his efforts over 9 GCSEs (with many likely to be in subjects he has no interest in) he will end up with worse grades than if he were home educated and just focussed on 5.
If he remains home educated for his GCSE years we will do what many home educators do and spread the exams across two years, starting while he’s still in KS3 (Key Stage 3) You can even do it over more if you choose. This will allow us to focus on two or three subjects at a time and help him achieve the best grades he is capable of over just the 5 GCSEs he needs.
Physical Health Benefits of Homeschooling
You might not think that school has much of an effect on a child’s physical health but I would disagree.
Colds, Flu and other Bugs
Classrooms filled with 30 children are an excellent breeding ground for viruses. That’s why children bring home so many of them. While home educated children still spend time with other children, they are more often outdoors or in bigger spaces and so are less likely to spread stuff around. This means a home educated child is less likely to catch bugs.
Once a home educated child has caught a bug, instead of soldiering through it for fear of missing out on an attendance award, they can rest and recover. You can even do half days or “lazy learning” days during the recovery period. Think documentaries, board games and puzzles.
Going to the Toilet When you Need to
More and more schools now restrict children’s access to the toilet to lunch and break time. We all know holding it isn’t healthy for our body. It also isn’t conductive to learning. Home educated children can pee whenever they like!
While your small children are probably up in plenty of time for school, this becomes less true in the teenage years. Teenagers bodies are biologically programmed to want to stay up later at night and sleep later in the morning. One of the benefits of homeschooling is that you can accommodate that.
Mental Health Benefits
Mental health issues are continuing to increase among young people, particularly since the pandemic. Homeschooling definitely offers mental health benefits.
Bullying is a huge issues in schools, particularly high schools. While pretty much all schools state that they have a zero tolerance policy for bullying, in practice, that isn’t how it works. With the best will in the world, schools don’t have the staffing budget to have eyes on every kid, every minute, of every day. And many schools are a long way from having the best will in the world.
Home educated children choose who they spend time with and aren’t forced to live everyday in fear of being taunted or hit. That alone is a massive benefit to mental health.
Home Educated Children can be Themselves
Much of the bullying that takes place in school comes from the constant jockeying for position in the social hierarchy and the need to fit in. Children will often change their likes, dislikes, behaviour and whole personality to try and be liked at school. Not being yourself has a terrible impact on mental health.
Home educated children may occasionally feel this pressure, from the other children that they spend time with or from wider society. The difference is they don’t have to spend 6 hours a day, 5 days a week being exposed to it.
Homeschooled children are also under less pressure to achieve results. In UK schools children are regularly tested from a young age. While this is fine for some children, other children worry excessively about results.
When they reach their GCSE years, the school’s focus on results can have a devastating effect. While some children need to be pushed to work hard, others will push themselves too hard. Home educating parents can tailor their exam strategy to their specific child’s needs.
Family Benefits of Homeschooling
Homeschooling doesn’t just effect the child, the whole family can feel the benefits.
Term Time Holidays
This is a huge benefit of homeschooling for UK parents. The difference in price of holidays between term time and school holiday time can be thousands of pounds. Schools can and do fine families who take their children out of School during term time and they can even take them to court.
Home educating families can take holidays whenever they want to. The children don’t “get behind” while they are away. Work is just picked up where it was left when they return. Not to mention all of the learning that happens on holidays.
Term time holidays are of particular benefit for families with relatives abroad as it allows for more opportunities to visit.
It’s not just term time holidays, it’s term time days out too. Home educated families can visit attractions during the week when they are much quieter and often cheaper.
Home educating families also get to spend more time together. This can lead to better understanding of each other and stronger bonds in the family. If a parent works shifts that can be especially beneficial.
Home education can be a great opportunity for all the members of the family to learn. I personally really struggled with maths in school, having to take my GCSE twice to get a C grade. I’m now loving learning maths with my son and finally understanding it.
My Mum is really into family history and is having a great time teaching her grandson all about it. My father in law is an amazing carpenter and my son is loving learning from him.
Homeschooling Benefits for Parents
Homeschooling will have significant impacts on a parents life but many of these impacts will be positive.
Less Life Admin and No School Runs!
Imagine not having to get up every morning to do the school run! No more early alarms. No more repeatedly trying to convince your child to put on their shoes and coat. No more making packed lunches. No more panicking because it’s food tech day and your child has forgotten to tell you they need ingredients.
And no more school admin! No more trying to find a pound coin at 7 in the morning for comic relief. No more trying to find a costume for Viking day. No more trying to get online at the exact moment parents evening bookings open. No more remembering to top up the school dinner money account. No more school WhatsApp groups. No more homework!I could go on but you get the picture.
If you’ve never had a child attending school and are planning to home educate from the start, take my word for it that you’re dodging a massive life admin bullet!
Time to Teach What Matters
Most children are pretty wiped out by the time they get home from school. This means they have no interest in doing “Extra Learning” at home. That means when I try to teach them about what I think matters, like money, or how the washing machine works, or the refugee crisis, they are simply not interested.
Home educated children have the gift of time. They aren’t burnt out from learning about subjects that have no relevance to their lives. When you talk to them about the big issues and the life skills they need, they are more ready to engage.
Social Benefits of Home Educating
A common concern for home educated children is “How will they socialise”. Here are some ways that homeschooling actually benefits social skills.
Homeschooled Children Experience a Wider Range of Social Opportunities
In schools, young people are forced spend all day, everyday with the same group of people who are exactly the same age as them. They then likely spend more time with the same group outside of school. Where else in society is life like that?
Home educated children gain their social opportunities in the real world. They speak to people in shops, libraries, at events, meet ups, activities, attractions and on holidays. My son attends a home ed football group where the ages range from 6 to 16 and he engages happily with everyone there.
Home Educated Children Have a Choice
The home education community is thriving in the UK. Most towns, cities and even villages will have groups for homeschoolers to meet up and spend time together. The groups can be anything from casual meet ups at the park, to rock climbing, to chess, to forest school, to study groups. The children involved have a choice about which meet ups and activities they attend, just like they would in adult life.
People worry a lot about children learning social skills if they aren’t in school, but personally I am more worried about the nature of the social skills the school environment teaches them.
How Homeschooling Might Benefit a Child Long Term
If you are considering home education you might be worried about how it will impact on your child’s future. Here are my thoughts.
Lifelong Learning Skills
Children who are home educated often don’t consider learning to be a chore in the way a lot of young people in schools do. This means that they are more likely to go on to become lifelong learners with all the benefits that brings.
More Prepared for Independent Study
Home educated children are used to taking responsibility for their own learning. This is a skill that is highly valued by colleges and universities.
Young people who take exams independently of school with the support of a parent have a great chance of doing better than they would have in school. The benefit from the one to one support, the option to focus on less subjects and the chance to spread the exams over a longer period of time means they may have a greater chance of success.
Those are all the benefits I’ve identified from our experience of homeschooling. I suspect other home educating families could add more. If you’d like to read more about our personal experience, have a look at this post about starting homeschooling with a 12 year old.