While I am a big fan of homeschooling (check out why in this post on the Benefits of Homeschooling) like everything in life, it does have some downsides. If you’re considering home educating your child or children, below I’ve highlighted some key disadvantages of homeschooling as well as some ways you can overcome them.
My Number One Disadvantage of Homeschooling: Lack of “Me Time”
I’m starting with this disadvantage of home schooling because its the only one I’ve found really significant. I am a massive, total and utter introvert. I need regular time alone to function and that can be hard to find when you’re homeschooling. It may seem like a pretty selfish concern but the truth is, you can’t do a good job of facilitating your child’s education if you are miserable.
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.
Suggestions to Overcome the Lack of Me Time
I’m incredibly lucky that my Mum lives close by and is totally onboard with home education. She has my son one afternoon a week and they do cooking, sewing and family history.
I’m well aware that not everyone is as lucky, but you might be able to set something up with friends. As you become part of the home education community, there is a good chance you’ll make friends with other like minded parents and may be able to arrange a childcare swap.
This can be a casual, playdate type arrangement or something more educational. If you both have a subject that you’re passionate about, you could focus on helping each other’s children to learn more about it. It doesn’t have to be traditional school subjects, it could be anything; tree identification, soap making, gardening, knitting, anything (age appropriate and legal!) that you have a passion for.
If you have friends with children who are still in school you could also arrange childcare swaps with them in the holidays or after school.
Another option is to look for drop off activities. Forest schools for home ed children have become really popular in the UK and these are often drop off. You could also look at holiday camps that run outside of school term times.
Finally, it’s useful to try and have a specific hour or so each day where you take yourself off (to another room, the garden or out somewhere if your child is old enough) while your child does something independent. For us, that’s reading and watching a documentary series, but what suits each child will vary.
The Most Annoying Disadvantage of Homeschooling: Judgy People
“No school today?”
It’s likely you will get asked this on a regular basis by neighbours, acquaintances and random old ladies in Tesco.
You’ll also likely be asked about your choice on a regular basis by friends and family. Some will open minded and genuinely curious, some will be convinced you’re ruining your child’s life.
Dealing with Judgy Strangers
With the casual questions from strangers, it’s entirely up to you what you say. If you say your child is homeschooling, you are likely to invite further conversation. As an introvert, this is not where I want things to go. A casual white lie (“It’s an inset day”, “He has a dentist appointment”, “He set fire to the school”, “He has a terrible contagious disease and isn’t allowed in”) is the quickest way to shut the conversation down. It does however mean your child sees you lying, which you may not want.
If you do go with honesty then you may be greeted with enthusiasm, confusion or judgement. My advice is to stonewall any negativity with a fixed smile and “We are happy with our choice” on repeat until they get the message.
Dealing with Judgy Friends and Family
Friends and family will likely require a more detailed response. I would suggest highlighting the positive reasons why you have chosen homeschooling. It’s likely that, over time, they will see those benefits in action and understand your choice.
For many people, your choice to home educate will feel like a judgement on their choice to send their children to school. It can be useful to keep that in mind if they are being very negative.
It’s also a good idea to explain to your child that, because you are doing something different from the UK norm, people might react negatively, but it isn’t a judgment on them.
Dealing with the Local Authority
The local authority has a duty to identify children in their remit who are not receiving a suitable education. Local Authority views of Elective Home Education vary widely from area to area and indeed from staff member to staff member in those areas.
It is important that you familiarise the home education guidelines for your UK country to ensure that you know what is required of you. Essentially you will need to demonstrate that you are providing your child with a suitable education and how much of a disadvantage that requirement is will depend on the approach your local authority take.
Financial Disadvantages of Homeschooling
Let me start by saying that homeschooling in the UK can cost as much or as little as you want. There are lots of free resources you can use and if you don’t plan for your children to take any exams, then you can in theory homeschool from start to finish without spending anything. In fact you can actually save money because you can go on holidays and days our when it’s cheaper!
Having said that, most people do spend some money and the fact that it is difficult to work while home educating means it can have financial impacts in other ways.
Paying for Resources and Exams
If you have a lot of time, you can save money by spending that time identifying good, free resources to use. If you have less time available, it can be easier to buy things.
The best advice is to not spend lots of money when you first start. Spend some time exploring how homeschooling is going to work for you. Once you know that, you can spend your money in the right places. That might be online subscriptions, subscriptions for printable worksheet, lesson plans, kits for doing activities or even annual passes for educational days out.
The biggest cost for many home educating families is the cost exams. While children attending school have their exams paid for, homeschooler’s parents have to pay their exam, which can be around £200 an exam but varies a lot depending on the exam centre and where you live. Bear in mind that homeschoolers don’t have to do the same number of GCSEs as school children, many just 5 or 6, some just do Maths and English. They can also spread them over a longer period, with many starting in Key Stage Three.
If you think you’ll struggle with that, you could also see if there is a college who offer a programme for 14-16 year old home educated children to attend and take some exams. These course are fully fined and usually involve maths and English GCSEs along with a vocational course. Provision across the country is patchy and it may not suit your child but it’s worth a look.
If you do plan for your child to take exams at some point, it’s useful to start planing early for the costs.
Earning Money while Homeschooling in the UK
Homeschooling doesn’t have to be 9-3 like traditional school. This does mean there is some flexibility to fit in work. That work can even be outside of the home if your child/ren are old enough to be left at home alone or if you have childcare available.
You could also look for work from home, the availability of which has increased a great deal since the pandemic. If you’d like some ideas, have a look at these 50 work from home jobs for parents.
The Logistics of Doing GCSEs for Homeschoolers
This is only a disadvantage of homeschooling if you plan for your child to take GCSEs, while some don’t, many do.
The biggest issue for us is that some of the subjects my home educated son would have chosen at school for GCSE are simply unavailable to home educators. These include food technology, Design technology, Art, Drama, PE, Music and some other more unusual GCSEs with a large practical element.
For some subjects, Homeschoolers need to take IGGCEs rather than GCSEs in order to avoid the coursework requirement which is very difficult to achieve outside of a school environment. This can initially be a bit confusing but is only an actual disadvantage if your feel your child would do better in GCSEs that include a coursework element (for example if they struggle in an exam environment).
Finding a centre to take the exams can also be challenging. There are a number of private exam centres around the country and some schools and colleges will take private candidates, but provision is a bit of a postcode lottery. This can influence which subjects and exam boards you choose based on what is available locally.
Dealing with GCSE Logistics
While GCSEs in some subjects aren’t possible, there are alternatives to GCSEs that they can consider.
If your child is keen on sport, then taking coaching qualifications can be a good option. For music, they can do grades with their chosen instrument. There are also a few distance learning courses around that lead to a recognised qualification in some of the more practical subjects. There is Technology Triumphs for Food and Design Technology, Aced Art for Art and Sport and KanduIt for ICT.
The other option is to find out if a college in your area offers a 14-16 programme with a suitable course (or try to convince them to start one).
The best way too find an exam centre is to ask in your local Home Education community, online via a Facebook group or in real life. The Facebook Group Home Education UK Exams and Alternatives is a great place to get advice about GCSEs Vs IGCSEs.
So those are the disadvantages of homeschooling in the UK as I see them. While some of them make life a bit awkward, none of them are insurmountable.
PS If you expected to see socialisation on this list disadvantages, I’ll refer you to my post on the Benefits of Home Education, linked in the first paragraph.