If you are considering home educating your child, but you still need (or want) to work, you might be wondering if homeschooling and working is possible. The answer will really depend on your circumstances.
Combining work with home educating is never going to be an easy option. Ensuring your child is receiving a suitable, full time education is a big responsibility and you will also need to demonstrate to the Local Authority that you are achieving it.
Having said that, if your child is desperately unhappy in school, there is probably a way to make it work. Below we’ll explore some ways it’s possible to combine working and home educating.
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.
The Law on Leaving Children Home Alone
In the UK, there is no set age at which children can be left at home alone, in theory it is down to parents to decide when their child is mature enough to be left unsupervised. It is illegal to leave them home alone if it puts them at risk.
In practice, professionals are likely to consider the NSPCC guidelines when judging if it’s safe. The NSPCC state that they:
“…wouldn’t recommend leaving a child under 12 years old home alone, particularly for longer periods of time.”
Once they are 12 or over, they suggest:
“… you could talk to them about how they’d feel if they were left alone at home. Just because your child is older doesn’t necessarily mean they‘re ready to look after themselves or know what to do in an emergency.”
They also have a useful quiz to help you decide if your child is ready to be left alone.
The Guidelines about Home Education
The Elective Home Education Guidelines make clear that there is no requirement for home education to take place within school hours. This means that your child can be learning at whatever hours suit you and them.
The key point to remember is that education must be full time, this is usually interpreted as taking up a significant part of a child’s life. If you are working full time, for long hours, it could be difficult to demonstrate to the Local Authority that your child is receiving a full time education.
Homeschooling and Working Full Time
If your child is old enough to work independently (and willing to do so) you may still be able to provide full time education. This could be through you setting work for them to do while you are out, by attending an online school or through them taking online GCSE courses or other online classes.
You will probably still need to spend a significant amount of your time outside of work supporting them with things they are struggling with. If you plan to set work yourself that will also take significant time.
This unfortunately would be more difficult to manage using an unschooling approach as that really relies on parents being present to observe and facilitate learning.
Homeschooling and Working Part Time
If you work part time it will likely be easier to provide a full time education in your non working hours. Assuming your child is mature enough to be left alone, you could set less formal learning for while you are out and save more formal learning for when you are there for support. Less formal learning might look like reading, watching documentaries, researching something they are interested or working on their hobbies.
Working From Home and Homeschooling
Working from home and homeschooling is what I do. I am very lucky that my work is very flexible. How easy it is to work from home and homeschool will depend on the nature of your work, and your child.
If you work full time from home you may struggle to provide a full time education. If your work is full time but flexible, so you can help your child when they need it, and they are happy to get on with things on their own, you may be able to make it work. The age of your children will make a difference as younger children are likely to want your attention much more than teenagers (who might prefer not to talk to you at all!)
If you work part time from home things will probably be easier. You may need to set clear boundaries with your child around times you need to work, or if they are too young to understand boundaries, work when they are asleep.
Childcare for Home Educated Children
Unfortunately there are limited childcare options for home educated children. Home educated children are around 1% of all school aged children and so provisions that exist for them are few. This can make homeschooling and working difficult.
If you have a family willing to support you, you have won the golden ticket. It’s totally up to you and them whether your child undertakes formal learning when they are with them. It’s likely they will learn lots no matter what they do together.
While you remain responsible for their education in the eyes of the law, it’s fine for other people to provide learning too. My son spends a half day a week with my Mum and they spend that time cooking, sewing and going on day trips.
A small number of childminders will take on home educated children. They aren’t legally allowed to provide education though, only childcare. I have also heard there can also be issues when OFSTED inspect them, with OFSTED wanting the child’s details to pass on to the elective home education team.
Provision Specifically for Home Educated Children
There are a lot of laws around what constitutes a school and what doesn’t. This places limitations on people who want to provide drop off opportunities for home educated children. There is a limited number of hours they can open before needing to register as a school. For this reason they are usually only open for around 16 hours a week at the most. This can provide some childcare, but only of the hours they are open fit in with your needs.
My son attends a Forest School once a week, from 10am to 4pm, as my work is flexible that is perfect for me. Most if these types of provisions are forest schools but you also come across some indoor ones, for example The Cabin and the Lodge on the Essex/Suffolk boarders. If you search for “Self Directed Learning Community” in your area you may find some.
As you become part of the home education community and make some friends, you may be able to arrange a casual childcare swap. This would involve you having their child/ren a day/half day/ few hours a week, and them the returning the favour on a different day.
I used to do this with a friend in the summer holidays when my son was still at school and it worked really well.
Much of homeschooling and working will be down to trial and error while you find out what works for your family but if you are determined you may be able to do it.
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