These are posts I wrote on my Puddles blog during the 2009/2010 attack on home educators by the Labour Government. The proposed legislation, thanks to tireless efforts of HEers to educate MPs, was thrown out in the wash up. We doubted, however, that we had heard the last of it and as the 2015 election approaches, the topic of regulating and inspecting home educators has reared it’s ugly head again.
2015 update: I would be delighted to receive Not For Profit suggestions of links that would be beneficial to this page.
Education online in the UK – A Guide
There is a mass of information and support for home educators in the UK now available on the Internet. Some of it is good, some bad and some down right ugly! This article is intended to help you cut through to the information you need to deal with your particular situation. Educational resources are not specifically covered here but many of the sites mentioned have huge sections of ideas and resources. Some of the information is repeated on several sites linked to. Several links are given in case one cannot be accessed for any reason and for those with a healthy need to confirm information with many different sources. Each link will take you directly to the document relevant to that section, not to the site’s home page.
First – Answers to those niggling worries – can it really be true??
Free Range Education
Whether deregistering a child from school, starting from scratch or anything in between, here’s the low-down on what to do and when to do it, including sample letters. These sites also include information on The Legal Situation and how it affects YOUR family in plain English.
If you live in England or Wales
NB; Nursery or Reception class; It is unnecessary to deregister if your child is not yet school aged. Compulsory school age begins on the first day of the term AFTER their fifth birthday.
If you live in Scotland
If you live in Northern Ireland
Deregistering a child with special educational needs
Up to date information on legal aspects can be found on government websites including compulsory school (education) leaving ages and your rights with regards to truancy sweeps are explained on the Education Otherwise site. You can find information on School Refusal here.
Dealing with your LEA
Firstly and most importantly – DON’T PANIC!!! It really is OK, you really are acting within the law and there is loads of help and information available, free of charge within the home educating community. Your LEA may contact you immediately, or they may never contact you at all. You are NEVER obliged to contact them to tell them you are home educating. You have all the legal information you need in the previous section and know your rights and responsibilities. What you receive from the LEA can range from a short letter to a long complicated form. No matter, what you send them is always your decision and should be what feels comfortable and appropriate for your individual family. The worst thing an LEA can do is to take your mind off your family by causing you worry – Don’t let them!!
You are never obliged to have an LEA officer visit you at home. They may, as a matter of their policy, inform you that a visit has been/will be arranged. You are not bound by their policy, and can simply and politely refuse, several times if need be. If you choose to have a home visit it should be because you feel it is beneficial to your children – never because you feel intimidated or brow beaten into it.
Preparing Written Evidence
The following links will take you to letters, educational philosophies, reports and statements of education written by home educating families. They are shared as examples to inspire you to think about your own unique statement. Whatever you send need not be perfect, technical or very formal. It must be truthful and in your own style. Members of the many home education e-mail lists are only too pleased to look over a draft of anything you write and will give you feedback. Whether to make the changes suggested should be your decision and it’s wise to be wary if anyone tries to completely rewrite it for you. It is never necessary to pay anyone to help you write a letter. As home educators, we have all been helped by more experienced people along the way and are pleased to pass on what we have learned.
2015: I urgently require examples of written reports for inclusion in this site and would be grateful to receive ones I can publish or links to ones online.
What about exams?
Check out the HE Exams Wiki for more information.
When LEA’s go BAD!
Still don’t panic, help is at hand. Fortunately, cases where an LEA has managed to force a legitimately home educated child into school are so rare most home educators cannot remember hearing of one. Nevertheless, occasionally an LEA will cause a family a lot of worry by threatening court action. If, after using all the resources available, you find yourself out of your depth and in legal difficulties, you will find expert help within the home educating community – as well as lots of support. The links here will help you contact the people to talk to for urgent, serious help.
You can access initial legal help from Education Otherwise even if you are not yet a member. Phone their helpline on 0870 7300074 for details of a local contact who can put you in touch with the legal team.
Contact Mike Fortune-Wood Owner of Home Education UK Website and experienced Home Education Advocate.
The following organisations may also be helpful.
What is an SAO anyway?
In Scotland, Schoolhouse can offer information and support and can put you in touch with a specialist solicitor. Contact Schoolhouse here
Whoever you contact, it is vital to be totally straight with them about your case and to inform them of who else is involved in helping you. That way you can get the maximum benefit of the expertise available.
Finding Contacts and Support
There is no substitute for talking and listening to those with experience, and seeing the evidence for yourself. There are many ways of meeting other home educating families and our networks keep growing year after year. These links can help you get started on your own personal network of H.E. friends.
If you have regular Internet access and quickly find all the support and contacts you need, it may not be worth your while joining a national organisation. On the other hand, joining can offer a contact list and a monthly magazine, which you may find useful. Many home educators join at first and get a feel for the organisation. That way you can decide for yourself whether you wish to continue to support the work of the organisation and whether membership has benefits for your family.
Camps and Festivals
Many home education camps run throughout the summer starting with the mighty HESFES in May. This presents an ideal opportunity to meet face to face as many home educators as you could wish for. Once you’ve been to HESFES it’s hard to imagine you are home educating alone ever again. For full enjoyment, join one of the mailing lists above and take part in the pre-HESFES banter.
There is so much to read about theories and methods of home educating, it’s hard to know where to start and easy to feel paralysed by it all. It can also be tempting to stick with what you know and avoid opening up to new thinking. Having your children around all day can be enough of a shock for some people! The links in this section are intended as a starting block for an investigation of all the research, theory, method and controversy of the H.E. world. It is by reading and thinking widely that we all continue to grow and learn alongside our children.
Books and Book Lists
You are likely to find more similar articles on other sites linked throughout this article.
This was written in 2004 and is an archive of our previous home ed style for posterity.
This year I am working my way through the Ambleside Online, Charlotte Mason Year One reading list with my six year old. As I go I am investigating Sonlight, looking at “Living Book” lists, dipping into other types of Classical Education methods and getting as many ideas from others as I can about great books that bring what is worth knowing about to life. We aren’t particularly religious and my daughter doesn’t have a massive concentration span (nor do I feel an overwhelming need to moralise to her!) so I have adapted what I have found to suit “us” and I am making a record of what we do here so that should it be useful to revisit this level with my other children, I will be able to remember what we liked and how we approached it. I anticipate we will expand it further as we come across more and more books through the year.
This is therefore a record of what we have liked, in levels and quantities that have suited us. It draws from what is celebrated by many sources but puts it into a framework that we are enjoying and in no way pretends to be an example of an particular “form of curriculum” – equally, although its giving us great pleasure to use this as part of our week, I do not suggest that it is a complete educational curriculum on its own :~)
You may find it useful to visit various Online Libraries where non-copyright literature can be found. I will also be adding links to Amazon so you can buy the books we are using, if you wish. I will put these through my planner and also on a separate page as and when I have the time.
|Bible: Creation Story.OIS: The Stories of Albion and BrutusAesop – Belling the Cat
Just So Stories – How the Whale got his Throat.
Flower Fairy Poems applicable to season/garden
Hans Christian Anderson – The Snow Queen (1-4)
(Additional Great Story! The Whale and the Snail!)
|Bible: Adam and Eve
OIS: The Coming of the Romans
Aesop: The Eagle and the Jackdaw
Baldwin’s 50: The Sword of DamoclesFlower Fairy Poems applicable to season/gardenThe SnowQueen (Stories 5-7)
|Current Topic and Useful BooksRevisiting GardeningThe Gardener
Dig and Sow
Katy Meets the Impressionists
The Paradise Garden
Camille and the Sunflowers
|Current Topic and Useful BooksRevisiting SealifeThe Snail and the Whale
An Island in the Sun
I Wonder Why… the Sea is Salty
|The Bible: Noah
OIS: The Romans Come Again
Aesop: The Boy and the Filberts
Baldwins 50: Damon and PythiasFlower Fairy poems applicable to season/gardenBlue Fairy Book: The Glass Slipper(Addition possible stories! Tales from the Ark by Avril Rowlands)
|The Bible: Isaac and Rebekah
OIS: How Caligula Conquered Britain
Baldwin’s 50: A Laconic Answer
Aesop: Hercules and the WagonerFlower Fairy Poems applicable to season/gardenBlue Fairy Book:Beauty and the Beast (First Half)
|Current Topic and Useful BooksRevisiting VolcanoesHill of Fire
Pompeii: Buried Alive!
Current Topic and Useful Books
Marriage of the Rain Goddess
The Animal Boogie
|The Bible: Joseph and His Wonderful Coat
OIS: The Story of a Warrior Queen
Aesop: The Wolf and the KidBaldwin’s 50: The Brave Three HundredFlower Fairy Poems applicable to season/gardenBlue Fairy Book:Beauty and the Beast (Second Half)
Just So Stories: Camel
|The Bible: Moses in the Bulrushes
OIS: The Last of the RomansAesop: Town Mouse and Country MouseBaldwin’s 50: Alexander and Bucephelas
Current Topic and Useful Books
Current Topic and Useful Books
Current Topic and Useful Books
Current Topic and Useful Books
Current Topic and Useful Books
Current Topic and Useful Books
Current Topic and Useful Books
Current Topic and Useful Books
An essay of my thoughts as our approach modifies… (2004)
When I first decided to home educate my children, my automatic assumption was that it would be desks and workbooks at home. I assumed that we would loosely follow the “National Curriculum” used in the UK’s public school and that I would keep records of what was done and when and how. It was difficult to imagine how else “learning” could take place.
My main influences in those early days were the various HE email lists and in fact the first person who influenced me in “real life” was someone firmly committed to the “autonomous” way of HE although she too had gone through a period of “schooly” organisation in the early days. Autonomy is something I have never been able to fully define, in fact if I am honest I am not sure that “autonomous HE” as a stand-alone entity really exists. It seems to be rolled into one with a type of parenting, a way of life and a particular notion of how a family and its members might work and while I have to say that all the “autonomous families” I have known have been happy and successful, I’ve not achieved a concrete notion of how it comes about or works in three years of being close friends with various people who make it their way of life. However it IS true that I have at times felt a little threatened by it being seen as the “only right way” and somewhat pressured into adopting it as “our way.” (Not I hasten to add, by my friends, but more by the wider community in a non-personal way.)
Having decided to HE while my eldest was only 3, I did however feel that I had time to relax about how we did things. For a while I really loved the Montessori methods but my eldest soon showed me that that was not for her. She was and to some extent is, immature in her ability to concentrate and much more interested in play than “formal skill gathering.” And that was fine. We settled into a routine of being what I describe as “child-led” – following her interests, doing mini projects based on things that caught her interest, casually offering opportunities for trying new things (like reading and writing) but backing off at the first sign of disinterest. I suppose this was “my” notion of autonomy – giving her the right to change or move away from anything not to her interest as well as offering up new fodder when she expressed interest.
During this time I suppose I developed a very negative idea of what I imagined “structured” to be. I saw it as slogging at workbooks, desks, amounts of work that “had” to be done, following an imposed timetable and someone else’s idea of what was interesting. Our “child led” approach seemed to be much better than anything like that. (And indeed it WAS much better than that would be, it suited us and we were flexible to the absolute end to keep our “learning” fun.) Much is made of labels and ways of being in the HE world; I had to make my own label really, but I quite liked it describing us a “child-led” because it seemed more concrete and graspable than “autonomous.
Sometime around her 6th birthday this stopped working quite so well. One or both of us lost interest in mini projects and with baby number 4 approaching I lost patience with a child who at 6 was neither reading, writing or able to “do sums.” I can honestly say this had nothing to do with external pressures or feelings of failure. I was well aware I had a bright, able and interested child who had a general and cultural knowledge way above what she might have gleaned in school but I was beginning to feel frustrated at the amount I had to feed in and at the feeling that if only she would acquire those skills, she would get so much more from the world that was on offer; books, puzzles, games etc. I knew she “could” do those things but she just hadn’t been, at that point, ready to piece together the skills into something useable. With a feeling of gloom I decided that we needed to settle down and make it happen.
And to my surprise she has loved it. We started to work through a phonics reading scheme and its coming together slowly, we started to do some number workbooks and (like my husband had as a child) she got a kick out of doing a page of sums. In fact, one of my real “kick in the bum” moments was when I talked to my husband about how negative I felt about “workbook style HE” and he said “when I was a kid my favourite thing was for someone to write me out a page of maths. If we have kids like me is it fair to deny them that pleasure because of our notion of HE?” To my relief the practical life maths we had done was translating easily into written number work and when writing was hard and arduous I was pleased to find that written number work did the job well enough to give her word writing a real boost. In a month her maths was almost up to the levels required of a child a year ahead of her in school and if the reading and writing was slower, it was happening. And that was fine by me; I have no issues with uneven levels. We began HEing wanting to prolong our children’s early childhood and give them the right to expand in a way that suited them. I came to the conclusion that I had not compromised this; I had simply, unconsciously tapped into a “readiness” and provided an opportunity for it. I do know that had it been rejected I would not have persisted or made it something we fought over.
Her readiness to accept this “let’s sit down and do some reading/writing/puzzles” approach led me to think further about what I wanted to provide in the future. I had been drawn from early on to the Charlotte Mason approach that I had been taught with and I was drawn back to Ambleside Online for another look. I liked the look of the reading list and felt we were ready for it and much of the “daily lessons” that it advocates was now becoming part of our day anyway, albeit in a far more informal way that “home schooling” approaches might advocate. The idea of incorporating music, art and nature properly into the day appealed; they were major pluses for me when I began to HE and yet somehow they had fallen by the wayside. I don’t think I am someone who leaps at opportunities as they happen all the time, things pass me by and sometimes I feel anxious that I have missed opportunities that would have been great. I’ve found a reading list, used flexibly a real boost to my confidence and my interest in what happens in the house.
At the same time that it occurred to me that maybe what *I* needed was a prompt to do those things, so it began to occur to me that even the most formal curriculum only has to be followed as much as *I* want it to be and that its quite irrelevant whether I do a week of curriculum in a week, or a fortnight or a day or if I do that bit at all. I could have a plan, thoughtfully provided by someone else’s hard work and ignore it, embellish it or stretch it as I saw fit. I think there is a world of difference between that and a “formal structured approach” and certainly an enormous difference between us and school – we work together for one thing, we get full enjoyment out of whatever is going on (even a list of sums!), we stop if something is boring or unpleasantly hard, it takes less than an hour a day in chunks of time that suit the general mood and most importantly we are completely flexible about it. If friends are coming, we leave it, if everyone is hyper/ill/its sunny/we have an HE day to attend, we leave it. I’m using a plan but it’s a fairly randomly applied plan. It’s made a difference to the sense of satisfaction nonetheless and I’m spending more quality time with my children. These are good things.
A month of using the Ambleside Online Curriculum as a reading list has been incredibly positive. In that month I have read more to my children, spent more time with my children, listened harder to their interests and exposed them to more interesting literature than ever before. And they have loved it just as I did at that age. In that time I have looked harder at places like Sonlight and realized that I could use what they provide in whatever way I choose, adapting it to how we already work with interest and pleasure. Funnily enough, I am not convinced my approach has changed that much in that time. My children still play most of the day, have complete control over whether they do listen to something or try something but I personally feel much better about the experience they are getting.
I wonder what my label is now; I think it’s still “child-led” actually.
The PNEU school that i attended as a child was built on the principles of Charlotte Mason, a Victorian who studied and practised the education of children throughout her life. Not that I knew this at the time, I simply knew I was in a place where my interests were valid, where there was time for me to follow a project, read faster than some, learn my tables slower than others, do country dancing, nature study, poetry and story writing alongside history, maths and and bible study.
It would be fair to say that the lessons I knew were considered important at my PNEU are the ones I think of as being important as we start our home education experience. For my own reasons, I can see the value of my children unlocking the secret of reading early on, I can see that knowing my tables backwards, forwards and inside out has been vital in my ability to quickly compute numbers in everyday life and be able to appear bright and able at times it is necessary. There are parts of the CM method which I wish had continued to be so simple and faithful in my life; growing up through senior school I missed the unblinking bible study that had been a part of my life, it left a hole I was unable to fill. There is a value in knowing well the details of a subject that fascinates you; these are the things you remember and make you be remembered. There is a value is understanding the world from your own perspective first, before you try to encompass other peoples’ views. There was value in the emphasis in neatness and method that they aimed to teach us, even if it never quite became part of me.
Most of all, my PNEU taught me how to learn and discover, a far greater skill than many of the facts I rote learned later on in senior school, which I have never used again. PNEU taught me history as fascinating people stories, exciting, mind grabbing adventures that I wanted to know, not lists of acts so dry and dull, dictated at high speed; PNEU taught me science in a tiny classroom by a teacher who remembered each week that I loved to collect the chemical symbols of each substance we used, she had them for just me, each week, to copy into the back of my science book.What a shame my senior school, with its emphasis on results, taught me I was no good at science and flushed out my creativity with an endless onslaught of resented essays. PNEU taught me to write stories for joy, while my senior school made me rewrite a huge, carefully constructed diary I had loving constructed over a weekend because I had not written on the top line of my exercise book. PNEU taught me that it was good to want to go quietly to the library and hunt for fiction that would really grab me, it taught me that to decide to do nature study, not on England’s wildlife but on that of South America, because I liked the colours, was fine. I went on weekly walks that included saying hello to Henry the swan, served dinner to my peers and learned the responsibility of being head of the table. I played daisy chains with the nursery babies, and probably got the bug for being a mother on their little lawn, I dug dens in the rough ground and discovered a leaf stays green and soft longer under earth than over it. I remember the odd satisfaction of writing practice, copying long strings of patterns and letters, maths with Cuisenaire rods and I wrote a years worth of short stories about two small mice and was never told to move on to something “more worthwhile”. These were educators who knew the value of an individuals rhythm in education.
It would be wrong to describe it as simply an idyll, I was badly bullied while I was there and it made me a person who could be bullied until long into adulthood, but as an education, I wish in retrospect that I could have continued in that vein for longer. It is the good in the time we had to explore and expand every opportunity that I want to give my children. I want them to have the chance to rest in one spot until they can move on from it, not move with a pace that suits few and harms some. Senior education seems to have been a rush of disjointed experiences for me, despite being taught by clever, motivated people in a place that few would fault. It is sad to have few recollections of topics I loved from 11 onwards and most of the things I did love were not considered worthwhile. It seems to me possible that a child of mine who became fascinated by embroidery through the ages might learn more history than one hastened through a constructed chapter in a school book designed to teach facts to the least interested. In fact, it is that very thought which, as we come to the start of our first “official” home educated year, drives me back to the arms of my Charlotte Mason junior school. The best education searched out and bought for me by my parents was not the one that resulted in much vaunted A levels, it was the place they carefully found for me that “taught” me little more than how to be me and so gave me the opportunity to have everything.