I sit with a slight feeling of confusion, given how much attention home education has had in the media and across social media, that there are still parents facing fines for a childs poor attendance, still parents concerned about the mental health of their school refusing children, parents expressing anger and fear around issues regarding bullying and anxiety in their children and parents expressing sadness at the end of the half term. When asked about considering home education I see the replies of “I would love to, but I think they do need to go to school to learn to socialise” and “I wouldn’t be able to teach them everything that they need to know”. Am I, as a home educator, more aware of the stories covered by the media? am I more aware of the common hash tags used across social media to highlight the diversity of home education? Are parents who are struggling with their children in mainstream school missing these things?
There still seems to be a common misconception that a childs life needs to be focused around grades and exam results. Fears that without excellent SAT results they will be held back in “lower sets” through secondary school, without brilliant MOCK results they wont be supported to achieve the much needed GCSE results without which they will surely never get onto their chosen college courses and without attending school they will never learn how to get up, put on a uniform or function in employment as an adult. *insert eyeroll*
I have spent time talking to employers, self employed parents, company directors and educators. It is eye opening to know how many of these don’t have GCSEs, how many of these when looking at CVs with a view to employ someone don’t actually even get as far as looking at GCSE results. How many even when they have glanced at them have never actually asked for evidence of this. As an adult, self employed, home educating mum who has an hons degree, I have no GSCEs. I played truant and dropped out of school before my year 9 SATS. I managed to work up and gain employment as senior housing support staff before going on maternity leave and choosing not to return and to become self employed instead, never once have I been asked for GCSE results (fortunate, as I have none). I have spoken to university graduates and have looked at the figures of how many are struggling to find employment in their chosen fields, with many employers favouring experience over qualifications. I spoke with one manager who was in the process of recruiting a new member for his team, and was told that when looking through CVs he was focused not just on qualifications but on interests and hobby’s. When working in IT then to find an applicant who has included IT, computers, technology etc in their interests and hobby’s has a higher ranking than someone who studied it at GCSE 3 yrs ago and has shown no interest in it since. I mentioned my lack of GCSEs and how I went about studying with the Open University, to then be informed by one employer that they would look more favourably on that because it would show that I had chosen to do it, that I had the time management skills to complete assignments at home in my own time and that I had been working and gaining experience at the same time.
I discussed college entry requirements when A was planning to apply to a hair and beauty course at college. She had no English or Maths GCSEs which were being requested, yet she attended a taster session with the tutors and had excellent feedback. She was working on her English and Maths functional skills and the college informed me that she could absolutely apply using those and that she would benefit from putting together a portfolio of work she had done as she had experimented and gained experience in this area. We were also informed that tutor feedback from the taster session would play a part in the application process as well, so she stood a very good chance of getting onto her chosen course without the exam results. She chose not to apply in the end, her decision. She has been attending a training centre for her functional skills and whilst working towards the highest levels she did a free taster with the motor mechanics tutor and surprised herself at how much she enjoyed it, so signed up for that and is staying where she is, along with her work experience in the office of a local large construction firm.
I have spoken to home educators whose children have grown, a home educated young lady who gained a place at her chosen university for a midwifery degree. A home educated young man who attended a circus skills session and it sparked a passion and he now travels the world with a circus company. A young man who gained A home educated young lady who runs a production company running shows and travelling to fringe festivals etc. The list really does go on. Of course not all home educated youngsters make such big steps. But I think its safe to say that nor do all children who attend school? our world, our society needs shop assistants, fast food workers, cleaners etc. We need carpenters, construction workers, plumbers…… there is also absolutely no shame, nothing wrong with these professions, so let’s not discount them in the grand scheme of success! Its ok to raise the free spirit who is happy to get any job they can to allow them to save up to travel the world.
My message to those parents who “would love too but couldn’t” ….. WHY? There are single parents working and home educating. Its a juggle, but they are out there. The fact that learning can take place at any time assists with this. There are parents who arent formally educated themselves who home educate, many who learn alongside their children, I have spoken to a mother and daughter both working on their GCSEs alongside each other! Home education isn’t about recreating school at home, there isn’t the need to teach to a curriculum, to know all the answers. Allow your children to learn how to find the answers! once a child knows how to learn then there are no limits! Trust them. Have you ever looked at a computer game they are playing and thought “I dont know how on earth they do that!!” but look at them go, watch them smashing it! Did you teach them that? Have you ever watched your child climb a tree and jump off, landing it with a roll preventing injury? did you teach them that? Children are natural born learners, they are curious little sponges and they learn through trial and error. Home education gives them the space, time and freedom to develop their skills and knowledge.
Lastly, I would always urge parents who are considering home education but who feel unable to support their children’s learning to question themselves. Did you go to school? Are you putting your faith in a system that has ultimately left you feeling unable to even educate your own children?
This blog isnt about trying to claim that home education is right for everyone. I know and have said many times before that some children thrive in and love school. For some families it is the best option. But for those who aren’t so sure, don’t discount home education as a viable option because you doubt your own abilities. The mental health of your child is more important than grades.