These Home Education FAQs have been prepared as a general overview. We regret that the Scottish Home Education Forum is unable to respond to individual enquiries, but please post any specific questions on our Facebook page, members’ peer support group or online forum.
What does the law say about home education?
The law relating to home education varies across the UK and it is important to ensure you are aware of the applicable legislation and regulations for where you live. Please refer to our Legal page and/or contact one of the reputable support organisations for accurate, up to date information, reassurance and support.
Who can (and can’t) home educate?
All parents (and those with parental rights) have the responsibility for ensuring that their children are suitably and efficiently educated during the compulsory education years. Contrary to popular belief, home education is actually the default model, and parents who send their children to school are in fact delegating responsibility. Schools are regulated and inspected on behalf of parents in order to ensure a satisfactory education is being provided.
Throughout the UK, parents are not required to ‘register’ or ask for permission in order to fulfil what is a direct statutory responsibility to educate their own children. In Scotland, parents are only required to obtain local authority ‘consent’ in order to withdraw a child from a state school s/he has attended on one occasion or more (although exceptions apply). No consent is required to home educate per se.
Do I need special qualifications to home educate my child?
No, you just need to be a parent (or carer with parental rights and responsibilities) who is committed to providing an appropriate education for your child(ren) ‘by other means’ (Scotland) or ‘otherwise’ than at school (England, Wales, N Ireland). You certainly do not need to have a university education or teaching / crowd management qualifications!
How do I find local other educators for support?
You might want to contact one or more of the national and/or local groups, browse our public forum or join our Home Education Support Scotland Facebook group and post an introduction of your own. There is no need to divulge your personal details, and you can rest assured that our forums are moderated and frequented by friendly home educating parents who are willing to offer support and direct newbies to more local groups.
How do I home educate?
Elective home education is largely perceived by the public as being a re-creation of ‘school at home’, and too many people still believe the myth that home educated children are stuck indoors all day every day doing lessons at the kitchen table, without any social contact or community involvement. Seriously, they do! But of course they all went to school and most never learned to ask the right questions, never mind question the answers. The erroneous perception is further reinforced by journalists and others who persist in mis-describing home education as ‘home schooling’ (an American term), to the profound irritation of many home educators in the UK. It’s not as if they haven’t been told repeatedly to use the correct terminology, but the message seems to fall on selectively deaf ears.
For home educating parents who went through the school system themselves (and that’s most of us!) the conditioning is hard to shake off, but it important to remember that school and education are not synonymous. Indeed many children become home educated precisely because schools have failed to meet their educational and/or social needs. So try to put the idea of a kitchen classroom and set curriculum to the back of your mind and focus on your child and his/her needs and interests. We know it’s hard, we really do (as we’ve all been there), so do the reading and research, speak to other home educators and reassure yourself that there are many different ways to skin the proverbial cat.
It may help you learn to think out of the classroom box by recalling how it was before your child reached school age and how you provided the facilities and opportunities for natural and spontaneous learning. You’ll soon see learning opportunities in your everyday family life and while out and about in the community. Shopping expeditions, visits to galleries and museums, purposeful conversation and all the social interaction that occur on a daily basis can be every bit as valuable as the organised activities and classes your child may also wish to participate in. As well as providing some of the most enjoyable and memorable learning experience, they will also lead to some of the most positive and successful learning ‘outcomes’. Whilst outcome based education is anathema to many home educators, it is increasingly obsessed over by box ticking professionals who continue to insist on measuring ‘success’ in frighteningly narrow terms.
Structured v. Autonomous
When it comes to ensuring that your child is educated according to his/her age, aptitude and ability, and addressing any special or additional needs s/he may have, it is up to you to decide how best to fulfil your parental responsibility. As they get older, home educated children tend to play an increasingly active role in designing and customising their own education.
Some families prefer to adopt structured or semi structured approach, especially if children have just come out of the school system, but after a period of de-schooling the majority become more relaxed and settle into a less formal routine that suits them. Other families adopt a child led or autonomous approach (sometimes known as ‘unschooling’) either from the outset or along the way, whereby children follow their own interests, and there is a growing body of evidence to demonstrate the effectiveness of this ‘hands off’ (as distinct from laissez-faire) approach.
Regardless of your preferred approach, your role as a parent will be to provide the wherewithal in terms of resources, guidance and encouragement to facilitate and support your child’s learning.
What resources do I need?
Before rushing out to buy books, software and fancy equipment, take a deep breath and think about what you really need. Most of us have a selection of expensive unused resources gathering dust around the house because they were bought with great intentions but proved to be of no use or interest to our home educated children. We should all be selling or swapping them through the Home Ed Scotland Selling & Buying group! So please stop yourself from panic buying lots of workbooks and equipment unless you know they are going to be useful, and instead seek out second hand bargains or free/cheap online resources, Ask other home educators for recommendations, borrow and share if you can,
Most families have unlimited internet access at home these days, as well as a collection of reference books, software, games and other educational resources. Where Google fails, the library can usually make up any shortfall, and it pays dividends to befriend your local librarian! Your local home education groups can also be a valuable source of specialist knowledge and skills that you can both tap into and contribute to yourself.
What if I want to follow a curriculum?
If you are planning to home educate in the short term, or if your child will be returning to the school system at some point in the future, you may wish to follow a particular curriculum and will find the relevant national guidelines on the governments’ websites. Details of alternative curricula can also easily found online, and if your child is taking or planning to take exams, the relevant exam board will provide guidance.
What if my child wants to go (back) to school?
Home education is not necessarily a one way ticket! You can choose to home educate while it suits your child and send or return him/her to school at any point. Home educated children who enter school for the first time, or re-enter after an extended period, rarely find they are ‘behind’ academically, regardless of the formality or otherwise of their home based learning. Often they are particularly advanced in subjects they have covered in depth and teachers have remarked on the ability of previously home educated children to work diligently and to a high standard with minimal supervision.
What about socialisation?
If we had a penny for every time we’ve been asked this question, we’d be very wealthy home educators!
The fact is, home educated children are invariably much better ‘socialised’ than schooled children since they interact more widely on a daily basis with adults and other children of all ages and backgrounds. The real question is, how on earth can school children be adequately ‘socialised’ when they spend most of their time in classrooms with pupils the same age as themselves and are routinely subjected to negative peer pressure and/or bullying? It really is a no brainer! Learning from home, with plenty of opportunities to get out and about in the real world, is undoubtedly far better preparation for future responsible adulthood.
What about exams?
Contrary to popular belief, there is no requirement to take exams at conventional times, or ever. Some home educated young people go directly into employment, self employment or apprenticeships, while others have been admitted to colleges and universities without formal qualifications, often following interviews and/or the production of evidence to support their applications, e.g. portfolios, third party testimonials and commendations.
Exams and qualifications can, of course, be pursued by home educated children, although parents need to make the arrangements independently. One of the great benefits of home education is being able to sit exams at the most appropriate age and stage for the individual child without being forced to take them before they are ready or having to wait for the relevant school year.
For more information, please refer to the Scottish Home Education Higher Education Group – Pathways to University and HE Exams wiki where you will find a wealth of experience and support.
Is there any financial support for home education?
The short answer is no, even if you have had to remove your child from school due to bullying, unmet special needs or other negative factors. As a parent, you are wholly responsible for providing for your child’s home based education, although some local authorities may offer access to resources or other support on a discretionary basis.
Whilst home educators are not entitled to any financial support, child benefit and tax credits (to be replaced by universal credit) should continue as long as your child remains in full-time, non-advanced education. In Scotland only, the Education Maintenance Allowance may be claimed in respect of eligible home educated young people over 16.
What about part time or flexi schooling?
Some parents manage to negotiate part time or flexi schooling arrangements, but these are at the discretion of the school and/or local authority.
What if my child has additional support/special educational needs?
Home education has proved to be a highly successful alternative to mainstream or special schooling for children with a range of additional support needs (ASNs). It has also been a lifeline for those children whose individual needs are not being properly met in schools.
As our research has found, children with ASNs are increasingly likely to be home educated due to these needs being unmet, or likely to be unmet, in schools. However, those with
complex needs and disabilities are expressly excluded from access to co-ordinated support plans (CSPs) under the Additional Support for Learning Act 200433, and authorities may refuse parental requests for assessment of home educated children’s ASNs. Moreover, the presumption of mainstreaming and ‘presenteeism’ has become embedded in public policy to such an extent that home educated young people are effectively excluded by so-called
‘inclusive’ guidance that is said to apply to all children but only applies to pupils.
Can I combine paid employment with home education?
Yes you can, and increasingly it is becoming important to be financially self sufficient as the welfare reforms bite into family incomes. Many home educating families successfully combine self employment or paid employment with home education.