Shouldn’t it feel like a free choice? Why I don’t home educate

Shouldn’t it feel like a free choice? Why I don’t home educate

By Rosie and Jo’s mum

Both of my girls have found school difficult.  They have both spent long periods unable to attend and they have both experienced severe anxiety as a result of inadequate provision.

When things weren’t going well, which has been often, I have strongly considered home education.  Both girls are academically able and motivated to lead their own learning.  I’ve looked into home education and there is a large, strong group in our county. It has been tempting at times.

An awful lot of parents on SEN internet forums whose children have struggled in school have stopped fighting for appropriate educational provision and opted to home educate their children instead.  Many say it is the best thing they ever did and I absolutely believe them.

I haven’t chosen to home educate my children for two main reasons:

  1. I knew that they were capable of gaining above average GCSE and A’ level grades and I have never felt confident in my ability to provide or gain access to the teaching and resources that requires.  I knew that if I tried and failed, I would be putting them at a great disadvantage.
  1. I knew that they had a lot more to learn than the academics.  They both had complex needs and, to succeed as adults, they would need social communication and coping skills that I couldn’t teach them at home.  They needed to spend time with their peers and with highly qualified adults who knew how to teach these skills.

We’ve been forced into short -term home educating a couple of times and, although some significant academic learning definitely occurred, it didn’t feel like a roaring success for either girl.

I strongly believe that, if home education is a free choice, made by parents because it is the right thing for their family, it is the best thing they could do.  If it doesn’t work out, there is always the option to re-enter the school system.

What if it isn’t a free choice?  What if it’s a choice made by a parent who is watching their child be destroyed by an education system that won’t bend to accommodate their needs?  What if the parent has exhausted their emotional and financial resources and just can’t fight any more?  What if the parent feels pushed into a situation they would never have been in by choice?

No parent should be pushed into home educating simply to protect their child.  Some parents aren’t well suited to teaching their own children and some children find it impossible to learn effectively in the home environment.  Some children need more care than a parent can provide without support.

Of course, if you’re home educating out of necessity, returning to the school system isn’t such a simple option.  You will just be faced with the same problems that pushed you away in the first place and maybe more on top.

It seems like many parents have to take one of three choices:

  1. Force our children into school provision that harms them
  2. Fight the system for more appropriate provision at high cost to our emotional well being, our financial stability and often our health.
  3. Walk away from the battle and teach our children ourselves, even if it is not the best option for our particular family.

If you are tempted to give up the unequal struggle to get their child’s educational needs met and take their child off the school roll, please take time to think it through very carefully.  Think about the commitment you are making and what the possible consequences could be for you and your child.  Think about all the aspects of schooling and whether you can really offer them at home.  Think about whether you have the patience and resilience to educate your own child (I didn’t).

If you take your child off the school roll, the LA is no longer responsible for meeting their educational needs.  That is all down to you.  Some people get funding to pay for therapy detailed in their child’s EHCP/statement but no doubt that will involve another battle.

There are other options that you may not be told about.  The SEND Code of Practice states that children who are unable to attend school because of their health needs “should have access to education that is on a par with that of mainstream provision, including appropriate support to meet the needs of those with SEN. The education they receive should be good quality and prevent them from slipping behind their peers.”  If severe anxiety is preventing your child from attending school, home educating may not be your only option.

If you think it all through and come to the conclusion that it really is the right thing for you, your child and your family, go for it and, hopefully, it will be the best decision you ever made too.

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12 thoughts on “Shouldn’t it feel like a free choice? Why I don’t home educate

  1. Whilst I agree that nobody should feel forced into removing their children from school, I also think that maybe you didn’t explore home education enough. I only say this because of the two reasons you listed aren’t even areas of concern for many home educators. Maybe you did a disservice to your children because you didn’t research the possibilities, or maybe you chose the best route for them. I don’t know. (And i dont mean to cause offence).
    With my kids I’ve gone from school to HE to school, and now I’m constantly fighting battles.
    How long can we keep this up as parents?!
    Why should we?
    Why do some if not most people feel the need to force their children to go to school when it causes so many problems for both the children and parents?
    I just don’t understand it. I guess I’m just one of those damaged school children who never recovered…

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    1. Thank you for responding.
      I did look into HE in depth. It wasn’t right for us and my daughter’s new school placement, which she loves and in which she is thriving, has confirmed that for me. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t right for other children, just not mine.
      I think your question about why should we have to fight is crucial.
      Why does any parent have to fight? Why are the financial and emotional costs of getting the right provision for our children so high? I might edit the blog to include those questions.
      I hope you win your battles and your children get what they need to thrive.

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      1. Thankyou. I don’t think I’ll find it without losing my mind (again).
        Sorry if i sounded judgemental – i guess I’ve just seen SO many posts from different people saying the same things (and most don’t even know what an autonomous home education means, so dont look into it), that i get kind of defensive! My heart is still in HE. But the kids wanted to try school again, and i let them, against what my heart and head said. I guess thats true autonomy.

        I hope your children continue to get the best education they can 🙂 Best wishes x

        Liked by 1 person

  2. My parents sent me back to secondary school for the reasons you outlined, and I hated them for it. It took them removing me again, and a couple of years of healing, before our relationship could be rebuilt and I could forgive them. I hope you don’t permanently ruin your relationship with your kids by choosing to keep them in, as mine would have if they had kept me in school.

    P.S. I’ve never understood why parents fear they’ll let their kids down educationally. Home edders do much better on average than school kids when it comes to exams.

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    1. Thank you for sharing that experience. I don’t think Jo would ever speak to me again if I took her out of school. She is in the right provision now. It’s an awesome school and she genuinely loves it. She looks forward to going back on Monday mornings and looks for excuses to stay there longer.
      She has a fabulous team looking after her and I could never replicate what they do at home.
      I’m so glad you managed to repair your relationship with your parents.

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  3. Often both the school option and home ed have downsides. There is no option out there that ‘meets’ your child’s needs. Specialist schools are not always a good fit, and you are left trying to work out which choice, home ed or school, is going to give your child the best personal and academic chance of progress. My son has severe anxiety but isn’t under CAMHS, who won’t see him because his anxiety is ‘part of’ his ASD, he’s not suicidal, he’s not self harming (thank god). But he never leaves the house and can’t access any activities with peers. He doesn’t qualify for the ‘medical’ option of EOTAS which would give him access to a unit. He would like to be in a small school
    with small classes of 5-6 kids. His transition into an amazing specialist school is at breaking point because of many changes which he can’t cope with. The next specialist school is an hour away and he can’t manage a journey that long. Also he starts transition with small steps of ten minutes at a time, how would that work if I’m driving him? It would be exhausting for us both. At home he functions amazingly well, online learning now offers interaction with other children in small groups like a ‘school’, he can pace his social energy. Yes he won’t have the access to professionals ‘on tap’ that specialist offers, but he’s not been able to access them anyway due to his anxiety! And you can’t just keep fighting for different schools that appear to be a good fit, if your child has already had two failed transitions. Each attempt at school, each battle with the system, affects relationships and family life and at some point you have to decide what to compromise on before your family falls apart. Sometimes you have to accept that your child’s education will not be as you’d like it, but you have a happy child and you have saved your marriage.

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    1. The impact of the fighting and the failed placements can be horrific for children and their families and, sadly, I think it’s easily ignored too.
      It lovely to hear that home educating has solved some problems for you.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I enjoyed your post. And I think you’ve identified something here that the authorities overlook: Elective home education – as they like to call it – is in most cases not ‘elective’; people turn to it because the system is failing their child! I wonder how many home educators there would be if there was an inspiring, democratic, respectful, place for children to be educated that catered for the diversity of needs and interests and learning preferences of all our individual learners?! That’s what would have made the difference to our choice to home educate!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. “Every school should be an inspiring, democratic, respectful, place for children to be educated that catered for the diversity of needs and interests and learning preferences of all our individual learners.” I don’t know where we would have to start to bring that about, but I need the education system to embrace these values. As a home educator I struggle to meet my own needs along that of my child’s, as my responsibility for his learning weighs heavier than my need for my own sanity. As you say, with schools operating along those lines I would not have needed to ‘choose’ home education.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think we, as parents, need to be clear that we don’t expect schools to offer a tailor made package of perfection to every child, including our own.
      What we need is a system that meets their needs well enough to offer them the same opportunity to fulfil their potential that is available to their neurotypical peers. Then home educating would be a genuine choice like it is for other families.
      It was talking to parents in your position that inspired me to write this blog. Home education shouldn’t be the ‘least worst’ option for anybody.

      Like

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