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:
- 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.
- 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:
- Force our children into school provision that harms them
- Fight the system for more appropriate provision at high cost to our emotional well being, our financial stability and often our health.
- 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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