Home Educators – Are our Children Really ‘Invisible’

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Apparently Home Education needs greater regulation, and compulsory registration. Apparently this is because our children are at risk and invisible from the watchful eye of the powers that be. This is apparently demonstrated by the tragic cases of various children who have lost their lives whilst being home educated by their parents.

But are home educated children really invisible? Are they really at greater risk of being missed when in need? Are there really no bits of legislation already in place to protect children who are home education? Will a compulsory register really change anything?

I would argue that the answers to these questions are NO, NO, NO and NO. Lets look at each in turn.

The HE Invisibility Cloak

The term ‘Home Education’ is a little bit of a red herring really. It implies that education only happens at home, perhaps in the cupboard under the stairs, or at the very least classroom style at a desk, with workbooks. In reality, for many, this is not at all the case, far from it. Only today I had an email from a company I’d contacted about an educational session, they were surprised I was asking for two spaces, they had thought I would only want one and then return home to teach my son the information.

Generally, in my experience, our children are out and about most days, mingling with wider society. Socialising with other humans ranging in age, in a range of environments and from a range of backgrounds. We have meet ups with other Home Edders on a regular basis. We tap into Home Ed trips to museums, aquariums, zoos, lifeboat stations and many other places, much like schooled children. We have workshops with other families, sometimes run for us, sometimes run by us. We go into town and run errands, have lunch, visit the library, talking to a range of people, young and old, as we go.  In fact, often it’s a case of turning down activities so we can have some down time. Then there’s the usual ‘after school clubs’ that they access: swimming, cubs, gymnastics, drama, football, and so on.

My Home Ed son has a far more vibrant social life than he ever had whilst at school. The vast majority of families, really don’t hide their children from society simply because they’re not educated at school. They really are not Harry Potter wannabees 😉

Home Education – The Welfare Risk?

I briefly mentioned that there have been a handful of very tragic cases where children’s lives were lost. These children were being home educated at the times of their deaths. For each, home education has been blamed for putting this children out of sight, making them invisible, resulting in them being missed by authorities. But, is this really the case? If you look at each case (pretty easily found with a quick google search), in every single one, the child was known to the authority prior to their death. Concerns had been raised already by other parties. The authorities failed to follow these concerns up properly. NOT ONE was missed, or invisible, because they were home educated. NOT ONE.

But Home Education Prevents Investigation by the Authorities

No, it really doesn’t. There is plenty of legislation in place already that allows authorities access to a child where concerns about their education or their welfare have been raised. Social Services have just as much power to access home educated children as they do schooled, or pre school-age children.

Section 47 of the Children Act. Each and every Local Authority has a Social Service department with the power to visit unannounced and demand entry into homes, provided they have a warrant. They can see children, and interview them without the parents present. This is a universal power, regardless of age and mode of education.

Your Name’s on a List, You’re Safe From Harm

Really, who honestly believes that a register of all HE children will serve to protect them from harm? I would hazard there are very few HE children that aren’t registered in some capacity already: at birth, for tax credits, for child benefit, with GP surgeries, with dentists… The list is endless.

Schooled children already have their names on a register, they are still at risk of neglect and abuse, at home, at school and in wider society.

The source of your education (teachers at school, or parents at home) does not determine whether you’re at risk of neglect or abuse or not. Being named on a list does not protect you from neglect or abuse.

If anything, having a compulsory register, or worse still regulation, of all HE children will make matters worse. It will be harder to find the children that really need help, it will cost the UK much more money to implement and maintain.

So, what exactly is the purpose and benefit?!

Our Journey into Home Education

The History

My eldest child has additional needs, with a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome. He found school very difficult, he found everything very difficult. When our family made the move South, from the midlands to the South West, O was seven and he struggled a great deal to settle into a new school. He did not yet have his diagnosis at this stage.

What followed was five long years of being repeatedly failed and let down by our Local Authority. He spent more time at home on exclusion than at school, this was the result of the lack of appropriate support, or even a basic attempt to understand his difficulties. I was trying to complete a degree at University at this time, training to become a midwife.

The upshot was, between the ages of seven and twelve, the vast majority of O’s learning occurred at home. I unofficially Home Educated him through his endless exclusions.

He is now settled in a very small ‘mainstream’ independent school that understands and supports him. He is happy and has chosen to be there to complete his GCSEs.  I had to fight the Local Authority every single step of the way, and to get the school fees paid through his statement (fees which are significantly lower than the alternatives that the LA were suggesting!).

Moving On

As a result of my experiences with O, I was not in the dark about the option to Home Educate, nor was I shy to make that choice if I felt it was right for my child(ren).

E had always adored school, he loved learning, asked questions all the time, and skipped to school daily waving hello to all the local villagers along his way. It was the right place for him to be.

Until we moved house, and E had to change schools. Within two terms I had made the decision to deregister E from his new school, a school that has broken him. He no longer looked forward to school. He no longer asks questions about everything. He started to dread school and had very much lost his love of learning.

E’s home education journey began in September 2013. The deregistration letter was handed in on the last day of the summer term, and the the summer holidays were what E needed for deschooling (getting the mindset of school out of the child, and parent). We are now beginning the second term in our third year of home ed.

E’s Home Ed Journey

Having researched ‘proper’ home ed (as opposed to the unofficial, off the cuff, no choice left, home ed I had done with O in the past) I knew there were as many ways to approach it as there are children experiencing it. On of the key positive points is that home education allows flexibility to fit around each and every child’s needs and preferences.

E is a reader. In the early days I got caught up in the ‘buy lots of workbooks and sit and do them for a couple of hours a day’. This cost me a lot of money, time and sanity. E hates workbooks. Absolutely detests them! I quickly learnt that E prefers to learn by reading. So I shifted the approach to a loose, very flexible, timetable and trying to cover as much as possible through reading, rather than workbooks.

In the early days heels were dug in and a distaste for a timetable expressed. So we discussed what might help and agreed a work basket for each week, with a clear written list of what work ought to be completed for that week. He trialed this, with the intention to have finished the list by the Sunday when he went to bed, giving a full week. He quickly decided to go back to the timetable!

Our Timetable

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We follow a loose timetable, and loose term times as well. The main reason for this is having one child in school.

I have a flexible approach to lots of things, our home ed timetable is no exception. It is a laminated sheet of paper with boxes for each ‘lesson’. Then there are subjects (also laminated) which blue tack on to the timetable, and can be moved around. The day starts at 10am and finishes at 3pm. There are two 1 hour session before lunch and one 2 hour session afterwards.

If we have something else to do, or don’t feel like doing something right then, it’s simply missed or moved to another time. Full flexibility to allow for the freedoms and joys of home education (as well as the bumps in the road of life). We often ‘ignore’ the after lunch sessions 😉

How Our HE has Morphed

So, we’re a third of the way through our third year. Things changed a lot in our first year, as we tried things out and settled into a way of doing things that worked for us. Whilst remaining mostly stable after that initial settling in period, things still change as we discover new ways of working, new interests, or E decides he doesn’t like the way we’re tackling something.

Home education is a fluid and flexible journey, as fluid and flexible as you need or want it to be. That is the beauty of it!

The Roman Life

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Our stay in Italy is over. We have a lovely time in Rome, staying in an apartment, owned by a very helpful local, who’s English was very good.

Rome is definitely cleaner and quieter than Naples, by far. There are still shuttered buildings everywhere though, and traffic still has a little of its own mind! By the time we got to Rome,  the summer was over, so temperatures were cooler than they had been in Naples. It was still mild enough, most evenings, to wear trousers and a jumper, well into the night.

We ate a lot of pasta in this stint, with a little pizza (for comparison purposes 😉 ). Our host told us about several local places, including one owned by a friend of his. We went there first, not realising it was an exclusive place. They squeezed us in, and gave us exceptional hospitality, giving us the chance to try several traditional Roman fares, including pig’s cheek (Roman bacon).

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For the sightseeing we went to the colloseum and forum, as well as a history of Rome experience, a couple of large parks and we walked in Caesar’s carriage ‘steps’ along the Appian Way (Via Appia Antica), squeezing in a tour of catacombs along the way.

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Everywhere in Italy has been very welcoming and accommodating to the children, which has been lovely 🙂

On our final evening in Rome, we waved to friends back home on one of the many live webcams, situated around the various Piazzas. This was also the only time we experienced rain during our stay in Italy!

Summary of Italy: cars, people, ancient Romans,  pizza, pasta, fountains and piazzas. And SUNSHINE!

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Educational Discounts to Attractions – How to get yours.

There has been debate on a couple of Facebook groups about a website offering home education discount cards for entry to attractions at discounted rate.

If you are a home educating family, do you need one? This is the big debate at the moment. The cards are being sold for £25 and the website sells itself as: ‘Offering Home Educators BIG discounts on 100’s of attractions throughout the UK, and fantastic savings on Educational Resources.’ And: ‘As a Member of the Home Education Card you gain fantastic discounts on hundreds of attractions across the UK. Exclusive membership benefits also include savings on educational supplies, memberships and other resources.’

The discussion centres around whether they are right to sell a card to get discounts, whether these discounts are genuine, whether the discounts can be obtained without the card and whether they are chaging a fair price.

Much digging has been done relating to this by the Admins of some of the Facebook groups. What they have found so far is as follows:

After emailing EVERY attraction listed on the website, only ONE has said the discount is exclusive to card holders. MANY have stated they know nothing of the discount quoted.

The website, and card, is being run and managed by a Home Educating family.

What does this mean?

Well, basically this means that if you contact the attractions directly, you can get the same discount, FOR FREE.

My experience of ‘education’ or ‘school’ discounts

I have been to a few places with my boys (8 and 13) with a discount. Normally the websites show this discount as a schools price. The easiest thing to do is to email them and state that you would like to book an educational visit and that you are a home educating family.

This has always worked for me, and doing it via email (rather than phone) means you have written confirmation of the booking and price in case the person at the door on the day gets funny (this was useful with London Zoo recently).

Contacting these attractions yourself costs nothing and takes very little time and you don’t have to go in a group, your ‘school’ is your family unit. It can save a fortune, and often the first adult is free.

Why not give it a try

What on earth am I doing here?

Hey there.

I have tried blogging, half heartedly, under the guise of my Midwife hat. I never really got into it.  I keep thinking about things, a real eclectic mix of things, mostly whilst trying to get to sleep or having a shower. I wondered if I might be just a teensy bit more dedicated to the whole blogging thing if I blogged about everything and anything that was rude enough to fill my head. 

So here I am.

What might I waffle about? Well midwifery, pregnancy and child birth related stuff for one. But also some parenting things (I am a mother after all), maybe some self-employment woes and anything else I encounter in my life. Basically most things could receive my purple fluffy waffle print!

I can’t promise to be interesting, and I can’t promise to keep up with the blogging, but I can promise I will try!