Home Education is not the same as the Home Learning that parents are attempting to undertake during the Lockdown of 2020. There is some virtue in the numerous online comments from existing Home Educators who repeatedly tried to distinguish themselves from the parents of Lockdown by offering the term ‘Home Learning’ as an alternative to Home Education. In many ways they have a valid point.
Even for existing Home Educators, our world was undeniably altered when Lockdown was imposed upon British society this year. For hundreds of families who made the choice to Home Educate permanently, and whom have fought various systems, authorities and their Government for the privilege to educate their children in places other than a school building, the days are restrictive and out of balance with their usual ideology.
No more day trips to engage in hands-on learning; no more extra curricula activities where 40 children might have an entire ice rink to themselves; no more reading groups or craft days; no more meet-ups with other like-minded families in parks that are otherwise deserted. Yes! We have been affected by Covid-19 too. For many families 1-2 or more of their days are spent immersed in history or engrossed in Geography through our five senses. Research tells us that the intense concentration we get from a child who is entirely self-motivated, only comes when they are given autonomy over the direction of their learning; something that most schools and teachers are unable to provide due to various restrictions such as curriculum and environment. Home Educators might tell us that gaining that level of sensory learning can only be achieved in the Home Education setting.
Every opportunity is a learning opportunity.
We have also done our utmost to ensure that opportunities are available for our children who many may not realise are severely restricted just as school-based children have been. That hands on learning is difficult to achieve within the four walls of the family home, even if you are lucky enough to have a garden. Home Educators are having to adapt too. Online learning only offers a fraction of the experiences most Home Educated children receive. Lets face it, they can watch a science lesson on the screen with a live teacher and in depth video but they cannot feel how cold the ocean is or make a live Daffodil turn purple when it is all on a computer or television screen.
There have been some huge changes for the better though.; BBC Home Learning where have you been all this time?! It is somewhat frustrating that it has taken a worldwide panic and entire Lockdown of a country to increase the quality and quantity of online learning for Home Educated children. It is hard not to feel frustrated as a Home Educator who has spent years researching the USA and AUS Home Education web pages looking for resources to use. According to the ADCS 2019 report on Elective Home Education in England, there were in excess of 78,000 children thought to be home educated; more than the number of children in care. Add those in Scotland, Wales and Ireland and we begin to get a feel for the popularity of Home Education in the UK. With that many children being educated in places other than a school, it would make sense to have resources for parents and families that meet their needs and increase their options for future goals. It would have been nice to feel any of the Governments for whom education is their responsibility, acknowledged the great efforts families go to in order to Home Educate their children;
Even during this unprecedented pandemic where almost every child in the UK is being taught from home, no one has stood up and questioned why the Governments have not acknowledged the amazing work undertaken by families that choose to Home Educate. There seems to be a new article every day looking to support or criticise families for either ‘doing a great job’ or ‘not going far enough in formal teaching from home’. However, there can be found across almost all social media comments from parents acknowledging just how difficult it can be to take full 100% responsibility for the teaching and learning of children from home. When are the Politicians going to acknowledge that Home Education is valuable and that parents in general whom choose this option actually sacrifice significantly in support of their ideology. Instead of arguments between those who believe children should already be back in schools, and those who believe children should stay at home; maybe the discussion could be more clearly around how we support parents and families in their uphill battle to swap traditional schooling for a crash course in Home Education? Maybe those in positions of power (Ministers for Education; Children’s Minister etc) can take a long hard look at how well some families are undertaking education from home. Perhaps it would have been wise to enlist the help advice and support of existing, experienced Home Educators at the start of the Lockdown!
Yes, we understand that there are safeguarding concerns and children for whom school is a lifeline. Absolutely get those children back into school, or find an alternative way to support them. Is this debate really just about those vulnerable children though? There are many thousands of children who do not fall into this category whose parents are now considering Home Education as a permanent option; lets face it, the Government can hardly tell us that the quality isn’t good enough after pushing every child in the UK into instant Home Learning. Its been good enough for 40% of this academic year!
What will happen to all the extra rsources that have found their way onto our screens on a daily basis? Will Home Educators lose those once schools re-open? Surely that’s discriminating between families who choose school and families who choose Home?
Families may well have dropped the unrealistic 6hr day schooling replica from their front room and settled on a more realistic 2-3hr intermittent learning approach (some researchers suggest learning only takes place for 2-3 hrs in any school day) however, that does not mean the children stopped learning before and after those 3 hours; in fact, parents state on social media that children are more relaxed, are learning more and actually enjoy learning from home more than in school.
The statements made by senior leaders in positions of power are terrifying. They show how little they understand education, how little they understand learning from home and how fixated they are on Home Educating being a safeguarding issue – which it is not! If politicians actually based their decisions on contributions from experts in the field (research), trade union representation and contributions from parents and families, they would not be calling children back to the classroom whilst putting their health at risk, or teachers back to their schools without adequate PPE and they certainly wouldn’t be blaming those decisions on the age old excuse that children taught at home pose a safeguarding risk.
In short, it would be more prudent and a better use of Government resources if they invited Home Education Experts to contribute to discussions around improving the education for children who are currently out of school.
It would also be the perfect time to review Home Education and its many nuances, offer improved resources online and off (there is currently no UK curriculum for Home Educators who want one) and consider bringing Home Education into the realm of ‘alternative education’ rather than spear heading the idea that Home Education is a dangerous practice.
Chelle Oldham (firstname.lastname@example.org) Home Educator; QTS Teacher & Higher Education Professional