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You should not home educate because of covid

Posted by Graeme in Education at 1:12 pm on Saturday, 12 September 2020

I am an advocate of home education, but I doubt one group of people currently switching are making the right decision. Not all, by any means: it depends on why and what you want.I am heavily involved in online HE communities and I see two groups of newcomers:

  1. Those who found their children (and often themselves) were happier learning at home during lockdown.
  2. Those who are scared of sending children back to school because of covid

These largely correspond to two other groups:

  1. Those who want to try a different way of educating their children
  2. Those who want their children physically at home, but want the school system.

The problem is with the second group. In many cases they are looking (I see them asking online) for a replacement for school, that works as much like school as possible. What they will end up is the worst of both.

I dislike the idea of “online school” because it loses the advantages of home education: the flexibility to tailor education to a child’s interests and abilities, the flexibility to take exams early or late rather than an arbitrary age, choosing from a vast range of subjects (any qualification open to private candidates), meeting lots of different people of different ages in different settings, learning study skills, self-discipline, and taking responsibility, and so on.

Some people are doing this with year 11 children only months away from taking GCSEs. They may have to change syllabus (e.g. from GCSE to IGCSE for sciences), switch to alternative qualifications (for drama or art) perhaps drop some.  I can understand why people do this, but it really should be a last resort. A good test would be whether delaying exams for an year (which would greatly reduce the problems) would be worth it.

Those with younger children have a different problem. Are they happy staying with HE long term? While you can always switch back, you need to consider practical issues such as losing school places, or going too far from the curriculum followed by schools

Covid will be gone (as a meaningful risk) in an year or two – if you think otherwise please read this explanation of virus evolution  Will you still want to HE then? What will you do then if your kids love HE and do not want to go back, but you do not want to the commitment of HE? Are you happy to stick to the school syllabus in the meantime (again negating many of the advantages of HE). Its not just that you may not have covered things in the syllabus, your kids are also likely to be ahead in their best subjects and bored in class.

What we call “home education” is what used to be called “private education” until American influence lead that to mean being educated at an independent school. It is no longer the province only of those who can hire governesses and tutors, but accessible to anyone who can afford a few textbooks, and ideally an internet connection and exam fees.

Many people have found that having children at home is good. One survey said that fathers are particular keen on it post covid. That makes sense to me, because many men are denied involvement in bringing up their children: they are at work and the children are at school. Children are happy to see more of their parents, and parents are happy to spend more time with their children.

Making it better than school takes time, effort and money (although its partially offset by things such as not taking them to school in heavy traffic, buying uniforms, etc.). It means doing things differently. Parents have to take responsibility for either teaching, or organising teaching, or ensuring children are teaching themselves. Parents have to decide on educational approaches, set/influence expectations,  help or find help when needed, and so on,  When it comes to exams you have to find exam centres, decide on syllabuses, fill in forms and pay fees. You may have to argue with an anti-HE local authority trying to bully you into sending children to school, sometimes breaking the law or lying in order to do so (it is surprising how many LAs think their policies can override legislation).

It is an amazing and rewarding experience for parents, and has worked brilliantly for my children, but you have to want to do it. If you are looking for school without a physical presence, you will instead get a second rate copy of school.

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