Ten myths about home educating

Families have been home educating far longer than there have been schools. Many of the world’s greatest discoveries and inventions have come from the minds of people who did not receive a school-based education, or for whom school-based learning didn’t work, and who were allowed to develop, explore and create at their own pace.

1. Home education is illegal

FALSE Legally, home education is a choice equal to school education. The law in Scotland says that it is a parent’s responsibility to provide ‘a suitable and efficient education’ for their child, meaning home education is the default position for all children. While the majority of parents chose to meet this responsibility by enrolling their children in school, many choose to meet this responsibility through home education.

2. Children need to go to school to learn

FALSE All children in Scotland must be educated between the ages of 5 and 16. Some children will be home educated for all of this time, some will spend some time being home educated then move into school-based education, and others will start school and become home educated. Children who are home educated then start school are often seen by teachers to be engaged in and able to direct their own learning. Some children are also flexi-schooled, where they are on the school roll, attend school for some of the week and learn at home on the other days.

3. You need permission to home educate

FALSE Families do not require consent to home educate per se, and children who have never attended school require no state involvement. However, if a child has attended a state school, parents must seek consent from the local authority to have them removed from the school roll. In this situation the local authority will ask for an ‘outline of provision’, which describes how parents will provide ‘a suitable and efficient education’. Parents do not need to seek consent to have the child removed from the roll in a variety of situations, including when the child:

  • attends a school which has closed.
  • is moving from primary to secondary.
  • attends a private school.
  • has been enrolled in school but has not yet attended.
  • has never attended a state school their authority’s area.

4. It is difficult to remove your child from school

FALSE Many children each year are removed from school to be home educated. This may be a permanent situation or a short term one. The Scottish Government guidelines on home education state that local authorities should not unnecessarily delay this process or unreasonably withhold consent and that requests should be dealt with within six weeks.

5. Home educated children have no friends

FALSE The assumption by many people is that home educated children are isolated, lonely and have limited social skills. The opposite is in fact true and home educated children are usually very socially adept because their education happens in society. They also often have a broader range of friends than children who attend school as they are not limited to forming friendships with children born in the same year as them, living in the same area or who are of the same gender.

6. Home educated children don’t get qualifications

FALSE Home educated young people can obtain qualifications if and when it suits them. Many young people will make the choice to attend school to gain qualifications, some will complete qualifications at home, and others will go straight into college or university

7. Parents who home educate need to be teachers

FALSE Parents need no formal qualifications to home educate. Parents and children learn together through home educating. Parents do not need to hold all the knowledge to pass onto their children, only to know how to help their children find out what they want to know. For this reason, when home educated children enter formal education they are usually motivated to learn and more able than their peers to direct their own learning.  

8. It is expensive to home educate

FALSE Home education is as cheap or expensive as you want it to be. You can purchase expensive curriculums, books and e-learning packages. However, there are many resources available to home educators for free or at minimal cost. By making use of local resources like museums, libraries, parks and leisure centres, it is possible to home educate at very little cost. Home educators also save money on school uniforms and by going on holiday in school term-time.

9. You have to follow school hours and a timetable

FALSE No timetable, set school hours or curriculum is required to home educate. Some families choose to work in this way but many do not. Home educating means children can learn in ways and at times that work best for them. If children are more receptive to learning in the evenings you can adjust to suit. Bedtimes and get-up times can be adjusted to suit and, more crucially, at an adolescent-friendly time for teenagers whose biological clocks shift at the start of puberty. Even if you want to keep your child’s education in line with the school curriculum, being able to give your children one to one attention means that you can get through work far more quickly than a teacher with a large class, leaving lots of time for interest-based learning and fun activities.

10. Only children who have struggled at school are home educated

FALSE Children are home educated for many reasons.  Many parents choose home education because they want the flexibility that it allows them. There’s no countdown to the start and finish of the school holidays, with the inevitable holiday price hikes. Families are free to travel when it suits them and for as long as they wish. Many parents are aware of the struggles that the education system is facing and don’t want to put their children into what they see to be a ‘failing system’. Many children are home educated due to school issues such as bullying or unmet additional support needs. Some families also home educate to allow their children to follow their dreams in sports or the arts. Many families start home educating as they believe children simply start school too young and wish to avoid this pressure.  Home education is a proven, highly successful alternative to school. Research shows that home educated children do better academically and socially than their schooled counterparts, especially if they come from poorer backgrounds.