Does Homeschooling Really ‘Breed Broader Minds’?

Foreword

Without trying to enforce any blame or fault upon the education system, I will briefly look into homeschooling as an alternate channel of education in today’s British society.

I believe all families are entitled to their own view and opinion and may choose to educate their children independent of any persuasion or force.  This short blog is simply to question those that would choose to home educate and to see it there could be anything the school system can do to support and work alongside families who may be otherwise ‘left out, forgotten or unsupported’.

As we will see, there are stronger views than others of the education system but I have not written about them to scare or turn people away, but simply, the purpose of this blog is to highlight the need and the possible areas that could be strengthened in education as it stands today. This blog is aimed at young and old, teacher and parent, and would do well to be considered by all.

As someone who is undergoing studies to become a qualified teacher, the condition of the education system is of great interest to me. I seek to learn as much as I can about education in our society, and have more of an insight into how I can be more of an effective teacher. Home-schooling is but a small part of the vast learning to be done during my time studying and even beyond that time.


Does homeschooling really breed broader minds?

A Times Educational Supplement article written by Vaughan (2014), suggests schools are hindered by restriction and therefore, the alternative homeschooling option is producing broader minds. To explore this statement, I did some research on the topic and first looked at why some would choose to home-school.

Tobias (2012) who writes for ahomeeducation.co.uk  collated some reasons for home education. They are as follows: –

  1. More family time spent together; getting to know their children – A large scale international study recorded in The Telegraph (2015) showed that out of two thousand parents, two thirds of parents worry about their children’s traditional childhood activities (mainly playing outside and experiencing nature), however, eight in ten admit they probably need to make more of an effort, or find more time, to play with their children outdoors (Donnelly, 2015).

In contrast, the same article stated that the amount of time parents spent with children aged three to eleven had no influence on later achievement (Donnelly, 2015).While some may believe parent’s working hours highly affects their children, these results suggest otherwise, and so It can be said that children are okay no matter how many hours parent’s work (Valentini ,2015).

  1. Flexibility of education – Having a home education means being able to take weekly trips to museums or take long breaks away into nature for example. Although schools have field trips and organised outings too, the homeschooling sector  provides closer attention to the individual’s needs and pace of learning.
  1. Child-centered learning – Home-schooling allows children to learn at his/her own pace, more so than in schools and without any peer competitive aspect. It gives a greater opportunity to pursue individual interests.

4. There is also home-schooling for academic reasons-  This might refer to a case      where a child is increasingly clever and is being held back in the classroom or perhaps they are falling behind and parents feel as though they could give them closer attention at home.

  1. Deciding to home-school after a child’s bad school experience- This could be bullying of any type.

Also, some families are opposed to elements of the National Curriculum, which is followed by all state maintained schools, and others believe that UK standards of education are lower than they once were, and do not want their children’s education to follow that trend (Tobias, 2015).

Religious Background is also an Incentive to home-school. Earlier this year Richard Dawkins expressed very strong views about ‘protecting our children’ from their religious parents. He says they have too much say over their education. He argues the children need a say too.  It could be argued however, that children have very little say in state education also (Selby, 2015).

Now that we have identified some reasons for the choosing of home education, I would like to touch the surface of the question: Are schools restricting?

Regulation of schooling, decisions about what is taught and how it is taught, is not necessarily made by educators but politicians (Nelson, 2014). In this way it could be seen as a hindrance to the best possible effective ways of teaching and education, because those who have the updated first hand experience (e.g. teachers) are not as heavily involved in the foundations.

What the system now, may do well to consider is the previous systems. Under the 1902 Education Act, Local Education Authorities were created and had authority over the curriculum in schools, this allowed those with perhaps closer connections to the classroom (Gillard, 2011). Home Educators do not want to embrace education as a market or a political business as such but rather something that puts the children at the heart of education.

The sociological Functionalist view that school is a mini workplace, and what the authoritative powers say the pupils/workers do.There is no room for questioning or independence- this is seen as rivalry and nuisance (Bryant, 2014). However, the higher the education they enter the more that are required to question and criticise. I myself have experience this during my previous and current years of education.

The TES (Times Educational Supplement) article mentioned at the beginning of this blog, speaks of social correctness within schools- UK Schools having a single centered ethos.

In response to an extremist incident reported last year,  Michael Gove said,

“We want to create and enforce a clear and rigorous expectation on all schools to promote the fundamental British values of democracy” (Wintour, 2014).

While these British Values,  involve, Gove said,  the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect, and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs, there is still a clear expectation from the government that there is a certain code of conduct  or discourse that is to be passed on to each and every school pupil. However, parents/carers may not necessarily agree with the  ‘social consensus’ of our society, causing them to choose other methods of education for their children.

 

Going back to the question of whether or not homeschooling does indeed produce broader minds, the said TES article says there is freedom to think independently within home education, which contradicts the discourse that home education is marginalised and isolated (Vaughan, 2014).

Home educators do not have to follow the National Curriculum, but Local Authorities have the right inserted by the Education and Inspections Act 2006, to make arrangements to enable them to establish the identities, of children not receiving suitable education.

Home educators are NOT required to:

  • teach the National Curriculum
  • provide a broad and balanced education
  • have a timetable

So in light of this, the so called reigns are released on these young people, allowing them to walk their own educational walk, but not allowing them total freedom however, as they would still have home educators as teachers.

While these factors may seem liberating to some, I found there to be some weaker points to Home Education. One of these points was the financial restraints and lack of support given to families that decide to home-school.

“If you’re taking your child out of school, you must write to the head teacher. You can ask the school to teach your child part-time, but the school doesn’t have to accept your request” (Gov.co.uk, 2014).

This year ‘The current position for Home Education’ reported stated that parents must take full financial responsibility for home education including examination costs (Foster, 2015).

“Some LEAs may be able to offer support conditionally” (Foster, 2015).

In connection to the financial support point raised, it was highlighted in an interview with Badman (2009) that not enough children are being registered which means, he claims, the government cannot support homeschooling families nor are they able to monitor the health and safety of children within these families (Badman and Nicholson, 2012).

The government website instructs parents to notify schools and Local Councils if they are removing children from schools, however It will only be registered if they are taken from special schools. It can be seen from these findings that at the moment, there is little financial support given to Home Educators, which for some families will be a significant point as to why they would not home-school, even if they had the initial desire to do so.

Nicholson (2012) added at the end of her interview that If you are unable to live “outside of the box,” then homeschooling is not for you.

So after unpicking the statement made by Vaughan (2014) that home-schooling produces broader minds, a conclusion could be made that suggests, schools today ought to more closely consider their efforts in tackling certain issues within school that home educators see as good enough reason to take their children out. Some of which were mentioned earlier in this post.

It is fair to say that the education system still has a lot to offer children and that there are those who continually do exceedingly well during their school years.

In response to some of the main issues highlighted within the home education and regular education relationship, I have concluded that there is something schools can do, besides what they are currently doing now.

Where Nelson (2014) raises the issue of who makes the decisions for education and teaching, perhaps there could be a more revised forum where actual educators have a heavier influence on even their own teaching.

Following the concern that schools are becoming less child-centered (Draper, 2014), it may be highly useful to encourage Local Authorities, or those in higher positions, to deal with certain problems within the schools that are increasingly pressurising. For example, Draper (2014) says that schools need to independently review testing and assessment which is seen to be the main cause for concern, especially in primary schools.

A closer connection between schools, home educators and Local Authorities would tackle the issue of financial and general support for home-schooling. Waltham Forest  is a Local Council who declare their offer to help parents with home education plans and educational programmes (Gibbons, 2015). A body of teachers in school and home educators can bridge the gap between home and school. There would not necessarily have to be a close connection in terms of teaching advice, as some parents have stronger views than others and would prefer to do things independently; however, there would be no harm in providing support with teaching and resources. This way, if a child is taken out of school, they are not put into a worse position educationally because of any kind of lack.

There are many other ways school education could be revised so that more families feel comfortable with their child’s education. However, there will be those who decide other means of schooling and for the interest of the children,  more support and guidance could be given to both home educators and school teachers.


Reference List

Badman, G. (2009) Review of Elective Home Education in England. Available at: https://www.education.gov.uk/consultations/downloadableDocs/PDF%20FINAL%20HOME%20ED.pdf (Accessed: 7 April 2015)
Badman and Nicholson (2012) Home Education. Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00wm50x (Accessed: 1 March 2015)
Bryant, L. (2014) Functionalism and Education. Available at: http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/functionalsim_education.htm (Accessed: 15 April 2015)
Department for Schools, Children and Families (2013) Elective Home Education : Guidelines for Local Authorities
Donnelly, L. (2015) Six hours a week ‘family time’ to tame a teenager. Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/children/11503101/Six-hours-a-week-family-time-to-tame-a-teenager.html (Accessed: 1 April 2015)
Draper, T. (2014) Primary school league tables: ‘Independent thinking and creativity is being lost in drive for results’. Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/leaguetables/11284563/Primary-school-league-tables-Independent-thinking-and-creativity-is-being-lost-in-drive-for-results.html (Accessed: 16 April 2015)
Foster, D. (2015) Home Education. Available at: https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CB4QFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.parliament.uk%2Fbriefing-papers%2Fsn05108.pdf&ei=_qcuVczhEoqvaaL_gdgM&usg=AFQjCNHM3SJQShmjyOche0d42ROmFI697Q&sig2=Hwl6XDik4uIaiHfdkK_h2g
Gibbons, A. (2015) Home schooling. Available at: http://www.walthamforest.gov.uk/pages/services/schools-home-schooling.aspx (Accessed: 16 April 2015)
Gillard, D. (2011) Education in England – Chapter 4. Available at: http://www.educationengland.org.uk/history/chapter04.html (Accessed: 8 April 2015)
Nelson, F. (2014) Teachers should decide the curriculum, not politicians or a panel of ‘experts’ – Spectator Blogs. Available at: http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/2014/11/whats-worse-than-politicians-a-panel-of-experts/ (Accessed: 15 April 2015)
Selby, J. (2015) Richard Dawkins has some strong advice for schools about children with religious parents. Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/richard-dawkins-children-need-to-be-protected-from-religious-parents-10071712.html (Accessed: 1 April 2015)
Tobias, L. (2012) Home School vs School Education. Available at: http://www.ahomeeducation.co.uk/home-school-vs-school-education.html (Accessed: 1 April 2015)
Valenti, J. (2015) Don’t stress out. Our kids are just fine when their mothers work late. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/apr/01/dont-stress-out-our-kids-are-just-fine-when-their-mothers-work-late (Accessed: 1 April 2015)
Vaughan, R. (2014) How homeschooling breeds broader minds – news. Available at: https://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6424527 (Accessed: 1 April 2015)
Wintour, P. (2014) Michael Gove wants ‘British values’ on school curriculums. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/jun/09/michael-gove-british-values-curriculum (Accessed: 7 April 2015)