What is homeschooling?
In recent years, the idea of homeschooling children has become increasingly popular. Homeschooling essentially means that children are educated at home or within small groups outside of mainstream schooling, which can provide children with a personalised, enriching learning environment, suited to their individual needs. With appropriate support (for example using maths tutors) children can benefit from specialised and flexible instruction. Indeed, in an educational climate that seems beset with continuous curriculum change and uncertainty, a growing number of parents are choosing to home-educate; in April of this year, the BBC reported that the number of homeschooled children has risen by approximately 40% in the last three years.
Why are more parents turning to the homeschooling model for their children?
There are various reasons why homeschooling is becoming more popular with parents. A 2016 Guardian report suggested the rise in homeschooling could be attributed to mainstream schools’ failure to cater for special educational needs. Other reports cite the pressure students are under in mainstream education and a culture of constant testing as motivating factors.
Homeschooling also offers flexibility; for families who travel frequently for work it allows children to access education more freely. Moreover, given the level of competition for places at the best London schools, it is a welcome alternative source of provision for families seeking quality schooling. The proliferation of quality maths tutors and English tutors available through agencies also allows families to access expert instruction more easily.
Where do we homeschool?
Homeschooling can mean individualised, one-to-one instruction at home with a tutor or parent. However, some instruction, especially for GCSE tuition, is now delivered to small groups in communal spaces. The School Run website has a range of advice for parents who home-educate and how you can liaise with other likeminded parents in your area: Researching local groups of home-educators will give you access to an important source of advice and support, as well as enabling your child to socialise with their peers.
If you are considering educating your child one-to-one with a tutor, researching Maths and English tutors in your area (for example using the search term ‘English tutors near me’ or ‘Maths tutors near me’) would be an important first step. This is especially important if your child is preparing for national qualifications such as GCSEs or A Levels. The new GCSE specifications for Maths, the sciences and English are incredibly rigorous and require the support of tutors to ensure students cover not only the most basic content but also more specialised, esoteric areas of the curriculum. The much-coveted GCSE Grade 9 essentially demands ‘A Level’ skills of fifteen and sixteen-year-olds; if homeschooling is to truly support and extend students’ thinking and wider knowledge, the support of external GCSE English tutors or private Maths tutors will be invaluable.
A Typical Homeschooling Timetable
Whilst homeschooling allows for flexibility, it is also useful to have a semi-structured programme of activities to give your child a sense of continuity, especially if they are studying towards a qualification such as GCSE or A Level. It is worth developing a timetable involving private English tutors or maths tutors to ensure your child is following a well-planned curriculum.
A typical day might involve an hour of English (perhaps with a private English tutor) in the mornings, followed by numeracy with a local maths tutor. You then might incorporate two hours studying the humanities and sciences in the afternoons. Many families who home-educate also set aside a day each week for educational visits or other activities; Fridays could be used to visit museums and galleries, for example.
Alternatively, working with a private tutor, you could develop a project-based programme of study (this is especially beneficial for younger children). When studying Ancient Egypt, your child could calculate resources needed for a city (using numeracy) design a monument or write a passage of description based on their knowledge. Cross-curricular work requires careful planning but it can be a fruitful way to engage your child across a range of disciplines.
It is also important to include some physical activity as part of the programme each day, whether that be swimming, a long bike ride in a park or a gentle jog around your local area. Discuss the options with your child: some children are demotivated by team sports, whilst for others the competitive element is the most thrilling part. It is important to tailor activities to your child’s interests, while also developing habits that will keep them healthy and active in the long term.
How do I get the right tutors?
There are several factors to consider when hiring a tutor. There are independent tutors available, yet it is worth considering how they may not be professionally vetted – hiring a tutor through an agency ensures the tutor will have undergone reference checks, and they are also more likely to be appropriately qualified. It is imperative that any tutor you hire has an up-to-date DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) check – this is a further benefit of hiring a tutor through an agency, as they will need to have provided this during the recruitment process.
Some of the best tutor agencies in North-West London are Athena Tuition, Able Tutors, and Hampstead and Frognal Tutors. In South London, there is also a wealth of choice, with Kensington and Chelsea Tutors, Gabbitas Education and Kings Tutors proving some of the most popular options. These agencies have all been visited in person by the Good Schools Guide and are notable for keeping in close contact with their tutors so that they can provide a more personalised and trustworthy service. Their tutors also tend to have specialised qualifications and teaching experience, so you are more likely to find well-qualified physics and maths tutors or A Level Maths tutors with an agency.
Alternatively, you can investigate maths tutors or ‘English tutors near me’ through online hiring platforms such as Tutorful (which offers the option of online tuition), First Tutors and Tutorhunt. These platforms operate as an open marketplace, where tutees assess which tutor may be best for them. This can provide a greater degree of choice and flexibility than operating through an agency, yet agencies offer more expertise, as many are run by the former teachers of prestigious London schools.
One of the principal benefits of homeschooling is the flexibility it offers, and some families opt for part-time home-education alongside part-time mainstream schooling, known as ‘flexi-schooling.’ There are many reasons why families might opt for this – it could be helpful to stagger a return to school after a long period of absence, or a child might wish to join their parent for a day of outdoor education once a week. Where schools are supportive of flexi-schooling, it can foster excellent links between families and schools, yet it is worth noting that you must have the support of your child’s school if you wish to homeschool them part-time – otherwise, any time your child spends away from school will be considered as unauthorised absence.
When should you start homeschooling?
There is no ‘correct’ time to start homeschooling – ultimately, this depends on the needs of both the family and the child. However, with very young children it is best to adopt a child-led approach, encouraging learning through play. It is also inadvisable to withdraw children from mainstream schooling when they are in the middle of preparation for external exams – for example, it would be disruptive to withdraw a child when they are half-way through a programme of GCSE study.
The flexibility of homeschooling allows you to begin educating your child at any point during the year. Nonetheless, it is worth considering whether you will want your child to re-join mainstream education in the future. If so, the academic calendar and key entry points of mainstream schools are worth bearing in mind. For example, if you wish to homeschool prior to 7+ or 11+ entry, you should be aware that the closing date for registration is usually in October of the preceding year.
Home education and the benefits of supporting tutoring programmes
There are numerous advantages in choosing home education; it can provide a more nurturing and flexible environment for your child, allowing them to pursue their passions with greater freedom and intensity. If you are considering homeschooling, it is worth finding out as much as possible about local home-education groups in your area, as well as seeking the support of tutoring programmes through an agency so that you can devise a suitable curriculum for your child with expert advice.
Furthermore, it is important to consider that the benefits of education are not only academic but also psychological, spiritual and social. Extra-curricular activities and time with peers are an instrumental part of the overall educational experience. Before researching activities in your area, have an exploratory discussion with your child to find out what would best suit them. Are they intrigued by astrophysics? They might benefit from visiting the Royal Museums of Greenwich to listen to ‘Think Space’ lectures. Or perhaps they are a budding designer, in which case attending a short ‘Get into Design’ workshop at the Design Museum might spark their creativity further. Equally, liaising with local home-education groups will provide your child with opportunities to socialise and forge relationships with peers.
Ultimately, homeschooling can be a brilliant opportunity for your child to develop at his or her own pace, exploring their passions without being subject to the demands of an increasingly rigid mainstream curriculum. With the right support, your child can benefit from a holistic approach, tailored to their personal needs, talents and interests.