How To Home Educate In The UK (Relax- It’s Easier Than It Sounds!)
Hello there and welcome to the wonderful world of home education! If you are looking for a simple starter guide as to how to homeschool (aka home educating) in the UK you are in the right place.
I have always home educated my three children; they have never been to school or nursery and they are, despite some unusual quirks (my middle kid likes to sprinkle black pepper on chocolate cake) pretty cool and happy kids.
Over the last 11 years I have loved home educating and now I share my knowledge and encouragement with other home educating and homeschooling families through this blog.
If you would like 1-1 coaching & support to get set up with your home education journey, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Some of my most popular home educating blog posts include:
- Can You Home Educate On Benefits/ A Low Income?
- How Much Does It Cost To Homeschool (inc. exact monthly figures)
- How To Start Homeschooling: A Beginner’s Guide
- What Is Unschooling & Who Does It Work For?
- How Does Interest Based Learning / Unschooling Work?
- How Do Home Educated Children Take GCSEs/ A Levels?
- How Do Home Educated Children Socialise?
- How We Home Educate: A Typical Day In Our Life (3 kids, single working parent)
- How To Home Educate Children Of Multiple Age
In this blog post I will cover how to homeschool in the UK, how to get started homeschooling and what you need before beginning. My two main goals for this post are to give you the confidence that you CAN do this, and equip you with practical tips and resources to set you up for beginning home education with your family.
It is important to note that in normal life I use the term ‘home education’, and for good reason- it is not the same as homeschooling, which is where school is replicated at home. On my blog, however, I do use the term homeschooling, partly because I wrote a lot of these posts a long time ago when I called it ‘homeschooling’, and partly simply because that is what people search for on Google.
Please consider adopting the phrase ‘home education’ as it prevents confusion as to what home education is meant to be.
Before Starting Homeschool: Getting YOUR Confidence!
You may be feeling daunted about starting homeschooling with your children. It may be that your child has had a bad time at school, or that you feel nervous about sending them back after a time away from normal classroom life. It may be that you just want an alternative lifestyle, and all of these are valid reasons to home educate.
If you have a niggling feeling that you might not be cut out for home educating, or you are nervous about whether you can do it, please read my post on the 10 things you absolutely need for home educating.
I’m sure you will have every single thing on this list- and if you don’t, you are willing to develop them- which means you are 100% ready to start your home educating journey!
If you are worried that you are not academic enough to home educate your children, please read about what qualifications you need to homeschool. In it I explain why I think it is essential that non-academic people feel confident to home educate their kids- and why having a less academic parent can be AMAZING for children!
Practical Considerations Before Homeschooling
There are several practical things to consider before you deregister your child. These include how will you arrange your time, your budget and any work arrangements that may need to fit around your kids. For your convenience I’ve outlined all of the considerations in this post 10 things to consider before homeschooling.
Once you have made the decision to home educate, you will need to deregister your child if they are currently enrolled at school. The process for this in England and Wales is that you deliver a letter stating that you have decided to home educate your child and that you wish for the school to take your child off their register with immediate effect.
This is legally binding with immediate effect, so you could in fact walk in to school in the morning and be deregistered there and then. You do not need any qualifications or permission in order to homeschool your child in England.
The only exception to this is if your child is in a special school for children with special needs, in which case you need permission to deregister them. You should ask for a meeting with the headteacher and also contact your local EHE (Elective Home Education) officer from your local LEA (Local Education Authority).
You will be able to get in touch with them via the council. This may be different for UK countries that are not England so do check with your local authority on this.
How To Start Homeschooling in the UK
Right, so you’re deregistered. How do you actually start homeschooling/ home educating?
Once you have decided to homeschool you should also know your rights and responsibilities according to UK home education law. I have written this post on UK homeschooling law that will help you understand what it is you can do and what it is you are obliged to do but I will summarise it here:
In essence, you do not have to follow any particular curriculum, you do not have to do anything that ‘looks like school’ and you are free to do essentially whatever you and your child like at any time of the day; you can also travel whenever you like (goodbye extortionate school holiday ticket prices!)
Sounds too good to be true? Well the other side of the coin is that you will now have anyone and everyone asking you how do homeschool kids socialise, what qualifications you need to homeschool and how you will how do homeschooled children take GCSEs/ exams. Hey, it’s an opportunity to practise patience, right?
The huge freedoms that UK home education brings can be overwhelming as there are so many choices. That’s why choosing a home education style to start with is a good idea, to give you a gentle framework to follow as you find your feet.
Choosing Your Home Education / Homeschooling Style
You are under no obligation to choose a home education style or homeschool curriculum; however it is of course a good idea to take a look at different types of home education and so I have written this post on UK homeschool curriculums and styles and this one specifically on autonomous education/ unschooling.
Many new home educating families find it very useful to choose a style that they think will suit their family and try it for a while. The beauty of home education is that there is no one ‘right’ way to do it, so you can trial and error different approaches and routines to get a great fit for your children.
You may like the idea of a Charlotte Mason approach, where the arts and nature are central to learning.
You may feel more comfortable starting off with the national curriculum handbook and some workbooks, or with some fun themed cross-curricular activity packs (use the code GRAB10 for 10% off everything on the website).
You may wish to spend time living as though it were school holidays and completely forgetting about ‘how children learn’- indeed, unschoolers live every day like this and it works exceptionally well for many families.
My personal recommendation (and that of most experienced home educators), both to parents of children who have never been to school and parents of children who are being deregistered because of problems at school (or simply because homeschooling seems a better choice for your family), is do not try and replicate school at home.
We have seen over the past year what an absolute disaster this generally turns out to be. Schoolwork is difficult enough to implement in a classroom; when a parent tries to do it, it’s a recipe for bored and unhappy children and frustrated, anxious parents.
Children are incredible learners; they are born hard-wired to learn. Unfortunately, society’s expectations that all children achieve similar levels in similar subjects, means that we often miss out on their true talents and passions, and we don’t see their full potential.
What is taught in school is a very narrow collection of information, and increasingly it is irrelevant to real life. I found out what a ‘digraph’ was about two months ago- it has not helped me once (except as an example of useless things they teach in schools) and I write for a living!
How My Family Home Educates
If you take a look at this post on a typical day in the life of our home educating family you’ll notice that we do not use the same things as school does. This is because conversation is the primary tool for learning, our toys double up as homeschool resources, and the main goal is relaxed enjoyment of learning.
We do not have a timetable like school does; our week follows a gentle routine including free time, clubs and one-off events. Our week at the moment looks something like this:
Monday– Free Day (We do a lot of read-alouds, art, caring for our pets, cooking, gardening, iPad games, movies and playing, park visits and play dates)
Tuesday– The girls have Art, Maths and English classes at a fabulous homeschool group.
Wednesday– The older girls go to a Montessori-style group for STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) and my youngest goes swimming with a friend, and we have a playdate in the late afternoon.
Thursday- I work and the girls go out with my Mum- they often go to the farm or softplay or garden centre or crazy golf or the beach, and then do cooking/sugarcraft and art and bike-riding with her at her house.
Friday– We have another Free Day, usually we’ll have an all-day play date. Then the older girls have Cubs in the evening.
Saturday & Sunday– Family time (we usually do something sporty together- bowls or crazy golf or football or swimming), errands, family movies- the usual weekend stuff!
I always keep an eye out for one-off events like open days at museums, fire/police stations, school fayres, pop-up fairgrounds etc to fill our weekends out. Memberships to things like the National Trust or a Merlin Pass can also help to bulk out the weeks and weekends.
We also travel a lot so several times a year we will go for a week or so to the New Forest or Dorset or Centre Parcs or something (travel is so much cheaper in term time!), as well as going abroad quite a bit and of course we did a family gap year in SE Asia (if you like to travel do check out the travel toys we always use).
What Resources You Need To Homeschool in the UK
There are no obligatory purchases for homeschooling in the UK so you are at liberty to purchase anything that you feel will be beneficial to your child. The only homeschool curriculums that I have found to be really engaging and suited to individual children is the super affordable Curious Little Monkeys Educational Resources cross-curricular activity packs which is a business I set up with another home educating Mum- and we now wouldn’t be without them!
See my post on the cost of homeschooling and what we spend here. If you are concerned about how homeschooling may affect your finances this post on tax credits, universal credit and homeschooling may be helpful.
What To Do In The First Few Weeks Of Homeschooling
How you start homeschooling really depends on your family. Your child’s personality and your personality will be highly influential on the best kind of structure (or lack thereof) for your homeschool.
I have one child who loves structure and one child who does not, so we do a mix of clubs and homeschool groups blended with plenty of free time to play, read, take trips and enjoy creating art.
We have carefully selected resources and toys that are long lasting and inspire enjoyable learning, and are able to be adapted and used differently as our children grow up.
For at least the first few weeks of homeschooling, I would treat each day as if it were the summer holidays. Play, do gardening, cook, read, go on outings, do errands and generally live life. There is so much learning that happens when we just live life; to illustrate this point I wrote a post on everything that my children learned in one normal homeschooling/ unschooling day.
If you think that your child enjoys or needs structure, you may want to consider getting a curriculum as something to follow until you find something that better suits your needs.
For example your child might enjoy working through it if they are used to doing similar activities at nursery or preschool; they might then outgrow it in favour of other interests- this is fine!
How To Assess Your Homeschooled Child
This is easy- don’t! At least not in the traditional sense of tests and grades. There are three things that you should be looking for in a homeschooled child. These are: are they happy, are they healthy, are they developing?
If the answer to these is yes, you are golden. Children learn and develop vastly different concepts, skills and abilities at different times.
Standardised testing for schoolchildren is a terrible idea, hence the tidal wave of mental health problems that has risen in schoolchildren since testing has increased. Don’t bring the worst bits of formal education into your homeschool; one of the best bits of homeschooling is that your child can be themselves and learn and thrive without the pressure of unnecessary tests.
If you think that it is better for your child to learn vaguely the same things as their school peers- for example if you are planning to homeschool for a certain length of time and then your child will return to school- you can choose from these homeschool curriculums or use the National Curriculum Handbook for Primary Teachers and the framework for Secondary teachers here.
Getting Support While Homeschooling
Getting to know other homeschooling parents is really important as they can provide the support, friendship, advice and encouragement that you may need on your homeschooling journey (they’re also the people who are around during the week to socialise with!) I’ve written a complete post on how to find homeschool groups near you to get you started.
There are plenty of homeschooling Facebook groups that are fantastic places to link up and get to know the homeschooling community and find other homeschooling families in your area.
Other Information About Homeschooling
You probably have more questions about how to homeschool in the UK; please see my homeschooling blog section for many more homeschooling blog posts.