How To Homeschool UK (Relax- It’s Easier Than It Sounds!)
Hello there and welcome to the wonderful world of UK homeschooling! If you are looking for how to start homeschooling you are in the right place.
Update: Due to the Coronavirus outbreak, a friend and I have put together this complete weekly timetable for primary children. It is gentle, fun and engaging and completely adaptable for all abilities. All of the activities are explained and we have included full guidance on how to use it for parents. You can get it for free here: homeschool timetable.
I have always homeschooled our three children; they have never been to school or nursery and they are, despite some usual quirks (my middle kid likes to sprinkle pepper on cake) pretty cool and exceptionally happy kids. We use these 100+ brilliant homeschooling resources, and I’ve jotted down 40 advantages of homeschooling which I hope you will come to enjoy too after reading this post on ‘How to Homeschool in the UK’!
Homeschooling, or considering homeschooling, can be daunting so I have written a lot of blog posts about homeschooling covering everything from socialisation to exams and homeschool funding to what qualifications you need to have. In this post I will cover how to homeschool in the UK, how to get started homeschooling and what you need before beginning.
Before Starting Homeschool
How to start homeschooling: If you have a child in school, you first need to deregister them. The process for this in England is that you deliver a letter stating that you wish to home educate your child and that you wish for the school to take your child off their register with immediate effect. That 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 the UK.
The only exception to this is if your child is in a special school for children with special needs, in which case 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.
I have written this post on 10 things that are helpful to consider before starting homeschooling, although most people certainly do not have all these things nailed down before beginning homeschooling- they come together as you go along on your homeschool journey.
How To Start Homeschooling
How do you start homeschooling? Once you have decided to homeschool, you are going to need these 10 things (for real!). 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. In summary, you do not have to follow any 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 (we took a family gap year in SE Asia!).
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 you socialise your child, what qualifications you need to homeschool and how you will cope with GCSEs/ exams. Hey, it’s an opportunity to practise patience, right?
Choosing Your Homeschooling Style
You are under no obligation whatsoever to choose a homeschooling 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 homeschool curriculums and this one specifically on autonomous education/ unschooling.
My personal recommendation, both to parents of children who are about-to-start-school-age 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. Children are incredible learners, they are born hard-wired to learn and 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 hiding their full potential. 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!
If you take a look at this post on how we organise our relaxed homeschool environment and what we use, you’ll notice that we do not use the same things as school does. This is because our toys double up as resources for learning and the primary aim is enjoyment of learning.
We do not have a timetable like school does; our week follows a relaxed 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, maths worksheets, art, caring for our rabbit/guinea pigs/tortoise, cooking, gardening, movies and playing, park visits and play dates)
Tuesday– The girls have Art, Maths and English classes at a fabulous homeschool group. Eira has Beavers in the evening.
Wednesday– The older girls go to a Montessori-style group for STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) and Elfie goes swimming, 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 Esmae has Cubs in the evening.
Saturday & Sunday– Family time (we usually do something sporty together- bowls or crazy golf or football or swimming), errands, church, 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, and memberships to things like the National Trust or a Merlin Pass can also help to bulk out the weeks. 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. We recommend a selection of these resources as well as some online memberships and free websites. 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.
There are some primary homeschooling resources that I consider ‘homeschooling essentials’. That means we pretty much always have them in the house and are also always on the lookout to add to our collection of these items:
- Colouring books
- Good quality colouring pens & easy-grip colouring pencils
- Fiction books (our favourites are the Roald Dahl sets, Enid Blyton collections and the traditional Classics)
- Non fiction books for different academic areas:
- Science books – our favourites are Horrible Science, National Geographic Kids Books and the Dorling Kindersley Encyclopaedias
- History books- our favourites are Horrible Histories, the Dorling Kindersley History books and the Cat In The Hat’s Learning Library
- Geography – for this we love our interactive globe, magnetic map and the Horrible Geographies set
- Maths- We enjoy the murderous Maths series
- Art- Our eldest can’t get enough of this interactive book
- Social studies- For this I can’t recommend enough the Little People, Big Dreams series
- Paper, glue, sticky tape
- Slime ingredients
- Baking supplies
- Cool maps
- Dressing up costumes
- Anatomically correct animal figures
- Outdoor garden toys for exercise (really important so you don’t get cabin fever!) Our top recommendations are our roller-skates, a trampoline, swing ball, basketball hoop, sand/water table and outdoor table for art and crafts.
What To Do In The First Few Weeks Of Homeschooling
How you start and continue to homeschool 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/ 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!
If you have a child who you think would enjoy some planned curriculum activities, the ShillerMath Montessori package looks excellent and the Horizons Homeschool package is one that is completely planned out for you so requires minimal prep for parents. As a disclaimer I have not used either of these complete curriculums, I am just going by what looks useful for parents wanting structure.
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 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!) 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. A great place to start is Home Schooling UK and Homeschooling Resources Support Group.
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. I hope you’ve found this article helpful; please follow us on Instagram or Youtube to see what our UK homeschooling family gets up to on a regular basis!