Your child and M.E.

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Home schooling

Home schooling

There was once the perception that parents who chose to home school their children were making a decision based on extreme beliefs or an unorthodox lifestyle. The reality is that, for many families, home schooling is the best solution to ensure that education and appropriate support are accessible and meet an individual child’s needs. There are many reasons why people choose to home school and it certainly does not need to be seen as a last resort, more as a choice which may be the right one for you and your child.

According to research by the BBC, the number of children registering for home education in the UK rose by 75% in the first eight months of the 2021 - 2022 school year. The research also found more than 40,000 pupils were formally taken out of school in the UK between September 2020 and April 2021, compared with an average of 23,000 over the previous two years. This increase could well be a direct consequence of the Coronavirus pandemic, with some families feeling the move to home schooling through lockdown really well for them. It clearly illustrates that educating children in their home environment is being increasingly viewed as a viable option.

It can be valuable alternative for children and young people who are living M.E. or other chronic illness. If some physical attendance in school is possible, it comes with the benefits of social interaction and keeping a familiar routine. But faced with the challenges imposed by M.E., the very act of getting ready for school can prove too much, let alone spending time sitting in a classroom. Families can often experience real challenges with the school, academy trust, local authority or sometimes social services who do not understand the impact of the illness and the reasons for frequent absence. The stress caused by these difficulties, and the flexibility offered by home schooling can be an appealing option.

Questions to consider

The decision to home school is an important one so needs careful consideration.

  • Why do you think home schooling would be the best course of action?
  • Are there short term difficulties with the school that could be resolved, maybe to preserve the option of part time attendance when health allows?
  • Do you have the time and resilience to take on education in addition to caring for your ill child?
  • Are there other social outlets for your child (when well enough) if they are no longer directly part of the school community?
  • Do you as a family all agree home schooling is the right thing to do?

If you feel confident home schooling is the best option then it is important to inform:

  • the school that you are taking your child off role and that you will be home schooling.
  • your local authority of your decision.

There is currently no official register and every parent has the right to home school, however, by keeping everyone informed it avoids any future questions/concerns being raised about why your child is not in school.

Government guidance

It's essential you understand UK Government guidance if you are considering home-schooling. This includes the following:

  • You must make sure your child receives a full-time education from the age of five, but you do not have to follow the national curriculum.
  • The council can make an "informal enquiry" to check your child is getting a suitable education at home. They can serve a school attendance order if they think your child needs to be taught at school.
  • If your child has attends a special school, you’ll need to get the council’s permission to educate them at home. You do not need the council’s permission if your child attends a mainstream school, even if they have an Education, Health and Care Plan.

Resources and support

Although home schooling may initially feel a little daunting, many parents gain support and confidence from forums that allow contact with other families in the same position.

  • Mumsnet's forum has an active home schooling community.
  • My Online Schooling links to a range of free resources from KS2 to A Level, along with resources supporting teachers and family health and wellbeing.
  • eParenting signposts to online community and charities that support parents and families with home-schooling, as well as useful resources.

Hilary Tandy and her family have multi-generational experience of home schooling and consequently Hilary has produced a series of children’s stories which are specifically aimed at children/young people who are having a different school experience. She says:

"When our son was seven and his primary school wasn't delivering in the way we'd hoped, we took a family decision to home school... and our daughter, then a pre-schooler, decided what was good enough for her brother was good enough for her. It was just as well because, two years later, my husband's job took us to Saudi Arabia and our home schooling kit came with us.

"Moving on a generation, our daughter decided to continue the family tradition and home school her twin boys. Whilst technology had moved on, story books featuring home schooled children had not... and so, armed with an A4 notebook and a mechanical pencil and trying to remember what I used to teach in my days as a creative writing tutor, I started to write.

"The result, to date, is ten books with more in the pipeline and I am now offering the books to any children who would enjoy reading them. The stories are full of fun with a healthy helping of improbability... and even better, they're free. So, please visit the Home Learners series website where you can download any titles that capture the imagination and I wish you and your children happy reading!"