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How to Home School Your Child

The decision to home school your child is often followed by steep learning curve as parents learn how to home school their child effectively. In this analysis we try to explain how home schooling works in the UK, and how to create the most effective home school programmes.

Home schooling your own child may seem daunting but rest assured, you can do it!

We hope the following information is helpful on your home school journey. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you would like to discuss the option of home schooling with private tutors.

How to apply for home schooling in the UK
How to start home schooling
How to plan a home school curriculum
How to home school your child yourself
Do you need a home school private Tutor?
How to home school GCSE’s in the UK
How to home school A-Levels in the UK
How to home school Science and Mathematics in the UK
Home schooling other subjects
How to get A Levels and GCSE’s if you are home schooling online?

How to apply for home schooling in the UK

In the UK it is legal to home school your child and you can simply take them out of school to get started. There is no need to formally apply, but we recommend that you inform your Local Education Authority. The good news is that you are not subject to any regulation from Ofsted and you don’t need to be a qualified educator to home school in the UK.

There are several countries where it is not possible to take your child out of full-time mainstream school. These include Germany, Brazil, Croatia, Cuba, Egypt, Russia and Turkey and many others. In these cases, home schooling can still take place on a part-time basis, allowing students to:

  • Focus on improving results in subjects taught at school
  • Select additional subjects
  • Be entered for additional exams privately

How to start home schooling

To get started, we recommend that you take the following steps:

  1. Inform your current headmaster or headmistress in writing that you will be withdrawing your child. You may be able to continue at the school on a flexible basis but in our experience this is unlikely because most schools do not want to feel any responsibility for the outcome of your home schooling.
  2. You don’t have to inform the local council, but you may wish to. They may even offer some support. It is the LEA’s right to request an, ‘informal enquiry’ under which they can ask for samples of your child’s work and book a visit to your home to discuss your teaching. This is more of a safeguarding matter, than an academic matter, but if you refuse, or they are unhappy with what they see, they can issue a School Attendance Order or an Education Supervision Order, both of which could lead to prosecution if ignored.
  3. If you want your child to take exams, you will first need to choose an exam board. If you want them to return to their local school to sit the exams, make sure to choose the exam board and specification the school uses (this can change each year so do check).

How to plan a home school curriculum

The first place to start when planning a curriculum for your home school student is to agree on the goals they are trying to reach and the subjects they are most interested in. Passion for a subject can be at the top of the list – with home schooling, there are no rules after all!

We suggest you approach planning in this order:

  1. Exams and Qualifications
  2. Subject Selection
  3. Identifying learning objectives and planning lessons
  4. Resources

In the UK there is no legal requirement to take an exam such as GCSE, or IGCSE – but you do need to provide an education that is full -time and age appropriate. Most parents follow an approved home school programme, which provides many of the basic resources needed. It will also ensure that the core subjects of Maths, English and Science are covered. SLT recommends these as a minimum. We also recommend that you do take national exams, as these are required by universities for admission and also recognised by employers.

If you are going to make use of a private home school tutor, who will be familiar with GCSE, A Level and IB curriculums, make sure they are also familiar with the requirements of the exam board you choose to follow. Tutors will be able to recommend an exam board that is likely to be best suited for your child.

Our home schooling resources page contains links to several websites that provide template curricula for in person or online A level or GCSE home schooling. At SLT we always recommend comparing any syllabus you choose with the UK National Curriculum, to judge for yourself how far removed from the mainstream your child will be.

How to home school your child yourself

Many parents ask us, ‘how do I go about home schooling?’ Most feel quite concerned that they do not already know the answer! In our opinion however, this is a perfectly valid question and it is acceptable to not be an expert, and not have all the answers before you start home schooling your child.  Here is some advice to get you started:

  1. If you are embarking on the journey of doing the teaching yourself, we really would recommend that you join a home school support group  and that you follow a recognised home school programme that will provide structure and guidance. To help, we have provided a list of courses that several SLT clients have recommended on our home school resources page.  Some will have occasional support from a tutor at extra cost but most include a free component.
  1. It is really important to be flexible, open to listening and to discovering how your child learns best. To make learning more enjoyable, don’t always silo it into separate subjects, but instead look for all the things in life that you can build subject specific teaching around. For example a trip to a local farm could be a great opportunity to teach about maths, economics, biology, chemistry, history, art – anything at all, the learning will be brought to life in a way that is almost unimaginable in the school room.
  1. Create a designated learning space – it will make it easier for both of you to ‘switch off’ at the end of the day.
  1. Study the Finnish and Swedish Education Models – we write extensively about these – and they are popular, the aspiration of the world. Be the ‘guide by the side’ not the ‘sage on the stage’ and learn with your child. There are so many amazing education resources out there, that this quickly becomes straightforward. You set the example by showing your child how to look up things they don’t understand.
  1. Don’t forget to work on resilience – don’t do it all for them. Let them fail, challenge them.
  1. Try de-schooling – to break the reliance on routine and ‘being told what to do’. When you start home schooling have no bells, no timers, for at least 6 weeks. Build the new muscles of open and flexible learning that you will need.

Even if you aren’t an expert teacher, you can learn a great deal by studying the exam board websites. Boards like AQA and Edexcel provide all of the following resources:

  • Syllabus breakdowns – explaining what you need to teach
  • Details of exam centres so you know where to take the exam
  • Descriptions of the breakdown of exam and coursework
  • Past papers that can be downloaded for practice
  • Examiner’s notes to help you understand the syllabus and what they are looking for in student’s answers
  • Some exam boards even publish text books specifically designed to help teach their curricula.

Do you need a home school private Tutor?

SLT recommends that for the more challenging academic levels, you use specialist A Level Home School Tutors, IB Home School Tutors or IGCSE Home School tutors.  Our view may be controversial, but we believe to teach these subjects really well you need a qualification at least one level higher than the level you teach. Thus an English A Level Tutor, should have a degree in English. It is also very important that as a teacher you know what the examiners are looking for and you study the mark schemes the examiner’s comments to ensure that you are on the right track as you coach your child. Additionally, if your child has a Special Educational Need (SEN), such as dyslexia, dyscalculia or Asperger’s syndrome we advise you bring in a SEN tutor to support your work. Even just a small, regular input from a specialist will make your child’s learning so much more effective and for you, easier.

How to home school GCSE’s in the UK

GCSE home schooling has become increasingly popular, for a number of reasons explained in our article, ‘Home Schooling Pro’s and Cons’. The good news is that it’s entirely possible to home school your child through their GCSEs, even if you don’t have teaching experience in that subject. There are, however, some things you need to check first.

One of the most important is that there is an exam centre where your child can take their final exams. Although GCSE online tutoring can be very effective, you cannot take GCSE exams at home and will need to travel to an exam centre.  Many private exam centres cater for private candidates and most exam boards carry lists of private centres which cater for the board on their website.

Something you also have to consider when taking a GCSE privately is the exam board and specification your child is sitting for. Some specifications require coursework, which isn’t possible through home schooling as it can’t be moderated. A great alternative is the IGCSE qualification, which typically don’t include coursework. If your child is moving to home schooling after Year 10, and finishing in Year 11 this is something that has to be considered very carefully, as they may have been working on a board, that they now can’t continue with.

Above all, you need to understand if your child prefers the pressure of exams or the more steady stream of work associated with coursework.

How to home school A-Levels in the UK

As with GCSE’s, two of the most important considerations for home schooling A Levels are the exam centre and the exam board. There are some A-Level specifications which don’t require coursework for usually coursework heavy subjects such as English Literature and History, but not all exam centres cater for these. They are also harder to move to, if the student is being home schooled from Year 13, as there is less of an overlap with other exam boards. Practical elements or subjects are also challenging when it comes to home schooling, and A-levels such as Drama or Design may not be possible.

A-Levels are also more difficult to home school as they require a higher level of expertise from the teacher, which makes it harder to home school your child personally. This is where a private tutor can be essential because they are experts in their fields. They can also help with UCAS university applications, supporting with personal statements and references. UCAS is able to facilitate individual applications to University, and so being home schooled won’t affect whether your child can go onto higher education.

How to home school Science and Mathematics in the UK

While some see science as a subject with no practical value in the real world, science actually helps develop awareness, critical thinking skills and enhances mathematical skills. Subjects like biology help children gauge their place in the world and help them to develop healthy interests in nature. These interests can then be developed even further in English classes.

This might be needed for University entrance, or in case the decision is made to study a Science at A-Level. Almost every industry recognises the importance of holding science qualifications, and the practical application of science knowledge is often overlooked. However, science teaching should become more focused as students get older. By focusing on one science subject, or a group of core topics (which may overlap the sciences), a syllabus can be developed that focuses on topics of interest and relevance.

Other Subjects

Not all subjects are deemed necessary for all levels. Design technology and physical education are subjects that can be taught as an extra-curricular activity, and priority should be place on core subjects that demand the greatest resources. This does not mean that you should neglect these subjects, but there are more imaginative ways to teach these subjects without draining resources from other areas. History and Geography are subjects that can open the doors to a wide variety of future qualifications. Both have significant importance to certain fields, such as politics and environmental science. These are academic subjects and can be taught in conjunction with other subjects, such as English and Science respectively. The main lesson to learn when developing a curriculum is to keep it well-rounded and adaptable. Developing a foundation in all subjects allows children to decide their own pathway and makes it easier for them to find their interests that might one day develop into further study or a career.

How to get A Levels and GCSE’s if you are home schooling online?

In the old days, correspondence courses allowed home school students to work remotely by exchanging lesson plans, resources, coursework and even exam papers through the mail. Now we are blessed with the internet and online home school tuition can be the right of every child with a computer and good internet access. The key steps to success for online A Level or online GCSE home school exams are as follows:

  1. Choose the subjects that you will succeed at, that you enjoy and that you know will help on your chosen career path (if you have one)
  2. Register with a good online home school course, or engage home school private tutors to prepare a course and syllabus for you
  3. Register and pay for a private exam centre where you will take the final exams
  4. Build your syllabus and timetable ensuring that you cover all parts of the course needed for the exams. It can be great fun to go off-piste but remember that you only have a finite amount of time (although the beauty of home schooling is that you can choose how much time you want to take over your course).
  5. Make sure that you are able to teach each of the necessary components. If you aren’t an expert at a particular subject check out our home schooling resources page.
  6. Ensure at least 20% of your teaching time is spent on exam preparation (revision, consolidation and another 10% on university application preparation). The final month before the exams should be spent entirely on revision.

Learn More about SLT Homeschooling