1) A Tuffspot (or own brand alternative).
Feels like every early years home education thread you go near on Facebook these days is all about the Tuffspots, and people worrying about how to home educate if they can’t afford/don’t have room for/just plain don’t want one.
It’s OK. You don’t need to be laying out messy play daily for your child, or building intricate small world scenarios overnight, or stocking up on whatever other craze has hit your local group. You don’t have to do it the same as anyone else. (Get messy or don’t. Get down with the small people if you want to. If a Tuffspot rocks your world, great! If you can’t see the point, move on. It’s OK. There will be another fashion along in a minute honest.) (Image link is Amazon affiliate.)
2) Permission from your local authority/headteacher/family and friends.
Except in very specific circumstances in England, where a child is a pupil at a special school, (laws vary in different parts of the U.K., please inform yourself according to where you live – start here perhaps) all you need to do to deregister a child from school is send a letter saying you’re doing just that (check the right wording, get a receipt). If your child has never been to school, there’s no one to register with, no matter how much local authorities might like to pretend otherwise. If you go to deregister and someone tells you you have to have a meeting/get clearance from the local authority ask them to quote the law requiring this. (The special school situation is slightly different. You’ll want to do some research.) And when they can’t? Go forth and home educate.
3) A curriculum.
No, you don’t have to follow the national curriculum. No, children do not have to sit particular sets of qualifications at particular ages. No, you don’t even have to have regard to the broad and balanced idea you’re likely to have heard lots about. The legal requirement is set out in section 7 of the education act 1996, and says
The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable—
(1) to his age, ability and aptitude, and
(2) to any special educational needs he may have,
either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.
You can use curriculum resources if you want to (I have done myself from time to time), but no one gets to dictate which ones or how.
4) A timetable or structure
Just as there’s no nationally defined curriculum for home educators, there’s no particular set hours. Full time as referred to in the law mentioned above doesn’t mean keeping school hours – for starters you probably aren’t home educating 30 children, so your child is getting a much higher amount of contact time than they would be in school, and it’s accepted that learning can and does take place outside school hours. More on this on edyourself. You don’t need to do what you do following any particular structure, although again, if structure works for you, go for it. Above all else, home education has to be about what works for you and your family.
You don’t have to print out the Internet and coat it in plastic. Honest, you don’t. And if past experience here is anything to go by, most of the stuff you do laminate will get used once, maybe twice, and then disappear. Go steady with the plastic, for all our sakes.
This one may seem slightly tougher – you probably want a car for getting out and about to all those fantastic resources, groups and so on you’ve discovered are available to you. And I’ll admit it’s definitely a nice to have – but I personally know a variety of people without cars who manage just fine. Home educators are a innovative bunch – you’ll find a way to make it work.
7) Degree or teaching qualifications.
In fact, you don’t need any qualifications. And why should that be a surprise? Teacher training is largely about how to control a classroom and deal with planning/paperwork – you don’t need to do either. You don’t have a classroom, and even if you want to plan, you’re doing it for a much smaller number of children, and you don’t have the same tick boxes teachers do to keep up with. Don’t worry if your children decide they’d like to learn something you aren’t good at/ interested in, there’s a whole load of resources out there. Find an online course, pal up with a friend, look for a tutor if you like. Lots and lots of options.
8) A billion books.
Now, I’m not going to lie to you here – books are good. Books are one of my most favourite kinds of thing. But you don’t actually need to own all of them all of the time. You can use a library, download lots of classics for free, haunt charity shops, swap with friends. And the ones that you really do want? Lots of cheap ways to get good books – look out at the works, the book people and so on. (there’s a handy affiliate link in the sidebar if you need assistance getting there 😉 )
9) A massive income/ big house.
As with anything else in life, being rich makes it easier. But you don’t have to have a huge budget to home educate, or a mansion to live in. Lots of resources are free or cheap online, libraries are great, charity shops are plentiful. Also, having your kids in school isn’t actually all that cheap – uniform, resources, trips, travel, it all mounts up. The immediate obvious cost if you’re home educating is that someone has got to be with the children, and that person can’t be holding down a traditional job at the time. Working around home education can be challenging at times, but there are all sorts of ways of getting by (will be writing more on this very soon).
10) A child.
Just kidding. This is the one thing you do need. Second and subsequent optional 😉
Other things that will come in handy – patience, a sense of humour, readiness to think out of the box. Home education isn’t for the faint of heart, as stepping outside the norm can be a little scary at times, but honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.