FAQs – Home Education in Scotland

Who can home educate?

Anyone can! In Scots law, parents are responsible for providing their children’s education, either by ensuring they ‘attend a public school regularly or by other means.’ It’s that simple. You can send your children to school, or you can choose to educate them ‘by other means’. Thousands of parents in the UK take full responsibility for their children’s education. You do not need to have teacher training, or any qualifications. If you want to educate your child at home, you can!

The most important thing you need to know about home education…

Is that you’ve been doing it since your child was born. Education happens whenever you show your child how to plant seeds, play a card game or weigh apples in the supermarket. It happens when you answer a question – or say: “I don’t know! Let’s see if we can find out”. Your child learns from you and everyone around her all the time. As questions get harder, there are other sources of information – books, the Internet, other people – until, gradually, your child is gaining knowledge by herself: she has grown into a competent and knowledgeable teenager who has learned how to learn, and nothing can stop her finding out whatever she wants to know. As long as you keep helping to find answers, looking for interesting things to try out and enjoying your child’s company, she will make you into the educator she needs.

But what if he never asks about things he ought to know?

If something is important, he will learn it! There’s no point trying to force your child into doing something that doesn’t interest him, because he won’t learn and you will both end up at logger- heads. Your job is to make opportunities available, encourage and praise. Find out what interests your child and encourage them to explore it. Children learn faster when they need or want the knowledge.

My child has just come out of school. She doesn’t ask questions and isn’t interested in anything!

It can take time for a child who has been in school to regain confidence – particularly if she has been bullied or made to feel stupid. Perhaps she’s been unhappy, and now anything that resembles ‘school work’ is a complete turn-off. Home educators call this period ‘de-schooling’, and it may be a while before a child recovers curiosity and self-esteem. Don’t panic, or try to take charge with workbooks. Concentrate on keeping in touch with your child – go for walks, chat, play games. Carry on with life and things you enjoy, and gradually your child will recover. Think of it as convalescence.

So how do we do the ‘education’ side of things?

You don’t have to recreate school or follow a set curriculum, nor do you have to be a qualified teacher. ‘School’ is a way of educating lots of people at the same time, and teachers are skilled in doing this. Home education means you can use your knowledge of your child and choose whatever form of learning suits best. You’ll probably find that some of the best learning happens while you are visiting a gallery, or chatting on the way to the shops. It may be that your child prefers a timetable, or to use workbooks or computer software for some subjects. There are plenty of resources you can explore in bookshops or libraries. Check out this website for useful resources that other children have enjoyed using, browse the web and ask other home educators for recommendations. Perhaps your child wants to follow the Scottish curriculum? If so, information is available from Education Scotland. Some parents feel that they should use the curriculum if their child is likely to return to school at some point, but this isn’t necessary. Home-educated children who enter school don’t usually have problems academically, even without previous formal education. Or, your child may be doing fine simply following interests on a day-to-day basis. Home educators call this ‘autonomous’ or child-led learning, and it’s very effective. You will find it useful to have Internet access and perhaps some basic resources at home – dictionary, atlas, art materials and so on. Whatever you decide to do, what really matters is your interest and encouragement. Keep an open mind so that you can experiment and adapt to your child’s learning needs as he grows and changes. If you are home educating more than one child, you may find that each child needs a different approach. Above all, make decisions with your child.

How will my child socialise if she’s not at school?

Home educated children socialise widely, counting adults, younger and older children, and members of the opposite sex amongst their friends. A ‘peer group’ is more likely to consist of those who share the same interests, rather than the same birth year. There are plenty of other home educators around, and in many areas regular group activities and meetings are organised – these give you the chance to get support and ideas too. If you have Internet access, you might like to join the home-education FaceBook support groups to find details of local groups and families.

Doesn’t home education cost a lot of money?

No! Many home educators are on low incomes, and gathering resources is largely a matter of ingenuity and experience. Don’t rush out and buy stacks of books and equipment. Buy things as you need them – and only if you can’t beg, borrow or hire them elsewhere. Order what you can from the library, and see if you can bulk-buy stationery and art materials with other home educators, or share the cost of any expensive items. Trawl charity shops and car-boot sales regularly. Make the most of school TV programmes. Keep an eye on free software on the front of computer magazines. Ask if you can get reduced admission to exhibitions, to school matinees of plays and concerts. Home educators are not entitled to any financial support, but eligible children aged over 16 can claim the Education Maintenance Allowance in Scotland, and Child Benefit should continue until 18 so long as your child is in full-time, non-advanced education.

How do home educated children do exams?

GCSEs and A levels are an option, as are vocational qualifications or the International Baccalaureate. It may be tricky to find course-work supervision and assessment, or an examination centre but some local authorities are happy to arrange this. There are correspondence and online courses available, or your child may choose to go to college to take exams. Some colleges allow children under 16 to enrol part-time or on a distance learning basis. Think carefully about exams: does your child actually need them? There is no law that says you have to do exams at a particular age – or at all! Some universities and colleges accept home educated students on the basis of work portfolios or previous experience, and vocational qualifications can be gained through work. For more information, see our Exams & Qualifications section.

What if my child has special educational needs?

Home education can be a highly successful alternative to mainstream or special schooling for children with special educational needs, whether or not these needs have been formally recorded. Children thrive on individual attention, and as long as the education you provide is suitable, the fact that your child has special educational needs (or additional support needs) should make little difference. If you are home educating a child with special needs or any form of disability, Schoolhouse can help put you in touch with specialist support groups and other parents who are home educating their ‘special’ children.

And finally…

Home education is a partnership between you and your child, and that means it’s a two-way process. It’s perfectly reasonable to expect her to adapt to your priorities sometimes. You don’t have to be a saint to home educate, and there will be days when you are unwell – or wonder if boarding school wouldn’t have been a better choice! If you’ve only just started home educating, or are thinking about it, it may seem daunting, but just take slowly. Schools will still be there next year if you decide home education isn’t working. Give home education a chance and you may well join the thousands who have discovered that not only is it perfect for their family – it’s great fun, too!