The idea of being fined for giving your children a valuable educational experience seems totally bizarre to many home schooling families. But it depends on how you view the experience, of course.
The experience I’m talking about here is taking the children on holiday or travelling with them.
Most home schooling families see this as a wonderful opportunity to extend education. In fact some use travel as their education, bringing their children’s learning into their daily activities through their first hand experiences. (Check out this blog by the Meek family, often featured in the media)
For school using families, however, the situation is very different and parents are fined for taking the children out of school in term time for holiday or travel.
Taking family holidays in school holiday time costs the family a lot more it and over crowds the holiday periods, making it extremely difficult for working families to coordinate their times to go away. It also devalues the important experience of family travel and time together out of school.
The Local Government Association is now suggesting this needs reviewing as some parents are beginning to find this too inhibitive.
Recently, one parent decided to react to this practise and refused to pay the fine. He claims that he knows what’s best for his kids and believes that ‘his children got “great value and great experiences” from the trip, with “no detrimental impact whatsoever” on their education’. Although his case was taken to court it was thrown out by the magistrate.
According to the article, a spokesman from the DfE maintains that even short times away can be harmful to a child’s education. But this is only from a systematic view of education based around measurability, scores, tick sheets and grades
If you educate for the child’s personal development, rather than for the results, travel and holidays become as valuable as any other experiences, as home educators are showing.
Travelling away from home with the children is a mind broadening experience, even on simple, low key family holidays. Travel broadens personal experience and experience educates in that it provokes observation, questioning, conversation, mental and physical activity. And it can cover most of the curricula subjects in real contexts, through project based learning, engaging the children and helping them retain new knowledge and understanding.
So home schooling families should not feel any doubt in the value of travel as an educative activity for their child, should not worry about rules or fines or harming their child’s education, and should travel as often as possible with their children, taking full advantage of the opportunity to do so – particularly in term time!
And perhaps more school using parents should question whether they think this current practise is right.