The thought that their children might be educating at home alone can put some parents off home educating. But with the growth in home educating groups the reality is quite different for most families.
The name ‘home’ education also creates a false impression of children learning in isolation and rarely getting out to meet and mix. However, with the increasing numbers of families choosing to educate without school there is also an increase in the numbers of home schooling groups who meet, socialise, work and go out on trips together.
This is mostly thanks to the web. Networking (especially through Yahoo or Facebook groups) has enabled families who home educate to extend their contacts and gatherings far more successfully than pre-social media. It means that small groups of people, who were once invisible to each other, can now connect and meet. And there are groups dotted all over the UK which are growing in size and diversity offering a huge resource of support and opportunity.
Usually these are instigated by parents, wanting to provide a hub for other home educating families to unite and support one another. A suitable location is found and the group quickly grows from there. Some stay small, some have grown in size to over a hundred, depending on the locality. Meeting times and activities are organised, usually involving everyone in discussions for activities and general planning.
Groups vary in what they offer giving educational, social and emotional support. They also create an important sense of belonging which can sometimes be hard to find for a minority group as home schooling parents are. A community of people who have an empathy and understanding of parents’ choices to provide a different learning climate for their child can be a great comfort and support when doing something different from the mainstream. This is particularly useful for those starting their home education journey who may feel somewhat overwhelmed and need information and the chance to observe others for real.
One parent said that it was an incredible support at the beginning which has developed into long term friendships and now she can offer the same support to others starting out.
Home education groups also offer a wide range of educational experiences, tapping into the professionalism and skills of parents and other adults in the community. These range across the subjects from science and maths, through language and literature, to arts and sports.
Children not only have a variety of educational experiences at group meetings but also an opportunity to meet and mix with other children, to practise their social skills and find friends. It is really heart warming to see a group of home educating youngsters from toddlers to teens mix and learn together, help and support one another, and improve their interaction skills, all without the age restrictions normally imposed in school.
The groups also provide educational and social enrichment through field trips and outings. And many also get involved in community projects, volunteering or fundraising for example, often involving other knowledgeable adults or organisations, extending the children’s experiences even further.
In fact one group leader told me that their home education group looked so appealing they’ve had enquiries from school using parents about joining in.
Which just goes to show how much fun the children were having whilst learning. They’re rarely educating at home alone.