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Friday, September 10, 1999 Published at 18:43 GMT 19:43 UK

Education: Features

When the classroom is at home

Class size is not an issue when children are taught at home

Children across England are completing their first full week back in the classroom after the long summer break.

BBC News' John Andrew on the wave of parents educating their children at home
But for thousands of children, the classroom is at home and the teachers are their parents.

More and more parents are making the decision to take their children out of school and educate them at home.


Under they Education Act 1996, they have the right to do so - without tests, timetables and even without the national curriculum.

[ image: Liz Stevens:
Liz Stevens: "I feel there should be freedom"
Among the parents who have opted for home education is Liz Stevens, whose two daughters are taught at home because her and her husband Kevin believe it will give them a better start in life.

Ms Stevens said: "In school, children have got to become so regimented at such an early age, and I feel that there should be freedom to choose what you want to do when you want to do it."

The family avoids formal lessons, allowing the girls, Emily and Laura, to learn at their own pace, and Ms Stevens believes that in areas such as reading, writing and social skills, they are ahead of many children of their own ages.

The girls themselves do not feel they are missing out on anything by not going to school.

[ image: An informal family lesson]
An informal family lesson
Laura, aged seven, said: "I think you get more freedom and you can stop and say 'I don't want to do this', but at school you're just ordered to do it."

A number of organisations exist to give help and advice to parents who choose to educate their children at home, or who are thinking about doing so.

One of these is Education Otherwise, whose spokeswoman Jill Fisher said: "Most of the inquiries we get are from people whose children are experiencing some kind of stress at school - either bullying or just the stress of exams at a younger and younger age.

Concern about isolation

"Then there are also a number of people who home educate for philosophical reasons."

[ image: Jill Fisher gives advice to parents considering home education]
Jill Fisher gives advice to parents considering home education
Parents who decide to withdraw their children from school must tell the headteacher they are teaching them at home, and inspectors can check on the children's progress.

One concern is that children taught at home could become isolated, without the chances for social interaction a school provides, and experts say parents should do whatever they can to avoid this happening.

Educational psychologist Alan Thomas said: "If you are contemplating it, you must make sure that your children have adequate opportunities for socialising with all sorts of children of all different ages, in school, out of school, and through the many networks of home educators that exist."

[ image: The Stevens sisters do not feel they are missing out]
The Stevens sisters do not feel they are missing out
Many parents would not even consider teaching their children at home, a decision which for some families would prove impractical, particularly when both parents work.

But while the Stevens family have agreed that if either girl chooses in the future to go to school, they will be allowed to do so, they believe that teaching them at home is proving a success.

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Choice in Education: legal guidelines

Education Otherwise

Home Education Advisory Service

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