From Classroom to Sitting Room; Children Everywhere Are Going Back to School. but What Would Life Be like If They Were Taught at Home? Jane Gallagher Reports

Article excerpt

Byline: Jane Gallagher

AS HOUSEHOLDS across the region get back into the swing of the school term, imagine what it would be like if the school run took just a few seconds?

If your child received a one to one education and bullying was unheard of?

A place where school dinners are always home-cooked and there is no excuse about leaving the homework behind.

If you hadn't already guessed what we are talking about is home schooling, a movement which is growing at an accelerating rate.

In 1997, when the country's leading researcher in this field, Paula Rothermel, decided to study the subject for her PhD, just 50,000 children were educated at home. Today, that figure stands at 170,000.

"I had no strong views either way at the time, and then I didn't have any children of my own.

I just thought it was an interesting subject," says Dr Rothermel.

Her three-year study of 1,000 families with children between the ages of four and 11 concluded that home-schooled children were "generally progressing more positively in development and academic terms than their school counterparts".

The study echoed earlier research in the United States, where researchers discovered that home-schooled children were "substantially above average" in maths and 73% were at least one year ahead of their schooled peers in reading.

However, academic achievement is not the main motivation for parents opting to educate their child at home.

The three most common reasons for parents taking their children out of school are a general unhappiness with the present school education, concern over class sizes and bullying.

Lynda Bourke, of Warrington, decided to take Elyse out of school after her concerns that formal education was too much too soon for her young daughter.

"Elyse did go to a pre-school which I was very happy with but when she was due to start reception, she had only just turned four. At first it wasn't too bad because Elyse was only attending on a part-time basis but, when it came to full-time, she was left drained.

" I asked the school authorities if I could continue with the part-time process but the request was turned down.

"Before Elyse had started school, I had read a couple of articles about home-schooling and, when she was clearly not happy, I decided to research it further."

Leading up to the Easter holidays, Elyse became ill and, when it came time to go back to school, she told her parents she never wanted to go again.

"It was then the light bulb went off. Elyse wasn't happy but I knew there was an alternative," recalls Lynda, 45, who also has a baby daughter, Amelia.

Following consultation with legal experts, Elyse was de-registered from school education and became officially home schooled.

And the result, according to Lynda, is her daughter is now a different child.

"Now Elyse is more confident, smiling and ready to learn.

I follow her lead. We don't replicate school, we learn as we go. I don't see myself as a teacher, instead I am a facilitator. Of course it was daunting and I am keeping an open mind. If Elyse wants to return to school when she is older and it is her wish that will be fine by me.

"I get a lot of support from home-school organisations and she still sees friends her own age. I can't worry about the future - we just take each day as it comes."

Meanwhile, since her paper was published, Paula Rothermel has gone on to have four children of her own although she will not reveal her chosen option for educating her own offspring.

"The subject has gained a great deal of coverage and most of the criticism has been unfounded. There is no evidence to show that children who don't go to school have difficulty making friends or that they are socially excluded. Few families never go near formal education. On the whole, most families I interviewed displayed a system of fluidity whereby the childdipped in and out of school. …