Home educating on the road: how do you start and other practicalities

Parents in the UK have the legal obligation to ensure that children of compulsory school age (between their 5th birthday and June after their 16th birthday) receive an efficient, full-time and suitable education for their age, ability and any special needs (s7 Education Act 1996). The majority of parents delegate this duty to a school but for a growing number home education is their preferred option.

Home educators broadly fall into two categories. Those whose children have never been to school (philosophical home educators) and increasingly those who have de-registered their children from school. We fall into the latter category. A small number, like us, chose to home educate whilst travelling.

How do you start?

If your child has never been to school, happy days you are free to head off. 

If your child is at school, then the first thing to do is de-register from school. In a mainstream school in England (regardless of whether the child has an Educational, Care and Health Plan) this should be as easy as writing a letter. There are several precedent letters available on the internet. 

The rules in other parts of the UK and for children at Special Educational Needs schools are slightly different. and there are others who are far more qualified so my strong suggestion is that you speak to local home educators as they will be better placed to advise on how to go about de-registering.

I gave both Issy’s school and the Local Authority the heads up before de-registering but this is not necessary. It is the school’s obligation to notify the Local Authority and other than my initial phone call, I have had no contact with the Local Authority. Given the way some of them behave, it is my intention keep them at arm’s length for as long as possible.

Your obligations

This is a bit of a difficult one as worldschoolers fall into a bit of a black hole.

Many worldschoolers just get on with the business of travelling and adopt a laissez-faire approach to the administrative side to home educating. I found it easy to adopt this approach on the road. However, we arrived back to the UK in the middle of a home educating storm with the Government consulting on a compulsory register and the publication of the most recent Elective Home Education Guidelines (“EHEG”). In reality, it is difficult to see how the EHEG can apply to worldschoolers as from an administrative point of view identifying which Local Authority is responsible for a child when you have no fixed abode is difficult to say the least. It remains to be seen whether a register of all home educated children will come into force and how this will affect worldschoolers.

The main thing is that you record what you are doing so that if someone asks then you can tell them. We record our travels on a Facebook page, Instagram and this blog. I also keep a day diary of Issy’s educational activities. As we are UK based for a little while, I have taken the precautionary step of preparing a full educational philosophy and report to cover what we have done since de-registering. This was more about quelling my anxiety caused by the new EHEG than satisfying any Local Authority and I’m the first to admit it is overkill!

Do you need to follow a specific curriculum?

The simple answer is no. You can pretty much teach what you like, when you like and how you like. We know people who unschool and others who follow on-line curriculums. The only right way is one that works for you and your kids.

When thinking about how you want to shape your curriculum it’s worth considering that the EHEG state that the education “should enable a child to participate fully in life in the UK…” however there is no requirement to follow the National Curriculum, have a set timetable or comply with the school calendar. It’s also worth noting that the current buzz words are progression, maths, literacy, physical activity and socialisation so make sure these are covered.

The thing I love about home educating is the freedom it affords. We have adopted a semi-structured approach meaning we broadly follow the national curriculum in terms of content for maths and literacy and the rest is experience or project-based learning. One of our favourite things to do is free walking tours; we’ve done them all round the world and they are a great way to learn about a city on a historical, geographical, religious and cultural level. Issy retains the information as it’s interactive and the tour guides are passionate. We are free to  fit the more formal learning around the informal learning and in particular if Issy is running round the campsite with her friends till late I don’t have to get her up the next day. We just start a bit later.

What do I teach? Getting ideas

We’re not big users of workbooks; they don’t suit our way of learning and space is limited. That said, I quite often take photos of specific pages and then use them as part of any formal teaching e.g. Go Figure series of maths books (Maths on the go: What’s in my bag of tricks?)

I cannot sing the praises of our local library enough (and not just for the books). As well the summer reading challenge Issy is also doing the Arts Award Discovery Level and it also has a chess club, coding club and Lego club as well as a plethora of activities for younger children.

I-player, Netflix and You Tube provide sources of documentaries. Issy can often be found curled up watching Operation Ouch, Blue Planet or Horrible Histories. Other electronic resources we use are Reading Eggs and Corbett Maths.

I use Facebook groups, Pinterest, Twinkl and personal recommendations to get specific ideas. One of my best finds was roll-a-dice projects. Our first roll-a-dice project (World War 1, World War 2, The Suffragettes and The Titanic) is proving a big hit as Issy has some control as to how she learns. We’ve done ANZAC biscuits (craft it), Coventry Transport Museum (visit it) and Horrible Histories episode (watch it).

Finally speak to other home educators and swap ideas. I have found this invaluable if only for reassurance that I am doing all the right things.

And my final words of advice

I think the biggest piece of advice I can give is relax and remember that home educating (on the road or otherwise) is not about replicating school it’s about facilitating learning opportunities and watching the magic unfold.

Home educating on the road is a big adjustment, particularly if you’ve only just de-registered. It took us about 3-6 months to find our rhythm and which mostly involved me learning that less is more! Learning opportunities have a habit of coming out of nowhere; whether it be a fisherman on the beach or another child in a playground.

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