Posted on April 6, 2015
Home Education in Scotland
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We have been home educating (homeschooling), since 2007 when our eldest child was six. He had gone to nursery school for a year, and then primary school for one year. Our daughters have always been educated at home. Not having considered home educating before that time, I thought it would be good to write a post about home education in Scotland, partly to give information to other Scottish parents who might be considering homeschooling, and also to let people from other countries have a glimpse of how home educating in Scotland is similar or different to home educating elsewhere in the world.
Now I have the benefit of hindsight, and if we were able to do things over again, I would have aimed to homeschool our children from the start. However, as things are, I am so thankful that God graciously brought us to the decision to home educate our son, through circumstances that at the time were not all easy.
In Scotland the law regarding home education is similar, but not exactly the same as in England and Wales. The Education (Scotland) Act 1980 states ‘It shall be the duty of the parent of every child of school age to provide efficient education for him suitable to his age, ability and aptitude either by causing him to attend a public school regularly or by other means.‘ (Italics mine).
Here in Scotland, if a child is already registered at school, the parent(s) need to write to the local authority for consent to withdraw the child from school. This sounds more complicated than it is, and the Scottish home education support charity Schoolhouse has a lot of helpful information on their website on this, including a checklist of what to cover when letting the local authority know how you will be providing for your child’s continuing education.
If a child has not attended or registered at a school however, contacting the local authority in this way is not necessary.
Thanks to the help from Schoolhouse, we really had no problem at all withdrawing our son from school. We were asked to provide information on how we planned to provide for our son’s education with regard to various different categories, and once we had done this and the local authority had accepted it, we were able to relax and ‘officially’ start homeschooling our children.
During the summer holidays after our son finished his first year in primary school, after having found out more information about homeschooling and praying about it, my husband and I decided we would go for it. When we asked our son how he would feel about it, he was very enthusiastic!
We did not buy a huge amount of curriculum to start off with- I bought the Jolly Grammar Handbook 1, as this followed on from the Jolly Phonics reading and writing programme that our son had already been using in Primary 1 at school, and we were happy to continue with the same material- not because we had to do things the same as ‘school’, but he was learning well with it, and it was easy to use.
For maths at the start, we used the cheap maths practice booklets, like these ones, that you can buy in supermarkets and book shops, and I also made up worksheets for him. We read a lot of books together (which we had always done), and did unit studies on ‘minibeasts’, went for nature walks and took lots of opportunities for educational trips to historical and cultural sites, both with our local homeschooling group, and as a family.
As I read more about home education from authors that my friends loaned me, we added in techniques that I had heard about, such as narration or ‘telling back’ what the children had learned, and reading quality fiction on the same subject as a topic we were studying. I also downloaded a lot of free stuff from the internet, that other homeschoolers kindly shared.
Finding our new ‘normal’
We later bought curriculum for maths, history and science, as I found out about them from newly-made friends at the homeschoolers group we attended monthly, and in the past couple of years we have added curricula for geography and music.
I found books such as Sally and Clay Clarkson’s Educating the Wholehearted Child, Educating Your Child at Home by Allan Thomas, and One-to-one: A Practical Guide to Learning at Home Age 0-11 by Gareth Lewis helpful in working out how we would ‘do’ home education as a family.
We are probably what people describe as ‘eclectic’ homeschoolers, using a mixture of different curricula and styles of learning. I do particularly like Charlotte Mason’s style of education- lots of reading aloud, narration, nature study etc, but we also enjoy workbooks to a certain extent, and unit studies or lapbooks. You can find out more about different methods of home education here and here.
There is no legal requirement in Scotland to keep records of our schoolwork, but since withdrawing our son from mainstream ‘school’ 7 and a half years ago, I have continued to keep a simple spreadsheet with columns for each of our children and what they do each day that could be defined as ‘education’, (although of course this could really cover most of life!), in case the local authority ever want to see it.
You can see how we started our term after summer last year below. We were reading one of Caroline Lawrence’s Roman Mysteries Series, The Enemies of Jupiter, and after a guided tour of the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, we began a ‘Government Topic’ in the run up to the Scottish Independence Referendum in September. As a family, our homeschooling is relatively structured, but we do not have a ‘timetable’, (more of a usual routine), and we are flexible about changing what we are doing when, if an opportunity comes up for a trip, or meeting up with another homeschooling family.
Our 13 year old son is now at the stage of choosing the subjects he will study for the next two academic years- what would be called S3 and S4 if he was at a state school in Scotland, (the ‘S’ being for ‘secondary’). In the UK it is usual, although not compulsory, to sit exams at the end of each academic year for age 16, 17 and 18, in order to gain entry to college, university or the job market.
The Scottish Qualifications Authority has recently changed the system for 16 year olds to ‘National 4’ and ‘National 5’ exams, but 17 and 18 year olds still sit ‘Higher’ and ‘Higher Still’ exams. Unfortunately these SQA qualifications are not amenable to home educators studying them from home, due to their continuing assessment component, which would be marked by a teacher at school, but thankfully we are able to do iGCSE examinations instead, which are used in English and international schools, and in some private schools in Scotland. This is because most iGCSE results are based on the exam only, and do not require the pupil to submit continuing assessment. The home educated child can then sit the exam as an external candidate at an exam centre or a school that has agreed to it.
There is an excellent HE Exams Yahoo group for UK home educators where you may ask questions and take part in discussions on doing exams from home, and they have made a Wiki page with a lot of information on the different subjects and exam boards available to homeschoolers.
Of course there is a huge diversity of different ways of homeschooling within any one country itself, and amongst all my home educating friends, there is a wide range of homeschooling methods used, which fit each particular family. You can see some Frequently Asked Questions and answers regarding homeschooling on my Home Education in Scotland FAQs page, including links to some of the UK homeschooling organisations.
This post had covered some of the details of how to start home educating in Scotland, and specifically how we do things in our family. How does homeschooling differ where you are from? How is it similar? Or are you a home educator in the UK? Let the rest of us know what homeschooling looks like where you live in the comments below.
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