Homeschool or Home Education? Does it matter?

The topic of whether it matters whether we call what we do “home education” or “homeschool” keeps coming up, and I keep seeing people say that it doesn’t matter at all, it’s all the same thing.

Is it?

In fact I believe it does matter because technically and legally, the clause which enables us in law to educate at home is the phrase “education at school or otherwise“.

By definition, home education is not school.

Local governmental authorities usually refer to what we do as “Elective Home Education”.

I do understand why the term “homeschool” has become popular – firstly American homeschool is much larger and more visible than British home education, and so even governmental bodies use the term (either misunderstanding the difference and legal significance, or purposely trying to muddy the waters, for their own nefarious purposes. I couldn’t say which).

Secondly, whereas years ago the majority of British home educators did so primarily for philosophical reasons and never tried school, I think I would be right in saying that now, the majority come to home education after trying school.

I do feel though that, once a term is so well established in the vernacular, it would be like holding back the tide to try and stop its encroachment, and if we haven’t already seen the term homeschool/ homeschooling used in legal settings in the UK, we may soon.

The danger with such a term, I think, is that it could be used to insist upon a certain type of education which includes formal, school-like book work at desks in a fixed location.

Such a course could be disastrous and would mean the end of home education as we know it and the end of freedom in education, effectively outlawing unschooling or free-range parenting.

Hopefully I am unnecessarily catastrophising, imagining the worst case scenario. But it does seem to me to be a very slippery slope.


John Holt quote

“I don’t see homeschooling as some kind of answer to badness of schools. I think that the home is the proper base for the exploration of the world which we call learning or education. Home would be the best base no matter how good the schools were.”
~ John Holt

New Start for 2016 #homeed


I’m still pondering and planning the specific details of what our home education will look like for the new term and the new year. But I think now is a good time for a re-think, so I’m starting with a new look and I’ve moved the virtual ‘furniture’ around a bit. (what do you think?!)

I don’t often post many links or photos because I am generally posting from my phone (it’s not impossible but it’s fiddly) – my health issues make laptop use too taxing. So I know plain text can be boring, but bear with me!

The last five years have been really hard for us as a family and disruptive to any idea of neat or formal, smoothly run education at home. We have moved 4 times officially (6 times if you count the three months when we were temporarily re-housed after flooding) amongst other things.

The situation now is that we’re squeezed into a smaller house with no garage or garden, and not allowed to use the loft space because we are renting, so a lot of our stuff including most of our books, is still in storage. We will either have to move again or do without the books indefinitely.

Whereas I thought we would be sorted and settled by now, we’re far from it and can expect more disruption to come. So I think that we can’t expect to have a normal, formal, ‘school at home’ experience any time soon, and perhaps that’s not what we need anyway. More on that next time.


Our hard times have coincided with a relative lull in hostilities between the government and the home education community, thankfully, because we are battle-weary and I know we are not the only family to feel that way.

But now the government has made their intentions clear, with Nicky Morgan announcing that a new review into home education may be necessary to ensure that we aren’t ‘radicalising’ our children by pretending to home educate while using illegal schools «sigh» so we are (not) looking forward to dealing with that next year.

Since the last skirmish, battle-weary as we have been, we have kept our heads down. I avoided posting home education links to my facebook, not wanting to offend (or bore) people. I even created a separate twitter account for home education.

However, now I think the time has come to raise our heads again and stand up proudly to say that as home educators, we are doing a respectable and honourable (though still unusual) thing, and despite the government’s continued attempts to unjustly slander us one way or the other, we are doing nothing worthy of government interference. We’re not invisible, and the government already has plenty of powers to deal with illegal schools as well as home educators that might happen to break the law in any way, without curtailing the liberty of the rest of us.

For any who are in doubt, Home education is a legal option; indeed it is the legal default option, and it always has been, since even parents who use schools retain the responsibility for educating their children, and the government’s attempts to shut us down by conflating us with illegal schools, just like all their other spurious claims, is completely unjustified.

Over to you:

Do you have any questions about home education?

I will attempt to post more often with details of what we do as part of our home education lifestyle, connections to the wider community (both locally and nationally), books and resources we use, interests we pursue, places we go and activities we engage in.

If you are a home educator, what are your plans for raising the positive profile of home education in 2016?

Election Thoughts

On a selfish note:

For myself, and for every other home educating family in the UK, I am mightily relieved that our liberty is not immediately threatened as it would unequivocally have been had Labour won. Ed Balls specifically told us that he would “finish the job” of eradicating us if Labour got back in. So the fact that Balls has been ‘snipped’ is deeply satisfying.

And for my thoughts in more depth, see my personal blog:


I know, I know, nothing for months and then three posts in one day! I apologise, and do plan to get organised and blog regularly from now on…. maybe.

September has been nice and short for us as we went away in the second week, so our ‘Week 1’ starts in the middle of the month.

Week 1: 15th-19th September

We had a fairly good start the first few days, with some ‘Morning Time’ and ‘Table Lessons’ but mostly either one of the children or I was too tired to do much of what I had planned for the afternoons so we have mostly watched documentaries for our Middle Ages project.

The main challenge has been getting up earlier after such a long holiday.

We did have a couple of outings though – once to an informal home ed group meet-up (at the park), and once to Launceston Castle.


Launceston Castle is a great ‘English Heritage’* site to start off our Middle Ages project. It is a classic example of a Norman motte and bailey castle, which would originally have been made from wood and was later rebuilt in stone around the 1200s.

English Heritage were very friendly and accommodating – as long as it is in term time and you book at least 7 days in advance, home educators go free.

Week 2: 22nd-26th September

This week has seemed a lot less productive, and the problems with getting up early (and not wanting to go to bed earlier to make getting up earlier easier) haven’t improved so far.

One outing this week, a music session with our local home ed group. My children didn’t join in (their friends weren’t there for one thing). But the music man was excellent and he’ll be coming back so hopefully they’ll enjoy it more next time.

Having the freedom to opt out if they want is one of the advantages of home education. (I remember no end of compulsory activities at school, which achieved little but to make me inappropriately compliant, so it is something I resolved never to do to my own children. It seems something very important in this day and age that children should not feel afraid to say no if they feel uncomfortable.)

There are two more days of September but I’ll count next week with October.

*All of the ‘English Heritage’ sites I have visited in Cornwall have had the word ‘English’ scratched out. Whilst I don’t approve of vandalism, I can completely understand it. Cornwall, whether recognised or not, is a Nation. It is not England, and it is inappropriate and offensive to Cornish people to call sites in Cornwall ‘English’. I happened to notice that there is a group called ‘Cornish Heritage’ which has only a few sites. If the government has any sense, they might consider approaching Cornish Heritage to see if they can work together so than English Heritage sites in Cornwall can rather be known as ‘Cornish Heritage’ sites. #justsaying

Culture Clash

I came across this BBC article via twitter this morning, which refers to the ‘Trojan Horse’ investigation into radical Islamicist principles being perpetuated in State schools in Birmingham, and looks at independent Christian schools with the implicit suggestion of the latter being equally damaging.

‘Life in a Christian Fundamentalist School’

Firstly, I have looked at the ACE curriculum – we went to an ACE conference in around 1999 right at the beginning of our home education adventure. We decided it wasn’t for us for several reasons. It doesn’t allow for different learning styles or special needs, and the criticism that every subject is saturated with religion in an inappropriate way is justified in my opinion.

ACE also works on the basis of a philosophy of education which they refer to as ‘mastery’, believing that a subject can be put in a tight, neat box that can be ticked off and mastered. This is the antithesis of our philosophy, based on Charlotte Mason, which recognises the links between subjects and continual, life-long learning.

I think that the ‘office’ system where children have a screen around their desk *can* be helpful for some children but it would certainly not have been right for my children, and I would imagine that this aspect alone could be very negative for children who learn differently. On the whole, I am not a fan.

I also have some experience with American fundamentalist Christianity (which I will elaborate on at my personal blog). My personal experience of it was ‘broadly positive’ but I am very aware that others were damaged by it, and that inflexibility and a lack of ‘grace’, kindness, gentleness or empathy in conjunction with fundamentalist beliefs of any kind (whether religious or otherwise) can be very damaging indeed.

It is interesting to note however that Ofsted rated the teaching as good or excellent, and since the schools are not State funded, they are free to choose their own curriculum.

Ultimately, I suspect that one of the issues here is that the ACE curriculum is just too American culturally for the British palate. I doubt that even British fundamentalists (if there are any?!) would saturate their teaching materials in such a way. Looking at some other secular American materials, I have noticed there is a similar feel (scripted teachers’ notes, for example), even when the religion aspect is removed. There is simply a different way of thinking between the American and British cultures.

(Although having said that, the curriculum we did use, Sonlight, although American and Christian-based, is very different indeed, and could be said to be at the other end of the spectrum to ACE in that it encourages questioning and discussion from your own perspective and does not seek to teach children what to think.)

It does seem very sad that Mr Scaramanga has obviously felt that he was damaged by his experience.

I must leave advocates of the ACE curriculum to defend it and its teaching.

Although I can’t comment on the specific school in question, however, I would strongly deny the equivalence between Islamic fundamentalism and Christian fundamentalism. This may need further exploration, but without necessarily seeking to justify the latter, I would suggest that the two are ultimately rather different ‘beasts’.

I would also strongly question the idea that the teaching of creationism as ‘Truth’ rather than evolutionism as ‘Truth’ can be construed as intellectual abuse. It is not the inherent ‘Truth’ claims themselves but rather the way in which they are taught that makes a difference.

Christianity can stand questioning, it can stand criticism and discussion, and ultimately it stands. It doesn’t require indoctrination or suppression of views nor oppression of its people.

I hope that Mr Scaramanga is able to find some peace and regain some measure of faith, but I also hope that Christian educators and Christian education generally will not be tarred with the same brush.

Jumping for Joy!

We’re very relieved and happy this week to be able to celebrate the rejection in Parliament finally of the Children, Schools & Families Bill which threatened to put an end to the freedom home educators have always enjoyed under British Law.  This marked the end of the latest skirmish in an ongoing battle over the last few years by a Labour government intent on bringing all of education under its control.

“If we don’t preserve the right to be presumed innocent unless proven guilty, no practice the Government don’t like can ever be safe from suppression.” – Neil Taylor on the Government’s campaign to crush Home Education in England.