School's out but learning is thriving at home

by Ros Collins

For some children, it is impossible to fit into a school environment. Parents too have concerns that a traditional school education might not be appropriate for their child.

Formal schooling works for the vast majority of children but for those who have problems such as being bullied, special needs or talents that are not being catered for, home education could be the answer.

Members of the Godalming Home Educators Group are keen to highlight that there is a real, achievable and legal alternative.

The Godalming Home Ed group started last September as a spin off from a group in Farnham group to serve the increasing number of families home educating in and around Godalming.

Families and children meet up on alternate Mondays in the studio of St Mark's Church, Godalming and have recently had outdoor meetings on the 'empty' Mondays.

The Farnham Group meet on alternate Thursdays and there are families who attend both.

One of the organisers of the Godalming group, Ruth O'Hare said: "Choosing to home educate is going against what 'everybody does' and however certain you are that it's the right thing to do.

"There's a lot of pressure to send your children to school and that can be hard to deal with on your own.

"Having a local group of families that have made the same choice gives you that little extra bit of moral support and people you can share things with and get practical support from.

"It gives your children the opportunity to widen their circle of friends to include other home educated children of varying ages."

Gemma Evans, a member of the Godalming group, is a mother of three daughters aged 11, nine and seven. She believes that children start school far too early and didn't want her daughters to have to deal with the pressures of formal schooling which can come with having to adhere to timetables and revising for numerous tests.

With home schooling, her children can follow their own passions and interests.

Another mum, Claudine Rogers, whose family attend meetings of both the Godalming and Farnham groups, has two children aged six and two.

She said: "Our son completed his Reception year and first term in Year 1 at school but for various reasons school just wasn't working for us. Quite by chance I overheard a friend discussing the possibility of home educating her children which opened my eyes to a possible alternative to school.

Claudine and her husband did some research by reading several books on home education. They also scoured the internet and decided to join Education Otherwise, a national organisation that offers support to home educators.

It was via Education Otherwise that they found out about the thriving local home educating community locally.

She said: "While he books we'd read had given us an increasingly long list of positive reasons to home educate, there's no substitute for talking to people who are doing it 'for real' so we were greatful to find out about the Godalming and Farnham groups.

"They provide a place for the kids to play and socialise but also a chance for home educating parents to chat, share information and support each other.

Claudine added: "Having initially considered home ed as a way out of an unhappy school experience we are pleased to say that, far from being a less than ideal 'second best', it is now our preferred choice for educating both our children.

"We love the freedom and flexibility that home ed gives us.

"We are able to tailor our son's education to meet his specific interests and abilities and learn from an unlimited curriculum without the pressure of age-specific tests.

"The fears that a few people had for us when we started home educating have so far proved unfounded. Far from our son's social world narrowing since leaving school he now has a broader social life and relatives have commented that his confidence has noticeably improved.

"For those who have children that are happy in school, that's great but those who find school isn't working out well (for whatever reason) need to know that there is a positive and viable alternative. Taking your child out of school can seem like a big step but it isn't half as scary as you might imagine and I can testify to the fact there really is plenty of support for you locally if you do.

The group also offers additional learning opportunities for the home-educated children. they book talks and visits that an individual family could not.

Some parents are running a small weekly French group and one of the members is now looking into organising a yoga class.

There are also many camps and gatherings which home educators can go to, which run from April to october.

The local home educating groups in the South West Surrey area have recently set up a web site as an additional means to share information and resources at www.swsurrey-home-ed.co.uk.

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