Homeschooling for SEN kids has risen by 57% in the past five years? This article explores why.
This morning on the Chris Evans Breakfast Show on BBC Radio 2, there was a news article that stated that the BBC had investigated homeschooling here in the UK and had discovered that over the past five years there has been a rise in children with special educational needs being homeschooled by 57%.
This to me sounds like a huge increase and presents a question about how mainstream schools are doing in terms of supporting children with special educational needs. That said, is this more about schools performance or is it simply so popular for other reasons associated with a child's development needs?
Let's look at the school element to start with.
In the past three years that I have been writing about studying with dyslexia and with discussions that I have had on the Parenting Dyslexia Facebook Page, it strikes me how misunderstood dyslexia is in the mainstream and especially in schools. Many parents come onto the Parenting Dyslexia Group saying that they need guidance, they simply don't know where to go to get support for their child especially when getting support for their children in schools requires lengthy negotiations about support with school professionals. The concept of dyslexia is confusing. It is a term that describes a number of experiences that a child may have with processing information. So it makes it harder to discuss what a 'reasonable adjustment' to learning is for a child.
Often, a school will not provide a dyslexia assessment and so this can be financially difficult for parents too. If this isn't in place it makes it hard to negotiate for the needs that are being observed. Added to these challenges are that mainstream teachers are under considerable stress managing classrooms of 30 plus children and their own teacher training is woefully inadequate in the area of special educational needs.
So it is perhaps understandable that some parents choose to remove a child from school and look to home educate them.
In the BBC News article, they featured Lorna Lynch a mother of a child who has special educational needs. Her child has been moved to three different schools because those needs have not been met. Added to this the child is extremely anxious about going to school and the whole process of getting that child to school is extremely challenging. In the end Emily chose to home school her child.
In 2015, the BBC reported that the rise of homeschooling in general for children had equated to 65% regardless of whether those children had special educational needs.
Why do parents choose to home educate?The Home Education UK website states the following;
"People home educate for all kinds of reasons. Most frequently the cause is bullying in one form or another. Other reasons include special needs that are unmet by the school or local authority, distance to the school, lack of academic progress in school, stress or some other school related issue. A few parents never send their children to school in the first place, often these parents always intended to home educate. It is very rare, for a parent to home educate against the wishes of the child and this site does not normally support such a decision. Over all the main cause of home education is that it is in the best interests of the child.
Parents do not need to give any reason for home educating and the law does not make any distinction between reasons for deciding to home educate."
As you can see there are many reasons why a parent might choose to home educate.
For me I can see an advantage in giving focus to what the child requires to make their learning successful.
I love the term 'learning style'. When in mainstream education, whilst they do their best to make a good generic attempt at mixing learning styles, in a large class it is really difficult to give a child with SEN exactly what they need that is conducive to their learning styles.
The University of Leicester have an interesting page on Learning Styles from which the table below is taken.
|Taken from the University Of Leicester website on the work of Honey & Mumford|
Homeschooling has an opportunity to focus on the learning style of the child and nurture their education in a way that suits the child.
In a class setting a child can get very anxious about being singled out for their learning needs and so even if the teacher is clued up on SEN and does everything that is required to help that child, there could be a level of anxiety present which may result in behavioural issues or social issues such as bullying.
To quote an example of life for a dyslexic in class, my daughter struggled with copying from the smart board. For her, looking up and down from the board to her pad made it difficult in terms of visual stress. It was exhausting to copy work from the board. Added to this, simply remembering what has been written on the board when words were 'jumping around' made life very difficult for her. Fortunately, our school was great and were able to implement changes that helped her greatly, but not all schools can or do help.
In a homeschooling situation the parent can cater for those key needs that often seem as barriers to learning.
One advantage of homeschooling is that if needed a child can comfortably use technology that will help with their special educational needs.
For example, if a child struggles to read due to visual stress they can use a text to speech software package that will read out text books or written essays.
An example of this technology is SprintPlus which is illustrated in the video below:
There is a wonderful training resource that will show you many different types of assistive technology that can help with learning which can be found on the Wyvern Training Portal.
So what are the disadvantages of home schooling?
A parent would need to be available to give the time to this which will mean that they are unable to work. That is fine if one of the parents is generating a large enough income, but for some families this is simply not an option.
Added to this, there is a lot of preparation needed to ensure that the right education is being delivered outside of the lessons.
Lack of specialist knowledge.
Personally, I trained in the sciences, but struggled with other subjects and then 20 years on I am expected to teach my kids the subjects that I struggled with? For some this isn't an issue, but for others it may be. Is there a chance that a child doesn't get the breadth of learning that perhaps a mainstream school can offer?
In some areas, parents join together in delivering education to a bunch of children so that those specialisms are delivered.
Equally, what about supporting special educational needs as a homeschooling parent?
There are plenty of resources available online which can be found from key charities such as the British Dyslexia Association to you can go to a conference where these needs are explored in more detail and meet other parents and SEN professionals.
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Developing social skills.
I learnt a lot socially when I was at school. With simply more kids around me, I was in a better position to interact with more people. Would home schooling be able to give this? In some cases there are homeschool networks that find parents teaching groups of homeschoolers. This means that some homeschooled kids do get to be educated with a group of peers in class sizes that are more amenable to their needs. Sharing peer information is so important for learning.
At the end of the day, your decision on how your child should be educated should be rooted in what is important to your child in terms of their educational needs. It has to be about the welfare of the child.
It is clear that home schooling is getting increasingly popular and whilst that may be to do with a local school not delivering what a child needs, it may be that the school environment was never going to do that in the first place.
My recommendation is that if you are going to homeschool based upon a decision about special needs then I would say that having a diagnosis in place is crucial as it will give you guidelines on what your child's needs are that maybe you are not aware of.
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