A variety of people from all walks of life choose this way of learning for their children. Home educators and their children are a very diverse group. The practice of most home educating families tends to fall somewhere between being quite structured and formal, perhaps almost creating a sense of school-at-home and being very informal, learning as opportunities arise and a young person's interests change (often known as autonomous learning). A more formal approach may be chosen if a young person is quite likely to return to school in the foreseeable future, for example to take exams. This can give a family a useful sense of stability and structure, allowing them to build their confidence and know where they're going. Other families take advantage of the flexibility that home education allows.
Young people can continue right through their school age years being home educated, often taking the same kind of exams as their peers in schools. Many go on into higher education, and some spend periods in different forms of education. Some young people don't take any exams but may move straight into work or training. A few, unfortunately, do not seem able to engage with any learning opportunities offered despite everyone's best efforts. There are just as many possible outcomes for home educated young people as for those in schools.
There is a prejudicial perception that home educated children are missing out on 'normal socialisation', that they are somehow disadvantaged socially and developmentally. There is no evidence to support this view. There are many possibilities for social contact with other home educating families as well as the out-of-school activities that are available to all young people. The law allows for diversity in education and parents have a right to have their child(ren) educated in accordance with their own beliefs and values, but the education must be efficient and full-time and must be suitable to the young person's age, ability, aptitude and any special needs.
You don't need permission to home educate (unless your child is registered at a special school) and you do not need to have formal qualifications yourself. Statutory practices that apply to schools and teachers, such as National Tests do not apply to elective home education and you do not need to follow the National Curriculum, although it may be a useful reference. What you do need is the desire to help your child(ren) to learn, which may sometimes involve learning with them. What learning opportunities you provide and how your youngster learns is up to you providing that the education you provide is 'full-time', 'suitable' and 'efficient'.
Home-educated young people often find that access to further and higher education or to employment is more flexible than generally supposed. It is useful to check what qualification requirements there may be for a particular career path, but it is possible to access further and higher education through other means, for example by providing a portfolio of work. Further information about accessing exams can be obtained from the main support organisations for home educating families, which can be found in the appendices to this booklet.
We have a duty to ensure that all children have access to the universal services to which they are entitled and they must act if it appears that any child is not being suitably educated. So that the authority can meet these responsibilities, it makes informal enquires of all home educating parents, asking them to give information to show that they are meeting their responsibilities.