Thursday, 9 October 2014

Home Educating in Bedford Borough - Our Story

Some of you may not be familiar with home education guidelines in England so I thought a document that outlined the legal position and the powers delegated to local authorities might be useful.

But, rather than reinvent the wheel I am going to link to some pages that provide an excellent summary of the law for all children and also more specifically, those within special needs settings and then I am going to tell you about our experiences. - Fiona Nicholson

Education Otherwise

HE and SEN

HE and SEN - from Fiona Nicholson


Now, about our HE journey.

In England, home education registration is voluntary. Well, in theory!

I did not intend to register my home education plans with Bedford Borough (as is my right) but that intention was superseded by a paediatrician who took it upon herself to report me to the local authority pretty much as soon as we left her office (whilst at the same time refusing my requests for an auditory processing assessment, an educational psychology assessment and an occupational therapy assessment).

I had a phone call from Lindsay, the Elective Home Education Officer, within an hour of arriving home. Sigh.

The argument the paediatrician made was that Dominik was a child missing education.

Dominik was clearly not a child missing education. He had demonstrated an incredible amount of intelligence/knowledge during his appointment, discussing his science experiments and his desire to be a little 'Einstein or Tesla' when he grew up.

When I pursued a formal complaint against the paediatrician I was told that safeguarding legislation gave her the power to share my information because Dominik was a 'child missing education' and that this was permissible within the safeguarding guidelines. I went on to learn that home education is never (in and of itself) a self guarding issue which meant that her referral was completely unjustified and way outside the scope of her 'powers'. 

However, this small detail of legality does not seem to matter to some of those in positions perceived authority.

At this point I decided to challenge the EHE Officer instead and I did make her life rather difficult. I asked to see her CRB clearance (as it was then, now DBS), I asked for her personal work experience with special needs children, I asked her if she would make a video of herself so that I could introduce her to Dominik without the need to meet in person first, I made it clear that she would not be able to visit us at home and I also stated that I understood the law and that I would not be bullied into complying with anything outside of it. Needless to say, she accepted my final offer of submitting a written summary of our learning journey on a yearly basis without the need to meet any of us. That is the maximum legal requirement for home educators at this time.

Suffice it to say, at the time, I was furious. I really did not want to have to report on my home education to anybody! Especially knowing that Dominik (who was the only one of statutory school age at that time), was never going to comply with a more school-based, traditional approach to home education. I was worried that an autonomous education would be hard to justify and document. I was terrified that I was going to fall prey to more overly judgemental busy-bodies who thought they knew best and assumed a lack of formal, written work meant a lack of learning.

Well, thankfully, I was wrong! Phew!

Lindsay has been nothing but supportive and non-judgemental and has (I think) thoroughly enjoyed reading about our exploits!

I am now going to give you a few samples from my reports for 2014. I should probably add, that I do submit more than is necessary but I like to have a record of what we have all done for myself (and for the kids should they ever ask)! My reports also include, photo's, videos and a list of resources.

If you would like to read more, please send me an email and I will send you a full copy.

Art & Design

"Dominik continues to explore his creative side in the kitchen with more baking and juicing. His favourite YouTube channels include ‘Nerdy Nummies’ and ‘CupQuake’ both of whom make gaming cakes and gifts. We have replicated several from Minecraft and Pokemon. We recently baked some cookies in the shapes of ‘Soul Eater’ characters, one of Dominik’s favourite animes.

We have been making lots of pixel art with hama beads which have not only expanded his creativity and design skills, but have helped enormously with his fine motor skills and concentration. He is also still making plenty of pixel art in Minecraft."

Trips & Activities

Standalone Farm
Hitchin Pool
Milton Maize Maze
Fancy Dress Party
EuroGamer Expo
Nature Kids (Felicity Evans)"

Geography & History

"This year has seen Dominik expand his viewing to Animal Planet, The History Channel, MythBusters and several YouTube channels, including ‘VSauce’.

His geography is improving due to his love of Minecraft! We founded an Unschoolers Internet Gaming Group and were joined by families by from all over the world. He now plays regularly with friends from Australia, Malaysia, Canada, Japan, Wales and the United states to name but a few."

Maths & Science

"Notable experiments:
Fire (exploring oxygen, tinder, burning times, fuel)
Lots of combustion with bicarbonate of soda.
Sea Monkeys
Ant Farms

We have spent time watching the Slooh web cam and have seen many an asteroid flyby. We watch videos from the International Space Station also.

We watch a lot of MythBusters and Ancient Aliens."


"He has played Scribblenauts on the PC and we still play hangman and Scrabble and various word games on the tablet and online regularly.
He has begun reading the Manga comic Soul Eater and we have started to read The Hobbit.
We play a game called MadLibs which is an excellent way of learning basic English Language skills."


"Dominik is constantly utilising music in his environment. It seems to ‘power’ and exemplify his mood. This year he has explored heavy metal, Japanese traditional music and Band Hero on the PS3."

Physical Education

"Dominik has taught himself to swim this year and we had an amazing day out at Hitchin Pool. We also went to Scratby for a short family holiday which further helped his learning. He was able to cope with the noise, smells and unpredictability of the environment better than ever before with only one major meltdown during our stay.
He still loves to bike ride and often rides to his Nan’s alone for a visit. He recently went to her house to deliver flowers and card for her birthday. My mum was so proud and she said it made her birthday very special to see how far he has come and what a lovely young man he is becoming."


"Dominik is still an avid ‘gamer’ and has this year extended his gameplay to more ‘retro’ games. These are often more challenging. They are also an expansion of his curiosity as to where games have come from and where they are going.
We went to EuroGamer this year where we spent a considerable amount of time in the retro games arcade where Dominik was able to ask questions of the stall holders and experience how gaming happened in the early 1980’s. It was a great learning experience on all levels."

Please do remember we are completely unstructured and autonomous and yet the learning flows easily (even with a PDA child).

Finally, I would like to emphasise the importance of being pro-active with the LA if you should choose to register (or you deregister). We were recently invited to be part of a working group here in Bedford Borough to redraft our home education guidelines and policies and bring them into line with the government guidelines and other examples of best practice.

It was productive and useful for all concerned and I sincerely hope that all those considering HE in Bedford will receive a warm welcome and lots of support and encouragement.

Thanks for reading! I do hope this was useful.

N x

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