Reading what Julie has to say about her tuition group in Hampshire and also what Mrs Anon said about the idea of the home educating community rallying round and providing something like bursaries, has put me in mind of the situation forty years or so ago, before home education became a widely accepted option. In particular, I was remembering the so-called "Free Schools", with one of which I had some dealings in the early seventies. I am wondering whether something of the sort might not suit some home educating parents today.
Around 1970, home education by individual parents was not really seen as a viable alternative to sending your child to the local school. Some parents who wanted a different style of education for their children got together in various places and set up very small groups, often no more than half a dozen children, and then secured premises. These were often crumbling ruins, buildings which were all but derelict. They would then announce that they were a school and take their children from the state schools and set up taking responsibility for their education. One family even registered a bedroom in their house as a school! Of course, it was a bit of a game, because these were not really schools in any real meaning of the word. In effect, it was home education of the autonomous type. The whole point was that the children should have the freedom to choose for themselves what they learned and when. One of these "schools", the New School in West London, defined its educational aims thus;
"To allow the child to make a free choice in its acquisition of knowledge, understanding and skills, in an environment which stimulates imagination, awareness and expression. This implies confidence on the part of teachers and parents in the child's innate drive towards discovery, self-improvement, resourcefulness and fulfilment. It also implies considerable freedom for the child to explore its own capabilities and needs"
This could almost have been written by a modern day autonomous home educator! The LEAs were not at all happy about these places, as they guessed quite correctly that very little teaching went on in them. Never the less, they did seem to fill a gap. Teenagers who had been truanting from state schools started attending, as did a few who had actually been expelled from other schools. The whole point of the Free Schools was that the kids could choose when they came and what they did when they came. Famous Free Schools were White Lion Street Free School in Islington, Freightliners and Parkfield Street Free School in Manchester.
There was a lot of trouble to begin with, with parents being routinely threatened with School Attendance Orders and so on. The turnover of children was very high and there were quite a few unruly kids at some of these places. Never the less, some lasted for a few years. White Lion Street eventually became funded by ILEA and did not close down until the mid eighties. It was groups like this that helped pave the way for the home education movement and the establishment of Education Otherwise in the mid seventies.
I was thinking that this sort of enterprise might be worth trying again. Nobody in the Free Schools had a definite role. One day somebody would be cleaning and the next day running a workshop on painting. As I expect people know, a group of parents in Essex got money from the local authority in order to set themselves up as a school. Perhaps other groups of parents might be able to try a similar move? Those able to teach or instruct the children could do that and those who felt more comfortable doing other stuff could also help. I am aware of some informal arrangements of this sort, but I would be curious to know if any home educators have actually thought about registering themselves as a school? Of course the regulations and paperwork now is a lot more complicated than it was forty years ago. Some of the Free Schools became recognised officially in very unsuitable premises and the whole process only took a couple of months.