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The truth about learning with mother

How many children are home-educated?

A: Families do not have to report to the authorities, so there are no exact figures. The most recent government estimate is between 45,000 and 150,000.

How do parents apply?

They must notify the headteacher, if their child is in school. If not, they do not have to tell anyone.

Do home-educators have to follow the national curriculum?

No. Local authorities are supposed to establish parents' "commitment and enthusiasm" and the existence of resources, but there are no obligations on families.

Do parents have to agree to council inspections?

No. The council can ask to visit the home or meet the family, but parents are within their rights to refuse.

Do schools ever encourage home-education?

There are anecdotal reports that some schools and councils have suggested this to the parents of problem children in order to reduce exclusion and truancy figures. As a short cut, some schools have been known to hand out home-education agreement slips that parents can fill in and return to the school.

How do home-educators feel about their experiences?

Many are positive. "You can tailor the education to the child's needs,"

says Winnie Durdant-Hollamby, a spokeswoman for the advisory group Education Otherwise. "We do textiles, drama, days out I and I lead an art group. It's about giving children the inspiration and encouragement to explore."

Other families struggle. "When my daughter was diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder, the social worker suggested home-schooling," says one father. "She was off school for 12 months and we had no contact from the council. I did not think home-schooling was the best option."

Caroline, a single mother, withdrew her teenage son from school after he began getting into fights. "It was a struggle, mentally and physically, keeping him occupied. Nobody visited us for three months. He got fed up with working on the computer, so I got him to do practical things instead, like painting and tiling and building a remote-control car. I would say we did not get enough support."

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