Home Education · Special Education

Meeting individual needs…

I’ve been quiet on the blog front recently, and this is why:

Anyone who’s read my blog or interacted with me on social media over the past couple of years will know that I’m a specialist teacher and assessor for specific learning difficulties and mum to a teenager with diagnosed learning differences.

About 18 months ago I became enraged that child after child in my (relatively) local area was being let down by schools and LAs. There were attempts at off-rolling and (not elective) home education being embarked upon. Rather than support, it seemed to me that families felt pressure and judgement from their LAs.

Fuelled by this fury, I wrote a research proposal and applied to the Open University to begin studies for a doctorate in education.

The OU EdD format begins with an initial study in the first year; I have just finished writing a progress report that will be developed into the first year report. At this early stage, I have a single case study family whose children are also participants, and I have also conducted a small number of short face-to-face interviews with parents whose children are or have been home educated.

I’m also running an online survey to hear more from other families who may be too far away for me to meet face to face. There are 10 open questions. Each question can be answered in as much or as little detail as participants want. Here’s the link: https://openuniversity.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/meeting-individual-needs-through-home-education

The survey aims to give voice to a wider participant population and to update earlier surveys in the existing research literature. Because I wanted them to be relevant and authentic, the questions for the survey, which also inform the semi-structured interviews, were co-constructed with home educating parents of children with learning differences. My aim is to find out what matters to the people who might participate in the research.

When I started writing my EdD proposal, I think I rather grandly suggested that as well as giving voice to families home educating to meet individual needs, my research had the potential to inform teachers, schools, LAs and policy. I was well-intentioned but ill-informed. I had relatively recently completed a masters and had developed a habit of searching for recent articles, which meant that I missed a lot of the amazing work that has been going on for decades.

I believe that giving voice to the families is important and valid, and I hope that by sharing these experiences honestly, my research may help future families and impact positively on the practice of individual professionals who read the research findings.

I want to know and share the truth to try and help other families. I realise that many families may not initially plan or choose home education, but that their home education experiences can be very positive. As part of my case study research, I’ve been visiting and interviewing families and joining in their home education activities, which has given me some insight into how some families manage ‘education other than at school’.

I’m happy to answer any questions, or provide information about participating in the survey or the case study research. Please feel free to contact me via sarah.gillie@open.ac.uk and please do share this blog!

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