‘Why I am happy to educate my child at home’

Jennifer and son Alfie Byrom, who is home-schooled, pictured at home in Hebden Bridge.  Picture Bruce Rollinson
Jennifer and son Alfie Byrom, who is home-schooled, pictured at home in Hebden Bridge. Picture Bruce Rollinson

When Jennifer Byrom’s second child became bored and unhappy at secondary school in Calderdale, he was given the option to be educated at home.

Seven years ago, she said, her son Arthur was not particularly happy there and he sometimes felt ill and didn’t want to attend.

“We didn’t think much of the homework given to him and he wasn’t really interested in what he was doing,” she explained. “We eventually gave him the choice, carry on or home education. At 13 he decided to follow that path.”

Arthur, now 20, would go on to sit three GCSEs and then start an Open University degree early, achieving a 2:1 aged 19, before going on to work in Manchester.

Ms Byrom, from Hebden Bridge, said: “He became a happier child being at home.”

So when it came to educating her youngest son Alfie, 11, it wasn’t a difficult decision.

She said: “Alfie attended a Steiner kindergarten and then a Montessori school until he was seven. We did visit local primary schools thinking he might go there, but we decided that we prefer the freedom of home education.”

Ms Byrom and her husband teach Alfie some of the time –mainly maths, science and history. The couple also run their own business and the mother-of-three works from home part-time.

Alfie attends the Burn and Brae Wilderness school each Tuesday and the Hebden Bridge School on a Thursday. He also participates in a lot of other structured activities during the week including chess, music, dancing and art.

Ms Byrom said: “We wanted him to concentrate on what he found most interesting and we wanted to be involved in his learning.

“A big thing for us was more free time for him and us as a family. As he is our third child, we had no worries about it because we knew we could make it work for him and he would have a good education.

“Because he has more time and is less tired, he can do more after-school activities than most children.”

Alfie does participate in some structured learning at home, said Ms Byrom, with online resources including the Kahn Academy and BBC Bitesize.

And conversations about TV documentaries, such as Blue Planet, as well as things he has seen or heard often lead to studying topics that have sparked Alfie’s interest.

Ms Byrom said: “As a family we travel a lot and do house swaps. This year we went to Montreal for three months and swapped with a family that home educates. We have also taken him to Vancouver and Singapore, and this year we have also been to Loch Lomond and the Barbican in London.

“We just feel that because he is not at school he is able to do so much.”

In response to any critics who feel home schooling may be isolating, Ms Byrom said Alfie mixed with children of all different ages, as well as adults, through his wide range of activities.

She said: “Overall he’s a very happy child.”

There are also groups of home educators across Yorkshire that arrange meet-ups with their children, explained Ms Byrom.

She said: “Home education is growing. I see so much more going on now. I would definitely recommend it. There are ways to make it work for every family I believe.

“What is better than to give your child the best education and spend more time with them?”