MORE and more parents in Cumbria are opting to pull their children out of school and home educate them amid mental health struggles.

Clare Emmerson, from Penrith, home educated all of her children and only has good things to say about completing your child's education in a home environment.

The mum-of-four is often the first port of call for anyone in Cumbria considering switching to home education.

In an interview with the Cumberland Newsshe discussed her 25 years of experience with home education and, she claims, its benefits compared to the traditional route.

She said: "A significant number of people withdrawing their children from school are for mental health reasons. If someone calls the local authority saying they think they need to home educate, they give them my number.

"When I get those phone calls, I think without exception, over the last two years, every one of those calls has been mental health related."

Mrs Emmerson opted to home educate all four of her kids after meeting an 'exceptional' English family who were over from America.

She said: "We home educated our four children from the start. When I was pregnant with my first child 25 years ago, we met a family who were amazing. We went round for dinner and the 11-year-old cooked.

"I thought ‘ok, I’m interested’. They were really impressive kids who loved their home education.

"Over the next few years we kept meeting more and more people whose kids impressed us and we thought ‘that’s what we want for our children.’ My youngest has just turned 17, and we’re very glad we made that choice."

After a less-than-enjoyable school experience of her own, Mrs Emmerson was keen for her children to have a far more flexible relationship with their education.

She said: "What I want to shout from the rooftops now, after 23 years when I’m at the end of my home education journey, is that all my children’s success has been bred by their own choices.

"They did a bit of English and maths every day, but then independent learning, which has kickstarted their careers. They were allowed hands off time to find out what they wanted to do.

"They could play and practise stuff that now, when they’re older, they look really experienced in.

"My daughter is a farmer now, she did horticulture and agriculture at Newton Rigg and was self-employed by the time she was 17, because she knows how to work. That started by playing in the garden, feeding the chickens, tending the vegetable patch, all things that I didn’t tell her to do.

"An English teacher told me that kids in school often have a narrow perspective, while home educated kids have a much wider view. It’s like having another adult in the classroom, is how they put it."

Times and Star: Clare and her familyClare and her family (Image: Supplied)

With her own home education journey now over, Mrs Emmerson now helps to run popular Facebook group Home Education Cumbria, which has nearly 1,000 members.

And she feels more people in Cumbria are going to turn towards home education unless the school system improves.

She said: "It’s still apparent that after all these years, the government still don’t seem able to comprehend what home education can be, they still want it to look like school.

"School isn’t actually doing that well. We got the chance to go travelling for nine months around the world with all our four kids. That’s an experience they simply wouldn’t have been able to have. Everyone said, ‘what will you do about school?’ We stuck it in a rucksack. It’s all about giving them the freedom to be who they are."

One traditional argument against home education is the lack of socialisation that children would have with others their own age, but Mrs Emmerson feels that this is a 'myth'. 

She said: "It's really beneficial to take a step back and consider what socialisation is. Because spending time with 29 other people the same age as you, who you didn't choose to spend time with, and you may or may not have common interests with, is that how we live our lives as adults?

"Home educated kids will talk to anybody. It's a complete myth. If you have an only child, you definitely have to make more of an effort to get out. I think the hardest thing is not being out and about the whole time and making sure you're home to do actual sit-down learning.

"We could have been out every day doing things. The socialisation issue is thrown at parents, especially with anxious or neurodiverse children, but is being with 29 other children running around screaming good for them?"

She also helps to run the home education hub in Penrith, where recent activities have included visits from police, mountain rescue volunteers and a stop motion Lego session from a fellow home education alumni.

Clare concluded: "In the last 23 years, every week I have heard something, either positive or negative, that makes me think 'I am so glad we made this choice.' I didn't set out to have fun, I did it because I believed it was the right thing to do, but I have had so much fun.

"When I stopped home educating last year, I was heartbroken, but my kids are an amazing team."