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Lowe & Thomas (2002) have attempted to write an unbiased guide to methods of educating children at home.] In this article I want to focus on the informal learning of children of school age, a promising and almost wholly neglected area of study (Desforges, 1995).

The experiences of children educated at home provide an interesting insight into this area.

But this difference is not necessarily due to being home educated – it is impossible to know how the children would have performed had they been in school.

With committed parents such as these they might have been ahead anyway.

Very little is known about the actual processes of learning at home – apart from the many personal accounts and guides for intending home educators, most of which are written from an ideological viewpoint.

[For a wide range of personal experiences see Dowty (2000).

There has recently been a change in emphasis towards more cognitive aspects of informal learning, both for adults and preschool children.As mentioned above, part of this is learning how to behave in culturally appropriate ways e.g.how to deal with emotions, how to interact with others in the family and wider community and the acquisition of cultural values and attitudes.Broadly speaking, home educators divide into three major groups: those who are motivated by religious and moral reasons; those who have philosophical or pedagogical reasons; and those who turn to home education because of problems their children experience in school, both academic and social (van Galen & Pitman, 1991; Thomas, 1998).With regard to academic achievement, home-educated children are generally found to be ahead of their peers in school.Carraher & Schliemann (2000) describe how experienced carpenters in Brazil, with little schooling, informally acquire a better understanding of the mathematical concepts relevant to their work than do carpenter apprentices enrolled in classes specifically designed to teach those concepts.

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