'If your child is being bullied, the worst day at home will be better than the best day at school'

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The Independent Online

Karen Ingelbrecht's home teaching skills are about to face their toughest test to date when her eldest daughter, Jenny, returns to school this month in the run-up to GCSEs.

Yet Mrs Ingelbrecht, who has six children, has no doubt her most senior pupil will outshine her contemporaries, insisting: "She is top of her sets. She has always been bright."

While advancing home education as an alternative to the "indoctrination" of state schooling, Mrs Ingelbrecht is anything but a rebellious spirit. A self-confessed traditionalist and a Catholic, she had become appalled by what she saw as a lack of discipline in many schools.

"Don't be afraid to educate your children at home," she says. "If your child is being bullied and is unhappy, the worse day at home has got to be better than the best day at school."

Those were the circumstances that motivated the 42-year-old to pull out of school her two oldest daughters, then 13 and 11. Jenny, now 15, had been bullied for some time. Within four days of Catherine, now 13, joining the same school, both suffered a traumatic incident. "Three nights out of five Jenny would be coming home in tears," Mrs Ingelbrecht says.

She decided to teach both at home, with 22-month-old Rebecca – a prospect that initially left her feeling "scared silly". Her two older boys, aged 11 and nine, happily stayed at school. "They like playing football in the playground," she says. "They are happy and there is no resentment." But she would have no hesitation withdrawing them from the state education system if that changed.

The girls' day does not start until after the boys have left the home in Folkestone, Kent, with their father Peter, 45, a former city analyst who runs an arts and crafts shop with his wife. After an hour of housework and helping with the baby of the family, David, they sit down to English, maths and science lessons for two hours.

They adjourn for lunch, then have an hour of creative lessons in the afternoon. A history lesson can involve watching a documentary on the wives of Henry VIII, while English can be a visit to a Chaucer exhibition in Canterbury or studying a video of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

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