Home education (known in the US as 'home schooling') is on the increase in the UK. There are around 20,000 children registered as home educated, although there may be many more who aren't registered.
"It was a bit of a shock decision at the time, brought on by failing to find a suitable school, thinking, 'eek at this rate we're going to have to home educate him!' then very rapidly working out that it wasn't that scary after all and there were loads of resources out there." AMumInScotland
It's not illegal to educate your kids at home – any family can opt to do it. The law says you have to ensure your children receive an education suitable for their age, aptitude and ability - that education can be at school or at home.
You don't need special permission from your local authority to home educate, but you do need to notify the school in writing if you take your child out to home educate.
There's no requirement for you to be a 'qualified' teacher and education at home can look quite different from education in school – many home educators follow an 'intuitive' curriculum, picking up on their children's interests, rather than following targets and outlines. This child-led, informal learning is often known as 'autonomous learning', or, in the US 'unschooling'.
"I don't teach my children, we facilitate their learning and follow their interests and that has got us all the way up to A-level/OU course level." Julienoshoes
"I love autonomous learning - it's such great fun watching them be passionate about things. We've come to home education from the angle of being child-led from the start and can't imagine how doing any structured education would work in our family life. The cons are having to answer questions at awkward times because the most profound questions always come when you're in the middle of changing a nappy or making supper or something." Lindenlass
Home-educated kids don't have to take formal examinations, although many do.
There's a home education topic in Mumsnet Talk - your first stop for swapping advice and ideas. There are tons of threads suggesting useful sites and books if you're thinking of home educating (and somewhere to vent if you realise why teachers prize their lovely long holidays).