IN TODAY'S society, how many parents are actually aware of their options when it comes to educating their children? For example, did you know you do not have to tell the Local Education Authority if you choose not to send your child to school or that you do not need any qualifications or teaching experience to home school them?

An estimated 150,000 children in the UK are home schooled and there are numerous reported benefits as well as criticisms.

At home, children can learn at their own pace - after all, not all children in a class of 30 will progress at the same rate. Home schooled children can now even be given an identity card to carry in case they are stopped in public and questioned about why they are not in school.

Beverly Meekings, 48, from Abbey Wood, never had any doubt about home schooling her second child, Alfie. After withdrawing Alfie's elder sister, Dixie, from school at the age of six and beginning to teach her at home, Beverly was confident it was the right choice for all of her children.

"It seemed right for me to teach them," she says.

"I'd taught them to walk and talk, why should I hand the teaching over to someone else? At home, their learning was centred round play and they did not learn to read until the age of seven, but soon overtook their peers when they did start to read."

Having worked in a record shop and spent some time travelling in America between the ages of 17 and 23, when she had her first child, Beverly had no formal teaching qualifications, but simply felt her role as a mother equipped her to teach her children.

Beverly admits: "I hated school. This may have influenced my decision to home school but it is not the sole reason. I didn't want my children to be clones of other children at school."

Without any obligation to follow the national curriculum, Beverly says the school and home boundaries were very much blurred.

"We didn't have that separation - for example we'd stay in bed and read or play. As a result, the children were constantly learning and did not object to education in the way some children object to going to school."

Even Alfie himself, now 20, supports his mother's view: "There is too much pressure on young people and the forced environment of school causes many of them to avoid higher education and go straight into manual jobs. I think home schooling gives you more freedom and the confidence to want to learn."

Beverly recognises that as her children's only educator, she had a duty to provide them with the information they wanted to know.

"I was never able to simply say I don't know' because their questions needed to be answered. If I didn't know something, we would research it to find out the answer."

Beverly adds there is a lot of resource aids available to help parents who want to teach their children.

"We used Resources-Writing books and workbooks mainly from WH Smiths. We used the library a lot and the internet. I also taped selected BBC programmes for schools. I contacted the BBC who were very helpful and sent me the teacher's packs/timetables etc at the start of each term.

Taping enabled questions to be asked without missing the programme!"

While critics suggest home schooling cannot provide the social interaction crucial to a child's development, Beverly and Alfie disagree.

Beverly says: "I have always made sure I have taken the children to groups such as Education Otherwise to meet other home schooled children and we spent a lot of time out and about at libraries and other events."

Alfie adds: "The other home schooled children I met will be friends for life. I formed some strong friendships, but since going to college have also met a new group of people. I don't feel under-educated or like I lack anything. If anything, it's quite the opposite - I feel I have gained more than I would at school."

Alfie, who is entering his second year at Greenwich Community College, is celebrating excellent AS-level results which included two A grades in law and sociology.

He is keen to do a law degree at university but does not want to rush his education.

With three very successful children, Beverly has no regrets about the educational path she chose for them.

She concludes: "All my children, Dixie, Alfie and Josh, are never afraid to speak their minds, they easily interact with people of all ages and they lead a diverse lifestyle.

"I would encourage any parent thinking of home schooling to just go for it, have the confidence and know your rights."