Is homeschooling an option for your child?

Girl reading bookMost people have an opinion about homeschooling, but few know what it actually involves or whether it is a suitable option for their child. Popularly known as home education, homeschooling provides families with a legal alternative to a formal school-based learning experience. Read on as we answer the most popular questions parents have about this alternative style of education.

  • What is home education?
    Home education involves families providing home-based education for their children in place of sending them to school during the compulsory years of education. This sees parents take on the role of their child's teacher and accept responsibility for developing, implementing and assessing their learning program. There are regulations in place in all states, which cover the extent to which a curriculum is to be followed and how progress is monitored, among other aspects. At last count, there were close to 11,000 students registered for home education across the country (see the Home School Legal Defense Association website for details). The number of home-educated students has risen in recent years, especially in the ACT (with a 23 per cent jump between 2011 and 2012) and NSW (with an increase of 13 per cent).
  • Why do families choose home education?
    Families choose home education for many reasons. For some, the choice is made due to a preference for a more hands-on style of teaching. For others, it is because they believe that their child will benefit from an alternative curriculum. In addition, home education may also be chosen in place of distance education if a family's location or lifestyle prevents their child from attending school each day. It is also a good option for families who believe that their child's needs would not be met in a mainstream school environment (for example, children with a learning difficultly or who are exceptionally gifted), as well as for children who have experienced bullying at school.
  • What are the advantages of home education?
    Home education has many distinct advantages. At the top of the list is the individualised attention that is provided to a home-educated child, as well as the fact that parents and guardians can tailor the learning experience to their child's needs, including the way they learn, the way they like to be taught and how much support they need. There is also greater opportunity to broaden the educational experience, using resources such as excursions and volunteering stints. Children can also be exposed to subject areas they would not otherwise be able to access, such as a language that is not readily available at the local school.
  • What are the disadvantages of home education?
    One of the most common criticisms is that home-educated children miss out on the social opportunities available at school. While this is a genuine concern, one way to avoid this is to engage children in extracurricular activities such as sport or hobby groups outside of school hours, therefore allowing them to engage with children of their own age. Many families also choose to send their children into formal education for later years of schooling, providing an opportunity to experience both styles of education. This is generally the case for students who wish to complete their senior secondary certificate, which cannot be delivered at home. There are also some practical concerns, including the financial effects of a parent staying home to provide a home education program and time constraints.
  • How is home education delivered?
    According to a paper published by the New South Wales Government, ˜Home Education in NSW', there are three main approaches to home education. The first approach is to provide a structured learning environment, which includes following a curriculum and structuring learning in a similar way to what would occur in the classroom. The second approach is to provide an informal learning environment, which sees families using school-style learning resources in a less structured way. The third approach is known as the un-schooling/natural learning approach, operating on the belief that learning takes place by maximising the opportunities in daily activities that are not necessarily tied to the school curriculum. The style of delivery may be affected by state regulations.
  • Do I need to be a qualified teacher to provide home education?
    Although it can certainly help, it is not necessary to be a qualified teacher to provide home education. However, parents interested in home educating their child must register with the appropriate authority in their state or territory. See the Board of Studies (NSW), Home Education Unit (QLD) and Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority (VIC) websites for further information.
  • Where can I get more information about home education?
    Visit the Home Education Association website for more information about providing home education. See the relevant department of education website for information about regulations in your state or territory.
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