Reading, writing, and stifling homeschool regulations

May 3, 2017 by

Kate Moriarty –

It’s time I owned up. You saw me at the supermarket with my small band of school-age children. ‘Pupil free day?’ you chirped. I half-nodded and kept moving. At the barbecue, you asked if my kids went to private or state school. ‘A small private school,’ I murmured, then changed the subject.

The truth is I homeschool. I don’t know why I didn’t tell you earlier. I love homeschooling. But I also love it when people mistake me for a normal person.

I never meant to homeschool. It just sort of happened. My then eight-year-old daughter was in a situation at school that was causing her constant anxiety. For months, I tried working with her teachers, but things only became much worse.

I decided to homeschool for one year, to give my daughter a chance to recover and to build her confidence. I never expected to fall in love with the lifestyle. Twelve months later, I gave in to my younger son’s entreaties and began homeschooling him as well — just for one more year.

Homeschooling has given our family the gifts of time and togetherness. We start our day with breakfast and chores, then traipse out the door for a bike ride. After this, we sit around the table for a few hours, working together or separately. All up, we’re usually done with our book work by lunch time.

The afternoon is for cooking, reading, climbing trees, gardening, playing music, knitting, researching topics of interest, and jumping on the trampoline. Later in the day, they might go to scouts, swimming lessons, dinner with grandparents, sports, or an after-school kids club. On Mondays, we meet with other homeschooling families to learn subjects that work well in a group setting, like science, art and dance.

People often ask about assessment. How do I know if my children are up to standard? When I first started, this worried me too. After all, school teachers work hard to keep track of their students’ progress. But, of course, school teachers have 30 new children each year. Keeping track of a small group of students with whom you live, and in whom you are intensely interested, is second nature.

There’s no need for tests and portfolios. I already know my nine-year-old has a sharp mind for maths and devours books like a maniac, but needs encouragement to express himself in writing. I’m already planning fine-motor activities for my five-year-old, who has plenty to write about, but needs help forming her letters.

“There is no evidence to support claims that homeschooled students are ‘at risk’. If the government wanted to stop children from falling through the cracks, they should pour resources into the mainstream education system where this is actually a problem.”

Across Australia, it’s estimated that more than 15,000 families homeschool. And that number is steadily growing. Regulations differ greatly between states. In NSW and Queensland, where registration is a complicated process, many homeschoolers opt out. Indeed, it’s been estimated that as many as 85 per cent of homeschooling families in Queensland remain unregistered.

In Victoria, the registration process is simple and straightforward. It is not surprising, then, that Victoria has the highest number of registered homeschoolers. But this may soon change. Under the proposed regulations, new homeschoolers would be required to submit a comprehensive full-year’s plan. Homeschooling would be prohibited until this plan is approved, with a $70 fine imposed for each day of unauthorised homeschooling.

These changes are needlessly bureaucratic and aggressively punitive. While a family might set long term goals for their homeschool curriculum, they would be ill-advised to plan the entire year in detail. School teachers are not expected to do this: it does not account for the changing needs of the students. These regulations would only result in an increased workload for conscientious parents, while forcing others underground.

It is worth noting that the Home Education Network (HEN) went to great lengths to determine what regulations would best serve the homeschooling community. HEN, however, was never consulted by the government when drafting this legislation. Indeed, it is unclear whether any homeschoolers were consulted.

And it’s unclear what the point of all this red tape is. Studies conducted in the US have shown that government control over homeschooling has no impact on performance. Moreover, homeschoolers have been shown in many studies to consistently outperform their peers. For whatever reason, on the whole, homeschoolers tend to thrive. There is simply no evidence to support claims that homeschooled students are an ‘at risk’ group. If the government wanted to stop children from falling through the cracks, they should pour resources into the mainstream education system where this is actually a problem.

This is not some ‘no child left behind’ policy. This is a bid to discourage families from homeschooling. And this anti-homeschool bias is not unique to Victoria. In 2014, the NSW government launched a parliamentary inquiry into homeschooling. Before publication, over 100 paragraphs worth of submissions, containing many reports of school failure and homeschooling success, were curiously omitted.

Homeschooling parents are not afraid of accountability, but we object to a regulation that creates unnecessary work that helps nobody and achieves nothing. We object to a regulation created without consultation. Above all, we object to the insinuation that parents are dangerous and untrustworthy.

These days, my daughter attends secondary school and ran the gamut of exams and interviews to get into the advanced class. She has transformed into a confident, articulate young woman with a strong sense of self and a wicked sense of humour. She very quickly made friends and remains a self-motivated learner.

It’s my fourth year of homeschooling. I now have three children in my small private school. We still take it one year at a time, but, so far, each year is better than the last.

Source: Reading, writing, and stifling homeschool regulations – Eureka Street

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