Australian law requires children to be enrolled in a school by the time they turn six and stay until the end of the year they turn 17, which is approximately Year 10 or 11. When the law says 'school', this is considered to include an approved homeschooling program. In saying this, Australian law recognises that traditional schooling does not suit all children and acknowledges there are a variety of reasons a family may elect to have their kids homeschooled.
What is homeschooling?
In its simplest terms, children who are homeschooled are taught the curriculum at home and in the community by a parent or a registered teacher.
Across all the states, there are approximately 20,000 students who have completed the registration for homeschooling Australia. This figure represents an increase of over 80 per cent in the last decade.
Why has there been such a growth in the popularity of homeschooling?
Some studies suggest the rise in non-traditional schooling is linked with global changes in education, particularly the attitudes towards the effectiveness of different educational models. In Australia, reasons provided by families in the registration process include:
- religious or cultural beliefs
- geographical limitations (for example, a parent who moves regularly for work)
- financial reasons
- personal idealogical beliefs
- child with special needs
- bullying or other negative experiences
- dissatisfaction with traditional schooling
Whatever the reason, the various state and territory Education Acts all recognise the right of the parents to choose a suitable educational environment for their children, whether this is mainstream or alternative.
Legal Requirements of Homeschooling in Australia
While Australian law allows families to choose the type of education accessed by their kids, each state and territory government requires homeschooled students to be registered. The registration process varies by state but parents generally need to:
- complete an application form
- agree to a home visit and assessment by a government representative
- prepare and submit an education plan (usually prior to commencement)
- submit a progress report at time intervals stipulated by each state
An information guide detailing the exact procedures, and reporting requirements, is available via the Education Directorate websites for each state and territory. Help is also available in person by request.
Does the Australian Curriculum need to be taught when homeschooling?
Again, each state and territory in Australia differs when it comes to mandatory educational content required of homeschoolers.
Four states, namely New South Wales, Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory, link homeschooling registration either to the Australian Curriculum or the individual state's version of the curriculum. The other states do not currently have that requirement, however, they must still teach the core subjects of maths, English, science, history and geography.
Irrespective of the curriculum requirements, homeschooling parents in every state must submit an annual report with details including:
- details of each child's educational progress
- samples of each homeschooled child's work, specifically maths, English and one other subject
- a plan for the following school year
There is currently no requirement for either of the parents to be qualified or registered as a teacher.
What are the Benefits of Home Education?
For many students, their educational and home experiences impact them well into their adult years. Some, such as these childhood recollections from one of our writers at Superprof, create lasting positive memories:
Although I wasn't homeschooled as a child, I sometimes wish I had been. My parents created a blended approach to meet my educational needs. I experienced a combination of mainstream education, a private tutor and a summer school program. Almost every day of the summer holidays, I would be studying in the library, drawing in museums, taking photos in the park and keeping fit in the playground.
I was always interested in culture and craved world information, so my parents also introduced what they called a 'structured world' program. During the week, I would need to study all about a particular country, including their diverse history, their customs, and their language. Each day was dedicated to a new topic. At the end of the week, we would go to a restaurant to try the food from that country.
This alternative education summer program allowed me to access my interests in a meaningful way and fed my fascination with travel. It also encouraged me to continue to engage in the lesson plans and do the work my parents created because the reward at the end of the week was the best excursion imaginable.
This 'holiday program' was pretty close to what quality homeschooling can achieve. With the right resources, support from a reputable homeschool association and the time and energy to devote to your child's education, the benefits of homeschooling are numerous.
Eight Benefits of Homeschooling
- The curriculum can be organised and individualised to support your child's interests. This can promote engagement, enjoyment and maximum retention of information.
- You can integrate day to day learning into everything and help plant the seed in your child's mind that learning is not just work done at school but is a lifelong practice to be enjoyed.
- You get to teach the skills which are relevant to living a successful life. This encourages students to see the benefits, which will then support them to develop resilience and independence.
- Lessons are personalised to academic need and learning style of the homeschooler and you are free to teach with a flexible schedule.
- Your child will be less susceptible to illnesses that spread through traditional schools so quickly.
- Homeschooled students become more confident and independent in their approach to learning and life.
- The students see the world as their oyster because homeschooling is not restricted to the home or any particular environment.
- Freedom from bullying and peer pressure.
How to Create an Effective Homeschooling Program
If you have already decided on homeschooling your child or are just interested to know more, you will be pleasantly surprised by the ease and flexibility of setting up a homeschooling environment for your children. One major benefit is, however you decide to set up your homeschool, you have almost complete freedom to make it personal to you and your child.
Apart from the curriculum requirements set by each state, in Australia there is no set standard for how to create a homeschool program, nor for how it works.
There are a number of homeschooling groups in Australia whose role is to provide support to parents and guide them through the process, however, when it comes to your teaching style or presentation of lesson content, there is no central board to govern how things are done. This is the significant benefit for your child as the school will be created around them and their need, interest, strength and academic and social requirements.
Once you have a clearer idea about teaching your child in a homeschool environment, your next step will be to think about the educational goals you would like your child to achieve. What social and academic outcomes do you want to see at the end of the school year? If your child is already showing exceptional skills in any area, this could be a strong anchor point for how to achieve these outcomes.
When you have a list of outcomes, you will then need to break each one into bite-sized chunks equating to the number of months you plan to run your homeschool year. Working backwards, calculate how each step will feed into the next. Doing this will make it easier to work out how to achieve each of these outcome points.
Regularly refer back to your target outcomes throughout the year and evaluate how much you have achieved. Do you need to adjust your expectations? How can you identify when you have reached your target?
Homeschooling groups can guide you in assessment and help you understand what a successful outcome looks like.
Pros and Cons of Homeschooling
It's important that families and parents weigh up the differences between traditional schooling and homeschooling, as well as the benefits and disadvantages of both.
Clear advantages of traditional education, both public and private, include:
- socialisation and development of interpersonal skills
- teamwork skills and problem solving
For some people, however, the known disadvantages may outweigh the positives.
- overfilled classrooms
- crowded curriculum and subject irrelevance
- one-size-fits-all pedagogy
- overworked teachers
Flexibility with the curriculum and the ability to tailor the delivery method and content according to your children are often the biggest drawcards for parents considering homeschooling.
There are Many Curriculum Options Available for Parents to Access
|Make your own||Personalised to your child's interests, strengths and skills; very flexible||Needs planning and time|
|Curriculum kits||You can buy a program for an entire year||Often expensive; not personal to your child|
|Tutors – Live or online||Allows your child to interact with different people with different expertise||May take time to find the right tutor willing to commit to a school term/year; multiple tutors may get hard to manage and expensive|
|Online Courses||Give you access to learn anything you can think of||You need access to equipment such as an internet compatible device, and an Internet connection|
Find out more about the difference between homeschooling and online homeschooling.
Top 3 Tips for Successful Home Tutoring
Pay attention to your child's interests, skills, strengths and weaknesses
If you are able to capitalise on the interests your child already has they will find it much easier to engage in the curriculum you have created for them. You may wish to reward achievement, success and progress with extra access to their interests, although doing so is not always necessary.
Be organised but flexible
Taking a flexible approach to curriculum programming usually results in greater success. At first, you will probably need to test different learning styles, resources, locations and times of study to find out what works best for you and your children. If you need to change something to maximise their potential, it's important to commit to doing that ASAP.
You are not alone
Join one of the many homeschooling Australia support groups and communities. You can easily find these online. Be prepared to share, and learn to network with other homeschooling parents. Local support groups are an invaluable resource. They also provide the opportunity to attend homeschooler group sessions and day trips which is important socialising for both you and your child.
All parents and carers want the best for their children, but the best is not always the most obvious or convenient choice. In a world where the global economy is more volatile than ever. It is sensible to assume that children who can achieve their maximum potential will have the most opportunities available to them in the future.
With education being a critical factor in nurturing the potential and future opportunities for your child. How will you assure their success? Will you manage their education or hand the control over to a qualified stranger? As the parent, which option will work for your child: homeschooling? online tutoring? mainstream education? a blended approach?
Whichever you choose, the decision on how to educate your child, and give them the best chance of success, rests in your hands.