For most families, homeschooling is a lifestyle choice, and as individual as the people within each family. If you speak to a group of home educators, they will give you different reasons as to why they initially decided to educate their children at home, why they continue to do so, and how they spend their day. For those just starting out on this very rewarding journey, the huge amount of information and choices available can be rather overwhelming.
So where do you start? Should you purchase a state-developed curriculum, invest in the latest issue of the Encyclopedia Britannica CD-ROM for your four-year-old, or enrol your eleven-year-old in an online course? What do you say to your child’s teacher, or to your mother-in-law who is asking why you haven’t enrolled little Jenny in kindergarten yet? The answers to these questions will all depend on your reasons for homeschooling, your beliefs and values when it comes to parental responsibility, and your sheer courage!
Seeking emotional support is crucial so read about home education, and what other homeschoolers do in their day. Browse the web for sites dealing with your particular questions. Join e-groups dedicated to home educators; there are numerous lists available in Australia and America in particular. Subscribe to magazines or newsletters. Find other home educators in your area, or start a group if there are none around. Put up notices in your local library, church and shopping centres.
Spend some time thinking about why you have made this choice, and what you hope to achieve by the time your child is ready to leave home. Look at your child’s individual needs, abilities and interests. Don’t forget to do the same for yourself; are you and your family able and happy to make the changes that home educating means? There are lots of great books and resources that will help you deal with these areas – invest the time to set this basic foundation before throwing yourself into an expensive curriculum.
Many resources are available for home educators, libraries, parks, art galleries, museums, council facilities, TAFE, universities, and volunteer organisations, a lot of which are free or very low cost. Browse secondhand bookshops and try to get hold of secondhand materials and curriculums to try them on for size before you spend up big on something that you may only use twice.
As you and your children grow and explore new territories, so will your choice of curriculum change – you might start off using a state-developed curriculum, and end up using an eclectic mix of unit studies, Charlotte Mason, workbooks and natural learning. Being flexible is a major part of any home educators resources, so don’t worry that you have to get it all right before you start, your children will learn valuable life skills, just as you learn alongside them.
For second-hand books, curriculums: http://members4.boardhost.com/aushsresources
Great Australian e-group for all types of homeschoolers: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/australianhomeschool
Finding local Qld contacts: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/SouthEastQLDHomeschoolers
For the how, what, when, where and why of homeschooling in Australia, as well as excellent resources to purchase: http://members.ozemail.com.au/~beverleypaine/Homeschool%20Australia/index.html
SSHED magazine ” Qld produced mag by homeschoolers for homeschoolers www.australia.edu/steppingstones or Grace Chapman MS1877 Malanda Qld 4885 ($8 per issue)
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The Legalities of Home Educating
Is it legal?
Most states of Australia have legislation dealing with homeschooling. Parents may be required to notify the education department of their intention to homeschool; to register with the appropriate body, or to request permission to homeschool. Queensland is undergoing a review of its homeschooling legislation at the moment. Currently, parents are only given dispensation for educating their children at home if they are enrolled in a school of distance education, have a teacher-designed and monitored program, or have a parent who is a teacher. Dispensation must be applied for yearly, and there is now a requirement that satisfactory progress must be made in the student’s studies.
Does this mean I have to ask for permission to homeschool my child?
Once again, this depends on your state. Homeschooling in Queensland is illegal unless you have obtained dispensation prior to homeschooling your child. Most home educators in Queensland have not sought dispensation. They operate outside the law for a number of reasons ” religious convictions, fear of being denied permission, or the belief that the government should not have the right to tell parents that they cannot educate their own children. Consequences for illegally homeschooling can be quite daunting, depending on your state, and you should take this into account when making your decision as to whether you apply for dispensation or not.
What do I tell my child’s school if I am homeschooling?
If you are withdrawing your child from school, you will need to advise the school. Children who are enrolled in a school but fail to attend are legally truant and dealt with differently to homeschooled children. The school will ask you which school you are transferring your child to, as they need to forward on your child’s file. How you handle this will depend on your circumstances, the state you live in, and whether you have decided to apply for dispensation. Other homeschoolers in your area can be invaluable with their help in this regard.
“Legal Aspects of Home Education in Australia” ” available from LEM at http://www.lem.com.au/ or phone 02 6259 3944
Qld Education department requirements: http://education.qld.gov.au/corporate/doem/curristu/cs-23000/sections/procedur.htm
General homeschooling info and legalities: http://homeschool.3dproductions.com.au/homeschool/FAQs.jsp