During the past 20 years, an increasing number of Australian parents have chosen to home school their children.
Of course, home schooling is not new, but what is homeschooling and why do parents choose it for their children?
Kids First founder and teacher, Sonja Walker explains.
In the past, parents sometimes chose to have their children taught by tutors and governesses. Families affected by poverty, geographic isolation or poor health also often had no choice but to educate their kids at home.
But these days, up to 50,000 Australian children are home schooled and the homeschooling community is a thriving and proactive one.
What is home schooling?
Home Education, often known as homeschooling, is delivered in a child’s home by a parent or guardian who has approval to provi.
In NSW, and under the Education Act 1990, it requires parents to formally ‘accept responsibility for developing, implementing and evaluating their child’s learning program’.
Home schooling is chosen by families for a variety of educational and philosophical reasons and just as every child and family is different, so is the approach to homeschooling that is taken in homes in Sydney and around Australia.
Different approaches to homeschooling
According to a recent report to the NSW Parliament, there are 3 main approaches to home schooling:
Structured learning environment Families in this category closely follow some kind of curriculum and learning is structured in a way that is similar to a classroom.
Informal learning environment Families taking this approach may use resources like textbooks but they are less structured in their style.
Unschoolers/natural learners This approach involves no structured learning at all. This is because parents who believe in ‘unschooling’ are of the view that the best learning takes place when parents follow their child’s interests and by maximise the developmental opportunities that each day brings.
Why choose to home school?
The NSW homeschooling community is a positive and proactive one. Research has shown that parents make this educational choice for their children for many reasons, including because they believe that:
Schools are not the only arena in which children learn Parents who choose homeschooling for their kids often think that home schooling allows education to be responsive and flexible. They believe that giving kids an alternative to traditional classrooms, with their limited choice of subjects, texts and approaches to learning, gives children a richer learning experience.
Homeschooling allows children to learn at their own pace Some parents believe that homeschooled children learn more easily because they are in an environment which can provide extra time if they need it for understanding something they find challenging, while still having the option of moving ahead in areas that are more quickly understood.
Homeschooling provides a greater opportunity for one-to-one interaction Some parents believe that homeschooling offers a more supportive environment in which children can ask questions without fear of being judged by peers, receive extra opportunities for extension and help with difficulties.
Homeschooling is a safe option for children who have had a negative experience at school Some families choose homeschooling to avoid school bullying and violence, negative peer pressure, unwanted influences, substance abuse and other factors that impact on their child’s well-being and education.
Home education does not lock children into particular year levels Homeschooling parents suggest that homeschooled children have more flexibility, for example, a parent who homeschools a child who achieves well in English can make the decision to move ahead in that subject whilst teaching other sujects, like Science or Maths at a less advanced level.
Parents should have responsibility for their children’s experiences Parents who choose to homeschool value the fact that they are primarily responsible for the education of their children. They sometimes believe that homeschooling also helps to develop closer family relationships and a stronger family unit while instilling values that they believe are important.
Children’s health needs can be better met by homeschooling Parents of children with chronic illness, life threatening allergies or who are recovering from critical health events sometimes choose homeschooling because their child’s health needs prevent him or her from attending school on a regular basis.
Children with special needs cope better at home Parents of children with special education needs, such as autism, sometimes feel their child will cope better in their home environment with a familiar, regular caregiver as their educator.
Homeschooling fits in with families’ beliefs Some parents have philosophical, ideological or religious objections to traditional schooling
Homeschooling is better for the development of social skills Some homeschooling parents object to the traditional school convention age structured year groups that force children into an artificial network of same-aged peers. Home schooled children often mix with kids of different ages and some parents believe that their social skills are better as a result.
Homeschooling gives mobile families educational flexibility Some families travel regularly and therefore homeschooling gives them flexible schooling options for their children.
Homeschooling offers better teaching and learning experiences Some parents choose to home school when they are dissatisfied with the quality of teaching or the school system offered by traditional schools.
Homeschooling helps to overcome distance problems When children in remote locations try to find a school that meets their needs, the choice can be limited. Some parents in these communities choose to homeschool because the local school is too far from home.
Homeschooling makes education more personal Parents who homeschool their children are often of the view that schools cannot provide children with the same level of personal interest and attention that a family can. Parents have a vested interest in the wellbeing of their children and so they believe that, with their intimate knowledge of their children’s strengths, weakenss and interests, they are best placed to educate them.
Homeschooling helps parents to meet their child’s individual learning needs Some parents choose homeschooling because they believe that schools ‘teach to the middle’, catering for the ‘average’ student at the expense of bright, shy or struggling learners. They believe that homeschooling offers a better opportunity to meet their child’s learning needs, interest and abilities.
Do you homeschool your children?
If you homeschool your child and live in Sydney’s northern beaches, Kids First’s speech pathologists, occupational therapists, child psychologists and teachers may be able to offer supplementary, individual support to your child.
We have supported many children who are homeschooled and would be delighted to assist your family.
Find out more about what we do when you click the link below, or call us on (02) 9938 5419 to discuss your child’s needs
‘Home Schooling: An emerging research agenda’, Education Research and Perspectives, 27(1) June 2000: 19There
‘Home Education in NSW’, Talina Drasch, NSW Parliamentary Research Service August 2013 e-brief Issue 7/2013