Home schooling children in Australia is more popular than ever before but if this is an option you are seriously considering for your soon-to-be school-aged child, there are some important bits of information you should know right from the start.
It’s rising in popularity
Home schooling and ‘un-schooling’ is no longer reserved for hippies or conservative religious types. In fact, it’s fast becoming a more adopted and less taboo education method in our own backyard and around the world (except for Germany and Sweden where it’s illegal). An estimated 25,000 to 55,000 children are now home schooled in Australia each year, and these figures are continuing to rise as more parents are seeing the benefits of making the change.
At what age can kids be home schooled?
Australian children are legally required to have formal education from age six to 17 (five to 16 if you’re in Tasmania), whether this is via a traditional school or home school, and they can stop earlier than 17 if they join the workforce. Provided you’ve met the state requirements, parents can commence home schooling right from the word go; although it is more common for children to start their schooling at a traditional school and then commence home school at a later date. It’s completely up to the individual families and children.
Aussie home school stats
A recent survey indicates the most popular stage for children to begin home school is between Kindergarten and Year Three, with 39 percent of parents choosing to withdraw their child from traditional schooling in favour of home education during these years. The next biggest intake is between Year Four and Six at 26 percent, with 16 percent making the switch in high school and a further 16 percent beginning home schooling from birth. Only six percent of kids commence home schooling from preschool age.
When it comes to location, the biggest adopters (in descending order) of home schooling by state percentage are New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, and Western Australia, with the Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory being the lowest.
Why choose home schooling?
According to Homeschooling Downunder, the main reasons why parents opt to home school their kids are:
- dissatisfaction with school (i.e. child not being challenged enough, poor learning environment and teaching methods)
- special needs
- religious or philosophical reasons (e.g. don’t agree with the mass education system)
- travel distance
Benefits of home education
In the past it was believed that home schooled children suffered from the lack of social interaction with peers and teachers, however the statistics are now telling us the benefits far outweigh any potential risks.
Known key benefits of home schooling include:
- the education is tailored specifically to the individual needs and interests of the child (particularly beneficial for those with autism or other special needs)
- it allows more quality time for children and parents to spend together
- greater flexibility with home school hours, allowing children more time to play (and learn outside of class)
- increased learning – in a 2014 NSW study home schooled children did significantly better in all NAPLAN areas than those in traditional schools
- independent learning – home schooled kids are apparently better at learning on their own, a valuable skill when it comes to further education meaning they’re also less likely to drop out of university or other courses
The types of home schooling
There are a few different methods of home schooling, so it’s important to find out which one is best for you or use a combination of different ones. For example, the traditional home school method is a similar structure to school but just set up at home using distance education textbooks and workbooks. The Charlotte Mason Homeschool Method offers up a more gentle approach with books but also forming good habits and interesting tasks. Then there is also the classical method (with a strong literature component), natural learning (through play and discovery), and unschooling – where there are no school-like tools or lessons and everything is learned through life e.g. maths from doing cooking measurements.
Can anyone do it?
Yes! You don’t have to be a teacher or have studied education in order to home school your child. You just need to have the time available to do it, which generally requires you to be available during the day, although home school commitments are usually fewer hours than a structured mainstream school day.
How does it work?
Each state has very different legal requirements, so you need to investigate what the protocol is for where you live when you register your child for home schooling. For example, in NSW and QLD you have to show a detailed plan of what you’ll be teaching your child, whereas in other states you can home school part time. Some parents also choose not to register their child even though they’re actually giving them a home education. Links to the various registrations for each state can be found here.
The cost involved
The cost of homeschooling really depends on what method you’re doing, how many kids you have, their ages and your personal preferences (e.g. the type of supplies you buy). As a guide, however, for your first child you’re looking at between $1,500-$2,400 per year which is, of course, way cheaper than the cost of private school fees, yet only slightly more than public school expenses (when you consider all the extra curriculum fees like sports and excursions, plus uniforms, stationery and more). Initial set up costs are pretty minimal too, as most homes now have a computer, a printer and the internet; so it’s really only the curriculum courses you’ll need – unless you’re doing un-schooling – plus a small amount for stationery and art supplies.
Getting started and available support
There are lots of great information resources out there such as the book How to Homeschool 101, websites like Homeschooling Downunder and Aussie Home School and Facebook support groups such as Home Schooling Australia, so if you’re keen to give it a try don’t be afraid as there is a lot of information and assistance for first-time home schooling parents out there.