Ever considered homeschooling your kids? What you need to know

Over the past five years, the number of students being educated at home in Australia has doubled. Find out here if homeschooling might be right for your family.

Homeschooling isn’t a new concept, but it has gained significant traction recently.

Not to be confused with home learning during COVID-19 lockdowns, it is estimated that more than 43,000 students are now homeschooled in Australia.

The question is why? And could homeschooling be the right option for your child?

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What is homeschooling?

“Homeschooling is the opportunity for parents to have direct input into what and how their children are learning,” Euka Future Learning founder and director Ellen Brown says.

“It also means schooling becomes part of family life rather than being separated from it.”

Dr Nikki Brunker, senior lecturer in education at The University of Sydney, prefers to call it “home education”.

“That’s because it’s not about replicating school at home; rather, it’s about taking a different approach to education at home,” Dr Brunker says.

Why is homeschooling on the rise in Australia?

Dr Brunker says the main reason is specific needs.

“The parliamentary inquiry into home education showed the significant rise in families home-educating children and young people with specific needs that were not being catered for in mainstream school,” she explains.

“Schooling from home during lockdown added to this increase, as families became aware of the struggles their children were having at school, either through seeing them continue to struggle with what was sent home, or seeing them thrive in the absence of the school environment.”

Ellen agrees, saying there are many reasons why the school system doesn’t fit every child, from bullying and mental health issues to children who are gifted and bored at school.

“Parents are very attuned with their children and now that homeschooling is no longer on the fringe, with opportunities for students to move on to university if they want to, it doesn’t feel like you’re limiting their future options,” Ellen says.

What are the advantages of homeschooling?

Dr Brunker says the greatest advantage is flexibility.

“Flexibility may come in the form of location, allowing families to travel, or it may come in the time devoted to formal learning, with some families discovering during COVID lockdowns that the formal learning of school may be completed in less time than a school day,” she explains.

“Flexibility may also come in the approach to teaching and learning, with home education able to follow the interests and needs of children.”

What are the disadvantages of homeschooling?

“Home education generally requires one parent to not work or two parents to juggle reduced paid work, or payment of someone else to be in the role of educational supervisor,” Dr Brunker says.

“That is a privileged position both in terms of financial and social capital that’s not available to all families.”

However, Ellen says a lot of single and working parents enrol their children with Euka, Australia’s largest online education provider for K-12 students.

“Younger children do of course need supervision and parents are often very creative about this, working with other families so children can rotate around households,” Ellen notes.

“But higher age groups, say in year 11 and 12, are usually very capable on their own.”

Is homeschooling right for my family?

When it comes to deciding whether or not to educate your child at home, Ellen says it is important  to bear the following in mind:

  • It doesn’t have to be forever: “Deciding to homeschool doesn’t mean your child can’t return to mainstream school at some stage if they’d like to,” Ellen notes.
  • It doesn’t mean “missing out”: Every aspect of mainstream schooling can be ticked off in homeschooling — kids cover the full curriculum and don’t miss out on socialisation.
  • You may experience pushback: “People aren’t always well informed about what homeschooling looks like these days, so you may get some negative comments,” Ellen s
  • Support is available: “The support networks operating in homeschooling groups around Australia are very helpful and inclusive,” Ellen notes.
  • You don’t have to know everything: As a parent, you are already teaching your children — know that you are capable, and be a willing learner along with your child.

Are parents paid for homeschooling?

No. “However, many families can access assistance payments under the Isolated Children Scheme,” Ellen says.

The Isolated Children Scheme is a group of payments for parents and carers of children who can’t go to a local state school because of geographical isolation, disability or special education needs.

How do I start homeschooling?

The first step is registering to become a homeschooler with the Department of Education in your state or territory.

“I’d suggest doing this at the start of the term before you want to begin homeschooling,” Ellen says, “as there’s a bit of planning involved in getting your application to register prepared.”

For example, you’ll need to include a 12-month learning plan for your child.

Enrolling with an online provider whose curriculum aligns with the Australian Curriculum standards simplifies this process.

“That’s why I started Euka 12 years ago,” Ellen says.

“I wanted parents to have access to a homeschooling program where all the work has been done as far as lessons are concerned and so that the registration process is as simple as possible.”

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Written by Karen Fittall.