I Have Made the Decision to Home Educate My Children!
Now How to I go About It – What is the first step… is it legal in Victoria?
Home Education is legal in every state of Victoria. For details see the Victorian Legal Situation page.
If your child has not yet started school
At this stage there are many paths you can choose to follow. Many people think of home schooling as ‘school in the home’ – sitting their children down at the kitchen table at 9am and teaching them until 3pm. Nothing can be further from the truth.
From the day your child was born you have been home educating – assisting them in their quest for knowledge of the world around them, answering their questions, teaching them to walk, talk. You have already done the hard stuff and without a curriculum. In fact if you truthfully look back at this stage – you yourself have not had much of a hand in all the wonderful things your child has accomplished. Our children are born with the ability to teach themselves everything they need to know about surviving in the world they live in and they do it well. School interrupts this natural flow of learning, stifles it and eventually kills it. If you leave them alone and just provide lots of resources, encouragement and a nurturing environment – that is all you will ever need. Trust them – they will get the job done.
The first thing that everyone must realise that there is no ONE WAY to homeschool, just as there is no one way to live life. We all do it differently. All children are unique individuals and have their own learning styles. Parents are free to choose the learning styles that will suit the whole family. Some will choose daily lessons in Math and Reading with afternoons spent exploring the wonders of life through books and walks in the park. Others will let the child choose their own learning path at a time that suits them to learn.
An Australian Lecturer in Education, who has been researching Home Education for ten years has found that both children who have had structured lessons at home and children who have had absolutely no structure at home have both turned out to be socially and academically ahead of schooled peers. The only drawback that he found in the ten years of study was the lost wages of one parent.
Teaching children their ABC’s and 123′s is very easy and quick – it takes approx 30 hrs to teach a child to read and 30hrs to teach basic math and there are plenty of resources to help out. Almost in every store you go into today you will see colourful books enticing your child to learn these skills. Golden books, DK books and graded workbooks all vie for your attention. They are all good and I guess it comes down to whatever takes your childs’ fancy will be the ones you purchase. For a larger range to choose from you can visit an educational book store where they will have a display of workbooks in most subjects from prep to Yr 12.
You do not need a curriculum because apart from reading and math most of what makes up a school curriculum will be learned in everyday life. Research has shown that ½ an hour a day is all the time needed for a child to keep up to the ‘grade level’ of schools. With home education, if the child has a great love of math he can fly far ahead at any age or level.
If you wish to introduce your children to world histories, ancient civilizations, nature or any subject that interests them and you, read to them from real books – books written by authors also with a passion for these subjects. This is all it takes to fill their minds with these wonders and facts and perhaps inspiring them to want more of certain subjects. You will quickly see where their individual passions lie and you can build on from there. Out of passions, everything else can be generated.
If you would like your child to learn a language or a musical instrument and play in an orchestra or to join a choir or football team, make a pot or paint a picture – you can find groups, artists and many talented people in your community who are willing to teach your children these skills. Many home education support groups arrange science workshops and music and art classes for home-educated children – so get in touch.
Children do not need to be placed into artificial situations so that they can “become socialised’ Socialisation foisted upon children in schools, kinders, playgroups and day care is not true socialisation. Real socialisation happens all the time, every minute of the day with parents, siblings, shopkeepers, mums friends, pets, grand-dad, Mrs Brown next door, the butcher, best friends across the road, in church, in the park, the cousins, at gym, at ballet and best of all – with themselves and their dreams. It happens ALL THE TIME – we do not need to set it up. The type of socialising that does happen in the schoolyard is not the type most of us want for our children – the bullying and the peer pressure and the bad language – and children that grow up in charge of their own socialisation grow strong and confident and able to communicate with a wide range of people.
Removing your child from school/Registering to home educate
Often the decision to home educate your child is made well after your child has started school. Schools are a fairly recent invention of man – they have only been around for about 150 years or so – before that parents always taught their children – it was a natural part of life. Going to school is not the natural way for a child to learn and many children struggle with the concept of school and as a result parents often see a change for the worse. They become sullen, angry little people unable to communicate with parents and siblings as they once did.
It is relatively easy to remove your child from school in Victoria. Legally the only requirement to remove your child is that you register with the VRQA (see our legal section for full details of the legal requirements for Victoria and links other states). As a matter of politeness, recommend that your advise the principal of the school (either in person or in writing) stating simply that you have decided to home educate your child and he/she will be leaving at the end of the day, week term, year – whatever you decide. As long as you have filled in the form correctly and there is no court order preventing you from home educating (e.g. a family court order in a divorce) you will receive a letter of registration in a fortnight. You do not have to wait for his/her permission and you do not have to wait until you receive your registration letter from the VRQA. Once your ‘application’ to home educate is in the mail, you may legally remove your child from school without being booked for truancy. In general the schools will be fairly co-operative but occasionally they – it depends on the view of individual principals – can choose to be difficult. They may send you a letter requesting that you leave your child in school to await the permission from the department but again this is only an option. Ignore the letter. Be strong and confident. They cannot take you to court and legally they cannot force you to put your children in school.
It is the parents right and privilege to educate their children as they wish, to instil their own morals and values in their children lives – not strangers whose lives we know nothing about. There are thousands of children being home educated in Victoria at present – it is becoming a very popular alternative and you are definitely not alone.
It is a requirement of registration that your ‘substantially address the 8 Key learning areas (most of which will happen in daily life so you don’t have to do much) and renew your registration each year. You do not have to follow the VELS, have your programme approved, submit work or have home inspections. The VRQA will send you a booklet which outlines your responsibilities and some of the public resources available. You will find many more – see our resources section as a starting point. They cannot legally test your children and legally they cannot refuse to grant you registration and force you to put your children back in school. They have the right to check on your home education programme and records if they have reasonable cause for concern. They have used this option on any family since it was introduced in 2006 but keeping some form of records is considered good practice in case you should ever be in that situation.
Life After School
Once your child is back home again you may notice that all they wish to do is to watch TV or play computer games for weeks on end. Let them. This is necessary. It is called de-schooling. The longer a child has been in school the longer it takes for them to find the natural learning rhythm that was once theirs. They all go through it – for some it is a matter of weeks – for teenagers it could take years!!! Please be patient. They will eventually stop and realise that they once again have a choice in life.
What you can do. You can enjoy doing special things with them that they like. Watching movies, going to the zoo, museum, shopping, bike rides, read to them constantly especially about the subjects that they love.
You can gently remind them of the things they used to love doing – get out old toys, collections, play favourite games, do silly things, make them laugh.
You should never pressure your child to do ‘schoolwork’ at home. The last thing he wants is for YOU to become his teacher. He will resent it and it will cause much tension between you. Get the books by all means, introduce them to your child and then leave them on the table or his desk. He will get to them when he is ready.
Some children however love the idea that they are now in charge of their learning and leap year ahead in math and reading very quickly. If this is what they want, buy workbooks for them for several grades ahead and watch them fly.
If your child has been years behind in math and reading at school – the school experience itself has probably been responsible for this. The best thing to do is to buy the workbooks or Golden books or DK books for several grades earlier. Books that are easy for him to do. He will gain confidence from these and quickly leap ahead – when he is ready.
Do not worry at all if your child is not reading at ages 8,9 or 10. Reading is quick and easy to learn and when the interest is there they will pick it up almost overnight. Again you have to be patient. Some children read at 5 and some at 11 and in the long run it matters not.
Most of all though – have fun with your children. Don’t worry if they seem bored – children are never bored – they are always thinking and dreaming. It is almost impossible to be bored. They will rediscover themselves and their imagination in a very short time and there will be no looking back. Live with your children as there were no such thing as school.