Updated: Jan 22
As a long time homeschooler in Australia, (this is our 14th year as registered homeschoolers) and as a homeschooling consultant, I have been asked the same questions many times over. These are questions that I too asked before we began homeschooling.
In the months leading up to us making the decision to begin our learning-at-home-journey, my hubby Brett and I tossed around our concerns and queries. We asked questions of the only homeschoolers we knew at that time, read lots, and did LOTS of google searching. We prayed and wondered. We felt overwhelmed but steady in our resolve.
After making the leap and beginning our homeschooling journey as a family, we were bombarded with questions from all sorts of people; strangers, friends and family. Most were just curious and were coming from a good place, but still the questions remained.
I find in my consults, many of you express the kinds of questions that I too once had. Home schooling is so different to traditional education that many of us have no point of reference for anything outside of our own experience of learning. So I thought it was time to dedicate a post to answering your (and once my own!) top 10 questions about homeschooling in Australia.
1. DO YOU HAVE TO BE A QUALIFIED TEACHER TO HOMESCHOOL?
Nope! No teaching qualification is necessary for you to begin to homeschool your child, just as there is no teaching degree or qualification necessary to becoming a parent! As your child's parent, you are equipped with the innate ability to look after your children's needs and wellbeing. Homeschooling is essentially an extension of this. You are a learning facilitator as soon as your child is born. When you are thinking about how to toilet train your child, you might ask some of your friends for their advice and experience, read some books or just take your child's cues and go from there. It's up to you. No one dictates to you how, when or where it should happen. You don't get certified first but as a parent, you know best how to help your child through.
When your child learns to tie their shoelaces, you might help to sing a little rhyme, comfort them when they get frustrated and celebrate them when they get the hang of it on their own. In the same way, as parents, we facilitate our child's learning by observing their needs and then finding out the best ways in which to support them. Of course we don't know ALL there is in the world to know (nobody does!) but we do know how to facilitate learning. This might mean identifying a need or challenge, then arranging for a special tutor, an excursion or project. You don't need to have any special qualifications to homeschool. You'll need to register though and show the authorities in your state or territory that you are willing to take responsibility for your child's educational needs. We will talk about that a little later on in the post.
2. AREN'T YOU STOPPING YOUR CHILD FROM GOING ON TO UNIVERSITY OR TERTIARY EDUCATION?
This was one of our greatest concerns even though our daughter was still only 6 at the time we started asking these questions! The short answer is that our daughter was not stopped from
getting into university. In fact, her being out of the school system allowed her to begin university at an earlier age (she started at 16). Some university degrees do require things like the equivalent of an SAT mark or something similar. The best advice I can give you about this is to investigate the MANY PATHWAYS your child can take to enter their chosen field (ps: your child may not even need to attend university to get into their career of choice) . THIS GUIDE FROM KELLY KOTANIDIS OF FEARLESS HOMESCHOOL is amazing (Kelly herself is amazing!) Check out all the options there are just from the examples Kelly outlines in the article. Another great resource to check out is AMANDA BARTLE'S WORKSHOP AT THE 2021 AUST HOMESCHOOL SUMMIT ON PATHWAYS TO UNIVERSITY (afflink).
Whilst one of my children went on to University, another completed a couple of uni subjects (at fifteen) and felt like the structure of university wasn't a good fit for him. He is currently undertaking an apprenticeship, working 4 days a week and attending TAFE one day a week. Another son completed a traineeship and is part-way through an apprenticeship now with his study component being online. He also has in-house workplace assessments by an external supervisor. From our experience, homeschooled students are definitely not disadvantaged in terms of their tertiary or further education options. Homeschooling prepared them well to be 'out in the real world'.
3. WHAT ABOUT SOCIALISATION?
This is definitely one of the most frequently asked questions of us. Our experience has always been that there are MANY ways to socialise our children and we do this by involving them in our everyday life. We facilitate social events for our kiddos when they need it and do this by knowing them well. When people ask this question, they are often asking, "How will your children meet with other children the same age?" because this is often what happens at school (and frankly what most of us are used to seeing!)
When you stop to think about it though, this is an odd question for two reasons. 1: we are almost never grouped by age in any other situation in our lives (not in tertiary education settings, in our workplaces or in our social circles) 2: we really need to be talking about what 'healthy socialisation' looks like. I've written a post all about this and instead of trying to summarise that into this point, I'm just going to directly link you to that HERE. I hope you find the post helpful but in case you can't be bothered opening that, let me summarise it quickly for you here: homeschooling actually provides our children with a plethora of real life situations in which to learn all about healthy socialisation. Some may even argue that homeschooled kids get MORE opportunity for socialisation that occurs in real life than their traditionally schooled counterparts.
4. HOW WILL I KNOW WHAT TO TEACH AND WHEN TO TEACH IT?
You can of course opt for what we call 'Distance Education' or a 'School in a Box' if you are standing at the homeschooling-crossroads. This is a great option for many families. But if, like me, you don't think that'll be a good fit for your kiddo, you can opt for gathering your own resources, working out a plan for how to use those resources with your kiddos, and going on this learning journey in your own way. (Pssst: have a read of THIS post too) . If you like the sound of that, you more than likely will ask yourself this question: how will I know what to teach and when to teach it?
There are a couple of ways you can approach this. Some people follow a routine or a rhythm, others like to follow their children's interests. Some of us do a bit of both (me!) Each state and territory has different requirements regarding registration and the keeping of records for your child's learning. I've found recording what my kiddo is learning is very helpful even to me o that I can see how much we have done together.
If you'd like to access the Australian curriculum, you can do that HERE (even though I prefer to use these NESA stage statements and outcomes HERE for each Key Learning Area (KLA aka subject). You might like to use these as a guide for some of the things your child is learning.
There's no right or wrong here in terms of the style you choose (it may change many times as you go through your journey of learning and that's ok!) You might start off with a strict routine but find that you'd like to go down the 'unschooling' path. Whatever your style, know that your child is ALWAYS learning. They/we were born learners! You can follow the standards set out by the Australian curriculum but you can also observe whether or not your child is learning. Be sure to read up on the requirements of your state or territory for guidance about the type of records you may be asked to keep. You can grab my FREE PDF to help you understand registering for homeschooling in Australia HERE and in it, you'll find a link to each regulatory body for each state/territory in the country.
5. DO I HAVE TO 'DO' SCHOOL HOURS IN MY HOMESCHOOL?
You definitely DON'T have to mimic school hours in your homeschool (in fact you don't have to mimic school at all! Your child is going to be learning ALL THE TIME. You can cover A LOT of content in a very short time when you are working one-on-one with your child. Learning can happen outside of the hours of 9am-3pm. It's up to you to work out ways to make learning work in your home. Some of this will come down to the style of homeschooling you choose. Some people do like to start their day at a set time whilst others have a rhythm to their days. We have done both over the years. For some people, it'll depend on your own work or study hours and other commitments you may have. There is no right or wrong - just make sure it works for you! You can read my post on how we host a 'planning Monday' HERE . You can also read my post about homeschooling rhythms HERE and how much time is actually spent learning at school HERE.
6. CAN I SEND MY KIDDO BACK TO SCHOOL IF IT DOESN'T WORK OUT?
Yes you can! Again, check out the requirements by your governing educational authority. For NSW for instance, you register to homeschool through NESA but you register to send your child to school through the Dept. of Education.
7. HOW DO I FIND OTHER HOMESCHOOLERS TO MEET UP WITH?
One of the things we love most is meeting up with other homeschoolers! There are SO many local groups out there now. The best place to check out for your nearest group is The Educating Parent's Homeschool Directory which you can find HERE. Just click your state or territory at the top of the page and BAM you have a HEAP of groups to choose from! Beverley Paine who created that directory is like the Australian Queen of homeschooling if ever there were one. Her website is amazing so be sure to check it out HERE. There are also lots of homeschooling groups on Facebook including mine HERE.
Surrounding yourself with like-minded people is encouraging as you share tips and shortcuts to make the homeschooling journey a long term one. Another amazing thing you can do is attend the Australian Homeschool Summit each year. It has been a blast to present at the past 3 workshops and I'm always so pumped for months afterwards having listened to fab speakers and connecting with homeschoolers from right round the country (and indeed the world!) The AHS is all online and you can STILL purchase tickets HERE FOR 2022 and HERE FOR PAST SUMMITS (afflink)
8. WHERE DO I FIND RESOURCES?
There are SO many resources out there - it would be impossible for me to begin to list them all here for you but I have made a list on another blog post I have HERE. You can also read more HERE. My top tip for resources? Think about the senses. Think: podcasts and audiobooks, edible science and maths games, teatime read alouds for english, lots of nature walks for science, etc. The possibilities are endless!
9. WHAT IF MY KID WON'T LISTEN TO ME?
Also under this heading are the statements which often closely follow the above question: "I don't have enough patience for homeschooling" and "My kids would probably kill each other". These phrases have been grouped here together because they are essentially about one common denominator: RELATIONSHIPS.
Firstly, remember that your child has been spending most of their time at school, listening to adults who are not their parents and relating to peers who are not their siblings. It takes time to build rapport, trust and mutual respect in relationships (even if you think this should come naturally - it doesn't for most of us parents and our kids. It needs time and practice). If you have an issue with patience, with your kids not listening to you or with your kids constantly at each other, then homeschooling may actually be the very thing you DO need. Why? Because it forces us to deal with our responses everyday within the relationships that are most significant in our lives. Now, I'm NO saint - I lose my temper (needing to apologise afterwards), my kids fight and bicker and sometimes I feel like they're not listening to me or to each other. When that happens, I can face those areas head on and try and find ways to fix these issues.
Often tension arises because someone's cup is not full (their needs are not being met) or it might happen because there is unresolved conflict at the heart of relationship. Whatever the cause and however it plays out, instead of shying away from relating to one another, homeschooling offers us a chance to rectify things and try and improve the ways in which we communicate with one another. Sometimes we need to have an intentional talk addressing areas of concern. We won't always get it right but we have LOTS of time to practice and MANY opportunities to try to work through it.
If you need external help (ain't no shame - we have needed it at times) you can opt for counselling, therapy, time away for a short break to feel rejuvenated (kids/partner/you), etc. These things are not a sign of failure. They are a sign of awareness and of the desire to strengthen relationships. I hope the post I wrote HERE about 'the big picture' might also be an encouragement to you.
10. WHAT DOES A TYPICAL HOMESCHOOLING DAY LOOK LIKE?
This will most definitely vary from home to home and even within each home, it can vary from season to season! We have had periods of time with more structure and other times where there has been very little structure. I shared a 'day in our homeschool life' post HERE on the Simple Homeschool Blog by Jamie C Martin. Jamie has been running a Day in the Life series for YEARS so go and check out what she and her contributors have shared HERE. Kelly from Fearless Homeschool here in Australia has also shared different 'Day in the Life' posts over the years, some of which you can read HERE. I try and regularly share about what we get up to on our social media accounts.
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Ps: A few more questions you might have and a blog post to match:
I'm worried I'll feel lonely. Any advice? How can I organise my homeschool space? Can you show me photos of your learning room? How do I keep records? What about homeschooling teens? What about deschooling? Can you recommend something? Yep - Kelly (of Fearless Homeschool's) Deschooling Course (afflink) is something I'd highly recommend along with her Zero to Homeschool Course (afflink). More soon, Lusi x