Home schooling, as an alternate model of education, is emerging as a growing educational phenomenon throughout Australia.
Home education has had a massive rise in popularity in Australia in recent years, with increases of 100% in six years in Victoria, 50% in two years in the ACT, 50% in eight years in South Australia, and 40% in four years in NSW. Around 10,000 children are registered for home education in Australia.
There are many misconceptions surrounding home schooling and it is good to remain open and informed whether you agree or not. The website, familyeducation.com, identifies some real positives about home schooling.
Educational Freedom- students have the choice to study and learn what they want, when they want, for as long as they want. This is not to say that all the basics (and more!) aren't covered. But those basics may be covered at age six for one child, and at age ten for another, depending on ability, maturity, and interest levels.
Physical Freedom - after the initial shock of leaving the school system has passed, parents who home school say they experience a real sense of freedom. With their lives no longer revolving around school hours, homework, and the school calendar, these families plan off-season holiday, visit parks and museums during the week, and live their lives according to what works for them.
Emotional Freedom - sadly, peer pressure, competition, boredom, and bullies — are all part of a typical school day. This can be a particular problem for girls.
Religious Freedom - many families feel their religious and spiritual beliefs are an important part of who they are. Home schooling provides the opportunity for parents to incorporate their beliefs into their daily lives.
Closer Family Relationships – families have identified that home schooling helps them find time to foster loving ties between all family members. Teens seem to benefit enormously from this interaction, and rebellious, destructive behaviour often begins to diminish soon after home schooling begins.
Stability During Difficult Times - whether there's a new baby, an illness, a death in the family, or another obstacle or transition, home schooling helps families cope during challenging periods.
Well-Rested Kids- as more and more studies are illustrating, sleep is vital to the emotional and physical well-being of kids, especially teens and preteens. The effects of early morning classes can be devastating to many children, especially those who are not morning people.
No Busywork - home schooled children can accomplish in a few hours what takes a typical classroom a week or more to cover. And that brings us to a major "pro" of home schooling: No more homework!
I have had some minimal experience with home schooling and saw many benefits of educating my children in this way. I enjoyed the flexibility and freedom which on a daily basis enhanced the children's output. The children especially enjoyed being able to eat whenever!
While all these things sound rather nice for a learning environment, are they realistic for a child's future? Are they gaining an understanding of how society works and what will be required when they are adults and have to study, work, follow a routine, be punctual, cope when things don't go their way and deal with many different personalities?
What happens when they get into the big wide world where not everyone is nice and they are one of many in a group (blogs.news.com.au)? It is great to protect children but they do need to know that others think and act differently, even if you disagree what they say or do. Maybe home schooling is a great excuse for parents to "keep" or control their children indefinitely?
There are suggestions that the increase in home education is partially due to problems in the school system that negatively affect children's education or their physical or mental health. Some children are removed from school because they had failed to learn basic skills, their health was suffering, they had been physically or sexually assaulted or bullied to the extent that they had become anxious and depressed (theconversation.com)
A big disadvantage of home school programs is that no matter how well designed they are they will not be a match for a nationally recognised school curriculum with examinations and accreditation. The stress that it will place on you and your family is a strong argument against home schooling. Home schooling is a full time job, and does require substantial resources to implement it. It may not be financially viable to not be working in order to home school your child.
One of the more serious negative effects of home schooling is that children can miss out on the opportunity to interact with other children. This can stunt their development socially as they do not learn how to communicate or behave in group settings. Some families take their children to home schooling groups but this is never going to fully replace the amount of free play time in the school playground. This is obviously a vital skill in living and working as an adult (homeschool-companion.com). There is also the danger that they will look back with regret at missing out on school experiences that other children have had.
No clear 'yes' or 'no'
There is no clear 'yes' or 'no' answer to whether a parent should or should not home school their child. There are so many factors involved and each situation is unique. I know some amazing mums who are so committed to educating their children at home and doing it beautifully.
There is also another option for those of us who cannot or don't want to home school - To promote positive changes in our educational system by becoming involved parents. Children, whose parents are engaged in their educational process are more confident and succeed better at school.
Especially with single parents and dual-career families, it is difficult to find time to become involved with your child's schooling. However, there is strong evidence that schools cannot do an effective job without parental support.
It does not require the time and effort of home schooling and also by working together with your schools, not only are you helping your children – you may be helping other children as well (LOL homeschooling website). I personally enjoy my involvement with the P&F, helping with classroom activities and going on excursions.
Whatever your family chooses to do, be confident in that choice you have made and unless it is valid, try not to let others comments make you doubt the choices you have made. God will guide our steps in raising our children, schooling included, so as we rely on Him, allow Him to give you a peace about the big decisions.
It can be a tough road inside or outside the school system but either way we need to wait on God for all wisdom in our steps.
Laura Veloso is wife to John and the mother of 3 young boys. She is trained in child welfare and primary school teaching and has experience in overseas missions and youth leadership.
Laura Veloso's archive of articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/laura-veloso.html