In the past, homeschooling was considered a fringe movement, an alternative to putting children into their traditional K-12 school system. According to the Victoria Registration and Qualifications Authority, in 2008, only 1564 children from 859 families were homeschooled (Fedele, 2010). Now Homeschool Australia statistics show that in 2014, there were more than 12,000 registered homeschool students, with another 30,000 unregistered students (“Homeschooling Australia”, 2016).
What exactly is homeschooling? With homeschooling, parents become the primary educators of their children, and teach them at home. Parents can choose to enrol their children in distance education, or plan their own school curriculum, which may be adapted to suit the needs of their children (“Homeschooling Australia”, 2016). Every Australian state has different registration requirements and parents are often asked to show what they plan on teaching their children and how it corresponds to the state’s guidelines for education (“Homeschooling Australia”, 2016). Homeschoolers must be available for assessment when required against the traditional school curriculum (Athanasou, 2014).
In Victoria for example, the state government does not ask parents to adopt specific learning approaches, but does require them to cover eight key learning areas: English, Mathematics, Technology, Science, Health and Physical Education, Foreign Languages, and the Study of Society and the Environment (Fedele, 2010). There are many reasons why parents choose to homeschool. Some are dissatisfied with the school system, or think they are better able to cater for children with special needs than the traditional school system. Others wish to adhere to certain religious convictions or requirements that cannot be catered for in schools. Some children are bullied in regular schools, and homeschooling can be a solution to this. Parents may be against the idea of mass education, or may need to travel with their families, and so homeschooling gives them an alternative which fits their needs (“Homeschooling Australia”, 2016).
Many, like James Athanasou, support homeschooling. Athanasou observes that enrolling children in traditional schools is costly, whilst homeschooling offers a more affordable alternative. He argues that the school system is outdated, and can even have harmful effects on its pupils, sapping their creativity, and imposing a timetable upon students which may not suit them. Children are permitted to have greater physical liberty in the homeschool system and parents provide them with opportunities to play and socialise. Athanasou comments that the traditional school system has failed many of its pupils, leaving those who struggle academically behind. He cites that in 2014, about forty-six percent of Australians were unable to meet minimum literacy standards (Athanasou, 2014).
Michelle Morrow, a homeschool advocate and mother, believes that homeschooled children often mix well with people from various age groups and cultural backgrounds because they aren’t restricted to interactions with their peers, as is the case with pupils in the traditional school system. She claims that homeschooled children are more socially aware in general, although parents must be more “proactive in making opportunities to develop friendships”, so that their children don’t become lonely or isolated (Morrow, 2015).
Although she is a homeschooler herself, Morrow agrees that homeschooling isn’t for everyone. This is because the practice requires an intensive commitment of time and money on the part of parents, and the intention to work through issues that come up in the course of educating children. Morrow concludes that some parents “…would flounder with the magnitude of responsibility that comes with making the choice to educate your children at home” (2015). Homeschooling is a viable alternative to traditional education, although it is clear that it is a personal choice and a commitment which does not suit everyone.
Athanasou, James. “Home schooling is a perfect alternative to schools stuck in a time-warp.” The Sydney Morning Herald. September 10, 2014.
Fedele, Robert. “When it comes to schooling, there’s no place like home.” The Sydney Morning Herald. May 13, 2010.
“Homeschooling Australia.” Homeschooling Downunder: Making Homeschool Easier. 2016.
Morrow, Michelle. “Homeschooling and Child Development – Are the Results Detrimental?” Homeschooling Downunder: Making Homeschool Easier. 16 September, 2015