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Big brother is watching...

No, I'm not watching Big Brother. Well...not now. I will admit that a decade ago, when I was living in Queensland, my sister came to visit and we went to Dreamworld on the Gold Coast and stayed and watched an eviction episode being filmed. Ah the good ol' days. Wouldn't bother now.

I mean (segueing nicely into my next major point), would you really want someone watching your every move every day and night? I could think of nothing worse. Which brings me to a very busy week here in NSW, Australia. You see the government body responsible for regulating home education in this state have amended (I type that with 2 m's every time) the Information Pack which sets out how to register for home schooling.

At first, I didn't think too much of it. In Australia, NSW is probably the most regulated state when it comes to registering as a homeschooler. We are kind of used to having to jump through hoops - to writing out a bit of a plan, having someone from the government come visit your house and say yes, you can homeschool for up to 2 years, then we'll see how you are getting on.

To be perfectly honest, the first time that happened I went "really, two years? I won't see anyone for 2 years????" But I did "over-prepare" and freak out like crazy, because I so very much wanted to be able to be "allowed" to homeschool these two kids of mine.

But now, they have upped the ante a touch. I mean, they have just changed the Information Pack wording enough to ensure you have jump through a few more hoops. You have to understand, these are the same people responsible for setting the state's "syllabus" and for registering independent schools, so they are firmly in the data gathering, hoop jumping, box ticking school system.

I'm conflicted how I feel about this. I mean on one hand, schools have to demonstrate that they are teaching our precious children all the "right things", so we should make sure that homeschooled kids are having the same experience. I mean, they might "miss out" (god forbid - tongue firmly planted in cheek). Government regulation (over-regulation?) is increasing all around us. We can't scratch ourselves without orders signed in triplicate, sent in, sent back, queried, lost, found, subjected to public enquiry, lost again and finally buried in soft peat for three months and recycled as firelighters (thank you Douglas Adams). Why would we really think homeschooling regulations would be any different, especially because education is so very important to our society.

But really. Most of us (99.99%) homeschool because we have thought about it (a LOT) and have decided, for whatever reason, that we might be able to do a reasonable job of educating our kids at home (and in the park, and in the pool, and by the beach and at a friends house - you get the idea). Perhaps we might even think we could do a BETTER job than some schools (or the ones we have available to us). For those of us who have ever been near the formal school system, we have seen first hand how it works for some kids, but also how it really doesn't for soooooo many of them. It is not a decision we've taken lightly.

Most of us homeschooling parents have given up at least some income to stay at home and educate our kids. We work around them. We spend money on books, courses, paints, microscopes and dance lessons so our kids don't "miss out". We save the state (at last estimate) over $13,000 per year. PER YEAR. And yet receive very little in government assistance either in monetary or educational assistance terms.

The NSW Board of Studies wants me to timetable my kids learning - they want to be sure they are getting "comparable time" to those at school. They want to make sure they are meeting the "learning outcomes" prescribed in their syllabuses. They want to make sure they are working at year level and if they are working above year level (no mention of those behind) we now have to justify why.

I can see the reasoning behind this. We wouldn't want those kids "missing out". I wouldn't want to neglect their education. And goodness knows we don't want 14 year olds finishing school early and wandering the streets.

But you know what, NSW Board of Studies? My kids are doing great. They have better vocabulary than I did at their age. They are working in their areas of passion up to 3 or 4 years ahead of their age peers. They read voraciously. They think and question critically. They enjoy solving problems. They enjoy learning about our local community, their country and the big wide world. They enjoy music and are leading healthy lives. They have good social relationships with their family and their friends. They have life skills (the ones they are going find useful, at least) and they know how to find out stuff if they don't know it. I could put all of this in a plan and if you really want, relate all our activities to "outcomes" in your syllabuses. But if you want it to look like school, if you want us to be sitting down, heads down, bums up, poring over our books from 9 til 3 every day, think again.

I don't really want to jump through hoops. More hoops. To justify to you that my kids aren't "missing out". To have them put in a little Year 8 box. I'll do it if I have to, because the benefits outweigh the costs, to use your vocabulary. But now I have seen how limiting the school system is, how much BIGGER and BETTER and more WONDERFUL our learning can be at home, now I'm thinking outside the box, I really don't want to be squashed into it.


Do you have "hoop-jumping" to do to register as a homeschooler where you live?
Should we have to jump through hoops?
Or should we be allowed to be trusted to educate our children, our way?

Comments

  1. It concerns me, it really does. Having been around the hsing scene since the 80s when it was truly draconian and we mightily fought for better rights, it concerns me that we seem to be going back and without much of a fight.

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    1. Oh - there WILL be fighting - just you wait and see!

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  2. In NZ we have to fill out an application and despite what it says we need to supply they are forcing us to supply more information. It is very hard for the child-led or unschoolers as there is no real understanding of it at the offices. We have quite a few people fighting the cause. We do not get follow ups here (besides resubmitting a form saying we are continuing periodically) and the authorities only check families they receive complaints or concerns about, which numbers about 35. They are trying to make it harder here as more and more and more people are homeschooling.

    Here's a link to our "requirements" ... http://www.minedu.govt.nz/Parents/AllAges/EducationInNZ/Homeschooling.aspx and you can click on the actual application for a laugh.

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    1. Sounds really similar to NSW (except you get paid money! I'm moving!). You see that topic description, though? We have to basically do that for ALL our learning - linking through to Curriculum Outcomes for the year the child is registered in. Potentially a nightmare for many parents - especially difficult to forward plan for unschoolers.

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    2. I think it stinks. They have absolutely no clue about unschool, child-led, etc and want to stick all these kids in a box. Seriously appalling. I went and signed that petition to support NSW homeschoolers and have linked it through to the NZ Homeschool network cause I think it is important we support each other.

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  3. In the U.S. every state is different, with some being Highly Regulated and some not even caring to know if you have kids at all. I personally feel very strongly that we should not be regulated at all, but it's a source of controversy here. I live in a state considered moderately regulated, meaning the kids get evaluated or take a test in the odd grades, and it's not too bad, but it still chafes.

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    1. And that's the crux of the issue - how much control should the "state" have over personal choice? Why should we have to tick their boxes - who decides what is required for our family?

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  4. My children are now all adults and they attended regular school - but here is my 2 cents worth. I can see that they want to tighten up the rules/more control for those parents who don't do the right thing and are poorly teaching their children - BUT - its the usual, 2 parents do the wrong thing, 98 parents suffer the consequences. I think I also saw that the NSW education department can do random visits if they like (is that correct?) - I can see many families starting to get worried about it all.

    Was the homeschooling community of NSW consulted at all? I know this is a silly question.

    PS I would suggest you make your local member work for you on this one! Or even go to your federal member (after the election) and make them work for you too at a national level.

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    1. That's the thing, Joluise! I feel like we're being punished because there are some drongos out there who don't do the right thing.

      No - the community was not consulted, because the changes are "minor revisions". The BoS still believes they have not changed anything!

      I think I will be writing to our local member (as well as doing a LOT of extra volunteer work for the Home Education Association - here I was thinking I'd just volunteered to balance the books!).

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  5. When we pulled my oldest girl out of High school in 03 QLD Ed was making lots of noise & the homeschooling community was up in arms. Someone was very organised because after a lot of too & Froing the HS community was asked for input & was consulted. Not perfect but better that it was going to be. As soon as the National Curriculum was floated I knew there would be trouble & a tightening of regulations ~ not about homeschooling per se but because the govt wants everyone on the same page & the whole point of HS is not to be on the same page. My youngest finished last year. I am so relieved as mine are all very different learners & squishing them into a regulated box was never going to have a good outcome. I really feel for the homeschool community just now.

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    1. Exactly - if we were able to be on the same page, the kids would still be in school! I can't wait for the kids to reach 17 and not have to jump through so many hoops. But meanwhile, we will fight for less hoops!

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  6. I'm in Qld too and yes, we did get to have input in the changing of the laws. I think there were just so many with their children at home that the govt. realised they could never absorb them into the system and would get huge opposition if they tried. However, there are a lot less families flying under the radar here now. Most are registered with a DE school in our area. This may also be to do with accessing Centrelink payment for children. Children have to be registered in some instances and this would impact one income family.
    I have just had one child go into the High school here. Argh........... I had no idea! (Well, we did but probably thought it couldn't be THAT bad) We are finding it very stressful but he is determined to stay :-( Like Ganeida I see my schooling days coming to end (18mths) and sigh. It's could get tough.
    I hope things get sorted in NSW.
    Glad to find another blog to follow!

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    1. Hi Ruby! Glad you've found another blog too! One of the things that annoys me, is that if you can go through distance ed in NSW (you have to have distance or medical reasons to do so, unless you go privately), no one comes to check on home "suitability". How is that different?

      Oh - I still have post-traumatic stress from being a high school teacher! Bring on age 17!

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  7. I'm in QLD and I home educate my son who is 10. When I finally pulled him a year ago from the State School System he could barely add and subtract and he couldn't even write a sentence or read at grade 4 level. I requested he be retained, they said no he socializes well. Funny my son has no friends has Aspergers and I'd love to know how they came to that conclusion. So I pulled him in the middle of Grade Four and I do not regret that choice one bit. He has progressed nicely to MY standards and is currently reading at a Grade 7/8. Not bad in my opinion. HOWEVER, the nice people at the HEU, sent me a very detailed letter saying my plan doesn't fulfill the entire curriculum. Funny but my son is moving quite well ahead in LA, History and even Science lagging in Maths at a grade 3, but they are upset that he doesn't have Health/PE and Technology... What gets me is he uses his computer for research, for games, for a personal blog, and he doesn't have Technology??? He is in Dance, and sports and does more now than he did while in the schools and he doesn't have their requirements for PE or Health??? What cracks me up is that I wrote a detailed plan on how my son has learning disabilities and we are working hard on teaching him how to keep his body clean and brush his teeth but that isn't enough. *sighs* They let it go for another year but I tell you our curriculum is based on the USA's curriculum, I'm a yank. :) And the Aussie one is so far behind the reality of what other countries learn that it is just sad. I get nothing from the government for home educating him and I know as a child with special needs the schools get extra from the government... Personally I think they should give US what they would give to the schools to help our families pay for all the scholastic things that the schools themselves here in Aus don't even offer.

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    1. Oh wow - so Qld is almost as bad. Really bureaucrats? I mean - our kids are being EDUCATED at their level (whatever that happens to be). They aren't just sitting in a class at the same random time "teaching" is happening, but not taking any of it in. We check for understanding as we go, we support their weaknesses/disabilities and stretch their strengths. Their mental health is good! Why is that a such a hard concept to accept?

      And yes, they should give us the money they would spend on schools (about $13,000 per child, currently).

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