Lately I have met many other parents who have mentioned that they have been considering home-schooling for one reason or another. Believe it or not, home-schooling is steadily on the rise here in Australia and according to estimates, the number of families in NSW alone has risen by approximately 70% since 2014. You can read more about that on SBS.
People choose to home-school for a variety of reasons with the main reasons including religious beliefs, bullying, anxiety and the belief that they can give their child more than the current school system.
If you are considering starting homeschooling you may feel completely overwhelmed with the whole idea. There is a lot to think about but let me assure you it isn't nearly as complicated as you may think.
The first thing you need to work out is whether you would rather homeschool or school through a Distance Education (DE) program. Homeschooling means providing your own curriculum and having the flexibility to school according to your own choices and beliefs. DE is where the children basically are provided with the resources that they would get at school and complete them at home. Both choices have their own pros and cons. You can read more about the homeschool vs. DE for more information.
Once you have decided on homeschooling your child, you need to register your child according to the regulations for the state that you live in. Some states are fairly lax and just require a registration and then you are free to school your children as you wish. Other states require progress reporting and will work with you to ensure your child is being taught according to the Australian curriculum. Homeschool Australia gives you all the information you need regarding what is required of each of the states, should you choose to homeschool.
Once you are registered, you are free to start on your homeschool journey.
Choosing your method
There are many different ways to homeschool your child. The most recognised methods are unschooling, Charlotte Mason, eclectic, classic, unit studies, project based learning and montessori. You can read more about these styles to find your bit fit at Fearless Homeschool.
From choosing a ready made curriculum to planning for each and every subject yourself. You can make it as easy or time consuming as you choose but make sure you go with a method that will work for you and your family.
Don't be too fixated on your method for now. Many homeschoolers find that they start off one way and will change and adapt as they become more confident and learn more about the way their child learns.
We started with DE which was a fantastic introduction to the prospect of schooling our children at home. After a while we moved on to homeschool ourselves as I wanted more flexibility with subject choices and how and when we chose to study.
We tend to be an eclectic homeschool family right now. I enjoy the flexibility of being able to use various methods to keep learning interesting and fun for my kids. Some terms I will buy a curriculum which we will follow for a specific subject and other times I will create my own along the interests of my children. There are many fantastic homeschool resources out there and many of them are free, so you don't have to spend a lot of money to give your child a quality education. Do some Pinterest research and find something that works for you.
Once you have decided what method you are going to use you need to either source what you are going to teach by buying it online or in a store, getting it free or creating it yourself.
When you create it yourself you need to have an understanding of the Australian Curriculum and then plan to meet those requirements through the materials you provide. NSW is quite strict on this but some other states are more lax. You can get more information for the state you are in below:
Primary school children typically learn the following subjects (which are required as part of the curriculum)
Science and Technology
HASS (History and social sciences - includes history and geography)
Creative Arts (Includes Art, Music and drama
Personal Development, Health and Physical Education – PDHPE (includes health information and sports).
High-schoolers have compulsory subjects and a choice of electives.
The compulsory subjects are:
Electives allow for the child to choose two out of the four other subjects in the curriculum.
Design and Technology
You can make it easier on yourself by purchasing some curriculum like workbooks which are made to cover the Australian requirements. For example we use Targeting Maths book for each year level. They are well designed and completely meet the requirements for NESA. You can get books for each subject. The NOW series are really good too and my kids work well through the Science NOW and history NOW books.
Planning your schooling routine
Now homeschoolers often have a lot of questions around how many hours they need to homeschool, how many days per week and what time they should be teaching their kids. The beauty of homeschooling is that you are able to adapt your routine to yourself and your family.
We personally school 4 to 5 days a week, but some families stick to 4 days. You can work with the school terms and take holidays when the school children do or you can go with your own routine. I know many families that school 6 weeks on, 1 week off as well. The rough guide is that you teach your child approximately 36 weeks of the year which leaves you with 16 weeks of holidays.
Don't forget too that homeschooled children need a lot less time to get through their work than kids in school. We typically school from around 7.30am (my kids are early risers) till around 10.30am each day and we easily get though everything that we should be. As my children are still young (8,6 and 2) we then use the remainder of the day to do chores, lots of free play, outings like swimming lessons and drama, outdoor time and pursuing other interests of theirs.
This article from a UK homeschool mum MonkeyMum goes into depth about the amount of time that is spent at schools and why homeschoolers need not worry that they are spending too little time on their studies.
Some states in Australia require you to report on the material that is provided to your child and keep an account of what they are learning. There are many different ways to do this.
Every family does their reporting a different way so you need to find something that will work well for you. You can take photos of the kids learning and share it with family on a private Facebook group, take notes everyday of what your kids have learned, make detailed term reports or make weekly summaries. Always keep a sample of their work too so that your AP (Authorised person) can be satisfied with what your children have accomplished. Using workbooks like the Targeting Maths one we use for the girls is a great resource to hand to the AP to show that part of the curriculum is covered.
Keep in mind that many learning activities can cross over subjects and cross off several areas of curriculum at once. For example a cooking activity could incorporate science, health, technology (if you discuss algorithms and how a recipe is a type of algorithm), maths and even English.
Adapting to your family's needs
I love that as a homeschooler I can work around my family to find the perfect schedule. I work outside the home one day per week so on that day the kids school with dad which is a lovely time for them with him and a great chance for him to see what they are working on. We also have a homeschool group that we go to once a week plus other lessons and activities and we plan our schedule accordingly. I know some families who have late risers (I wish!) and so they start their schooling much later in the day to accommodate this.
A great way to plan for your homeschooling week is to sit down with an empty week calendar in front of you. Pencil in any reoccurring appointments, work schedules, lessons or activities. Pencil in any activities that you would like to make room for. Take into account the schedules of yourself and your children - are you early risers? Does their attention span dwindle around a certain time everyday?
Use this information to work out when the best times for you to do your home schooling are. Remember for younger children you won't need more than around 3 hours per day. The great thing about this is that you can try your new schedule for a week or so and then change it around as you need to if something isn't working. For us it took about 2 terms of homeschooling for us to really find our groove and settle completely into a schedule that worked for us.
Overall homeschooling tends to be a lot more daunting before you start. A few weeks in and you will soon realise that it is not as difficult as you may have thought. My recommendation is that you start small and don't be too hard on yourself. Allow space for you and your children to change in how you homeschool and most of all allow for some fun. Having this opportunity to be involved in our children's lives is a complete blessing.