Getting started with home education
usually seems quite overwhelming.
Where do I start? Who do I talk to? What do I teach?
All these are valid questions, and so are the multitude of others you’ll come up with along the way, too. There are no pat answers, however. For the most part, answers are as unique and individual as the children we raise. No journey is begun in full possession of all the facts – you can only learn as much as you can and walk though the process with your children.
Start with Talking
Here, we’re talking about your very first steps into home education. Don’t try to leap in boots and all without making sure you have a genuine idea of what home education actually is. Educate yourself. To sail a boat, drive a car, cook a meal, or pretty much anything else in life, you need to have at least a general idea of what you’re letting yourself in for before you get going. The same is true of home education.
Once you’re aware that you can legally educate your children at home, a whole lot of assumptions come into play – your own as well as other people’s. You’ll have some assumptions that are right, like: ‘Little Johnny can learn to read without having Little Billy bullying him at every opportunity.’ You’ll also have some assumptions that are wrong, like: ‘Home education is just school at home.’
A simple outline of steps to take as a starting point:
- Talk with people who are already home educating. Click on our Community link and make contact with one of the local groups. Chat with people who have been home educating for ages – go to a group picnic, meet for a coffee or a children’s play date, talk on the phone or exchange emails. Contact with others who are already doing what you want to do is vital – you see a variety of approaches and hear a range of ideas, as well as meeting some wonderful people.
- Read as much as your mind can handle on the subject – books, websites, magazines, etc.
- Discuss what you’re learning, your impressions, what is as you expected, what’s different, all your findings along the way – with your partner. A unified decision is essential to long-term success. If you’re starting the journey as a single parent, make sure you have good support – it’s all doable.
A few reactions you might expect from others:
- Your own parents, siblings, cousins and friends are all likely to think you’ve gone quite mad.
- If your children are currently in school, their teachers are unlikely to be supportive of your notion to home educate – there can be many reasons for this, including that it may seem like a slight on their professional skills, or a multitude of prejudices about socialisation or deprivation, or anything else.
- Some doctors seem very hostile towards home education – for reasons known best to themselves.
Some tips for answering nay-sayers while protecting your own decision-making process:
- Remember that you are the child’s parent, the one responsible for their overall well-being and development, which includes their education.
- Sometimes parents have to think outside the box in order to provide appropriate opportunities for their own unique child.
- If the normal courses of action were working for the child, you wouldn’t be searching for alternatives.
- The realities about socialisation and opportunities for home educated children are far more positive than most people first expect – your own research will show you this. There are some unusual children in home education, just as there are in schools. There are also very many very normal, highly motivated or even exceptional students and human beings amongst both the schooled and the home educated.
Involving the Department:
At any point, you should feel free to contact the Department of Education (see Official Stuff). In the ACT, the Non Government Education Section is responsible for the administration of home education. They have a welcome pack which they will send out to anyone who is interested in home education. This can be a good place to start as you begin to shape your own thoughts on the matter.
The NGES is only a small section of the DET, so they can’t act as a consultancy, but they are generally helpful and willing to answer questions as they are able.
Your process will be ongoing, as you adapt to the changing needs and developmental phases of your children. Just make the best decision you can, based on the information you have to hand, and trust yourself. Most important of all is that you love your children – if they feel loved and you are acting in their best interests, you can’t go too far wrong.
An education isn’t how much you have committed to memory,
or even how much you know. It’s being able to differentiate
between what you know and what you don’t.
~ Anatole France