Express Start

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Do you need to get started with home education in a hurry?
Here’s where we’ll discuss how to start taking your
first quick steps into the unknown – and let me say,

Welcome! This can be the best decision you’ve ever made.

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Perhaps you’d anticipated that your child would attend a regular school, but it’s quickly become patently obvious that isn’t going to work out. Perhaps you’ve been thinking about home education for a while, and the start of the new school term or year has just snuck up on you. Perhaps your child, who has been fine in the education system for years, is suddenly having a miserable time of it.

For whatever reason, you feel like you have to be in charge of this whole home education thing right now.

As much as we, as parents , like to be ‘in control’, it’s unlikely that you’ll ever be completely in charge of it all. Just as you feel like you’re starting to get a handle on it, your child will grow or develop suddenly in a direction or with a burst that catches you completely unawares, and you’ll feel like you’re back at the starting gate again. You do get used to being caught unawares – it led me to joke that the learning curve with home education, for the parent at least, is usually just straight up, and that I’ve had to regularly just get myself a newer ladder.

Let me reassure you though, that there are ways of getting started that are reasonably low-key and person-friendly.
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The Short Version

  • Make a commitment to home education for a set period of time (I always took it a year at a time, but I do recommend for no less than a term)
  • Talk with your child and with authorities (school, if withdrawing, and DET)
  • Read through the Legislation (Chapter 5 pertains to home education) and think about what sort of Records you can reasonably keep.
  • Contact the local networks and get involved in the local Community of home educators.
  • Get started (if you feel the need to have workbooks, get some of those first)
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What You Don’t Need

  • To do “school at home” (unless that genuinely turns out to be what is most appropriate for your child)
  • To be a teacher, or act like one (overcoming Teacheria can be very difficult!)
  • To follow a set curriculum (DET may encourage viewing the Every Chance to Learn document, which can be a useful reference point, if you feel you need it. DET does not provide curriculum at all.)
  • To spend a lot of money (over-resourcing is one of the biggest traps for home educators, even very experienced ones. Take time over large purchases, especially)
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IN MORE DETAIL

Communication

  • with your child
    Ideally, your child has been involved in your decision-making process thus far. If not, tell them about the adventure that you’ll be going on together. Most kids don’t mind heading into the unknown, provided they are well assured that you’ll be there with them. Deal with their grief and uncertainty as it arises – it may not. If it does, be considerate of the child’s feelings, but firm in your convictions – you’re the parent.
  • with the school principal
    Of course this is only necessary if your child is coming out of the school system. 

    • Understand that school principals can feel defensive, and some may even feel offended, or like you’re telling them they’ve failed. Be as gracious as possible, and reassure them that you aren’t making a judgement on their capabilities, but you do feel this course of action is what is best for your child.
    • It’s worth knowing that in the Education Act 2004 ACT, in section 1.2 regarding the General Principles of the Act, parents’ “right to choose a suitable educational environment” is clearly stated. (This is not to ‘give you ammunition,’ but to help you be confident that the Act does support your right to make this decision.)
  • with the Department of Education
    The legislation requires that you communicate rather quickly (10 school days) with the Department of Education, when you’re changing your child’s education from a school base to a home base (or vice versa).
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Location

Very seriously, I encourage you to not feel like you must have everything ‘set up’. A kitchen table or bench works just as well as any other writing surface. Home education can take place anywhere that’s conducive to the child learning, and that can just as easily be up a tree or cuddled up on the lounge, or at the kitchen bench while a parent is chopping the veggies for dinner (even while the child is helping to chop the vegetables for dinner).
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Resources

Resourcing well can be a dilemna, especially if you feel like you have to be well equipped to start.

When you’re starting out, I seriously encourage you to visit Jacaranda – an education resource shop in Macquarie, which supplies many of the local schools with textbooks, consumables and  other resources.

The reason I suggest visiting Jacaranda is that it helps you see that there’s a mountain of resources available that’s right in line with school curriculum – textbooks and workbooks and posters and manipulatives and games and all sorts of things. The staff are also quite used to home educators, and endeavour to be as helpful as possible. Just bear in mind that these resources, for the most part, assume that you are a teacher of that subject. Many other resources do exist, of just as high a quality, that are purposely devised for home education – you just have to do your own research to ascertain what is most suitable for your child.

If you decide to buy some resources to get you started, I recommend that you keep your purchases to a minimum initially – just a couple of books, maximum. As you get under way, your child’s actual needs will begin to take shape in front of you, giving you more informed ideas about how to meet those needs.

As your home education progresses, you’ll probably find yourself doing lots of research online, following leads from other home educators, and trialling different approaches or methods.
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Approaches

Especially if you have a young child (infants and primary), I seriously suggest that you start with doing lots of reading aloud to them, and facilitating as much hands-on play as you can. As you and your child become more familiar with each other, form can follow. (“Form follows function” ~ Louis Sullivan, architect. Perhaps the quote applies even more appropriately to home education than it does to architecture. 🙂 )

Reading together and lots of free time can be an equally appropriate starting point for older children too, as odd as it may seem. The early days of you working together establishes a different kind of relationship to that which you’ve been used to, and helps lay a foundation for greater effectiveness in future. Of course what you read and what (if anything) activities you do together must be age appropriate, but truly amazing conversations can flow from reading Harry Potter or Twilight together, or playing games of Carcasonne or Settlers of Catan, or sharing comics or manga stories or whatever else your child is into.

You can read more about the details of various Approaches in our comprehensive section. Don’t feel pressured into any particular approach if you’re starting home education on the run, however. Big decisions require time and consideration. Family reading time, hands-on activities and ‘doing stuff together’ is all round the best way to start.

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Networking

We often think of the word ‘networking’ as being done solely by marketing companies whose strategies resemble the old pyramid selling schemes. If you’re anything like me, you have a bit of an internal aversion to the concept – at least in that heavily marketed context.

In our context, however, we mean: “a supportive system of sharing information and services among individuals and groups having a common interest.” Making friends, sharing ideas, talking through issues, having fun, learning together, etc., etc. It’s what happens in Community.

Visit our Community page to get it touch with local home education networks.

Regardless of how you choose to approach home education, you and your child will both need friends – ones who understand why you’re home educating in the first place. In my opinion, participation in a group that exists to support your home education journey is vital to long-term success. It helps get your child out and about, involved in excursions or classes or adventures, and it lets you converse with a hugely diverse array of people who all have their own reasons for home educating, and who all approach it in their own unique way.
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Awareness

Finally, maintain your awareness that this is new and uncharted territory for both you and your child. Endeavour to walk it hand-in-hand – relationship is key. Remember, home education is a different educational model. You’re both learning as you go.

If your child has previously been to school, they may require some De-Schooling. My own daughter needed this after 6 or 7 years of more structured home education. It was the making of us, and the best thing for her, as it changed our direction and approach completely.
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It’s good to remember that this isn’t a polar expedition where
you’ll both certainly die if you aren’t adequately prepared.
This is more like an archaeological dig, where you have to go
carefully or risk missing a precious artefact – it’s all about
patient persistence, the thrill of the discovery, and the unveiling of
rare and priceless treasures (in your child), but only in due time.
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Heroes take journeys, confront dragons,
and discover the treasure of their true selves.
~ Carol Lynn Pearson (The Hero Within)

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