When

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What time of day do you home educate?
Is the child allowed outside during school hours?
Do you have to stick to school terms?
Can you take holidays any time of the year?

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The short answers to the above questions are:

  • ANY TIME: home education takes place at any time of the day or night that suits the family
  • YES: children should  have time outside in the fresh air and sunshine
  • NO: some families like to follow school terms because it gives them routine and means their children are free to play when other, schooled friends are also on holiday, but there is no compulsion
  • YES: some home educating families prefer to schedule travel time outside of peak accommodation and transport rates
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TIME OF DAY

There are no hard and fast rules about what time of day you should conduct home education.

  • If you’re following a structured approach, then some form of routine will help both you and your children, but it’s up to you, and your family’s habits and preferences, as to what the most appropriate time of day is best suited to concentrated effort.
  • If your approach is more along a natural learning style, then you will be less concerned about whether reading is happening at 9am or 11pm, anyway. Learning opportunities arise any time, and not always conveniently. Carpe diem.
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Young Children

Many young children benefit from having any formal instruction scheduled in the early part of the day. Their minds are brightest before lunch, and they often think best with frequent snacking or mini-breaks to help them stay focused.

Even if you are not a stickler for more formal learning, your youngster will probably appreciate even a loosely formed routine. There is something about routine that helps especially younger children to feel safe and secure, and thus better able to learn, and function with fewer tantrums.
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Teenagers

Once children hit adolescence, their sleep habits change, and many are simply unable to sleep before midnight, which means they then need to sleep later because they have genuine need of a lot of sleep. Home education facilitates this natural shift quite readily, if parents are open to permitting it.

In our family, it meant that our daughter’s day went from being:

  • up-and-at-em quite early
  • socialising in the afternoons
  • resting in the evenings

to:

  • sleeping later and going to bed later
  • having slower starts to the day
  • socialising or having external lessons in the afternoon
  • having external lessons, private study or social time in the evening
  • practicing or studying with the greatest intensity late at night

Many families, I know, would be horrified at such a routine, and with younger children in the home, our more recent routine may not even be a possibility. Having only the one child, however, meant that we had the flexibility to allow a routine that flowed more naturally to our teenager.

As always, you must assess your own realities and personalities, and do what works for your family.
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OUTSIDE TIME

Some years ago, there was a propensity amongst Canberran home educators to keep their children indoors all throughout regular school hours. It seems that the thought behind this was that if somebody reported your child to authorities, then you’d be in trouble. This is not the case.

Up until 2005, ACT law did not require registration for home education – it was a preference only. During the early days of the new legislation,  as families assessed the new requirements, there was a lot of fear about whether authorities really were open to the realities of home education or whether they would ‘make us do it like school’.

As it has turned out, authorities do recognise that home education is a very different educational model to school, and they also understand that healthy children need fresh air and sunshine.

If NGES does receive a report about a child who “should be in school”:

  • if the child is not registered with them, they will contact the family to assess the situation and invite registration, if the family indicates that they are home educators. There are penalties for refusal.
  • if the child is registered for home education, they will simply check their register and take no action.
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SCHOOL TERMS

In Australia, the school year is divided into 4 terms, each of approximately 10 weeks duration. These terms vary from state to state, and don’t necessarily coincide with each other.

As a home educator, you are not obliged to follow the school terms, although organised group activities will often do so. Some reasons for this include:

  • facilities may accommodate home education groups as if they are school groups, and only accept such bookings during term-time
  • instructors may wish to utilise holidays with their own school-attending children
  • many home educators do follow scheduled terms, so activities planned for during school holidays may not be well attended

Those who chose to follow the school terms may do so because:

  • friends who attend regular schools are more available for socialising with during holiday breaks
  • most activities which are outside of school hours will take the break
  • a ten week term is enough of the regular routine and a little break helps refresh everyone again

Those who don’t follow the school terms may do so because:

  • going away is cheaper outside the ‘peak’ times of school holidays
  • families who follow a natural learning approach can’t dictate when something will catch their interest
  • children concentrate better without the distraction of additional activities and just enjoy being at home

If you are interested in knowing when the scheduled school terms are, the Australian Government website is very helpful.

All Australia School TermsACT School TermsNSW School Terms
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Just Personally …

We came to follow the school terms quite early in our home education experience. It started so our daughter could catch up with schooled friends whose schedules we too busy during term. After a while, however, we came to feel that ten weeks was enough of any one routine, and taking a break, even just to exchange one set of busyness for another, was a welcome and refreshing change. From time to time we’ve mixed it up, though, in order to travel for special occasions. Always, the criteria is making the system work for us. 🙂
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A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days.
It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labour
with both hands at sections of time.
~ Annie Dillard