Documentation

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As part of the registration process, parents are
required to provide documentation that
gives an overview of the home education
experience being provided to their child.

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This article endeavours to help you think through the process a little, about how you might like to approach keeping records of what you do in the course of your home education journey.
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Articles in this section include:
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Please use these links, or the tabs along the top of the page
and the drop-down menus to navigate your way around.

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Does having to document what you do seem scary? When I was first starting out, I certainly thought so. Having gone through several registration periods since then, I am less overwhelmed, but I do still have to ensure my brain is inserted and functional before I attempt to meet the listed requirements.

At least these days I don’t cry about having to show my documentation to the department, like I did the first time (I was so afraid that I wouldn’t measure up!). In part, that’s because the DET is learning how to communicate more effectively in regular-person-language rather than Eduspeak. It’s also because I’ve got used to the process and I understand that DET staff aren’t ogres, they’re just doing their job – and they’ll do their best to help me do mine, within the parameters of their job definitions, too.
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What Are They Looking For?

Simply, the authorities are looking for evidence that your child is receiving a high quality education. Are you engaged with their learning process? Is the child actually being educated? What evidence is there of that?

Here, we’ll look at the five main listings under “Notification” in the “Registration” section of the Home Education Manual. These requirements come into focus if you’re progressing from provisional to full registration, or re-registering after an initial period of full registration

As you begin to think through these questions, think about how you can respond with authenticity to each one. The purpose of this submission is to provide the authorities with an overview of what happens in your home education experience, that can be further substantiated during the registration visit.
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In preparing your submission, I suggest you:

  • remember that this is an overview – vast amounts of intricate detail aren’t necessary, although a little detail here and there can be helpful
  • keep your responses brief but informative
  • think how you will support your submission at the time of the visit
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Preparing Your Paperwork

Preparing your paperwork will be far easier if you’ve developed a habit of some kind of record keeping. Not only will your records help jog your memory as you prepare your application for registration or renewal, they will support your submission when the Authorised Person conducts your registration visit.

In the Home Education Manual, under Records / Notification, we are advised that:

In order to assess whether a high quality education is being provided to each child, the notification is to be accompanied by information that outlines:

  1. the child’s interests, abilities and educational needs
  2. the approach to providing a high quality education for your child
  3. the strategies used to encourage learning
  4. the broad range of educational opportunities you provide    to meet your child’s educational needs including:
    …….i. a list of key materials and resources used
    …….ii. an outline of a typical week’s activity
  5. how assessment is made of the child’s educational progress and summarises the types of records kept

I suggest you try to respond to each of these with just a few short paragraphs, so that your entire overview does not exceed two pages (per child – with multiple children, some information may be repeated, or you could do one page as a whole-family overview, plus a page per child for specifics). You may include additional supporting documentation with your submission, but your overview does not need to be a tome.

In the notes below, where I’ve mentioned aspects of our previous submissions, this is not to suggest that we “did it right” and that any other way is wrong. Far from it! It’s more about exposing those who may be inexperienced or uncomfortable with the process to some aspects of submissions that formed part of a previously approved registration. Please don’t try to emulate what we did, but use the suggestions or comments as springboards to help you form your own authentic, pertinent submission.
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1. The child’s interests, abilities and educational needs

The first two are relatively easy to put into regular language:

  • Interests – What is my child interested in?
    • Think about your child and their genuine areas of interest, and write briefly about those.
    • That might be as diverse as: writing stories, pulling old bicycles apart, climbing trees, baking scones and reading manga comics. The child’s interests might also be very narrow: horses, anything to do with horses, and nothing but horses. A child’s genuine interests, however narrow, diverse or bizarre they are, are valid.
    • I don’t think I’ve ever listed a schoolish  ‘subject’ (such as History or English) in this section. If Hayley had interests in those areas I would, but I wasn’t writing to impress anyone, I was endeavouring to write truthfully, so the authorities could make a realistic assessment.
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  • Abilities – What are my child’s abilities?
    • These are usually fairly self evident to engaged parents.
    • In my opinion, these are best kept fairly general in the submission – they can be elaborated on at the visit.
    • Historically, I’ve mentioned things like Hayley’s abilities with outdoor activities or practical things, and her keen sense of humour. In another submission, I mentioned the development of her organisational skills, her emerging work ethic,etc. I’d try to think about skills or attitudes or concepts she’d mastered, and make brief mention of those.
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“Educational needs,” the next phrase from this section of the manual, used to leave me quaking in my boots! It took me some very stern talking with myself to realise that I did, in fact, know about this, too.

  • Educational Needs – What does my child need educationally?

The Glossary in the Home Education Manual defines ‘educational needs’ as:

Educational needs arise from the child’s interests, aptitudes, existing skill set and any goals the parents and child may have. Educational needs may be influenced by a child’s preferred learning style, or by specific learning requirements related to advanced or delayed learning, or to learning difficulties.

Truthfully, to me that still sounds a bit scary. I have to take the fear out of the equation in order to think clearly, which is what’s really required here. I have to ask the question simply:

    • What does my child genuinely need, to help him/her educationally, at the moment?
      • That might mean that the child needs more opportunity to read aloud and develop their oral fluency, or that they need to have a break from formal maths lessons and play with manipulatives for a while. They might be refusing to do any maths bookwork, but out shopping, they’re happy to help you figure out how much you’ll pay for two kilos of apples, or how much money you’ll need to hand over for a litre of milk and a loaf of bread.
      • As the educating parent, our question is always: how do I help my child gain a better understanding / develop in that area / increase their skills, etc. Think about what your child is working on, and what they need to help them get where they need to go.
      • Here, historically, I’ve mentioned Hayley’s preference for structured learning when she was younger, or her aversion to it as she matured; her audio-kinaesthetic learning modality and how we worked with that, and any specific needs we were working with at the time. Again, just a paragraph or two.
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2. The approach to providing a high quality education
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for your child

Again, I always had to reword this:

  • Approach – What does our general approach to home education look like? Is it structured or unstructured or a bit of both? Am I following a set curriculum in any or all subject areas? If not, how are we providing for genuine learning in the areas that are being covered?
    • Your approach will be unique to your home education environment, no matter how closely it resembles what someone else is doing. Whether your approach is completely informal, highly structured, or uses different approaches for different subjects, be honest, and give some indication of how that approach achieves the high quality education that you’re providing.
    • Does your free-range approach facilitate a lot of discovery for the child, backed up by online research or library visits? Does your structured approach allow the child to focus for brief periods, then have the freedom of unstructured, unobserved playtime? Think about what you do, and why it’s working – or where it’s not, and what adjustments you’re making.
    • For example, as Hayley matured, we moved further away from structured lessons in most subject areas. Now, her interests have refined, and her needs in specific areas are far beyond what we can facilitate with at-home resources. That means that for some subjects, she has external tuition, but we still oversee her attention to course requirements, skills development, etc.
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3. The strategies used to encourage learning

I used to freak out at the word ‘strategies’ – on nobody’s planet am I a strategist! Rewording the requirement into language that’s me-friendly still helps tremendously.

  • Strategies How do I go about helping my child to learn what he/she needs to learn in different areas? I am doing everything I can to help my child learn, so what does that look like? What methods am I employing to engage, encourage, develop, etc., so that my child ‘owns’ the area they’re studying.
    • You might be using resources such as workbooks, computer programs, media, games, as well as broader tools including discussion, research, literacy based activities, experiments and excursions. Don’t limit yourself to any list, however. Think about how you actually go about helping your child to learn.
    • Just providing mountains of workbooks doesn’t necessarily help a child to learn and master what they’re studying. We all need input from a variety of sources, and authorities are not just interested in what the child does when they’re sitting at their work-table. That’s why such a variety of input is acknowledged to be valuable to a child’s learning experience.
    • Think about how you are actually facilitating your child’s progress in each area that is currently relevant to their educational experience.
    • I should point out here that while most people tend to discuss Key Learning Areas (things like Maths, English, Science, Geography, etc), in the ACT at this time, this isn’t essential. While KLA’s are convenient for bureaucracy, thinking “breadth plus depth” has been a far more useful concept for me. “My child needs to go deep on some areas (usually one at a time, in our situation), but still learn about a broad range of things.”
    • In my daughter’s horse-loving stage, she had riding lessons, we read stories about horses, read books about horse health, studied horse science, wrote stories about horses, looked at the spread of wild horse breeds across the world, studied endangered breeds, we counted horses everywhere we went (one trip, from Coffs Harbour home to Canberra was over 500 – excellent for developing mental addition skills!) We watched videos and documentaries and had extensive discussions, talked about the ethics of culling brumbies, and even visited a property where brumbies are allowed to have free range and discussed the impact on the land. Those things aren’t all we did in that phase, but it gives you an idea of how breadth and depth can both be part of a narrow area of interest, and facilitate progress in areas of communication, maths, geography, science, etc.
    • Your strategies are less about the resources you provide and more about the methods you are using to ensure that your child is actually in charge of the knowledge they’re gaining.
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4. The broad range of educational opportunities you provide to meet your
….child’s educational needs including:
…….i. a list of key materials an resources used

…….ii. an outline of a typical week’s activity

  • Educational Opportunities
    • As you start to think about these, you’ll probably realise that the opportunities exist and are plentiful.
    • Don’t get too hung up on the definitions – allow the suggestions from the Manual to guide you through this section.
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  • Resources
    • The Glossary definition of Resources in the Home Education Manual is actually quite useful here. You don’t have to list every book you read, website you visit, or tool used from the garage – just give an overview of the sorts of things the child has the opportunity to utilise in the course of their education. You can give examples if you like, of a child having access to a lathe for woodwork, or a chemistry set and microscope if they’re into science, or you can show those things and get more specific at the time of the visit.
  • Typical Week’s Activity
    • This isn’t really as scary as it looks, I don’t think. Most families have a general structure to their week, that provides the ‘norm’ for their family routine. It might be that there’s a sports afternoon on Mondays, guitar lessons on Tuesday, a regular play-date on Wednesday afternoon, a regular group activity on Thursday, and Friday is a full at-home day. Or Monday might gardening day, with swimming lessons on Thursdays and time morning and evening looking after the chooks. Whatever your ‘regular’ things are, they provide the framework for the rest of the week.
    • I tended to divide each day of the entire week into morning, afternoon and evening, because that helped me visualise what what happening and when. Of later years, there has often been a lot of personal study going on during the later time of the day. When there wasn’t something definite scheduled in the ‘evening’ slot, the time might be designated as quiet/study time, indicating that Hayley could choose to utilise that time to rest, play or study – often it was the latter. Certainly there were designated ‘study’ times during the day, but there were also designated free times and social times, too. It’s all about balance. Remember, this is an overview, not a means of accounting for every minute of every day.
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5. How assessment is made of the child’s educational
….progress and summarises the types of records kept

  • Assessment – How do I know that my child is developing and learning? What means do I use to gauge that progress?
    • Again, the Glossary in the Home Education Manual describes this quite well. Assessment can be made using observation, comparison, discussion or more formal testing methods, if that’s what works for you and the child.
    • For us, formal testing was never ideal. Hayley would get things wrong in a test that I knew she knew. I could ask her something verbally, and she could explain it inside out and back to front, but ask her to answer the same question in a test environment, and it just didn’t happen. Now that she is older, she is able to perform under strict exam conditions just fine (and get extremely good results), but it wasn’t part of her make up when she was younger.
  • RecordsWhat sort of records do I keep, that I can show to the Authorised Person at the time of the registration visit?
    • Again, these don’t have to be copious, but I do encourage a range of things.
    • Photographs, to my mind, are easy, and easily compiled.
    • I always did a Term Overview at the beginning of Term, and I’d provide a copy of that as part of my submission. A Term Overview (as I used it) is just the whole term on one page, with external classes, planned excursions, and other regular activities listed. It wasn’t rigidly adhered to, but it was a good indicator of how, generally, the term was shaped.
    • Make note of what records you do keep, and be happy to show them at the time of the visit.
    • I should also mention that sometimes, children’s work is intensely private to them. At one stage, Hayley was an abundant writer of fiction, but she’d have been mortified to have to share her writings with authorities. In that case, she showed the pile of books, and flicked through so that the AP could see that the books were indeed full, but they were not given access to her private domain.
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Part-time Home Education

In the situation where your child is attending school part time, and you are covering some of their educational requirements at home, you will need to document the arrangements you have made with the school.  A form is included in the Home Education Manual to guide your discussions with the school, and a copy of this, completed with details for your child, should be included with your submission.

I won’t go into details regarding the Part-time Form here, as this has never been part of my experience. My encouragement is to think through what the question is asking, and reword them into language that is meaningful to you. Remember, you are providing an overview – extensive detail is not necessary at this point, and can be shown at the time of your registration visit.

Part of this form does outline who is responsible for the child’s learning, assessment and reporting in the main Key Learning Areas. This does provide considerable flexibility. Children can receive instruction at school and participate in group learning, but for you as the parent to be responsible for assessing progress and reporting. Alternatively, certain subjects might be taught at home, but assessment be conducted as part of the school’s testing procedures and form part of their reporting process, or your own End of Year Report. What will work best for your child?
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Other Requirements

If you have legal documents, such as residency or visa documents, name changes or court orders regarding custody arrangements, these will need to be copied and included with your submission. If you have questions about these kinds of documents and what to provide to DET, you are best to contact them direct.
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If you think you are too small to be effective,
you have never been in the dark with a mosquito.
~ Unknown

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