There are all sorts of reasons that some parents
choose not to register for home education,
and we will endeavour to address some
of the more common concerns here.
In addressing these concerns, it is not my intention to be disrespectful of anybody else’s views. Each family must make their own decisions regarding every aspect of home education – my responses come from the perspective of why these objections have not influenced our family’s decision to be registered.
Some of the following concerns arise, based on stories that have circulated around the home education community, locally, nationally and worldwide. As you assess whether an issue is worthy of your concern, I suggest confirming
- does the concern have a local basis?
- is the issue current?
- how would such a situation impact your own family’s home education?
From what I understand, conscientious objection is about taking a stand (on moral or religious grounds) against a decision made by a government of behalf of the people. Most often we hear this term in relation to the World Wars, where civilians were conscripted to fight alongside trained soldiers.
With regard to home education, however, the comment I read that made the most sense to me was along these lines: If you choose not to register, make very sure that nothing would induce you to register (that’s true conscientious objection) – not fines, not jail time, not the loss of your children (see separate entry below). Personally, I’d rather be registered than risk the dissolution of my family, or even the extreme stress of court proceedings – as long as I wasn’t being asked to do something I felt was unethical, of course.
It is possible that some families who choose not to register on the basis of objection are not really conscientious objectors, but would simply rather avoid having to document what they do for as long as possible. While I understand the thinking (we certainly didn’t bother registering while it was optional, and record keeping can be a drag), our preference for our family has been to be ‘on the forward foot’, making ourselves known to the department before they might have any cause to ‘come looking’ for us. Keeping our activities up front and visible has seemed like a preferable long-term approach to us.
The government has no right to tell me what I can and cannot do with my own child.
I’m no legal eagle, but I’ve talked to a few over the years, also home educators who chose to be registered. My understanding is that, according to the way our democratic government is set up, the government is, if fact, legally responsible for the education and welfare of children. So, in fact, they do have a duty of care.
We’ve all heard awful stories about children being kept out of school and abused or neglected in some way. No honourable person wants things like that happening in our society. Personally, I would far rather comply with registration requirements as a responsible home educator, than allow public perception of our highly respectable genre of education to fall into disrepute.
What if religious extremists get into government?
This form of objection was voiced to me a few years ago, and honestly shocked me – such a possibility had never entered my naive little head! I mentioned it to other home educators later, and one parent in particular roared laughing – another unexpected response (in no way intended as disrespectful of the first parent’s very genuine concerns).
Their subsequent comment, however, lent a perspective that still strikes me as offering balance. “If religious extremists get into government, we’ll all have a lot more to worry about than whether they’ll allow us to home educate our children or not!” It’s that ‘head for the hills’ option again, I suppose.
There is always the possibility that Australia won’t always be the democratic society we currently enjoy – several historical dynasties spring to mind as proof that such things can and do change. At this moment in time, however, we are dealing with a democratic government, and while the National Curriculum has been flagged as something which home educators ‘will be expected to utilise’, it is unlikely to obliterate the freedoms we currently enjoy. If those freedoms are threatened, of course we must take a stand, and before that we can do all we can to show authorities that home education is worthy of their regard.
It is my view that it’s best to make decisions based on current reality, rather than on woe-filled future predictions. It is always preferable, too, to make decisions based on faith (whatever form that takes for you) – fear based decisions lead us to live in fear, and that’s never a good prospect or outcome.
I don’t want my children to be taken from me!
Of course not! But this objection has always puzzled me. If you are a responsible parent, genuinely educating and caring for your children at home, what reason would government officials have to even want to remove your child from your care, under a democratic government?
We are all fearful, at first, that we won’t be ‘doing’ home education the way the Department expects us to. We are fortunate in the ACT (and in other states and territories, too, from what I understand) that the governing bodies and authorised persons are learning more all the time about the many varied forms that home education can take, and there is a wide variety of ‘evidence’ they consider acceptable to demonstrate that learning is taking place.
Most government departments are under-staffed and over-worked – they simply don’t have either the time or the inclination to go on witch hunts. If they do happen to see evidence of abuse or neglect, then they are right to take further steps.
Periodically, horror stories do emerge from other states or overseas, about parents who seem to be genuinely doing a fabulous job educating their children at home, yet hostile government officials have denied them registration. I have not personally met any of these families, however I do remember a story from a current affairs show just as we were starting out over a decade ago.
The story was of Queensland family, whose oldest son was literally doing rocket science with NASA in the United States after being home educated throughout his childhood in Australia. The family was being denied registration for their younger children, despite their track record. I believe that the outcome of that story was that they did in fact gain re-registration. The story took place during a time when Queensland was doing a major overhaul of their education policy, and for a time deemed that only qualified teachers should be allowed to home educate. Home education has gained far more credibility in the intervening years, and even government departments are becoming accustomed to our methods and approaches bearing little, if any, resemblance to school.
If you are genuinely and responsibly educating your children, and you can demonstrate that effectively, it is my understanding that you will have no difficulty obtaining and maintaining registration, and your children will be safely in your care.
I’m afraid the government will make me teach in a certain way, or teach things I don’t believe in.
Recent advice from the ACT Non Government Education Section is that current legislation does not make any provision for such requirements. Even with the introduction of a National Curriculum, it is a framework, not a point by point directive.
Generally, governments are not quick to change legislation, as it is an inordinately painful process. With the 2005 ACT legislation, home educators were involved in, and consulted throughout the process, and this was reviewed in 2009. If legislation governing home education does come up for further review, we should again seek to be as involved as possible in the review process.
I don’t want to be forced to subject my child to assessment testing.
Again, the legislation does not make provision for this to be a requirement. Some styles of curriculum have regular testing as part of their program, but if or how that testing is done is entirely at the discretion of parents.
Home educators in the ACT may participate in NAPLAN testing if they choose, but the results are only provided to parents, who may share them with NGES if they choose.
NGES came to recognise that insisting home educated children participate in NAPLAN testing in schools puts them at a disadvantage, and is unlikely to yield reliable results. Of recent years, NAPLAN testing of home educated children has been conducted in a non-threatening environment which is reasonably centrally located – often the CTL rooms at Stirling. Testing is administered by departmental staff, and only home educated students are present.
In any decision you make, I encourage you to educate yourself as best you can about actual realities, and proceed as practically and soundly as you are able.
If you choose not to register, you will be breaking the law, and must be prepared for whatever consequences follow.
While we are free to choose our actions, we are not
free to choose the consequences of our actions.
~ Stephen R. Covey