A Summary of Australian Research

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A Summary of Australian Research

There has always been a percentage of Australian children educated at home. This was quite common in the nineteenth century with one historian stating that 19% of children were being taught at home in 1871. Despite this long history, research into Australian home education has been sparse. Here we take a look at some of the major studies.

Children Learn At Home: The Experience of Home Education (1985), by Ro Krivanek, published by AERG
Ro Krivanek undertook what was probably the first study on home education in Australia when she surveyed 13 members of AERG. The results showed that home educators wanted to provide a natural, stimulating, secure, competition-free environment in which their children could learn in an unstructured way. Home education was seen to provide a secure emotional and social base in the family. There was an opportunity for the whole family to be involved in learning, for the development of close sibling relationships and for parents to enjoy the company of their children. The right of parents to educate their own children was asserted and the difference between home values and school values noted. Home educated children had an increased personal control over their time and learning. Other advantages included a one-to-one adult to child ratio and a holistic approach to learning. All but one family studied spent some part of their day using a formal curriculum and time-table.

Home Education in Tasmania: Report to the Ministerial Working Party on Home Education. (Jacob, 1991)
This working party received 156 submissions and made 12 home visits. Parents emphasised a strengthening of family unity and a view that home education was an extension of normal parenting. The cost of home-educating a child in Tasmania was around $2000 p.a., which was 40% of the cost of state school education at that time. The claim was made that the close relationship of parent and child enables the parent to best know the child and guide his or her development. This report broadly agreed with similar reports in NSW and Queensland around the same time.

Mullaly, 1993
Mullaly surveyed 147 families who were using the Accelerated Christian Education (A.C.E.) materials across five Australian states. He found that parents who home educated over an extended period developed an enhanced sense of self-worth, stronger relationships with their children and a sense of achievement and personal satisfaction.

The Homeschool Phenomenon (Hunter, 1994)
Roger Hunter outlined the resurgence of home education as an educational alternative and its rapid growth in Australia over the preceding decade. Drawing on information from home education leaders, publications and government reports, he estimated that 10,000 families were home educating in 1991 with a growth rate of 20% per annum.

John Barratt-Peacock’s PhD thesis was hailed as the most authoritative text on home education in Australia. The author approached his research with twenty-seven years experience in home education. He views education as essentially a process of acquisition of culture. He conducted initial interviews with 186 families across Australia, thirteen families were interviewed a second time and six families (deliberately chosen to represent a wide range of home educating practice) were interviewed a third time and observed for a full day each. Both formal and informal learning was noted, with a recognition not only of the immediate activity a child was engaged in, but what was going on around the child – a conversation overheard from the next room for example – or the child’s awareness of the activity of other members of the family. He summed up the Australian home educating family as “a community of learning practice.” Home educating families in this study had more children than the average Australian family and it was predominantly mothers who had the primary responsibility of educating children. The PhD is available for free through the members area or for sale to the public through our the shop
Educating Children At Home (Thomas, 1998)
Alan Thomas’ interest in individualised learning led him to examine home education in Australia and the U.K. He points out that although ‘catering for individual needs’ is touted as the ultimate pedagogy, it is actually impossible to achieve in a classroom. “In fact, in spite of nearly a century of interest in individualised teaching, practically nothing is actually known about it in practice, certainly not with regard to children of school age, simply because it cannot be studied to any significant extent in school. The only way to find out more is to turn to children who are educated at home.”He quoted the research of  Tizard and Hughes (1994) on how kindergarten aged children learn in the context of naturally occurring social conversation. They found that the home conversations of the children were of a much higher quality than those at preschool. “At home children discussed topics like work, the family, birth, growing up and death?about things they had done together in the past, and plans for the future; they puzzled over such diverse topics as the shape of roofs and chairs, the nature of Father Christmas and whether the queen wears curlers in bed?[but at pre-school] ?the richness, depth and variety which characterised the home conversations were sadly missing. So too was the sense of intellectual struggle, and of the real attempts to communicate being made on both sides. The questioning, puzzling child we were so taken with at home was gone?conversations with adults were mainly restricted to answering questions rather than asking them, or taking part in minimal exchanges about the whereabouts of other children and play material.”Thomas wondered what would happen if, instead of starting school, childrencontinued to learn at home and he turned to home education for the answer. He found that parents generally began with a fairly formal ‘school-at-home’ approach and responded to their children’s feedback by moving towards less formal teaching and learning. He was struck by the number and complexity of topics covered in family conversation and suggested that conversational learning contributed to the general success of home educated children.He used the example of literacy to illustrate the individualisation of teaching and learning at home and found that many home-educated children did not learn to read until between the ages of 8 and 10 and yet experienced no adverse effects. In fact, many came to be voracious readers. “One is left wondering just how much current educational policy, with its urgent emphasis on teaching children basic literacy by the age of 7, might actually put some children off reading, inadvertently contributing to inadequate levels of functional literacy later, or at least dampen any interest in reading for pleasure, something which home educated children certainly have, irrespective of the age they learned to read.”
 More than One Way to Learn PhD Thesis by Glenda Jackson on home education transition into and out of formal education(2009)
“Home schooling is a growing phenomenon in many countries throughout the world. Despite this, little attention has been paid to the relationship between home schooling and mainstream educational institutions. In this study, parents and home educated children who had moved into and/or out of mainstream educational institutions, and educational professionals who had been involved in such transitions were interviewed. This data was analysed using perspectives from historical sociocultural, critical and identity theories. Participant groups discussed common experiences from different perspectives. Students fell into four ability groups – gifted, advanced learners, average and students with learning and/or health difficulties. Less than a quarter of the students interviewed in this study were identified as average students. Parents fell into two groups – those who moved children out of mainstream institutions and those who moved children from home education into mainstream institutions. Professionals, both administrators and teachers, described mostly positive academic and social transition experiences of home educated students. Children who had moved out of mainstream institutions in primary school frequently described their frustration with institutional practices they felt discriminated them from their peers. Students who entered or returned to secondary school appreciated access to expert knowledge, peer mediation, inclusive professionals and socialisation experiences with peers. Themes arising from the data included learning opportunities at home and in mainstream educational institutions, student autonomy, the development of student identity in the culturally different environments of home and mainstream educational institutions, socialisation, professional practices and institutional structures. Recommendations for future practice and policy direction, and areas for further research were identified. In conclusion, home educated students are moving into and out of mainstream educational institutions and benefiting academically, socially and through personal development from their transition experiences in both directions.”
Home education transitions with formal schooling – Student perspectives Monash University.
Home education is a well established phenomenon in Australia but little is known about the movement of students between home schooling and formal education and how students view and handle the transitions. A sociocultural theoretical framework has been used to explore student perceptions of their transition experiences between formal education and home schooling through three case studies. Students described positive and negative views, and experiences of both systems of education. The results of the study uncover areas for further research into the role of education professionals on student experiences, the place of home education in relation to formal education and assessment of collaborative educational programmes which combine aspects of formal education with home education.
Literature Review Glenda Jackson B Ed, MEdSt and PhD  has written a Literature Review of Australian Home Education Research

1 Comment

  1. […] In Australia, our politicians used the holidays to table an anti-homeschooling piece of legislation. 2 useful links for our prayer and action: https://home-ed.vic.edu.au/why-home-educators-have-cause-for-concern/ https://home-ed.vic.edu.au/a-summary-of-australian-research/ […]

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