By Bekah Carman
In Victoria we are required to provide “regular and efficient instruction that taken as a whole, substantially addresses the [8 key] learning areas”. These learning areas, which we call the KLAs, are English, Maths, Science, Technology, Languages (other than English), Arts, Health and PE, and Humanities and Social Sciences (HASS). The problem with the requirement to instruct in the 8 KLAs is that our regulations don’t really tell us what the KLAs actually are. Beyond the name of each area, we don’t know much about them at all.
Many of us of course remember learning at school and the things we were taught in the subjects that match the KLA names, but there is a lot we don’t know or don’t remember.
One of the easiest ways to learn about what the KLAs can mean is to look at something like the Victorian Curriculum website. Over on that site the Victorian Government has very detailed information about each KLA, as well as some other areas, and what is required to fulfil those KLAs in mainstream schools. Looking at that website can help us get an idea of what we can do in the home to fulfil the KLAs – and this is especially important to us now that the 2017 regulations, with random reviews, are coming into play next year.
On the Victorian Curriculum website, each KLA is broken down into levels (which generally correspond to grades/years/ages), which are then further broken down into explanations and elaborations. While it is not expected for every child to perfectly match the curriculum standards at specific ages, it is expected for mainstream schools to be working towards those standards for each age and grade level.
Home education works differently, for most of us. While there are some home educators who love to work on a structured, formal and almost mainstream level – most of us work to the level of our child, as well as attempt to cater to the desires and strengths of our children. Both of these ways, and the many ways between and outside of these ways, are perfectly fine. No way is better than another, for the whole of us. But it is true that we shouldn’t be trying to force ourselves, our children, our families to fit a model that just doesn’t work for us.
And this is where the helpful Victorian Curriculum can become a hindrance. As the 2017 regulations have become more and more of a reality, as we have begun to adjust to the ramifications of those regulations, looking at things like the Victorian Curriculum have become more common and important to all of us. No matter the style of education we practice in our homes. But because we have gone looking there with some sense of fear or panic in our hearts, we have taken in ideas that aren’t necessarily good for us – and certainly not necessary for the home educating family.
In Victoria we are required to instruct our children in the 8 Key Learning Areas, and that is all that is required of us when it comes to what we have to teach. The KLAs have no real definition in the Education Regulations or Education Act, which means they are broadly defined by their names. The definitions and elaborations given in the Victorian Curriculum are not something we are required to follow or even know about in our homes.
The Curriculum tells schools that, to fulfil the Arts KLA, they must teach dance, music, drama, visual arts, creative arts, digital arts, arts history and more. But the Regulations tell us we at home must teach our children the Arts. They do not say we must teach music or dance or drama or arts history. Simply Arts. The issue some of us are now finding is that we have become so caught up in things like the Curriculum that we have begun to trick ourselves into adding elaboration that doesn’t exist. We are so used to dance, drama and music being part of the Arts KLA in the Curriculum, that when we read Arts in reference to the home schooling regulations, we automatically and subconsciously add drama, dance and music as a caveat to the Arts name.
But those caveats, those elaborations do not exist for us – unless we want them to. To fulfil the Arts KLA we can teach dance and/or music and/or drama and/or whatever else. But we do not have to teach all of those things. We do not have to teach any of those things. There is no law in Victoria that forces us to teach anything specific within the KLAs. What this means is that drawing stick figures, colouring in colouring books and drawing with chalk count as fulfilling the Arts KLA. And while I suggest you do a little bit more than that, it’s not exactly necessary to force your kids to do more than that. So long as some kind of Art is happening, you are fulfilling the Arts KLA. Actually, you don’t have to do Arts at all if you don’t want to: Legally, you need to substantially address the eight learning areas so, if you weren’t covering Arts at all, but were covering the other seven really well, you’d be meeting your obligations under the law.
The same goes for every single KLA we must follow. HASS, which we generally explain is about history and geography and things like that can in fact be completely about mythology if you want it to be. It could be covered completely by geography and not history – though it is actually impossible to completely separate history and geography, but as an example it works. You could choose to just teach about Australian history and Geography and ignore every other part of the planet. You could teach about the environment and how humans have impacted it. You could teach all of those, or some or only one. And you are covering HASS.
English is reading, writing, speaking, listening and can be defined even further. But if you only want to do reading and no writing? Well, go for it. Because there is no law forcing you to include writing in your English KLA in your home. Though, I would add the caveat that a bit of writing may be helpful during reviews for samples of learning in the other KLAs as well.
All of the KLAs can be looked at in this way, teach only certain aspects if you want. Teach it all if you want and can do so. It is up to you, because it is your home, it is your children, your family, your definition that matters when it comes to the KLAs.
The Victorian Curriculum can be handy, especially in retrospect if you do an activity or have an experience and want to figure out what KLAs that experience may fall into. It can be handy to give you an idea of what you could be doing, things to offer your children if they want. It can also be very handy for learning a bit of eduspeak.
But it isn’t necessary. It isn’t part of home education laws and regulations. And it can be a dangerous sticky little trap for the unwary home educator to look at. So, if you do look at the Curriculum, keep your eyes open and remember that what you are looking at is a tool for you to use at your own discretion – but it is not a rule book that you must follow.
And don’t ever let yourself feel guilty for not doing some aspect of a KLA. It’s not like we all need to know how to put on a dramatic performance anyway.
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