Social anxiety, School Can’t and general anxiety (often with comorbidities) are all common within the home education community, both in parents and children. As a result, there is a greater understanding for those who struggle in social settings. The way that home education groups are structured means that adults are usually present, even at teen events. As a result, a child who needs a parent nearby will not stand out. Events are often relaxed and timings loose, so coming along for a short period of time is not unusual, and can make the idea of attending less daunting. Online groups are also gaining in popularity, as are online learning sessions where participation levels are variable, and cameras/mics may be turned off if preferred.

For many students exiting the school system, dealing with anxiety is the key goal. If there is anxiety about learning, then taking a relaxed, interest led approach is likely to be less stressful. Focusing on positive interactions, small steps and time to heal is often the best policy, and requesting exemptions from one or more KLAs can help to reduce any pressure. It’s not necessary to have an official diagnosis of anxiety (or any other condition) to obtain an exemption.

In the upper high school years, there tends to be significant anxiety about study, exams and choosing a career. Once out of the system, education can be reframed to support interests and allow exploration of possibilities (for example through work experience or free online courses) with no set end goal or expectation. Many students who were overwhelmed by the prospect of VCE find that they are able to manage part time work, a volunteer role, or preparation for a vocational qualification, and these opportunities may also transition naturally into further study options. 

Parents can feel anxious about taking charge of their child’s education and how they will ‘keep up’ with school, or offer the same opportunities. Home education will be different, and often reframing can make a huge difference. Seeing yourself as a facilitator rather than a teacher can remove some of the pressure. Finding support from within the community, activity ideas, products, or mentors in areas where you feel less confident can make you feel more confident. Home ed is all about the individual, so if it’s right for your situation you can follow an approach very similar to school (but without some of the anxiety that comes from being in the classroom). However, you can also take a step back and ask yourself what the right educational choice is for your child at this time. There is no one set of knowledge we will all need; most adults have forgotten most of what they learnt at school and gained other knowledge that is far more important. So, taking time to de-stress, choosing a different path that doesn’t involve comparison with a norm, or pursuing an interest in depth are just as valid  courses of action. 

Leaving school will not remove anxiety from the equation, but the freedom to manage the difficulties, including allowing time for therapies, reflection, relaxation and sleep will lessen severity of symptoms in many people. Removal of societal expectations that are not in line with an individual’s situation can be a huge relief, and slowly many students make connections, discover strengths and move towards a better balance.