Are there any special issues to be aware of for children coming out of school?
Yes, children of all ages coming out of school do need an adjustment period. It is not uncommon for families, especially those who have had particularly traumatic school experiences, to have an initial ‘let out of jail’ feeling, followed by a period of behavioural issues. Be patient, it takes time to work through the emotional baggage from school. Be kind to yourself during this phase, and include pleasurable, age-appropriate activities for your child such as excursions, craft and time outdoors. Generally allow one month school recovery time for each year the child was in school. This can be a particularly tough time for teenagers, and connecting with other home educated teens to see the positives of life outside school can help. This period of adjustment after a tough time at school is often referred to as decompression or deschooling.
As you settle into your chosen routine, remember that anything that requires tears (on anyone’s part) isn’t worth the effort. Learning is supposed to be a lifelong enjoyable process. Try and figure out why it isn’t working and either experiment with a different way or give it a rest. Kids are not ready to learn something just because a book says they are. Three hours of tears and cajoling to accomplish one workbook page of nouns does not teach nouns. It teaches ‘I hate nouns’. It may take time for your child to adjust to home education. factor in trips to the playground, picnics, movie days – whatever will provide positive time together.
Is it expensive?
There is no special funding provided to home educators, but the cost can be as little as a library card or as much as you wish. An internet connection and access to a printer is highly beneficial but not essential. In our Resources section and on our Facebook page we list many free resources and ideas for using items you already own.
For more details, see our pamphlet Home Educating on a Budget and related articles.
But what about socialisation?
Concerns about socialisation usually go beyond whether children will find friends. Parents want to know whether children educated outside school learn socially acceptable behaviour and become responsible members of society. Rest easy, they do. Actually, as home educators watch their children develop, they come to regard the positive socialisation of home education to be one of its greatest advantages. With more individual attention, and more say in their own education, home educated children seem to become more self-reliant and self-confident, and less dependent on peer approval, than most school children. The first generation of home educated kids has grown up. The research shows they get into university, they get jobs, they form relationships and they are active in their communities.
We have some articles related to socialisation which you can find here.
Will my children have friends?
Home educators have the time and freedom to get to know people of many ages and backgrounds, instead of spending their days with only those of the same age. Home educated children form friendships with one another, and with children who go to school.
Most home educators find or create groups to meet with at parks, camps, or on excursions. They build deep and meaningful friendships, with more time and space to talk to and learn from each other than would be possible at school. They also belong to scouts and church groups, take swimming and dance lessons, play on soccer teams and perform in theatre groups; and, along the way, they form friendships.
There is absolutely no reason for home educated kids to be isolated. There are loads of other home educators around and HEN can help you connect with them. Events, activities, excursions and camps are advertised through our magazine; Otherways, our weekly email list and on our website. Local groups also have weekly, fortnightly or monthly activities which you can hook into. There are also various internet discussion groups available including to the HEN Facebook pages.
Attending groups is useful but not mandatory. You may be lucky enough to have one that meets close by and where your family fits right in. Great! If not, don’t despair, some home educators have to travel to groups, some attend several different groups, others find attending camps the best entry to the home education community, or start a new group (with support available from HEN).
Before diving into the home education social scene, consider whether your children are ready. If they are recovering from traumatic school experiences, they may need more time at home initially. There is no rush.
How will I know my children are keeping up?
Once children are out of school, how they compare to their peers becomes less relevant. Most children will be ‘ahead’ in some areas and ‘behind’ in others – even within the same subject. Once learning is at just the right level for them, what matters is progress, which is often much faster than in school even though generally less time is spent on school type learning.
If you are keen to keep track, The Victorian Curriculum & Assessment Authority (VCAA) website has the AUSVELS (The Victorian/National Curriculum hybrid) which cover all year levels and outline what would be learnt in each year at school, including samples of the levels of work expected. We don’t recommend you follow the VELS rigidly as home education allows you the flexibility to tailor your children’s education to their particular needs, abilities and interests. The VELS are rather wordy but, if you cut through the jargon, they can provide you with a useful guide.
You could also use tests or competitions to see where your child is at. Most home educators find that testing is unnecessary because the daily one-to-one contact with their children means the parent is well aware of their strengths and weaknesses. However testing can be a useful tool to reassure yourself or concerned relatives.
How can parents teach hard subjects?
The simple answer is, they don’t have to. Home educated children may be interested in a subject, or involved in an activity, that their parents don’t know much about, and that’s fine. Home educators soon learn to say, ‘I don’t know, but we can find out’. There is a world of resources available and family, friends, and even tutors and external classes, can all be used to round out a child’s education.
The parents are facilitators. Just as they helped their children to learn to walk and talk by providing models and guidance, parents of home educated children help their older children by providing tools and resources. For example, there are many online higher maths and science programmes. If parents can use a search engine, they can find a resource for what a teenager wishes to learn. Teenagers also become very efficient at finding their own resources.
The best teachers for all children are people who love and care about them, and who respect their particular way of learning—people who have the time and the patience to provide one-on-one attention. This involvement is at the heart of home education.
All of a sudden everyone from your mother to the check-out operator will have an opinion on your child’s education. Some will vehemently oppose your decision, but may come around when they see how well it is working. Others will always think you are crazy!
Keep in mind that much of the opposition stems from genuine, but misguided, concern about your children. There is a lot of misinformation about home education and, if you feel like it, you can address that – but you aren’t obliged to. Some days and with some people, you’ll feel up to it – a lot depends on your relationship with them, how they raise their objections, and how much you care about what they think.
With family, try to stress the positives, like having the chance to spend more time with your children. Relatives often make good mentors, so don’t be afraid to ask them to share their skills with the kids. Try not to allow the doubts of others to influence the choice that you made for good reasons. Sometimes asking people to shelve their concerns for an initial 6 months will allow your child to grow into home education – once family and friends see a child thriving, they are much more likely to support your choice.
HEN has produced a pamphlet aimed a grandparents, which you can find here.
What if my children don’t want to be home educated?
Sometimes children are reluctant to home educate because it sounds strange and/or they may fear they’ll have no friends. Take your children along to a group or activity to demonstrate that this is not the case. If they are still reluctant, think very seriously about whether home education is going to work for you. It may be best to back off on the idea – let your children know it is an option that you are very open to and then leave it with them for a while.
Can I home educate whilst travelling?
Travelling is one of the greatest educational opportunities available – it’s like living in a unit study! Geography, history, science and technology, art, maths and English all rolled into one, and of course Languages too if you travel abroad, or learn snippets of language from foreign travellers on the road. If you have the time and inclination, feel free to throw in a little schoolwork, alternately embrace the education that’s all around you.