A very warm welcome to the world of home education! Are you asking yourself: where do I start? How do I do this? What if I’m not doing enough? How will I know where my kids are at? Help!
There are so many questions when you are new to, or considering, home education. Rest assured that many before you have had the same questions and concerns, and HEN has helped guide people through the process.
Whether you are thinking about home educating, or have already sent in your registration paperwork, here are some suggestions to help you get the most out of home education.
Most common questions and concerns are answered by the links found in the Where do I start? section.
It can be very challenging to approach home education when our own view of education is formed by what we and our children experienced at school. We are conditioned to believe that some forms of learning are ‘better’ than others, and that certain core skills are ‘necessary’, however what’s necessary or best for one student will differ wildly from another who differs in age, location, learning style, health, future career plans etc. The process of changing this mindset is called ‘deschooling’ (link).
In reality there are many different ways to learn, and it’s about finding the right combination for your child .
Your learning plan is only a rough outline, designed to show the VRQA that you understand how to create a learning environment to suit your child’s individual needs. But how will that translate to daily/weekly learning?
Home education, like life it, is unpredictable. As a result, detailed planning (like in schools) may lead to frustration. Mental health days, illness, unexpected opportunities, family responsibilities and sudden new interests often get in the way of carefully laid plans, so whilst it’s great to have a rough structure planned out, allow for flexibility.
If you are happy to follow where life leads you, and plan only for the next few days, then you probably don’t need to read the rest of this section. If you or your child prefer more structure in your life, then please read on.
Some home educators are happy to loosely plan for 30 weeks of activities per year, because at least ten weeks are lost (in the very best way possible) to camps, excursions, work experience, and opportunities that are too good to miss. It’s advisable to make a loose plan for each key learning area: one science topic per term, three maths activities per week, but to keep detailed planning for the week ahead.
Prioritise the areas that you and your child feel are most important, whether it’s spending time reading together to improve fluency, learning life skills, working on maths required for a university course, or exploring nature.
Remember that plans change. By planning only the near future in detail, you can save yourself the frustration of feeling you have wasted time and money preparing, printing or purchasing items that turn out not to be needed.
Often people over plan, because they wish to provide structure to their week, but as this article explains, structure can be created in many ways. Structure and Home Education
Groups and activities help to add a natural structure to your week, as well as providing social opportunities for you and your child. Often these opportunities run for a whole morning, afternoon or day, but don’t worry if that means there’s no time for maths. Once you get into the swing of things, you may be surprised by the amount of incidental learning that happens at social groups, not to mention the quality of activities available within the community. Many people cover one or more learning areas purely through a class or activity, and there are many engaging options available.
The preschool years
In Victoria, we don’t need to register children for home education until they turn six. This means there is no requirement to register your child for ‘homeschool kindergarden’.
At this age play based learning and spending time with your little one, such as going for walks or reading picture books together, is all you really need to do, and not focus so much on ‘doing school’. Remember that home education is an extension of parenting and what you have been doing for your child their whole lives is exactly what home education is about: helping them learn new skills, supporting them in new pursuits. and spending time together.
You can read some more on home education in the preschool/kindergarden years here.
The primary school years
Home educating in the primary years is a time full of exploration and discovery, and you’ll be right alongside enjoying those special ‘a-ha!’ moments. Your child may begin to read more independently, but still love a good-read aloud snuggled up together. Or they may become more interested in things like cooking and helping to prepare a meal, or helping with the shopping which is always a great maths activity.
If your child struggles in some areas, whether it be with maths or anxiety, or if they have asynchronous abilities, home education during the primary years will place your child’s education and development front and centre. You’ll be able to spend as much time as needed on a particular area of challenge, with no need to rush through a school curriculum, nor create the risk of your child ‘falling behind’ as they might at school. You’ll be able to work at your child’s pace and address any issues that you feel need a closer look.
For more information, take a look at our primary school years page.
As you consider ways to address each Key Learning Area, you may find the graphics on this page helpful for students of all ages.
The secondary school years
Home educating a teenager need not be a scary prospect. Rest assured, many people before you have walked this path with great success. Home educating teens is where the beauty of home education can really shine– flexibility, freedom, and self directed learning.
There are many reasons why parents choose to home educate for the teenage years, and withdrawing children from school in senior high school is not uncommon. For some families, their primary motivation may be to foster positive family relationships while for others, embarking on tertiary pathways well before school peers is their main consideration.
For more information, take a look at our Home Educating Teenagers page.
Supporting kids with disability, health and diverse learning needs
HEN is often asked if there are many families home educating due to disability, health and medical conditions and diverse learning needs. The answer is a resounding yes. In fact these are some of the more common reasons parents choose home education.
We are frequently contacted by parents of children who are in a poor state of mental health due to school bullying, as well as hearing from parents who have battled for years to have their child’s school provide adequate support. We support these families by giving them the information they need in order to leave the school system and move to home education, and the home education community itself can be a great support as parents are always willing to share their experience and advice.
HEN has a Facebook group specifically to help support home educating families from all over Australia support each other HEN Supporting Neurodivergence & Disability in Home Education Facebook Group
To read more, please see our page Home Education and Disability, Health and Diverse Learning Needs.
Home education styles
Natural learning, unschooling, eclectic, structured, Charlotte Mason… you may have seen reference to these home ed styles, and more, and you might be wondering what they all mean and how they can work for your family.
As home education has grown in popularity, many different styles have evolved. No home educating family is required to adhere to any particular style. Each family decides and defines what learning looks like for each of their children, and that can change as needs and circumstances change. Some people are attracted strongly to one particular style, but might still incorporate ideas from others. Many families take a little from multiple styles. You don’t have to have a label at all – you can just home educate your own way.
See our pages on Home Education Styles.
Successful home education usually involves creative thinking, and resources are one area where that’s particularly true. We have some guidance about selecting resources, but remember that many of the best resources are those we have already. The home education community is your biggest resource, and people are always ready to recommend resources, or share what’s worked for them. If you are looking for websites and curricula, the HEN Resources page is a great place to start. For hands on activities, website links, games and crafts to support individual learning areas or topics, HEN has Pinterest boards where we have gathered together many great topics. The HEN Victorian Group on Facebook has regular resource posts, as does Otherways magazine (free to HEN members). Those who choose to join HEN also have access to a range of discounts on educational products.
Choosing home education is a big leap for many families, but don’t feel that just because you have put in your application, that’s the end of the support available. HEN volunteers regularly chat to people as they adjust, and Facebook groups are a real boon. If your child has diverse learning needs, or is a teen or preschooler, there are groups specifically for you. And local Facebook groups, as well as local meetups are great for reassurance and support.
So try to relax. Remember that home education does not need to look like school in order to be successful, that as a parent you know your child and their needs better than anyone else, and that you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to home educate – though if you are, there are plenty of HE kids who would be interested in meeting you!
Where to from here?
The information here and in the Start Here section should help you come up with a good starting plan. Remember, you don’t have to spend a lot of money upfront. Check our Resources advice page.
Once you are registered, you will probably adjust as you go along, that’s a normal part of the process
Find support if you need it. HEN is here to help you with your home ed journey, please feel free to get in touch.