By Kirsty James
At the start of each year, many families are thinking about how to support new interests, help their child with areas where they struggle, or looking for groups/connections. The HE community is supportive, and usually happy to provide advice. However, over the last few years I’ve seen a change in the kind of products and services which are available, and it strikes me that there’s been a profound change in terms of the way home education is viewed, predominantly by those outside our community. As our numbers have grown, we have become a market, to be targeted like any other.
It’s the way that these new companies sell themselves and their product which most concerns me, because they use negative tactics and aim to exploit our fears and concerns. They suggest that we can’t HE without ‘expert’ or ‘qualified’ help. Some talk about ‘meeting requirements’ or ‘achieving benchmarks’, and commonly suggest that in order to ‘ensure we meet registration requirements’,‘prepare our children for further study’, or ‘set them up for success’ we should buy their product.
In addition to these scare tactics, many companies show no real understanding of home education – and why would they? They have no real investment in our community or our children, we are just another market. Often their offerings are just an expensive version of school.
In contrast, the majority of home education offerings from those within the community have something real to offer. They may be multidisciplinary, multi-age, inexpensive or free, designed to suit a variety of learning styles, tackle unusual topics, have a deeper or wider approach than the standard curriculum, or allow you to pick and choose from a variety of offerings. Many of these products can also be onsold, or purchased second hand and used for multiple children. What most have in common is that they are set up to support parents, to empower them to provide the education their child needs.
That’s because they know that you don’t need to be a teacher/expert in order to help your own child achieve their dreams. Home educators have other parents, mentors, libraries and Youtube to support them. And by teaching their children how to learn – and modelling what that looks like, they are doing more than helping their child with (say) maths. They are modelling self-reliance, persistence and problem solving.
Nor do you need to be concerned about external requirements and benchmarks. Yes, we are required to ‘substantially cover the 8 KLAs’, but we can do that in any way we wish, and our children will not be measured or tested. They can be exceptionally interested in physics, and pursue that to a high level, or choose to learn a different language each term/year. In Victoria we have the freedom to make our child’s education truly individual, as traditional or quirky as we wish. And if you are right at the start of this journey, reading the information on our website and contacting one of our volunteers will give you all the information you need to create an excellent, individualised Learning Plan – for free.
But what about the higher levels, the kids who want to go to uni? Again there are excellent options including TAFE and Open University courses, which have the benefit of often providing credit towards the next course. HE students have attended every university in Australia, and our alumni booklet and page the website showcase the variety of other options our teens have taken, whether working, volunteering, learning a trade, or starting their own businesses – all ways in which to be successful.
So if you are looking to supplement your child’s learning by purchasing a product, what should you look for? I would suggest finding something that meets your child’s interests and needs, rather than just their grade/what they would be doing in school. Something you can on-sell or purchase second hand is a good bet, or even better something that’s inexpensive or free. You may find the resource listings on the HEN website or the Home Education Network Australia Pinterest boards a good starting point. If you can borrow the item first, that’s great, because often the things which look best at the research stage may not be the fit you hoped for. But most importantly, look for something which aims to empower you and your family, not something which plays on your fears, then charges you through the nose for the privilege.
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