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‘Surprise, blessing, gift’: Home schooling numbers reach record

The Melbourne mother said she decided to give home schooling a try after talking with professionals, family and friends, and attending a home-school information night.

“I got advice and support from many home-schooling networks and families … but the truth is you learn how to do it from your child,” Mrs Terrazzano said.

“Ours is a hands-on, relational learner; he needs to experience and explore things for himself at his own pace so we do excursions and activities and a few classes.

“Our favourite bit so far was probably a driving holiday exploring the solar system and space by travelling from Wagga Wagga to Coonabarabran following the Solar System Drive and visiting Parkes.”

Mrs Terrazzano is one of many “accidental” home educators. Dr Rebecca English, from QUT’s Faculty of Education, said her research had found that parents decided to home school after their child was bullied or misdiagnosed and then refused to go to school.

A survey of 441 home schoolers by support group the Home Education Network found home schoolers do so because they believe they could do a better job, want to be with their children, to offer a tailored education, to help with diverse learning needs, inadequate provisions at school, religious convictions and a child’s physical or sexual abuse.

The number of children registered for home schooling in Victoria reached a record in 2018 – this is no surprise given Victoria’s population boom has led to record enrolments in the state’s schools.

There were 5742 children in more than 3500 households registered for home schooling last calendar year, the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority said.

With more than 971,669 students enrolled in Victorian primary and secondary schools at the beginning of this year, this suggests home-schooled kids account for about 0.6 per cent of overall students.

The regulator said the number of children registered for home schooling had surged 44 per cent since 2014, with 2017 a record year.

Sue Wight, from Home Education Network, said parents rushed to home schooling in 2017 to avoid new rules that require families to submit a learning plan, detailing subject matter, and where and when that instruction would take place. Under the new rules, 10 per cent of home educators are reviewed each year and children must remain in school while awaiting approval for home schooling.

Last year just 95 extra children were registered for home schooling, compared with 904 new children in 2017.  Ms Wight said she expected significant growth again throughout 2019.

The authority said of the children home schooled in Victoria, 63 per cent were in families of two or more home-schooled children.

An outsized 44 per cent of home-schooling households are in rural and regional Victoria. Seventy-six per cent of Victorians live in Melbourne.

There was very little difference in terms of gender – 51 per cent of home-schooled children were boys. Children who are home schooled ranged from 5 to 17 years of age but were most likely to be between 9 and 11.

Children who are home schooled cannot obtain the VCE, VCAL or IB diploma, although Dr English said some children were able to attend university via a TAFE course.

Research by Edith Cowan University’s Kate Burton and Eileen Slater found that concern over the level of socialisation among home-schooled children was “not grounded in reality”.

Their survey of 385 guardians home schooling a total 676 children found almost half of the children participated in at least one club activity, such as yoga, Lego and chess, and most had regular play dates with other children.

Mrs Terrazzano said she would continue to home school as long as it was the best choice for the family.

“The behaviours we were trying to live with practically disappeared overnight,” she said. “We are spending time building our relationship with the boys while they are young, getting to know them and help them get to know themselves.”

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