Everyone knows there is something wrong with our education system. The failure of testing such as NAPLAN to improve learning outcomes, teacher pressures, teacher strikes, and the rise in youth issues and crime all reflect badly on the system. Teachers and parents, those who truly care about the future of the children in their care and the future of our nation, know that there is something wrong.
The rise of homeschooling, or as I call it “Home Based Education”, gives us an alternative. Homeschooling is legal in every state of Australia, meaning families can legally avoid schools, or as some call them “Extra-familial Institutions”.
But in Victoria, Daniel Andrews’ Labor government is trying to erode this parental right to choose our children’s education by introducing new regulations governing homeschooling. Minister for Education, James Merlino, sells the draft regulations with constant inaccuracies, and his benign rhetoric is being regurgitated by all government ministers.
Victorian home-schoolers are overseen by the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority and, while the official government view sounds like reasonable accountability for homeschooling, away from the public eye the VRQA works quietly to limit homeschooling. Parents attempting to register are initially told, “Homeschooling is a legal choice,” but are encouraged to think about the “ramifications” of such a choice – according to the VRQA children will end up “unemployable and unqualified”. They are then heavily pushed towards school or distance education.
If parents persist in registering, they are told that state curriculum materials are unavailable for sale and that available curriculums are not approved. Parents report feeling bullied after such an experience, and say registration requires assertiveness. It is unknown how many potential homeschoolers the VRQA has managed to bully back into the school system.
Across the country, thousands of homeschooled adults are living proof that homeschooling results in well-educated and responsible citizens working in fields as diverse as law to interior design. But still the VRQA peddles its misinformation and bias, while the media and the government believe in the same ignorant and fearful lies.
Under the current regulations in Victoria, parents may withdraw their child from school for any reason at any time it becomes necessary, and register for homeschooling. Parents assume the responsibility of teaching the eight key learning areas in a way that upholds Australian democracy and they can be reviewed if there is reasonable cause for concern.
Under the proposed regulations, children must remain in school unless they have a reason confirmed by an acceptable authority such as the school or a psychologist. In the meantime, parents must submit a detailed plan for VRQA assessment and wait 28 days for a response. Given the VRQA attitude, homeschoolers are doubtful many registrations will be approved. In addition, existing homeschoolers will be randomly reviewed by the VRQA who will also set the review criteria, which are not detailed in the regulations and could be changed at any time.
On an extreme level, there is concern that if plans do not include certain curriculum content such as Safe Schools or Respectful Relationships, parents will be forced to include them to get registration. The regulations give no criteria for parents to form plans upon, setting parents up for failure to even register, let alone failure to home-school. Meanwhile, children are at unacceptable risk in school.
Homeschooling parents of every political bent in Victoria see these regulations as an attack by the government on parental and indeed human rights.
I am a qualified teacher. Why do I homeschool my two children? School was not a good fit for my eldest and when specific academic and social needs were not met we tried homeschooling at his teacher’s suggestion. In the process, I found my fit as an educator.
Homeschooling gives me the opportunity to tailor our learning experiences to all our strengths and interests and motivations; to challenge our weaknesses, introduce new things and provide encouragement appropriately and individually; and most of all, find completely new, innovative, cutting-edge, effective ways to enjoy the learning journey that, sorry, an institution under government control simply cannot.
And it gives me an opportunity to be part of an incredible community of like-minded fellow educators and learners rather than work in a pressure cooker environment where the average teacher is burnt out after only five years.
Governments need to value the parents and the children who are in this movement they call home-schooling. Unfortunately, in Victoria the “Education State” is becoming the Nanny School State and that’s just what Daniel Andrews and James Merlino want.
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