Practical Home Education Issues

Planning your exemption application

I suggest that you brainstorm using the questions in the application as a guide. For instance, for the question about your long term overall plan, write each child’s name in the centre of a piece of paper and make a mind map.

Write down anything that comes into your head, as you think of that child’s future and what you want them to do and become. Is it important that they cover the same work as children at school, or are you passionate about fostering their love of learning and following their leads, even if it means great holes in their body of knowledge? If you were writing the curriculum for schools (and essentially you are) what would you put in and what would you leave out? Are you hoping your child will go to college or university, or do you just want them to get a job that they will be happy doing?

When you get to the individual subjects in your application, brainstorm each one, for each child. For instance, write maths In the middle of your paper and a child’s name. Now think of all the ways you can bring maths into this child’s life. Does he like workbooks, or is he still in the concrete stage (that is does he still need alot of time counting and manipulating real objects like buttons)? Does he enjoy computer games and/or board games? Would he respond well to musical maths, like the singing times table? Would he prefer to play shop and / or to handle his own pocket money? How much maths is enough? Must he learn algebra or is it only necessary that he can balance a cheque book?

Do this for each subject, then look at your results in general. Work out which alternatives suit you, remember you have to implement them, it must be something you feel comfortable with. Can you still see your children sitting down to something like ACE? If so then this is the right choice for you. On the other hand you might be better going to a good quality bookshop, with your child, and choosing a workbook that you are both happy with.

I believe this sort of planning is essential before you can make decision about how you will home school and I think it would be very hard to fill in an exemption application, without planning in detail first.

Note: see the “getting started” page for more information on preparing an application for exemption.

Negatives

At this stage we have not covered the benefits of home schooling, but if you are thinking about this, presumably you can already some of the many benefits. However you may be concerned about potential downsides to what is generally a tremendous lifestyle with amazing advantages.

One of these is financial. The direct costs can be high – but most spend relatively little, using various free and low-cost resources. The major cost is the loss of income necessitated by having a parent at home full-time with the children. Some people do work part-time – or take part in a family business, but for the vast majority of home educators, the loss of potential income is a reality.

Another disadvantage is potential loss of sanity. No matter how wonderful your children are, and how much you love them, being stuck at home with young children day in, day out will test anyone – and their relationships with other adults. Fortunately this problem is usually much easier to deal with. Get with other adults regularly – especially other home educators who understand your pressures. If you can’t find local home edcuators, at least join one or more of the e-mail lists for Kiwi home educators. Of course having someone to mind the children while you get out on your own helps. If a spouse or relative can’t help, try regular mutual child-minding arrangements with other home educators. As the saying goes, “If Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”

Socialisation

This can be a genuine concern for those considering home education, so we present here a few thoughts .There are plenty of overseas sites which deal with this issue, so if it is still a a big issue check out some of the sites on our links page.

First define socialisation. Most people tend to equate it with children playing together. Most parents would be hard pressed to stop their children playing with others. Children find other children to play with in all sorts of situations. Those who have read “Lord of the Flies” (William Golding) will be familiar with the trend of social behaviour among children left to their own devices.

Socialisation is actually the process of developing the skills required to function effectively in adult society. It does not happen by osmosis from other children. It happens as they imitate the mature people around them. We simply can’t stop our children from imitating us – it is natural.

While being with other children is a chance to practise their social skills, all too often their behaviour degenerates to the level of the child with the lowest skills. Sadly this even happens in more formal situations, such as organised sport or music, community groups, etc.

So what affect does sheltering children “from the real world” have? (The quote marks around “real world” to highlight the fact that school is not the real world – it is school children who are locked away from the real world five days a week.) Most of the research is American – but it ties in with what we observe in the home educating community in New Zealand.

The findings of most research are that home educated children tend to have a higher than average level of social development. This manifests itself in areas like increased independence (less susceptibility to peer pressure), self-control and initiative, as well as more effective communication skills.

Of course most home educated children benefit from not being forced into artificial social environments. They can develop socially, as well as academically, at their own pace.

Difficult subjects

So just how can we teach subjects in which we’re not skilled?

At the junior level, you have probably already taught several key subjects – eating, talking, walking, toilet training, etc. Compared with these skills, other subjects are relatively straightforward.

By senior level, you would hopefully have taught your children how to learn. Of course they might need more help in this, but most teenagers should be able to learn for themselves, and to find “experts” to help when they get stuck.

Children refusing subjects

When children shy away from certain subjects – or even any form of formal education, we have several options. As each situation is different, we have to consider the options, and choose what is best for the child.

We can ease up and change the emphasis. This gives the child a chance to take a breather, and avoids conflict. Conflict over “learning” is likely to damage the child’s attitude to learning, and therefore should be avoided in general.

If we think something is particularly important, we can always find other ways to get young children to tackle a subject. For example, unit studies are good for this.

Also the Family Math book has lots of math games teaching specific skills. Don’t let the children see the book – or know they are doing math, and they will usually enjoy it. If they don’t like reading, read to them. When you find a series of books they enjoy, leave it and go on to something else. If they want to enjoy the rest of the series, they have to read it for themselves.

Of course sometimes older children need to learn to knuckle down to tasks they don’t particularly enjoy. In this case we may change the material, the approach, the quantity of work expected, etc. We may bring in outside help – or we may just encourage them. It really helps if they can see a purpose to their study.

When we consider what is essential to learn, we need to remember that a ready and willing student can get through life on 100 hours of literacy and numeracy learning. How much of what you learned in school is still accurate and useful to you?

Beyond that, the amount of knowledge in the world is increasing faster than ever. It is estimated to double every two or three years. So even if a child continued studying 40 hours a week until they were 100, they would still only cover a small percentage of the total sum of knowledge. So it doesn’t really matter which part of the pool of knowledge children jump into, as long as they retain their enthusiasm for learning.