Too cool for school? Why homeschooling numbers are increasing in Australia
Former IEUA-QNT member, teacher and researcher at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Dr Rebecca English discusses the increase in parents choosing homeschooling for their children and what this means for the education profession.
Since 2012, homeschooling has been a major topic in the Australian media.
In particular, the focus has been on the growth in numbers of homeschool families.
There are many reasons why the increase in parents choosing to homeschool their children has an impact on teachers across Australia.
Transition between home and schools There is evidence children move between homeschool and schools. In her 2009 thesis titled More Than One Way to Learn, Glenda Jackson, of the Australian Home Education Advisory Service, notes that many children who left school subsequently returned. This group includes ‘school refusers’. Jackson’s data suggests there is a great deal of movement between schools and home settings.
As such, it is reasonable to expect teachers may encounter and have to manage children transitioning between sectors.
In NSW, the increase in families accessing home education led to the Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Standards (BOSTES) calling an inquiry in 2014. The inquiry suggested reviewing the registration process, reviewing access to the HSC and exploring ways BOSTES, schools and families could work more closely. One of the most interesting aspects of the inquiry was the acceptance of this type of education, acknowledgement that it is not going to go away, and a view that transitions between homeschool and school should be seamless.
Dissatisfaction with schools
In her thesis, Jackson argued parents choose to home educate when their children were from a different ‘ability group’. She argues that few parents/ students who choose home education are ‘average’. Instead they tend to be ‘gifted’, ‘advanced learners’ and students with ‘learning and/or health difficulties’.
These children have experienced bullying, lack of support or have not thrived in mainstream schools. While many people think of the families who home educate as mainly religious, this does not appear to be the case in Australia. In my research, I have talked to a lot of non religious families who have chosen to pursue homeschooling.
For many parents, the choice to homeschool their children is a result of dissatisfaction with mainstream schools and institutionalisation. Many describe schools as places where children are given limited autonomy over their learning. Others describe bullying and a lack of support for their children’s individual needs, with various anecdotes of this included in the BOSTES Inquiry report. For some parents, they would never choose schools because they are ideologically opposed to governmental intrusion into family life.
Back to school
Many homeschooled children eventually return to school. For some, it is about access to tertiary study after high school.
Others are looking for a change. For some students, there is a need to access specialised professional teachers, for example the particular knowledge and skills of physics teachers. Jackson describes it this way: “Students who entered or returned to secondary school appreciated access to expert knowledge, peer mediation, inclusive professionals and socialisation experiences with peers”.
Her work suggests Australian high school teachers may find a lot of formerly home educated students in their classes.
Jackson, Glenda 2009, More Than One Way to Learn (2009), http://www.hea.edu.au/media/619/morethanonewaytolearn.pdf
BOSTES Inquiry report, go to http://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/homeschooling
For further details on Dr English’s research, go to http://eprints.qut.edu.au/76250/
This article was extracted from the June 2016 edition of Independent Education.