Do We Need a National Home Education Policy and Authority?
by Beverley Paine, June 2008
At times I'm tempted to champion Federalism and centralisation of policies, laws and services. At first glance it appears to reflect common sense, but I'm reminded of something Einstein once said "Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen."
This makes me wonder if wanting to replace a collection of several policies and regulations with a single uniform policy is a reflection of the way we've been trained to think. Except for the homeschool graduates among us, most of us spent our youth in school. In addition to that our parents spent their youth in school. This causes me to be deeply suspicious of our collective sense of 'common sense'. What we probably need right now to take this discussion forward is a good dose of 'uncommon sense'.
Let's imagine that the federal government eventually managed to wrest control of education from the states and had devised an acceptable National Education Policy and Curriculum. I can see one major benefit for home educators straight away: giving advice to families starting out would be much easier. We wouldn't have to ask "What state are you in?"
I can see a national home education authority run and managed by home educators playing a pivotal role in servicing the needs of the homeschooling community; perhaps even becoming the "self-regulating body" that would facilitate the approval of home educators. I'm not opposed to the idea, especially as it makes a lot of sense. But at the same time, I feel the need to continue exploring other options - maybe find one or two based on 'uncommon sense'.
In our rush to solve what we see as a multitude of existing problems we may inadvertently make it difficult for the next generation of home educators - those who have had a vastly different education and upbringing to ourselves and who view the world in a completely different way - to devise and implement more suitable solutions.
The first question that needs to be answered in this ongoing discussion is "Is self-regulation of home education necessary?" More research on the outcomes of home education in Australia. If, as I suspect, home education is ultimately proven to be a successful alternative to school based education without the onerous burden of universal regulation, why would we want to be part of the push to implement it now?
Our task, as I see it, is to educate the population of Australia that home education works. We can do this by continuing to explain our methods, highlight our success, and provide information to the general public as well as our politicians. We can support the various groups and organizations that do this, both by participation and financially. Subscribing to home education magazines, donating homeschooling books to libraries, recording our experiences and publishing them wherever we can sends a strong message to the community that home education is a viable alternative that is here to stay.
It's important for us to remember, as we debate the necessity of regulation, that unregulated home education doesn't result in social or educational neglect - any more than sending kids to school does.
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We began educating our three children in 1985, when our eldest was aged five years. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn as they grew and explored and discovered this amazing world since the moment they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. I hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was!
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