Getting Started with Home Education
When you first embark on your home education journey, it can be a little daunting. But like any journey worth taking in life, with a bit of planning, curiosity, and experimentation it can be a fantastic adventure for both you and your children.
From our many years of experience, here is our tried and tested road map for starting out with confidence.
1. Register for home education
When you first decide to home educate, you need to register with the WA Department of Education. Registration is easy and free. For a step-by-step guide to registering for home education in WA, click here.
2. Know your rights and responsibilities
Home-educating can be a bit like driving in a foreign country to start with. Just as you need to familiarise yourself with the road rules, knowing what’s expected of you as a home educator will help you avoid any potholes. Click here for more information.
3. Your first moderator meeting
When you register for home education the WA Department of Education will assign you a moderator. A moderator is a person appointed by the Education Department to monitor your child’s educational program. For detailed information about how to navigate your first moderator meeting, click here.
4. Deschooling – Transitioning to Home Education
Depending on the amount of schooling your child has experienced and your reasons for home education, the transition to home education can involve quite a period of adjustment for all members of the family. This is sometimes referred to as deschooling. It’s important to allow time for both parents and children to find their feet.
Deschooling doesn’t mean you do nothing, but you can use a transition period to explore a wide range of activities and figure out what works well for them.
Some parents worry that but taking time out from a formal program or learning, their child will “fall behind” in their studies. The experience of the majority of home educators demonstrates that this is not the case.
The benefits of a transition time can’t be understated and far outweigh any risk of “getting behind” with formal learning. When students are relaxed, happy, supported, feeling confident, intelligent, and capable as learners, and feel a sense of empowerment about their own education, they learn much more quickly.
What does deschooling look like though? Read on for suggestions of what to do during your first few weeks or months, and check out these excellent articles for more information.
3. Understanding how home education works
Home education doesn’t work the same way school does. Here are some of the key ways that home education differs from school.
a) Less time is required for formal learning.
Research indicates that home-educated primary-aged students only need around an hour or two of formal learning per day – and often less, to cover the same content that their schooled peers do. High school students may need a little more time but it varies from person to person.
The sheer demands and logistics of teaching 25+ students in a classroom and managing the behaviour of a large group are vastly different to a home environment. This alone can account for the variance in time required to cover curriculum outcomes.
b) Learning happens any time and anywhere.
We’re accustomed to thinking that education only takes place in a formal setting during certain hours, but the reality is that young people are learning constantly. Learning isn’t restricted to only a handful of subject areas. Much of the learning we do through life doesn’t fit neatly into one box and it’s important when embarking on home education that we don’t narrow our view of our child’s education into what counts and doesn’t count. With home education, everything counts – games, hobbies, life experiences, practical life skills, community activities, travel, sport, projects and exploring your interests. As you gain experience as a home educator and will become adept at recognising the learning happening all the time.
c) Education is tailor-made for your child.
Every child is unique and home education is an opportunity to provide an education that is best suited to your child’s strengths, abilities, challenges, learning preferences, and how they learn most effectively. In this way, your child is very fortunate to have parents willing to go that extra mile.
Your decision to home educate may be exciting but at the same time daunting. By stepping boldly into the unknown you have the chance to create with your child a path to learning that will serve them for the rest of their lives and honours their individual brilliance.
d) Education is a co-creative journey.
Home education is a journey of partnership between parent and child where the needs of both parties are considered. It’s a natural leap for us to assume that because we’ve taken our child out of school, that we must now take on the role of teacher.
In reality, home education is about creating an environment of mutual respect where children know that it is your job to provide guidance in their lives, but that you also respect them and their choices and preferences for their own education too.
6. Your first few weeks or months
Now that you’re on the road of your home education journey, you may be wondering what you do all day. It is often said that there are as many ways to homeschool as there are homeschoolers, so there is no single answer to this question. We do have lots of suggestions to help you get going though.
Follow your child’s interests
Brainstorm with your child a list of things they’d like to, places they’d like to go, things they’d like to learn about. Using a brainstorm or mindmap to begin with is a fantastic way to start.
What is your child into? Look up some videos and websites, get some books from the library, visit somewhere related to their interest or plan a project. Talking with your child about what they want to learn is a great first step – it’s their education after all.
Discover your local community
Your local community is a great source of inspiration for your family’s learning journey. Libraries often have wonderful workshops and activities as well as oral histories of the area. Local council websites often have awesome places to visit, free tours, and family-friendly activities. You can discover amazing things when you look at your local area from the perspective of a tourist, so visitors centres are an untapped resource.
Once you start exploring, you’ll find all manner of treasures within your community as well as further afield. As a home educator, the world is your classroom. Don’t feel that learning has to be done only at home!
Learn through daily activities
Children learn a great deal by their involvement in day-to-day family life – calculating the best value when shopping, cooking, hobbies, pet care, gardening, planning holidays, being involved in a family business, paying bills, budgeting, cleaning, playing games, reading and more. People tend to think of learning as formal, written work but that viewpoint is limiting. Part of homeschooling is shifting your mindset to see the learning happening in everything.
Support your child’s wellbeing
Whilst it’s not the only reason that parents choose to home educate, a portion of parents make this decision due to grave concerns for their child’s physical, emotional or psychological wellbeing. When your child is suffering or has suffered through a difficult time at school, the primary consideration for parents should be supporting their child to feel safe, loved, nurtured, and to heal.
Children can’t learn effectively when they are dealing with physical, mental, or emotional distress and so necessary accommodations need to be made. This may include a period of respite before engaging in academic learning or a full program. Consulting professionals and providing supporting documentation to the Department of Education can go a long way towards providing assurance that you are meeting their long-term educational needs.
Get to know other home educators
There is an abundance of community classes, courses, workshops, incursions, excursions, and informal, social meet-ups available in Perth as well as some regional areas. These are fantastic places to meet other home educators, and there are also many online groups. Often people are more than happy to catch up for a play date or activity if you ask in an online group.
Find your own groove
Most home-educating families will tell you, there is no typical day. Each family will have its own routine or rhythm that works best for them. Over the course of a week, children will have some time on their own at home, some time with their parent/s, and some time with others outside the home. You are not obliged to have a set time for your children to do formal work each day but it works for some.
Avoid rushing to spend money
It’s tempting when you’re transitioning to home education and you feel unprepared, uncertain, and unsure of what to do, to purchase a program that promises to deliver all the curriculum work required. We recommend that you don’t spend lots of money too soon because we see so many examples of parents buying books for students that they won’t even open or buying commercial programs that promise to be engaging but that students quickly find unmotivating. It pays to take time to explore your options!
7. Recording your activities
As you start your home education journey, start developing a habit of keeping a record of your child’s learning.
If your child writes something, keep it (or a copy) and pop it in a box or a file. Take lots of photos of your learning experiences and activities. Keep a list of books you’ve read or used and games you’ve played, places you’ve visited, websites you’ve explored, and videos you’ve watched.
Remember, when you’re home-educating, everything counts as learning – not just activities that resemble school. Scouts, sports, hobbies, family holidays, visiting places in the community, caring for pets, cooking, shopping, and conversations are all examples where learning occurs naturally without the need for workbooks or a formal program.
By taking photos and jotting down these experiences, as you become more familiar with home education, you can match the learning happening in everyday life to curriculum requirements.
Recording your child’s learning might sound time-consuming, but it will soon become second nature. It’s worth forming good habits early as this will help you to meet the requirements for maintaining your home education registration and prepare for your moderator meetings. For more detail about recording your child’s learning and progress, click here.
8. Where to next?
Home education is a learning journey for parents as well as students. There are so many wonderful podcasts, blogs, websites, groups, books, courses and talks about home education and learning available these days. Taking advantage of these amazing resources can help you develop as a home educator, provide new ideas and inspiration, help you solve problems, and create a home education journey that is fulfilling for you too!
In addition to learning about education, consider your own personal growth journey. What are you interested in? What new skills or hobbies would you like to pursue? By making time for your own passions, you model a culture of lifelong learning for your children and you nurture yourself too.
HEWA’s Knowledge Collection group provides daily curated content about home education, as well as great resources, thought-provoking articles, inspiring stories, and supportive advice. Our resources pages also provide a wealth of information on home education and learning too.
It’s wonderful for your child to have a fabulous life full of rich learning experiences, but what about parents? If you put all of your time and energy into your child and ignore your own needs, you will end up burnt-out or depressed very quickly.
Finding a balance between meeting your child’s needs and paying attention to your own needs can be hard but it’s worth it. Take time to think about what your needs are and how you can get them met.
It sounds simple but often when our fears and concerns take hold we can overcompensate.
Worries such as ‘am I doing enough?’, ‘what if I am disadvantaging my child by taking them out of school?’ or variations of these can have us running ourselves ragged and trying to do everything.
Life is not a race and finding a balance and sustainable pace will help you
Build a support network
When starting out it’s easy to feel isolated but you’re not alone. Homeschooling is the fastest growing sector of education so you’re in good company. There are plenty of other parents who share your experiences, concerns and are either in the same boat or have been in your place when they first started. The home education community in WA is filled with supportive people. It’s important to take the steps to connect with others and start to build a new network for yourself and your child.
It’s also important to remember that you don’t have to do it all yourself. You can outsource parts of your child’s education to groups, classes, workshops, excursions, tutors, mentors, online programs, family members, and friends. If there is an area that you’re not confident with, look for other ways to cover that area by utilising the resources at your disposal. It may be an opportunity for you to learn alongside your child. Home education doesn’t mean you are always with your child or that you need to teach everything!
Our groups pages are a great place to start with getting in touch with other home educators.
Here are some excellent articles and resources about home education, getting started, and frequently asked questions.
Always Learning Books
Always Learning Books by Beverley Paine provides lots of excellent, low-cost and helpful books about home education.
Stark Raving Dad Guides
Issy Butson (aka Stark Raving Dad) offers 3 beautiful guides to home education for parents and also grandparents!
Summary of Homeschooling Research
If you are looking for research that has been done on home education, this document lists lots of studies.
Home Education WA Books
HEWA’s e-books and magazines are useful resources for getting started with home education.
Australian Homeschool Summit
This website provides access to 35+ online workshops/talks about home education topics for a low fee.
The Educating Parent Resource Directory
This is a free guide that contains some useful articles and a listing of businesses related to home education.
The Educating Parent Support Group Directory
A free listing of many different home education support groups Australia-wide.
The Educating Parent
Hundreds of free articles about home education. That there are many different perspectives on other blogs too.