Where we live, we are required by law to register our intentions to homeschool with the State Government. While I know I don’t need their permission as my children do not belong to the state, we have decided to be above board with what we are doing and have registered my eldest for homeschooling.
Tensions run high with Australian homeschoolers when you start talking about whether we should or shouldn’t have to register. For me, I would be happiest if there were no requirements to register, however I acknowledge that that is not the case. To be lawful citizens we are required to register. For me registering does not (yet) really control what I do in our homeschool so we’ve chosen to play along and register for the time being.
I don’t feel that their requirements for registeration are overly burdensome. Others will tell you that it’s perfectly horrible. I see the paperwork as time for me to sit and really think about our plans and goals for the year. It’s nothing more than what I was doing before I was registered. Admittedly my submission was way more wordy than most but by now you’ll have figured out that I have plenty to say and can be quite long winded about it. Plus I kind of like having someone there to show all my hard work to. I think of them as the admin people who my paperwork is stored with and nothing more. I do not go to them for assistance or advice. People I’ve known have found them overbearing and insistent when they’ve shown any element of neediness. I think a confident facade is important in our relationship with these bureaucrats.
The paperwork that I keep and spend time on is paperwork that is meaningful to our homeschooling. I refuse to waste time on procedures that aren’t useful to me. I tell the department how I will do things rather than asking their permission. I try not to come across as forceful but rather as someone who has their own ideas. They’ve had no problem with this and have always praised what I’ve done. But I’m not naive either. I know the day will come when things will become more oppressive and I’ll have to reassess what we are doing then. At present my goal is to abide by the law, and their goal is to receive paperwork that shows my children are progressing educationally. So far we’ve been able to co-exist peacefully.
Lots of people ask me about my experience with registration: what I wrote and how I presented it. First let me explain specifically what is required for our state. Each year we must apply for registration, filling out a basic detail type form (names, addresses that sort of thing), a statutory declaration (stating that we’ll provide a good education for our child or else suffer the legal consequences…well that’s the implied nature of it) and we also need to supply a summary of our educational program or philosophy for that year. Our summary has to include evidence that the program is suited to the child’s needs (age, abilitity, prior knowledge etc) and that we have some understanding of child development and education. We also have to show how we are providing for social development and what we have provided in regards to a suitable learning environment and resources. These are the written criteria that they use when judging our paperwork.
Experience has also shown that they have several unwritten expectations. They seem to expect some sort of listed goals or outcomes and that you are teaching in all of their stated key learning areas (Maths, English, Science, SOSE – Studies of Society and Environment, The Arts, Health and Physical Education, Technology and LOTE – Languages others than English).
Based on these criteria and knowing what they expect to see, I sat down and started writing. I broke up the task into small manageable pieces, doing one section each day or each weekend and I didn’t leave it until the last minute.
Here’s my table of contents showing the areas that I addressed:
I didn’t set it out in any technical way. I just wrote – sometimes using bullet points and sometimes in paragraphs. I did add photos though as a photo tells a thousand words. Plus it makes it look a lot more interesting to flick through.
I’ll give you a quick overview in case you are looking for further details. Of course, this IS NOT a step by step how to register outline or anything of the sort. It’s an overview of what I did which was found to be acceptable by the Department.
Background Information: Here I wrote about our family, the child I was registering, his strengths and weaknesses and his educational past. I gave a summary of our learning in the past year listing some curriculum we had used and unit studies we had covered. I also gave a little list of our reasons for homeschooling. This section just helps them get to know the child that the program summary is written for.
Our Eclectic Homeschool Style: This was an overview of the homeschooling styles and beliefs that effect the way I plan and teach. I also explained the areas that I give priority to and why. It may also be helpful, particularly if you follow one specific style to provide further reading links as the people reading our paperwork are not homeschoolers and may not be familiar with the benefits of our chosen homeschool style. Perhaps we can educate them a little.
Our Curriculum: In this section I wrote individually about each subject. I wrote a list of subject specific goals for the year. These are easy to find on the internet and each state in Australia has their own list of syllabus goals for each subject and each year level. I read through different ones and selected those that were appropriate for my child. I then described what curriculum/books/workbooks I intended to use in each subject area. I listed the teaching strategies I might use (hands on, narrations, copywork etc) explaining why they have been selected and why I feel they are valuable techniques. I outlined my child’s abilities and needs in the subject and noted any one or two main goals for that subject. I may also outline things that were done in the past that weren’t successful and explain any changes I may be making for the new year.
I tried to include things other than just our textbook name for each subject. For example, in music I noted that we’ll be attending at least one concert during the year, that the children have free access to a large selection of untuned percussion instruments and several keyboards, that we play various music genres during the day and that the boys enjoy several educational music cd roms. All of this was in addition to the name of the music curriculum they are using. It helps the Department see that you are using the communities resources, that you are providing suitable resources, that you aren’t just sitting at home completing workbooks at a table and that you’re providing a very well rounded education. So don’t be afraid to beef it up and make it look impressive. What we do is impressive. Just don’t forget to mention the little things as well as the big.
Socialisation: Yes, there’s that word that we all cringe about. But this requirement is easy to fulfill as all homeschoolers know. I just wrote down the social things we do during the year. I listed how often we attend homeschool groups, that we have many playdates with homeschooling and non-homeschooling families, that we seek out community events to attend and that we regularly visit with family and extended family. I also wrote a little spiel about my belief that family-based socialisation is more successful at socialising children than school-based or large group based socialising. I don’t like to miss an opportunity to educate the Education Department.
Description of Planning and Daily Routine: I don’t utilise a timetable in our home so I described a basic day to give them a feel of what we do in our home on a day to day basis. Of course, if you have a timetable or chart showing the content and skills you plan on covering I would definitely include that in your program. Most of the sample planning that the Department has offered has utilised charts and timetables. I think they think more clearly with these boxes in front of them so it wouldn’t hurt to throw those in too.
I also described how I plan our activities, that I plan the week ahead’s activities each weekend and write daily “To Do” lists in my weekly planner.
Details of Classroom Organisation: Here I described where we’ll be doing most of our homeschool activities. I included descriptions about our computer room where some of our work is completed and descriptions about our yard where my boys also spend a lot of time. I included a lot of photos in this section as it gives a clearer view.
Resources that we have made available: Here I listed various resources that we have provided for each subject. I included things like globes, board and card games that have any educational content, jigsaws, craft materials, computer software, educational dvds and construction toys as well as any specific teaching type resources.
Evaluation: In this section I explained how I would record our homeschool journey and what I plan to do to record our progress.
Please note also that my submission was awfully long and that we are not required to be quite so verbose. I’ve outlined what I did in hopes that it’ll prompt your own ideas on what to do. Add your own style and organisation but most importantly make it a useful document for you, one that your children will benefit from. Don’t begrudge the time it may take. See it as time well spent planning and pondering your year ahead. It also makes a great record to look back on and to use to prompt your memory when planning for siblings.
I’m currently in the reporting phase of registration so I’ll blog more about that once it’s complete.