All That Glisters Is Not Gold

23 May

I often have people contacting me for support and advice as they enter the world of homeschooling and I love being able to help new homeschoolers.  However, in recent years, my contact with new families has moved from discussing learning and education to just providing names of Distance Education providers.  It truly saddens me to see this increase of families rejecting homeschooling and opting for  Distance Education.  It’s like opening the door to a whole new world of possibilities and choosing to sit barely on the threshold.

I’m torn about my role in directing these families to Distance Education.  I justify it by acknowledging that it’s the information that they are seeking from me.  Admittedly, I don’t have much to offer on the topic, as I’ve never used Distance Education, however, I’m aware of several providers and can point them in the general direction they want to go.  But I do not like to do it and I often wonder whether I should do it at all.

Sometimes I feel the families are open to alternatives and I can discuss other options, but too often autonomous homeschooling is unequivocally not the path they want to take.  Each time I hold onto the hope that perhaps in time they will step away from Distance Education, over that threshold to where the many benefits of homeschooling can finally be experienced.  But experience tells me that most of the families I help into Distance Education will, in time, return to the school system, usually a relatively short time and almost definitely before the high school years.  It’s depressing to know that people are seeking my help to find gold, but reject the effort and faith it requires to find more than fool’s gold.

I’m loathed to call Distance Education homeschooling, although it’s colloquially thought of as such, as it’s very different from autonomous homeschooling.  In fact, by law, Distance Education is not homeschooling but rather defined as enrollment in a school.  When families opt for Distance Education they are not taking their child’s education into their own hands and homeschooling, but are re-enrolling into the same school system they just left.  Yes, in Distance Education schools, they are permitted to remain at home to complete the work, but in almost all other ways they are enrolling under the control of a school.

Admittedly, there are many families that desire what Distance Education offers, and have no desire to homeschool.  Yes it saddens me, as it saddens me to see children in school, but each family needs to make their own choices regarding their child’s education.  My concern is for those families who believe they are homeschooling when they choose Distance Education.  These families read about homeschooling and its many benefits and freedoms and decide that they too want a part of that world and, then, thinking that’s its homeschooling, they choose Distance Education.  Of course, Distance Education is a valid option, but it is not homeschooling and it does not come with the benefits of homeschooling.  When families aren’t aware of the vast differences between the two, they are easily deceived.

There are many reasons people choose Distance Education rather than homeschooling.  For families, who have no problem with the school system, but rather a problem with the school ‘environment’, Distance Education is a popular choice.   When school isn’t working, for any number of reasons, families, who don’t have the time to take full responsibility of their child’s education, can find Distance Education helpful.  Many families also choose Distance Education when they lack the confidence or interest in homeschool planning and preparations.  Distance Education can even be useful for those families who feel they need the end of year twelve paperwork and the safety of a well beaten path to university entrance.  Many families choose Distance Education for these reasons and value their choice.

However, there are also many reasons not to choose Distance Education.  Distance Education allows a parent very little, if any, responsibility or choice about their child’s education.  Distance Education is a school and parents are answerable to teachers and their school.  If families are removing their children from school because they are unhappy with what is being taught and how it is being taught, Distance Education is a poor choice.  In the law’s eyes, Distance Education is a school and they must follow the state’s guidelines for schools and most, if not all, comply with the Australian National Curriculum to ensure government funding.  Within Distance Education, course options are restrictive, as are textbook choices, that is if you have any choice at all.   Towards the later high school years, Distance Education becomes even more rigid and demanding.  Essentially, there is very little difference between Distance Education and school, except the environment where the work is completed.  Of course, the strength of these reasons vary according to families’ reasons for removing their children from school.  However, if your intention is to move away from the school system, Distance Education will not achieve this goal.

Distance Education families simply do not have the same freedoms and flexibilities that homeschoolers enjoy.  Homeschoolers are able to foster a child’s interests and passions by spending increased amounts of time in areas of passion and talent.  They are also able to slow the pace of instruction when their children struggle or just need additional review.  Illness, emergencies, commitments and other inevitable delays and hurdles are easily managed in the flexible homeschool environment.  A family holiday in the middle of the school term is perfectly permissible (and often preferable) in homeschooling, as homeschooling families determine their own schedules.  However, the curriculum, schedule and pace of Distance Education is set by their school.  While there may be some room for catering to a child’s needs, interests, schedule and family, ultimately Distance Education deadlines and expectations are inflexible, and for good reason.  They are catering to hundreds of families and also have to fit in with school terms.  Yet this justification does not help the family who wants to join the homeschooling community at the park or on an excursion, but, who has a scheduled online lesson with their Distance Education teacher or who fears that a morning off from their heavy work load would set them too far behind their schedule.  These are the realities of Distance Education.  It is certainly not the ‘easier’ option.

Of course, there is a place for Distance Education in our society, just as there is a place for school.  Not everyone desires, and is able, to take full responsibility for their child’s education.  But for those who do wish to step over that homeschooling threshold, be wary of this seemingly easier option.  Distance Education is not homeschooling.  It is school and, therefore, does not come with the same benefits as homeschooling.  Please do not be fooled.

Remember what Shakespeare said, “All that glisters is not gold.”



Posted by on May 23, 2015 in Homeschooling Thoughts


8 responses to “All That Glisters Is Not Gold

  1. Jen

    May 23, 2015 at 4:47 am

    I do understand when people choose DE. Trying to deal with Moderators and the Education Department is extremely intimidating. And I am looking at my third son turning sixteen next year, my husband has lost his good paying job (and it is likely he wont find another like it) so we will have to deal with Centrelink. We are now in Vic, which is great for homeschooling the other years but not once they turn sixteen. Centrelink want a registered program when you are on Parenting Payment. I would love, love, love to continue with doing what we want but I just don’t see how it will be possible. If I get a job to make up the cash, then that kind of defeats the purpose of homeschooling in the first place.
    We did ACE for a few years but just hated it and the kids learned nothing, pretty much. But like I said I do get why.

    • Tracey

      May 23, 2015 at 5:10 am

      I get why too and there is certainly a need for DE (lots of people return to it in the senior years) but the problem I’m seeing is that people are choosing it as an ‘easier’ option than homeschooling and then struggling when it doesn’t meet up to their expectations of homeschooling.

      That’s a shame that there isn’t a registered homeschool option for the senior years, other than DE, that Centrelink will accept. I’ve always thought of homeschooling in Victoria as the utopia of homeschooling. Seemingly it’s not. Does Centrelink want a ‘registered’ program for younger children as well or just over 16s? Sounds like you’re between a rock and a hard place.

      Centrelink is an awful place to have to deal with. I’ve watched family members deal with them recently and it’s an arduous task. If there’s one place that needs a massive overhaul, it’s that place!

  2. Jen

    May 23, 2015 at 5:25 am

    Under sixteen, you don’t have to have anything other than a registration. Once kids turn the magic number though, they are starting to get Youth Allowance (if the parent is on parenting payment) so they seem to have more of an interest. Even though they take the money off the parent and just technically give it to the child. They want the child working towards their VCE or something similar.

    People that work the system and get multiple payments are a wonder to me. It’s hard enough to get anything for just our family! With the skills and time they must have surely there would be easier ways to make a living!!

    My husband getting made redundant was a huge shock and having to deal with Centrelink again is not fun. And the fact that they get to tell us what we can do educationally really irks me. Got too used to having freedom I suppose. My third son still doesn’t know what he wants to do so it would be great to just keep exploring new areas of interest but we wont be able to do it unless we get a good income again. Jobs for the over 40 aren’t too easy to come by though.

    sorry about the whining! 😀

  3. Tracey

    May 23, 2015 at 5:49 am

    Is there a restrictive list of allowable options or can you find your own?

    If this was the case for me, I would look at Eastgate College ( and doing one of their nationally accredited tertiary preparation certificates. Not sure if this would work for you in Victoria or with Centrelink, but it’s what I’m keeping up my sleeve as my emergency plan. It doesn’t seem to be anything like Dist Ed, and their requirements can even be worked into what you are already doing. Their website makes it look really appealing but I don’t know anything more about it beside what I can read.

    And feel free to whine. This is definitely something to jump up and down about. We shouldn’t be forced into schools and Dist Ed against our will.

    This is always why I’m against the government ‘paying’ us to homeschool. The money would certainly be nice, as we’re mostly all on single incomes, but I reckon they’d dangle that money above our heads to coerce and control us. And really that’s what they are doing to you to Jen. They are using payments to control you, by setting what they see as ‘suitable’ study. It’s so wrong, but what can we do when our hands are tied. 😦

    Hopefully you can find a way around Centrelink’s coercive requirements that allows you to retain some of your freedom.

  4. Petra

    May 23, 2015 at 7:37 am

    This is a really good topic Tracey, and one as you know, living in Victoria now whilst husband is doing full-time study, is relevant with regards Centrelink. They certainly make life very hard.

    I also believe that DE is not homeschooling, and not an option I want to take at all. Maybe you need to make a choice as to whether you will advise re anything to do with DE if someone new comes to you. As you feel so strongly about it, you could suggest if they are looking more at DE they should consult a DE school provider rather than yourself. I remember you talking briefly to me about DE but luckily I wasn’t interested in that and wanted full control (even tho’ I did try it for 2 weeks remember?). Ugh. 🙂

    • Tracey

      May 23, 2015 at 8:36 am

      My concern isn’t so much helping people when they want to do DE (I’m torn, but I do it), it’s that they’ve been deceived into thinking that DE is just one of the ways of doing homeschooling, and possibly because no one has made the distinction clear, not wanting to offend those who choose DE. But seeing the consequences of not speaking up, I thought I should write about it and make it very clear that DE is a form of school and not a form of homeschooling.

      Hehehe…yes I remember when you dipped your toe into DE. I’m very good at biting my tongue. I have the scars to prove it. 🙂 But you saw the light so it all turned out safely. Hehehehe.

      Does Centrelink cause any problems for you with D being younger than 16? Are you allowed to homeschool how you please and receive payments? Or have they got you over a barrel too? Do you even have as many DE options as we do in QLD? Having so many QLD DE options could be part of our problem – luring homeschoolers away from homeschooling. 🙂

      PS. The boys have a letter to go into the mail for D next week.

      • Petra

        May 25, 2015 at 11:00 am

        Hey there! Well, it looks like I could be answering your questions in person!!!!! Are you available for a cuppa next week? We’re popping up (driving) for a couple of days (V wants to see his mum and dad)…..let me know what days suit! 🙂

  5. Jen

    May 23, 2015 at 8:23 am

    Thank you!! I will definitely look into there if we still need it. They look like they would fit into a more homeschool type way of schooling.


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