The NSW Board of Studies has released a draft new ‘information pack’ with requirements for homeschoolers in the state. I haven’t read it fully but what I have read has been enough to prompt me to immediate action. There is already a petition on change.org and I urge you to sign even if you have no children, do not homeschool or do not live in NSW, and forward it on to anyone else you think might be sympathetic to our situation.
I think it is disgusting that civil servants can produce guidelines like this without any consultation with the key stakeholders, i.e. the homeschoolers. All the homeschoolers I know of in Sydney and outside Sydney are conscientious people who want the best education for their children, and have chosen to provide it themselves outside of the school system. It is a wonderful community with a whole range of social and educational opportunities provided by the homeschooling network, by small groups and by individual parents.
We are providing individualised learning experiences for each child, appropriate to their interests, learning styles, strengths and weaknesses. Surely this is what most parents want for their children, and what most teachers would love to be able to provide but are restricted by the limitations of the school system (e.g. large class sizes, restricted resources and increasing paperwork).
The new documentation from the New South Wales Board of Studies appears to shift the focus back towards becoming more like a school, with restrictive timetables and having to work towards increasingly narrow ‘outcomes’, many of which may be completely inappropriate or unnecessary when taken on a case-by-case basis.
We are also doing what we do with no financial assistance whatsoever from the state. In 2008 to 2009 (the most recent year I can find figures for) the government funded state schools on a per-capita basis with each school receiving an average of $13,444 per child in government schools and $6,100 per child in independent schools. Perhaps if the civil servants want us to behave like a school they should pay us to do so?
In seriousness, I am worried that this move will simply drive many homeschoolers underground, and put off other parents who were considering homeschooling their children. Those who try, as I do, to balance the needs of their children with the requirements of the state, will end up spending too much time worrying about the latter and may be in danger of neglecting the former.
Please sign if, like me, you want the Board of Studies to reconsider their unhelpful actions.