Friday, November 26, 2010

National Home Education Week 2010


Through the National Homeschool Network, Jenni Domansky organised a series of free online conferences from the 15th to the 19th of November, including facilitating several ‘park meets’ for home educating families across the country. Four of the online conferences were presented by veteran home educator and author, Beverley Paine, www.homeschoolaustralia.com.

The 2-3 hour presentations included a Powerpoint slide show with Beverley talking about her experiences and sharing her knowledge. They covered state by state legal requirements, socialisation, organisation and getting started, and learning styles. After each slide show participants were offered the opportunity to ask questions. The evening session on different approaches to home education was very popular and it is planned to hold more panel sessions of this kind next year.

More than 50 parents registered to attend, many new to the idea of home education. Many expressed appreciation at being able to attend the conference from the comfort of their own home, not needing to organise child-care or find car parking. Most found the conference room easy to use, especially the ability to log into the conference and leave at any time without disturbing other participants.

The series of conferences offered many attendees the reassurance they needed to feel confident to begin home educating next year: “It put my mind at ease knowing that I can do this too.” Others found the information presented gave them ‘starting points’ for further exploration of home education as an alternative, as well as valuable advice on pitfalls to avoid.

Attendees came up with an impressive list of future workshop and conference topics. Jenni would love to hear from experienced home educators willing to present workshop using the Network.
The National Homeschool Network is planning monthly workshops, beginning with Natural Learning in December and Choosing Curriculum in January.

Regular sessions currently held through the Network allowing parents and children from all parts of Australia to get together for social or support. To find out more visit http://www.rainbowdivas.com/NHN.html.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Independent Public Schools

There is a growing trend in the western world for the provision of independent state schools. To me, that sounds like an oxymoron – how can they be independent if they are paid for by the state? But then I remembered that here in Australia private schools allegedly receive more funding per student than state schools, which means that private education is paid for by taxpayers as much as it is by the parents of private school students. Unlike state schools, however, private schools are able to manage the schools the way they want, and this includes determining how they deliver the curriculum. Some are even able to write their own curricula. And that’s the thrust behind the creation of independent state schools.

Since the early 1990s I’ve watched the debate about giving state schools greater autonomy with some interest. On the one hand it places greater responsibility on school councils which have positions usually filled by volunteer parents of varying management experiences and abilities. This generally translates into areas with a wealthier and/or tertiary educated parent body managing quite well, whereas schools in financially depressed suburbs or towns find it a struggle to get ahead. Even though we home educated, the health and prosperity of a community is related to quality of education available.

In the UK, the new ‘free school’ template allows schools set their own curriculum and control admissions, as well as selecting staff. The UK model was inspired by the charter school movement in the USA, where more than one million children are educated. In Australia, Western Australia moved to implement independent public schools with over 30 schools trialing the concept throughout 2010, giving principals greater control over staffing and budgets.

Research from the USA on the charter school movement offers mixed results: good for students in lower socio-economic areas because of better quality teaching, but with some in other areas schools underperforming compared to their state or private counterparts. The ability of private and independent state or public schools to pay teachers more may eventually impact on the availability of quality teachers in the public education system.

What is obvious from the movement is that governments are beginning to investigate different approaches to delivering quality education to children and young people. Home education should be one of the options in the mix. Sadly it is still overlooked. Although recognised as a viable alternative to school based education there is no official recognition and thus no funding provision. Home educators need to keep pressuring their local member of parliament, both state or territory and federal to put home education on the education funding agenda.

© Beverley Paine

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