Sunday, August 28, 2011

Reassuring the Education Authorities with 'Evidence' of Learning - Recording Homeschooling

Leanne asked: "Are you really required to keep such school-like records to satisfy the government?"

Many families find it helps to keep records in an organised way throughout the year as it makes pulling a review and learning plan for the next year less daunting, plus - and more importantly - helps to maintain and build confidence that their children are progressing. Records can also help to defuse 'concern' shown by extended family and reassure working parents who don't see the huge amount of learning that happens throughout the day.

Generally speaking the authorities require to see evidence that education is actually taking place. Because the officers who handle home education registration and exemption applications are (for the most part) teacher trained, this usually means they want some kind of documentation, usually on paper. It is what they know and it reassures them.

Some people manage to fit their learning program on a couple of pages and some states (such as South Australia) provide fill-in-the-blank forms to complete. Other people provide a lot more. One family I knew wrote 13 pages covering the different educational programs for her four children and was told not to 'write
a thesis next time'... Less detail definitely seems to be preferred!

The 'evidence' doesn't have to be much... but it does have to be enough to demonstrate that your children are actually getting educated. For example, whatever you provide should show educational progress, this is why it is important to date 'work' samples or examples of learning (photos, videos, etc). Three pieces of writing collected every four months would be enough to show progress in some areas - perhaps composition skills, grammar, spelling - or the progression of logical thinking or problem solving skills. That one piece of writing could be from one subject area or cover several - all depends on the topics. The topics could be unrelated too but still show progress in one or more skill areas.

I kept anything mathematical my children produced (which as unschoolers wasn't a lot) - it showed that they were thinking mathematically and developing, testing and using their own calculating and problem solving strategies. Often these were 'workings out' on scrap pieces of paper or charts, maps, rules for games, etc.

We had 'scrapbooks' I pasted our meagre collection of 'records' into - at first, in the early years, there was one for each subject for each child, but as time progressed it became one big scrapbook for each child. I wrote comments in the scrapbook, largely to remind me of the situation or the insight or developmental
milestone the collected item represented. We also had a photo album that showed the children working and playing with other children (socialisation!)

My experience leads me to believe the paperwork is purely only used to reassure the authorities that you are aware of the responsibility you are taking on. From their perspective, if they are 'approving' someone to educate their children at home they need to be sure they aren't approving someone who is going to neglect
their children's educational, developmental and social needs. The way I see it, giving us permission means they take on some of the responsibility for the outcome... So basically the paperwork really only means that they've done their duty.

I developed my Weekly Homeschooling Diaries and Learning Naturally Diaries to help reduce and simplify the amount of record keeping for families, especially unschooling families. I personally think that jotting down notes about what the children are learning and doing should only take 5-10 minutes a day at the most. That was enough to reassure me and my husband and my kids, and over the year it amounted to a much more impressive 'report' and collection of evidence than we ever received from a school teacher...



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