Monday, January 16, 2012

A Few Tips for Registering as Home Educators for the First Time

by Beverley Paine

At this time of year the home education community is swelled by new families just beginning this amazing adventure with their children. While some of us choose not to register for personal reasons and some the registration process is very simple and not at all daunting (lucky Victorians!), we can all sympathise with those applying for approval to home educate from the relevent government authority for the first time as it can be very intimidating.

If you are in that situation, here's a few tips that should lessen any anxiety you might be experiencing:

Prepare a basic learning plan for the year ahead, using dot points under the eight subject areas: English, Maths, Science, Society & Environment (Geography, History), Technology, The Arts (visual, performance, drama, craft), LOTE (language and culture other than English), Health & Physical Education. Think about what your child will be developmentally and educationally ready to learn in each of these areas over the coming year and create some activities or unit studies around that, add a few well chosen student work-books, text-books or online learning programs. Can you build some activities around personal or family interests? Most can be easily related to one or more curriculum subjects. Add them in too!

Keep it simple, keep it basic! There is no need to write reams: most of us go way overboard when we write our first home education learning program. We worry if we are covering everything our child needs to learn. But it is like most things in life - as we travel along the path the detail becomes visible, we fill in the gaps, switch direction to focus on something in more detail. That's okay, it works, and the person interviewing you and assessing the suitability of your program knows that. Create a personalised simple plan that includes learning objectives in all eight subjects that you can confidently talk about. There are sample learning plans on both Homeschool Australia and Home Education Association sites.

Ask for advice and pointers on where to find appropriate resources: remember that the person interviewing you has teaching experience and will have lots of ideas. See them as a someone there to help you build an excellent education for your child, not as someone there to judge you, your child or your home.

Remember that your home education program is only a plan: it isn't set in concrete and is likely to have changed quite a bit by the end of your first month! The authorities understand this too - your end of year report doesn't have to look anything like your initial plan. And that's true for families who have been home educating for years as well as beginners: life happens and we all take advantage of whatever educational opportunity or resources come our way throughout the year.

Keep records of your children's learning and their progress. This should only take a few minutes several times a day. Try different approaches to keeping records until you find one that you are happy to use on a regular basis. Our confidence grows exponentially when we record our home education journeys. And it will mean a lot less work come the end of the year!

Make it obvious you have support from other home educators: leave homeschooling magazines and books on display and talk about your local and online support groups.

And most of all, don't stress too much. If your plan isn't instantly approved, ask why. Ask them to tell you what is missing so you can include activities and resources in those areas. Don't take no for an answer: negotiate. It has been my experience that families who persevere eventually get approval.

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If you haven’t already done so, please think about joining our Homeschool Australia FAQ, it is a friendly, on-topic homeschool Yahoo group. We encourage people to share information and tips, as well as reviews on favourite homeschooling resources and where to get them. And, of course, to ask questions about any and all aspects of home education! To join send an email to HomeschoolAustraliaFAQ-subscribe@yahoogroups.com or visit http://groups.yahoo.com/group/HomeschoolAustraliaFAQ.Our Learning Naturally Yahoo Group aims to cooperatively widen our understanding of how learning occurs naturally in the home and community, and to share advice, tips, trials and tribulations so that we may all grow! We want to help dispel some of the myths that are out there about Natural Learning and Unschooling and make it easier for everyone to capitalise on these approaches as home educators. To join send an email to: learningnaturally-subscribe@yahoogroups.com, or visit http://groups.yahoo.com/group/learningnaturally.
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