November 27, 2015

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School starting age: the evidence

In the Delivering Better Public Services supporting vulnerable children brochure there are some disturbing things afoot.The Ministries of Social Development, Education, and Health are working together, alongside the Police and the Social Sector Forum, on three results that will support vulnerable children.These results are:Result 2: Early childhood education: In 2016, 98 per cent of children starting school will have participated in quality early childhood education.

Result 3:
: Increase infant immunisation rates so that 95 per cent of eight month olds are fully immunised by December 2014 and this is maintained until 30 June 2017.
Rheumatic fever: Reduce the incidence of rheumatic fever by two thirds to 1.4 cases per 100,000 people by June 2017.

Result 4: Assaults on children: By 2017, we aim to halt the rise in children experiencing physical abuse and reduce current numbers by five per cent.

These are very disturbing figures.

Please read the news article below on the benefits of starting formal education later rather than earlier as our Government wants.
School starting age: the evidence

Earlier this month (Sept 2013) the “Too Much, Too Soon” campaign made headlines with a letter calling for a change to the start age for formal learning in schools. Here, one of the signatories, Cambridge researcher David Whitebread, from the Faculty of Education, explains why children may need more time to develop before their formal education begins in earnest.

In the interests of children’s academic achievements and their emotional well-being, the UK government should take this evidence seriously

David Whitebread

In England children now start formal schooling, and the formal teaching of literacy and numeracy at the age of four.  A recent letter signed by around 130 early childhood education experts, including myself, published in the Daily Telegraph  (11 Sept 2013) advocated an extension of informal, play-based pre-school provision and a delay to the start of formal ‘schooling’ in England from the current effective start until the age of seven (in line with a number of other European countries who currently have higher levels of academic achievement and child well-being).

This is a brief review of the relevant research evidence which overwhelmingly supports a later start to formal education. This evidence relates to the contribution of playful experiences to children’s development as learners, and the consequences of starting formal learning at the age of four to five years of age

There are several strands of evidence which all point towards the importance of play in young children’s development, and the value of an extended period of playful learning before the start of formal schooling. These arise from anthropological, psychological, neuroscientific and educational studies.  Anthropological studies of children’s play in extant hunter-gatherer societies, and evolutionary psychology studies of play in the young of other mammalian species, have identified play as an adaptation which evolved in early human social groups. It enabled humans to become powerful learners and problem-solvers. Neuroscientific studies have shown that playful activity leads to synaptic growth, particularly in the frontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for all the uniquely human higher mental functions.

In my own area of experimental and developmental psychology, studies have also consistently demonstrated the superior learning and motivation arising from playful, as opposed to instructional, approaches to learning in children. Pretence play supports children’s early development of symbolic representational skills, including those of literacy, more powerfully than direct instruction. Physical, constructional and social play supports children in developing their skills of intellectual and emotional ‘self-regulation’, skills which have been shown to be crucial in early learning and development. Perhaps most worrying, a number of studies have documented the loss of play opportunities for children over the second half of the 20th century and demonstrated a clear link with increased indicators of stress and mental health problems.

Within educational research, a number of longitudinal studies have demonstrated superior academic, motivational and well-being outcomes for children who had attended child-initiated, play-based pre-school programmes. One particular study of 3,000 children across England, funded by the Department for Education themselves, showed that an extended period of high quality, play-based pre-school education was of particular advantage to children from disadvantaged households.

Studies have compared groups of children in New Zealand who started formal literacy lessons at ages 5 and 7. Their results show that the early introduction of formal learning approaches to literacy does not improve children’s reading development, and may be damaging. By the age of 11 there was no difference in reading ability level between the two groups, but the children who started at 5 developed less positive attitudes to reading, and showed poorer text comprehension than those children who had started later. In a separate study of reading achievement in 15 year olds across 55 countries, researchers showed that there was no significant association between reading achievement and school entry age.

This body of evidence raises important and serious questions concerning the direction of travel of early childhood education policy currently in England. In the interests of children’s academic achievements and their emotional well-being, the UK government should take this evidence seriously. (HEF: As should the New Zealand Government)

- See more including comments at:


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HSLDA: Single-Parent Homeschooling

Single-Parent Homeschooling

When you’re single with children, homeschooling can appear daunting. Single homeschooling mom Mary Jo Tate shares practical tips and advice to make home education a possibility for your family.

“If God has called you to homeschool your children, He will provide the strength, patience, grace, resources, and time to do it. Let your family and your life be a testimony of God’s faithfulness.” — Mary Jo Tate

Program Listing:

Click on a program title to listen online and read a transcript

5/20   You Can Homeschool!
5/21   Achieving Balance
5/22   Set for Success
5/23   Avoiding Burnout
5/24   Stand by Me

Complete Program:
Listen to the complete program with Mike Smith and Mary Jo Tate.

Listen Now


Mary Jo Tate

Mary Jo Tate, author of Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms (coming from Apologia in 2013), is blessed with four wonderful sons and has been educating them at home since 1997. An international editor and book coach for over 25 years, she teaches homeschoolers, single moms, and work-at-home moms how to balance family life and home business and how to find peace in the space between the ideal and reality.

Mary Jo has a heart to help, encourage, and inspire other homeschoolers—especially single moms. She reminds them, “If God has called you to homeschool your children, He will provide the strength, patience, grace, resources, and time to do it.” For resources and encouragement for single parents, visit her website. You can get Mary Jo’s e-book, From Frazzled to Focused: 7 Planning Tools for Busy Moms, free here.


From the Smiths:

Updated 1 May 2013:  One year on (Craig Smith’s Health) page 7 click here


Needing help for your home schooling journey:


Here are a couple of links to get you started home schooling:


This link is motivational:

Exemption Form online:

Coming Events:

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Beneficiaries and WINZ

Many beneficiaries are getting letters from WINZ that are very concerning. Here are some of the concerns from these letters:

I have, today, received a letter from winz stating that one of the requirements of me receiving the new sole parent benefit is that my children are enrolled in and attend school?? I am confused and alarmed. Do you have any information about this? Neither of my children attend school and neither have been immunised.


I received the letter and pamphlet today also and am left feeling crushed and distraught, although I’m sure a little more research etc. will hopefully shed some light on what it all actually means. My 2 yo turns 3 in Oct and I VERY MUCH do not want to enrol her in an early childhood centre (I currently homeschool her school-aged brother and sister) but I do wonder, if I am forced to enrol her somewhere, whether Play Centre is included in the approved programmes? At least then we could maybe get away with the one short session a week…

Firstly take a look at this link:

and this link:

You can home school and get the benefit. The Select Committee said that you would be able to do both.

Exemptions for home schooling

Many submitters raised the right of parents to home school their children.

We wish to assure them that this bill does not propose changes to policies on home schooling school-age children. The Ministry of  Education currently issues a Certificate of Exemption from Enrolment at a Registered School to parents who have met the criteria for home schooling, and the Ministry of Social Development does not intervene in decisions regarding schooling exemptions made by the Ministry of Education. However, because the legal requirement for school attendance begins at 6 years of age, the Ministry of Education does not currently provide exemptions to home school a child aged 5.

 We recommend amending clause 25, new section 60RA(3) by inserting paragraph (ab), to allow home schooling to meet the social obligation for school attendance by children aged 5 years until they turn 6 years old if the parent meets the additional criteria set out in regulations for an exemption from work test obligations for home schooling. This would recognise that school attendance is not legally required during this year, and a Certificate of Exemption from Enrolment at a Registered School cannot be obtained until a child is 6.

However, once the child turned 6, an exemption certificate would still be required.

The proposed change should make it clear that it is not our intention to remove the ability for children aged from 5 to 6, or older, to be home schooled.

We also wish to note that a beneficiary can be exempt from meeting some or all of their work test obligations if they hold an exemption certificate and are home schooling a dependent or foster child who could not reasonably be expected to attend school because of, for example, learning or behavioural difficulties.

I am at a conference at the moment will add to this as soon as possible


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3rd Reading of Social Security (Benefit Categories and Work Focus) Amendment Bill

Parliamentary Debates (Hansard) Social Security (Benefit Categories and Work Focus) Amendment Bill — Third Reading

There are now 310,146 people on benefits: 92,550 sole parents on Domestic Purposes Benefit, 58,208 on Sickness Benefits and 48,756 on Unemployment Benefits.


From the Smiths:

Updated 2 February 2013:  One year on (Craig Smith’s Health) page 7 click here


Needing help for your home schooling journey:


Here are a couple of links to get you started home schooling:


This link is motivational:

Exemption Form online:

Coming Events:



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Where to for Beneficiary families now that the Social Security (Benefit Categories and Work Focus) Amendment Bill has passed its Third Reading

Families Children and Parents Together

There have been some changes to the Bill since the First Reading back in September 2012. It is important if you are on a benefit that you understand what the law does and does not say so that you are not forced by WINZ to do something that the law does not require of you.

What does the law say?

1. It is compulsory for 3 and 4 year olds to be attending an ECE—this ECE can be in your home with your own children. If you are keeping your children home you will have to use a Government approved programme for an undisclosed amount of time each week which will be taken out to 15 hours a week sometime in the future.

2. You can keep your 5 year olds at home doing whatever you like with them—just like before this Bill passed.

3. Your 6 year olds and above have to attend school or you have to get an exemption for them—just like before the Bill passed.

4. You will have to enrol your children with a GP.

5. Your children will have to complete the core WellChild/Tamariki Ora checks

6. If your youngest is 5 you (mothers) will have to work for 15 hours a week.

7. If your youngest is 14 you (mothers) will have to work for 30 hours a week.

8. From the time you go onto a benefit until the end of that year the social obligations do not apply - this also applies to everyone going onto the benefit this year.


What does the law NOT say?

1. You do not have to send your child to an ECE facility.

2. The Bill has not set the minimum weekly hours for using the Government approved curriculum in your home. At the moment you can determine that time at less than 15 hours a week. It will be extended to 15 hours at a later date.

3. The law says nothing about 5 year olds.

4. You don’t have to visit the GP—(have to be enrolled with a GP)

5. Compulsory immunisations are not in the Bill, and Paula Bennett was not able to include them in the Bill after the Second Reading. So you do not have to get your preschoolers immunised.

6. Mothers have to work 15 or 30 hours a week but it does not have to be out of your home and there is no money value on it in the Bill. One WINZ worker told a beneficiary mother (before the Bill passed) that she could sit at home watching TV while she knitted for 15 hours a week.

7. The Bill does not say that you have to go to “Getting Work Ready Meetings/Training” before your youngest is 5. So if you get a letter when your youngest is still only 2 or even younger (I heard of someone getting the letter when her youngest was only 6 months old) then hold the WINZ workers to the law. You only have to be working 15 hours a week once your youngest turns 5—not before.

8. You can home educate your children and work 15 or 30 hours a week. Paula Bennett said that you would not be able to, but if you are working from home then it is possible—hard, unfair etc. but it is possible. More on this later with ideas etc.


My recommendations

1. We don’t know how the sanctions will work. If you are on the Benefit when this Bill comes into effect we don’t know how hard or easy it will be to get off the benefit if you are not obeying the social obligations or work requirements. You might be able to say that you don’t want to receive the Benefit any more and that will be the end of it. But on the other hand the sanctions are nasty. If after three warnings over 6-8 weeks you haven’t fulfilled the social obligations you will lose half your benefit and be subject to “intensified case management support”—in other words more frequent meetings with WINZ to make you comply with the social obligations. According to the MSD’s Welfare Reform Paper E, “There are operational processes in place for clients to be referred to CYF or fraud investigation if they continue on a fifty percent sanction.” This means that parents who continue refusing to fulfill their social obligations after losing half their benefit may be reported to CYF or investigated for fraud.

2.       So my recommendations would be if at all possible to get off the Benefit before this bill comes into effect in July 2013 especially if you have no intentions to teach the Government approved curriculum to your 3 and 4 year olds and do not intend to work the required 15 or 30 hours a week.

3.       1 Timothy 5 talks about older children looking after their mothers and younger siblings and leaving true widows for the Church to look after them.

  • · If at all possible get your older children or the father of your children or extended family to help/support you and your children.
  • · If this fails and your family can’t help then go to your Church and talk to them. It is time for the local Church to take up their responsibilities to help the widow and those in need and not leave it up to the Government any longer.
  • · If you are not on a benefit then please consider providing the needy families you know with this help and support as appropriate.


MSD and Home Schooling

Different WINZ offices have been operating differently. Some have been compassionate and others have been obnoxious towards home educators. The MSD (Ministry of Social Development) have told me that they want to have the same policy toward home educators across the country. They want the WINZ workers to be compassionate not obnoxious. Some WINZ workers are against home education. They don’t see why they have to put their children in school and have to go out to work while the Government pays home educating mothers to stay home with their children—they forget that it is a choice that they made. They forget that the government pays for their children’s school and ECE. They ignore the fact that home educators save the government money when they keep their children home. So they try to make things very hard for home educators by saying they have to send their children to ECE and go out to work.

We have had some conflicting information from Paula Bennett about what the MSD policy is for home educators. In a letter from her in October she said that beneficiaries who want to homeschool their children will have to provide “proof of restricted circumstances that makes their child’s attendance at school unreasonable” as well as a Ministry of Education (MoE) exemption certificate, in order to fulfill the Bill’s requirement for children to be attending school. However, Parliamentary documents such as the Select Committee’s report confirm that an MoE exemption is all you need in order to fulfill the social obligation for school attendance.

The MSD wants to be consistent with how they treat home educators. If your case worker at WINZ is being unfair and intolerant and thinks you should not be homeschooling or keeping your 3 and 4 year old home, then Head Office would like to hear about it. Please ring (04) 916-3300.

Updated 03/10/14

Another thing to remind your case worker at WINZ is that you are saving the Government money by home educating your children. This is what I put in the Home Education Foundation submission:

From the Home Education Foundations submission on the Beneficiary Bill October 2012

6. The Bill will not necessarily save the government money

Single mothers on a benefit

We have heard from a number of mothers that the birth fathers of their children are paying maintenance to Work and Income which is paying for a good portion of their benefit.. If this is so and the mother is mainly relying on the children’s birth father rather than the government, then chasing the mother into employment and forcing the children into preschool will not save much money but will continue to put the family through unnecessary hardship.

Home educators save the government in school costs

According to Ministry of Education statistics, New Zealand spends US$5,582 (approx NZ$6,790.51) per primary school student per year and US$6,994 (approx NZ$8,501.67) per secondary school student per year. This is how much money home educating sole parents save the government annually. A sole parent home educating three children could be saving the government around NZ$22,000 per year, which is more than her benefit. If she has special needs children, she could be saving the government even more: special schools in New Zealand spend up to NZ$160,000 per year on each student.

Meanwhile the cost of a year’s ECE for one child attending 15 hours’ preschool per week is approximately NZ$5112.90 per year, and 75% of ECE funding comes from the government.

We believe that work test requirements should be mindful of, and friendly toward, the monetary and social benefits of home education at all levels, and should seriously consider the possibility of pursuing delinquent fathers for maintenance rather than harrying single mothers into the workplace.


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Related Links:


From the Smiths:

Updated 5 October 2012:  One year on (Craig Smith’s Health) page 7 click here


Needing help for your home schooling journey:


Here are a couple of links to get you started home schooling:


This link is motivational:

Exemption Form online:

Coming Events:


Social Security (Benefit Categories and Work Focus) Amendment Bill


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