This is the letter I wrote on the 22 April to send out to those who gave donations to the Home Education Foundation during the 2013/2014 financial year.
Thank you for your faithfulness in giving each month. Your donations are greatly appreciated to keep the www.hef.org.nz website running and also help cover many of the other expenses required to run an office from home. Enclosed is your receipt for the 2013/14 financial year.
I still receive lots of phone calls from parents wanting to home educate their children. Mostly I pass them on to their local support group, but some require me to talk more with them. Some of the people I have spoken to over the past 12 months are new immigrants, solo parents having trouble with WINZ, CYPs and/or the Police, and others having trouble with the ERO (although calls to do with the ERO have quietened down a lot). I like to keep an eye on what the MoE and ERO are doing and what other home educators are doing as well.
MoE Exemption Form
The MoE online Homeschooling info pack has changed. Page 7 now includes:
Remember, you will need to have a record of progress and achievement over time i.e. weekly, termly, annually. This may also be needed when your child goes on to further education or training.
Please read my enclosed letter to the MoE. This will show you what some of my concerns are about this insertion into the exemption application form. Other concerns not mentioned in this letter are as follows:
1. If the MoE thinks that they can just insert a paragraph into the exemption package without first consulting and informing home educators, they will continue to do this until we are in quite a bind with them and find that we have unbearable restrictions.
2. In 1996 the MoE asked all home educators to write a self-evaluation report in lieu of reviews, for the Audit Office. Home Educators fought this and we WON. We did not want to have our reports incriminating us at some later date. Anything we write good or bad (with reading behind the lines) can be taken against us at some stage. And with the way the world is now, I don’t trust the Government at all. What is to stop the MoE at some later date requiring home educators to send in to the MoE their record of progress and achievement over time i.e. weekly, termly, annually? So I would like to encourage individuals and support groups to write to the MoE.
Even more concerning than the record-keeping requirement is the extra page of questions about the last 6 months for children who have been to an ECE Appendix A: Homeschooling Application Form [WORD; 59kb]. This has been included sometime during the last 2 years. What worries me is what they will use the information for. This could be the first move towards something else, something worrying—compulsory preschool for 3-5 year olds. We have looked at how to handle this and decided that a letter in the first instance would be best—see enclosed. Then, no matter what they answer, we will keep our eyes skinned and watch them like hawks. A bigger battle might be ahead than just a change on the exemption form.
Home Educators on a benefit
Being on a benefit is a real problem for people wanting to home educate. My advice to people is to get off the benefit as soon as possible. But unfortunately for a lot of people that is not possible at all. So they have to work around the obligations to keep getting the benefit. Some WINZ officers are great and tell home educators that having an exemption is enough—they can continue home educating without having to get a job. Other WINZ officers are very strict and by the book. If your youngest child is 5 then you have to work 15 hours a week and if your youngest child is 14 you have to work 30 hours a week. Some officers get mothers going to “Getting Work Ready” day-conferences when their child is well under 5 and the child must be left in care for that day. This could be something that we look into more this coming year.
There has been no word about the 3-4 age group of beneficiaries doing Government approved curriculum—we will leave this alone and not rock the boat.
International Home Education—There are many concerns about home education worldwide:
1. The Romeike family and the concerns behind their case http://hef.org.nz/2014/hslda-dangerous-policy-lurks-behind-romeike-triumph/ The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear their appeal to stay there but they are able to stay indefinitely in the States as guests of the USA Government http://hef.org.nz/2014/the-romeike-reprieve/
2. The German home educating family in New Zealand who was refused Asylum in NZ 2012 has returned to Germany. http://hef.org.nz/2014/is-new-zealand-a-free-country/ and http://hef.org.nz/2014/will-the-supreme-court-take-romeike-please-pray/
3. The Government in Scotland passed a Bill assigning a Government Agent for every child. http://hef.org.nz/2014/hsldascotland-officials-overstep-bounds-by-passing-bill-to-invade-the-family/ This has been muted in NZ. Craig wrote about it several times in TEACH Bulletin. We need to keep an eye on the Government and any moves they make in this direction in NZ.
4. In France a Bill to Restrict Homeschooling to “Exceptional Circumstances” was withdrawn after worldwide opposition to it. http://hef.org.nz/2014/bill-would-restrict-homeschooling-to-exceptional-circumstances-2/
5. There is proposed legislation at the Council of Europe which “calls out homeschooling as a practice that should be restricted because of the danger of parallel societies and religious sectarianism.” Michael Donnelly of the HSLDA says “The Salles report poses a serious threat to religious freedom and goes too far as to undermine a parent’s right to choose to homeschool their child on the basis of their religious convictions, a right that is clearly protected by the European Convention and other human rights treaties.” http://hef.org.nz/2014/council-of-europe-report-threatens-homeschooling/
Good news—we are hoping to get the July 2011 Keystone (which Craig had half finished) completed and in the mail by July 2014. We will change everyone’s subscriptions to 4 issues (or however many are still left on your subscription) instead of 4 issues a year. We will not have a time limit for when each issue comes out—when it is ready we will post it, hopefully with not too much time between each issue. I have two young ladies who have finished being home educated helping me. Your donations will help to pay them for the work that they are doing in helping me put together Keystone. Please pray for us as we do this. It is a huge learning curve for all of us.
Home Education Foundation staff
So the very part-time staff of the Home Education Foundation are Lisa and Jeanli Boessenkool for Keystone and Suzannah Rowntree for Legal issues—all home education graduates. My children and I continue to maintain the website, answer phone calls, SKYPE calls and emails as we can, while keeping an eye on the MoE, ERO and what other home educators are doing.
Thank you again for your prayers and support. We could not be doing all this without you