Something to watch out for in New Zealand and Australia in the future:
Do the public school authorities feel threatened by homeschooling? Judging by their efforts to lure homeschooling families into dependence on local school districts, the answer is apparently yes.
For the last several years, homeschooling has been the fastest growing educational alternative in the country. Estimates of its growth rate typically range from 15 to 25 percent annually. Homeschoolers are notoriously difficult to count; however, the National Homeschooling Research Institute believes that currently 1.2 million children get their education at home. While that constitutes only about 2 percent of all school-age children, it’s more than 20 percent of those who are outside the government educational system. and, with a 20 percent annual growth rate, another quarter million children will join the homeschooling movement this year.
The sheer number of homeschoolers represents a distinct threat to the hegemony of the government school monopoly. Qualitatively, the academic success of homeschoolers, measured by standardized test scores and recruitment by colleges, debunks the myth that parents need to hire credentialed experts to force children to learn.
Homeschooling also refutes the “more money equals better education” mantra of the teachers unions. The average homeschooling family spends approximately 10 percent of the per-pupil costs associated with government schools in achieving those academic results.2 Multiplied by the number of homeschoolers, even these modest amounts add up to a sizeable market attracting numerous educational entrepreneurs.
Besides challenging the legitimacy of government schools, homeschoolers also pose a more direct economic threat. Funding for government schools is based on attendance, with a national average of almost $6,000 per student.3 Homeschooled children represent over $7 billion out of reach of local government schools, and, at its current growth rate, each year over $1 billion more slips away.
Politically, homeschoolers are a force to be reckoned with when their rights are endangered. The most highly publicized and effective example of their growing political clout occurred in 1994, when the House of Representatives inserted language into an educational appropriations bill that would have required all teachers to be credentialed. Homeschoolers perceived that provision as a threat to their autonomy and overwhelmed phone and fax lines to their representatives until the credentialing language was removed by a 424-1 vote.
Homeschooling’s economic and political impact is keenly felt by teachers unions, educational bureaucrats, ideological indoctrinators, and other beneficiaries of today’s system. What will happen when the growing number of homeschooling families withdraw their political support for the enormous taxes required to fund today’s $300 billion government system?
To combat those threats, defenders of the status quo are fighting back with all the legal, legislative, and economic weapons at their disposal. The most insidious of these tactics is the systematic undermining and co-opting of the homeschooling movement by establishing government homeschooling programs. Those programs set seductive lures before families by providing “free” resources, teachers, extracurricular activities, facilities, and even cash reimbursement.
When enough families have voluntarily returned to the government system, it will be a relatively straightforward matter to recapture the rest by imposing mandatory homeschooling oversight regulations. Will this seduction succeed in eliminating independent homeschoolers and derailing the growing free market in education? Economics and the history of private schools versus government schools provide ample lessons on what to expect.
The Birth of a Free Market in Education
The term “homeschooling” is a bit of a misnomer. To many people the word conjures up a vision of mom instructing her kids around the kitchen table–a myth perpetuated by the media, which invariably demand that particular image to illustrate their stories. The reality is far different. While instruction around the kitchen table does indeed occur in most homeschooling families, the flexibility and range of homeschooling encourages an enormous variety of alternative educational models. Those models range from child-led, interest-based learning (unschooling) to the traditional classroom model with professional teachers. They include distance learning, cooperative teaching arrangements between parents, commercial learning centers, and subject-specific tutors. Many young teenagers routinely take junior college or university courses. Others participate in the revival of apprenticing.
The homeschooling boom has not gone unnoticed by educational entrepreneurs. Homeschooling conferences attract huge numbers of vendors catering to the hundreds (and in some cases, thousands) of families attending. Traditional curriculum vendors have repackaged their wares specifically for the homeschooling market. Homeschooling magazines and newsletters flourish, increasing in number. Organizations providing paid support (curriculum counseling, bureaucratic paperwork assistance, legal support) for homeschooling families continue to spring up.
Supplementing these numerous commercial ventures and, in most cases, preceding them, are a multitude of local support groups that arose spontaneously to help meet the needs of new and existing homeschooling families. Much of the power of the homeschooling movement comes from these groups, through which families gather to meet the social and academic needs of their children. Those voluntary groups create the environment for low-cost or no-cost academic solutions, such as:
- cooperative teaching, which leverages the existing talents and interests of parents;
- information sharing among parents about what works and what doesn’t for different learning styles;
- renting community rooms (or homes) for group activities and classes;
- hiring professional teachers by the hour (for example, our science teacher is paid $75 an hour, which breaks down to $5 a child); and
- field trips for hands-on learning.
Homeschooling support groups also provide all of the social activities found in traditional schools. One group, All Ways Learning in San Jose, is typical of the depth of activities provided by voluntary support groups once a critical mass of families is involved. The group meets twice weekly, once at a local park and once in a rented community room. Volunteer families organize the monthly newsletter, yearbook, yearly “school” pictures, monthly “PTA” meetings (aka “Parents’ Night Out”), holiday parties, dances, and choir. In addition, a homeschooling sports league in the area sponsors baseball, basketball, and soccer for several hundred homeschooled children. Homeschooling, with its varied commercial and volunteer ventures, is a microcosm of what a true free market in education could look like–parents and children working together, mixing and matching, tailoring the educational style to what works best for them; families spending their educational dollars as they choose, with educational entrepreneurs creating a wide-ranging marketplace of goods and services. It’s not just mom and the kids around the kitchen table. It’s a new educational model.
Be sure to read the rest of the article here:
Needing help for your home schooling journey: http://hef.org.nz/2011/
Here are a couple of links to get you started home schooling:
Information on getting started: http://hef.org.nz/
Information on getting an exemption: http://hef.org.nz/
This link is motivational: http://hef.org.
Exemption Form online: http://hef.org.nz/
Red Tape Cluster Buster Meetings and the Scoping Survey: http://hef.org.nz/2014/next-steps-deadline-8-december-2014/