December 21, 2014

A Collection of Exemption Tips and Ideas

Sometimes it’s not best to look at another’s exemption until after you’ve had a go at doing your own first. Otherwise all you can think to write is what you’ve seen in the other person’s sample exemption application. Have a go at writing yours after reading the material below and then have someone look at it before sending it in.

The Exemption application is NOT user friendly, is it? A very intimidating document it is!

However, most of the people behind it, the ones who assess it when you send it back, are pretty positive about home education: they’ve seen the results and they like what they see.

In addition, once you get past the document’s jargon and intimidating approach, you will discover that it affords you more freedom and flexibility than you will ever meet again from a government department!! Believe it or not, there are NO legal requirements or compulsory subjects!! All you must do is “satisfy” the MoE that the child “will be taught at least as regularly and well as in a registered school” as you see in the application. That is ALL the law requires.

So the first question asks to explain your knowledge and understanding of the broad curriculum areas YOU INTEND TO COVER. Note: it is what YOU intend to cover and as they say in question 2, it is YOUR curriculum vision they want to see explained, not the MoE’s, not the neighbour next door or the school down the street…..they want to read in your own words what YOU intend to do. The list of subjects you’ll see on the exemption application form is only a guide…it is not a list of subject you are required to teach. You can pick and choose from that list or do something completely different. As long as you can clearly and competently explain what your intentions are and how you plan to go about it (that’s question 2) and how you’ll know you’re making progress (that’s quesiton 7, I think, the one on assessments), the MoE will virtually always give you your exemption.

There is an expectation that you’ll provide an academic as opposed to an agricultural or domestically focussed education.

As long as you cover what most would cosider the basic stuff: reading, writing, arithmetic, history, science in one way or another, you should be fine. The exact list of subjects, which ones you emphasis, which ones you treat lightly, which ones you leave out, which ones you add in which they haven’t got listed….it is all up to you.

The first question basically wants you to outline your understanding of the subject areas you intend to cover with your child. The answer would depend upon the child’s academic level and what you want to teach. Just think over the next year or so and describe that kind of stuff. Note that this is really only a statement of intent: once you get your exemption you can change as much as you like but you’ll never have to re-negotiate the exemption!!

The second question wants you to take a topic of your choice: so look at one of the subject areas, break it down into subtopics, then each of those into its component parts. Choose one of the sub-topics or component parts and describe a lesson plan over the next couple of months as to how you would go about presenting that topic: there are lectures, field trips, reading books, internet, projects, write a play, a poem, an essay, go talk to an expert, go to the library, etc., etc. The question on assessments is easy. Because you observe your child nearly all day, everyday, you know when the child has understood the material and when he has not. So you do an informal assessment based on intimate observation. That’s all that’s needed. You may do the odd oral quiz or written one you make up yourself. You may get a hold of formal tests which are available here or there.

The rest of the questions are pretty straight forward.

Let me add a bunch of other stuff I’ve written in the past to others which may be of some help in getting a vision for what you’re going to be doing.

All the best!

Home education is a ticket to a vast amount of freedom and flexibility to put together a curriculum that would be tailor made for your son, one that would afford him the best education possible. If you were to bring him home so that it is just the two of you for most of the day, you would already have more advantages, vastly superior, to even the most gifted of teachers in the most expensively equipped classrooms….and that is before we even start talking about curriculum resources! What I mean is this: no one on this earth is more motivated for your son’s success than you. No one is more willing to spend the blood, sweat, toil and tears that may be required to see him mature to full manhood.

No one knows him better than you. No one has already done more for him than have you…..you couldn’t PAY anyone to do what you have already done for him over those past 11 years. No one else except perhaps your husband/his dad is as close to him, has his trust as much, is the one with whom he feels most secure. No one else can see when he understands, and when he is struggling. No one else is willing to be with him 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, which means no one else will ever be able to observe him as closely and come to know his interests, passions, aspirations, abilities, inclinations, aptitudes and favourite/most efficient ways in which he learns and assimilates knowledge. As I say, even gifted teachers can only dream about such advantages which you already possess by default. Education and schooling are two very different things. Schooling is what your son has experienced up til now. If you bring him home and teach him yourself, you can give him a true education. We are talking of a lot more than just a certain body of head knowledge and a few skills. We are talking about the ability to use that knowledge and those skills in the proper way, for the proper purposes, in the context of the real world of the home, the market place, the community and the workplace. That is, you can pass on to him what you know, what you know he REALLY needs to learn, all those lessons in life (the most important ones of all) which I’m certain you will agree you did not learn in the classroom. You can pass on the attitudes, values, standards, concepts of right and wrong, good and bad, wise and unwise, that you are personally convinced about, rather than the ones that just get slipped to him in what they call the “hidden curriculum” at schools. You can train his character and build in the character qualities you know his future employers, his future wife, his future children will want to see in him and that he will definitely need to possess. You can help him to see how the knowledge he gains fits into the “big picture”.

The most important and useful thing you can do for him is both motivate him to learn and at the same time give him a vision for taking upon his own shoulders, as appropriate, more and more of the responsibility for his own education. Once he sees that the whole world is his oyster, you may have trouble holding him back, not that you’d want to do that necessarily; but you both will not have trouble filling in your day, wondering what to study and investigate next: your problem will be that there are not enough hours in the day to follow up all the leads you want to follow.

Believe it or not, the law, the Education Act, does not require even schools to teach anything in particular: they have to be open for so many hours and they must teach from a “secular” perspective (“with no religious instruction or observance”) and there is an expectation that they will be getting sex education, but that is as far as the Act itself goes. It does say the schools much teach according to the syllabus handed down from the Minister of Education (a career politician, please allow me to point out, as opposed to a career educationalist) in the Gazette from time to time. What this means is that you have a maximum amount of freedom to put together your own curriculum from whatever materials you prefer. I know this is frustrating at first: why doesn’t someone just hand you the recipe, A, B, C, for you can easily follow that. But please do not overlook the opportunity to give your son the best education he’s ever likely to be offered….and you are the one who can offer it and can most definitely deliver it, regardless of your qualifications or lack of them. Your own personal confidence level and commitment are the deciding factors, not any set of text books or resources or pre-existing ability.

There is no recognised body of knowledge that young people need to know in order to succeed in the New Zealand of the 21st century. What the MoE pushes through the schools is merely their current (politically determined) guess. You, on the other hand, are not politically motivated, but have a much better grasp on the realities of everyday life in the real world.

Run with that. There are many local home education support groups out there, many email discussion groups just in NZ, many networks for swapping ideas and curriculum materials. There are many educational philosophies out there, and various learning styles and various teaching styles. Yes, these things require a bit of investigation, but again, you have other advantages in a home education situation that mean you can relax a fair bit about the passage of time as you and your son together investigate these things. Actually the investigation itself is a very useful and practical educational project! These extra advantages I mean here, in addition to the ones I already enumerated, are those of the tutoring or mentoring situation you will have with just you as teacher/guide/mentor and your son the student. One-on-one instruction coupled with a vigorously interactive format is the most efficient form of learning full stop.

For simplicity we normally think of all the academic objectives as sitting in two baskets. The first are the basic skills that must be MASTERED: the 3 Rs: reading, writing and arithmetic. These do take a fair bit of intensive tuition in order to master, not just become passable at. Reading, being a form of information intake, includes listening. One must be an accurate reader and listener, comprehending as much as possible, and discerning the difference between reasoned debate and sheer propaganda, between an honest critique and a sales pitch, between fact and opinion, etc. Writing is not just penmanship, spelling and grammar, but also composition of tightly reasoned, logical and well constructed essays. Being a form of information output, writing also includes public speaking, the ability to face an audience of one or a thousand and deliver with confidence a prepared or an extemporaneous talk on a subject of interest or importance. Arithmetic would be to master all the maths that you as an adult use and need on a day to day basis: it probably doesn’t include trigonometry or calculous and may only include some very basic concepts from geometry and algebra. I could add a fourth R: research skills. The child who has mastered these basic skills in this first basket can then teach himself virtually anything after than, with a bit of guidance from you. The second basket contains everything else, and can be covered most effectively by simply reading good books together, watching good videos and educational CDs, doing projects together and field trips and discussing them. This second basket can also be done with a family of several different age groups at the same time: simply expect more from the older ones, less from the younger ones.

Most of what we expect to be doing and producing as a “Home School” is counter productive: desks, blackboards, textbooks, lectures, assignments, home work, marking, standardised tests. These are all logistical developments to cope with the school setting of one teacher and 25 children. None of these things are needed – or useful – to the tutoring / mentoring situation. Because of the distractions, interruptions, strict timetables, necessity to change subjects at every 45 minute interval, the necessity to move at a pace too fast for some and too slow for others and totally irrelevant to still others, the politicised nature of the subjects taught, the enforced recess breaks and lunch times, the length of time it takes to get 25 children sitting in the same room, focused and turned to the same page in the same text book, the boring nature of text books, the mixed abilities and mixed backgrounds and mixed worldviews of the 25 students, plus many other factors….because of all these you can do at home in two hours what could easily take two weeks to accomplish in the typical school classroom.

The implication is, don’t even try to copy the conventional school approach to schooling in the classroom, but instead go for real-life education in the real world. Yes, this takes a bit of climbing up a steep learning curve at first, but doing it together becomes a very profitable exercise in real-world education.

There is formal learning: when parents directly teach, instruct or explain with or without text books or work books. This may more accurately be called formal teaching, for one is not too sure about the learning going on, especially if the children are not allowed to ask questions. If only the teacher asks questions, it is a good bet that little learning is going on.

There is informal learning, when you are discussing a book you are reading together or to them, or interacting over the things seen along the way as you drive from A to B. This is the heart of mentoring: reading and discussing and interacting together over all the issues of life as they come your way. Remember the three year old’s incessant “Why?” questions?

You never want them to stop asking those questions, for when they do, it may mean they have blocked the in-take routes and are no longer filled with that natural curiosity. In free discussions encourage questions, all questions, any questions.

They will not come at you in a logical fashion, starting with grammar and going step by logical step through all there is to know and then changing to maths and taking it step by incremental step as one would find in a conventional school’s scope and sequence. (Actually NZ schools stopped doing this ages ago and now follow a constructivist philosophy wherein the teachers no longer have an agreed body of knowledge to pass on nor are they thought of as repositories of wisdom and knowledge, but are now facilitators whose job it is to provide children with learning opportunities where they can explore and discover and construct their own bodies of knowledge – and arrive at their own personal custom-made concepts of truth and reality, free from the fixed biases of by-gone generations. Hey, I’m not making this up! Go ask a state teacher!) But they will come at you with questions which follow links in their own minds, links that you can strengthen and introduce to other links or ones that you can show to be invalid, unwise, unwholesome, etc., because YOU are the authority, you ARE the authority, you are THE AUTHORITY in your children’s life, just as it should be, just as they need.

There is incidental learning which your children just pick up as you go about your daily business, things that are caught rather than taught. This includes much in the area of character training, which may be far more important and valuable to your children when it’s all said and done than their academic accomplishments.

There is self-learning, self-instruction that takes place when the children have free play, pursue hobbies, experiment on their own, are set tasks and put in charge or made responsible for regular chores, or when they just sit down and start reading for their own enjoyment and edification.

Then there is learning that takes place when you aren’t even there: when they join clubs, go to scouts, church groups, camps, sports teams, visit Uncle Ted up the valley and help milk the cows, etc. As long as they are awake, they are learning something.

The curriculum is all waking hours. Fairly flexible that, not necessarily organised to the last detail. In fact, most home educators who start off really formally soon become rather informal. And those who start off really informally soon become even more informal, and may appear to outsiders to be goofing off all day. It is just that they are pursuing knowledge in a more effective method of reading, discussion, exploration, experimentation and discussion. There may be precious little “work” produced as in schools, but that is because “school work” is another one of those logistical requirements of schools to ensure the children are in fact doing “something”, for the teacher cannot possibly know where each child is up to.

It is a bit unusual to be declined straight out on the first application. It is, however, a regular occurance that they will send a rather negative sounding letter that is only asking for more information. Sometimes this letter is mistaken for being turned down.

If in fact you were turned down, the process of appealing to the secretary for education, Karen Sewell, may not be the best…from my reading of the Education Act, the secretary’s decision is final. Now that “final” clearly applies to that particular exemption application. I hope it does not apply to any subsequent applications you may make to the Min of Ed.

What we normally advise is, if you are turned down, rather than appeal, just drop it and make a brand-new, fresh application. Then the question of the decision being “final” is avoided.

Our experience over the past 20 years is that the Min of Ed does more or less play fair…and if you make a fresh application, it will be assessed on its own merits and not “tarnished” by your earlier exemption that was turned down.I’m not a lawyer. Our charitable trust, the Home Education Foundation, is not a lobby group to pressurise the Min of Ed or anyone else. We try to ensure we provide accurate and helpful information.

The Picoh Report of 1988 which prompted the Labour Government’s “Tomorrow’s Schools” policy changes said quite clearly that home schooling was a “right” enjoyed by parents since the first Education Act was set up back in 1877. The attitude of the present Min of Ed is not quite the same: they say parents have a “right” to apply for an exemption, but not an automatic “right” to home school.

Having said that, the only hurdle to getting an exemption is putting together an application for exemption that will “satisfy” the Ministry that the child “will be taught at least as regularly and well as in a registered school.”

Note some of the key words:

“satisfy”…undefined and undefinable. That is because, believe it or not, there are no objective, legal standards that you have to meet. There is no requirement in the Ed Act for even state schools to teach reading, writing, arithmetic or anything else. They are required to be open, children are required to attend, teaching is required to be done from a “secular” perspective, but children are not required to learn anything in particular and the schools are not required to teach anything in particular (except private schools: they are legally required to inculcate the principles of citizenship and patriotism.) What this means for you is that an exemption application is nearly a blank cheque, allowing you an incredible degree of freedom and flexibility to put together your own curriculum tailor made to your child’s needs, abilities, level, capabilities, interests and aspirations.

“taught”…the assessment of the exemption application is on what you plan to teach, not what the child may or may not learn. Now, the Min of Ed does have a long standing policy of looking for a basic academic programme in your applicaiton: that is, you plan to teach reading, writing, arithmetic and maybe science and history somehow, and that your programme is not exclusively gardening, home economics, baby care, shopping, landscaping, car maintenance, pet care, etc.

“regularly”…this means only “some commitment to routine” (words straight from the Min of Ed’s exemption documents).

You can provide a timetable that is very detailed to the last half hour, or you can provide a broad-stroke plan that merely mentions that you plan to hit maths and english on Mon, Wed and Fri mornings, reading and history on Tue and Thur mornings with the afternoons free to pursue projects, visit the library, science experiments, sports, etc.

“well”…means giving “evidence of planning and balance” (words straight from the Min of Ed’s exemption documents). What they’re looking for is that you have a plan and know how to work the plan. They want to see what you “intend” to do;  how you intend to do it; and how you’ll know you’re making progess.

The exemption applicaiton is a statement of intent…it is not a contract. You are telling the Min of Ed what you PLAN to do…you are not promising to do it. I asked the Min of Ed in the Head Office in Wellington what happens if parents change from what they originally wrote in their exemption applications. “Of course parents will change from what they originally wrote,” the Min of Ed replied. “In fact, we’d be worried if they DIDN’T change.” I asked the ERO (Education Review Office) the exact same question, and received the exact same answer, as if they’d read it from the same script! So the Min of Ed expects you to change from what you write, and neither they nor the ERO will hold you to it. As long as you can clearly explain what you are planning to do and show that you know what you’re doing, you should be fine. Occassionally a Min of Ed person will return your exemption and say something like you need to include social studies and technology. This is simply not true. You do not need to include anything in particular. It may be you’ve struck a new staff member. Or it may be their way of saying, “If you include this, we’ll quickly approve your application with no further delay, so we can get it off our desk, and you can get started,” knowing that there is no legal requirement for you to do more than “plan” to teach social studies and technology…whether you actually end up teaching them is another thing altogether.

This kind of thinking puts most home educators right off: they like to mean what they say. And they don’t like the implication that they can sit around doing nothing in particular, for they have decided to home school specifically to give their child an education. But the point I’m trying to emphasise is that the application process really doesn’t bind you to anything in particular while at the same time giving you and incredible amount of freedom and felxibility to design your own personalised curriculum…one you can change, update and modify at will.

So, what you write in your application is not nearly as important as the way you write it. You want to be full of enthusiasm, brimming with confidence and competence, bursting with imaginative ideas…and your child can’t wait to get started! Being keen, knowing what you’re planning to do and clearly communicating your plans with imagination and excitement…these are the things that make the Min of Ed “satisfied”.

The first question (on some exemption application forms) has to do whether your child could or would be classified as special needs. If you can, do not mention any such special needs if they are minor such as dyslexia or dispraxia or mild autism or a physical disability. Some of these things are definitely an issue in the class room, but your home education programme is not going to be done in a classroom with all the attendant noise, confusion, vying for attention, misbehaviour, and group manipulation/control techniques the teachers are forced to use. No. You are in a one-to-one tutoring or mentoring situation, the best educational set up imaginable. And so your child’s dyslexia or dyspraxia or autism or whatever may not be an issue AT ALL for you as the child’s parent in this one-on-one scenario.

Another reason to avoid going into this area with the MoE when applying for an exemption is that the MoE person reading your application may decide your application falls within Section 21(1)(b)(ii) which says “in the case of a person who would otherwise be likely to need special education” the MoE must be satisfied that the child “will be taught at least as regularly and well as in a special class or clinic or by a special service.” That can be problematic for a couple of reasons. Special classes and clinics and services have been discontinued in many places. But worse than that, Section 21(8) may kick into action, and it is my opinion that this section is over the top in the arbitrary way in which the Secretary for Education can strip you of your right to home educate. Read the wording carefully:

Section 21(8): If the Secretary thinks any person exempted…would be better off getting special education, the Secretary may revoke the certificate and issue a direction under Section 9 of this Act.

Section 9: If satisfied that a person under 21 should have special education, the Secretary shall…direct [the parents] to enrol the person at a particular state school, special school, special class, or special clinic.

Words as “iffy” and undefined as “thinks”, “better off” and “satisfied” are really quite hopeless…do what you can to avoid going into this area.

The question about describing your knowledge and understanding of the broad curriculum areas you intend to cover and about describing your curriculum appear to be asking the same thing. Well, what they are generally after is a brief outline of your general approach and what you’re trying to accomplish in a general overview, possibly including something of your proposed methodology, you know, how you would probably organise a typical week. Mention things such as the non-academics you will pursue, how it will fit in with family and business life, etc. Specifically, they like to see a paragraph describing each of the subject areas (curriculum areas) you intend to cover. Last time I did one, I listed Maths, English, History, Science and Geography. Note, I did not mention Technology or Social Studies or Art or PE because none of these things are required subjects. Maths and English are not legally required subject either, but there would probably not be 1 in 2,000 home educators who would not include Maths and English in their curriculum for their children.

Anyway, if your child is 7, take a paragraph to describe (try not to simply list) the kind of maths you will cover: addition, subtraction, multiplication, maybe division, percentages, etc. You will not be talking about Trigonometry or Calculus, as it is assumed these mathematical subjects are not appropriate for a 7-year-old. Conversely, if your child is 14, you will probably be covering Algebra and Economics but not basic addition and subtraction, for it will be assumed the 14-yearold already has a handle on addition and subtraction. Now, if you are home educating the 14-year-old specifically because you discovered the schools failed to teach addition and subtraction, then of course mention that fact in very forceful terms.

Write a paragraph on what topics within each of the broader subject area you intend to cover: what aspects of English will you plan to cover? Possibly things like grammar, spelling, handwriting, listening, speaking, essay writing, note taking, poetry, Classical literature, plays, short stories of 19th Century American writers, etc. What aspects of Science will you plan to cover? Perhaps nuclear physics, biology, animal husbandry, chemistry, geology, the life cycle of a frog, avionics, light, sound, space, flight, etc. And so on for each of the subject areas you plan to cover.

Note: these are areas you intend to cover…this is not a promise on your part to do precisely as you write in the exemption application. The application DOES NOT become a contract between you and the MoE: it is merely a statement of intent on your part. The MoE and the ERO both know for a fact that you will be doing something entirely different a few months down the track, and they are both happy about that. When I asked them each separately at their respective head offices in Wellington, they both answered, as if reading from the same script, I was so surprised: “Of course parents will change from what they originally wrote in their exemption applications: in fact we’d be worried if they DIDN’T change.” As I’ve often said, the MoE and ERO bureaucracies are generally very reasonable people. They are good to deal with.

Try not to use language such as: “Our programme may cover any of the following areas:” It sounds too tentative, as if you are not sure. You need to come across with no uncertainties: so maybe say instead, “We plan for our programme to cover at least all of the following areas:” What you say is not nearly as important (because there are no legal, objective requirements) as how you say it. Come across as full of confidence, brimming with obvious competence, you have this totally in hand and know exactly what you are doing…and your children can’t WAIT to get started. This helps the MoE to relax, it sets their concerns at ease and helps them to be satisfied you will teach as regularly and well as in a registered school.

What they are looking for under the heading of “Plan” is for you to write up a sample lesson plan. So you get to choose a topic: select a subject area (Art for example) and then a small part of that (the use of nature in art) and then maybe even zero in on a smaller aspect of that (use of feathers in art). So then let your imagination go wild: this is where the MoE is looking to see what kind of ideas you can generate to present information to your child. So to study the use of feathers in art, you could search the internet, visit the library, visit the museum, visit the art gallery, call upon an expert in art, call upon an expert in ornithology (bird studies), go on several field trips to collect feathers, experiment with using feathers yourself in art projects: paintings, sculptures, fashion designs, photography. Write a poem, an essay, a stage play script about feathers. Perform the stage play. Your assessment ideally could tie in well with your aims or objectives: an objective could be to write a poem (an art form) about feathers or do a painting featuring feathers and then have it published (even if it is only in the local home schoolers’ newsletter). Such an objective makes it very easy to assess if your child has written the poem and easy to further assess if the poem was published. Once it is published, you have a tidy lesson plan. Also, we tend to think the MoE requires high and lofty goals, academically sound and challenging lessons.

We think too much. I’ve seen a lesson plan put together by a couple of parents, one with a PhD and one with a Masters Degree, who submitted a lesson plan on how to boil an egg. It was accepted!!!

Under resources and references, don’t forget to put public library, your own personal library, that of friends and neighbours, museums, art galleries, science centers, local craft guilds and hobby clubs, etc. Again, let your imagination go wild, and do not be afraid to sound repetitive or simplistic. We have a tendency to assume the MoE knows what we mean, but in this exemption application, it is always best to spell it out completely and not assume anything.

If you are using a specific curriculum package, such as the ACE Curriculum for example, you may consider changing the use of certain give-away words such as “Word Building” and not mention that you are using ACE Curriculum at all. The only reason for me saying this is that the MoE does not like the ACE Curriculum, although they can hardly speak against it as there are many ACE schools about. But as soon as the MoE understands that you are using that particular curriculum, or any other particular curriculum package, they will ask a series of other questions to see if you know more of how that particular curriculum system works. Some people find it easier to stay on the generic subject of “Science” than to explain how the “Apologia” or the “Calvert” curriculum Science programmes work.

Always get someone to do a final proof-read, have it all typed up to look like a million dollars and send it in.

It is almost certain they will send it back asking for more information here are there. So just add more information where they say and assume the rest is AOK. You will get your exemption.

You will need to address the issue of regularity. If you like doing grid-like timetables with days of week along the top and hour by hour break downs along the side, great…they love those. But you needn’t be as formal as that. You can instead say stuff like, well, on Mon, Wed and Fri mornings we try to hit maths and English Grammar and Spelling…on Tue and Thur mornings we hit the science and history. In the afternoons we finish off morning work and do some relaxed reading and writing, PE, etc. However you would do that, I believe you need to specifically address how you’ll home educate in a regular fashion.

You may also need to address assessment specifically. You can access formal exams, like the old PAT, or make up your own written quizzes as you go. You can make up your own oral quizzes as you go. And you are of course observing your child all the time, and you will know if he is having a hard time coming to grips with the material or just having you on…whether he has mastered the skill TO YOUR SATISFACTION or not…and that is the standard…your satisfaction. If he has, you progress to the next stage. If he has not, you will review and practise until he has. That’s assessment.

In many ways, you almost need to spell things out rather pedantically and childishly so that they can clearly see you know what you’re talking about…don’t make too many assumptions that they’ll know what you mean…spell it out.

The MoE seems to have a bee in their collective bonnet in relation to technology, meaning goofing around on  computers, operating cell phones, etc. So if you are like me and consider “Technology” to be a non-subject, you could mention technological involvement in the context of other stuff as much as you can in case they ask you to specifically cover technology (which they cannot insist upon, by the way, though they often ask, sometimes demand, it be included…another example of them stepping over the boundary of their jurisdiction.)

Here is some correspondence I had with the Min of Ed a while back on this issue” Dennis Hughes and Derek Miller of the Ministry of Education in Wellington answered the following question for me on 15 June 2000:

Question: “Are any of the National Curriculum objectives required for home educators in order to get their exemptions?

My understanding is that none of them are.”

Answer: “You are correct. There is no requirement that homeschoolers follow the National Curriculum. The only requirement is that homeschooling students are taught “at least as regularly and well as in a registered school.
“The Ministry’s interpretation of this phrase is contained in the statement which forms part of the information pack that accompanies the homeschooling application form. Among other things, this says that “Ministry officers will look for some evidence of planning and balance that we would expect would be a feature of curriculum organisation in any registered school.

“The National Curriculum is useful to the Ministry as a standard reference when determining whether a homeschooler’s programme is a balanced one. Homeschooling offers an opportunity for greater organisational flexibility than is possible in many schools, and Ministry staff would normally be understanding if a homeschooler adopts a holistic approach to curriculum management. But if, for example, a homeschooling programme gives free reign to a student’s interest in computer-related studies but appears to give limited time to the development of communications skills and physical skills, then a Ministry official would be right to ask for a more balanced programme.”

You do not have to implement a Social Studies or Technology programme, no matter what the MoE officer reading your exemption application or the ERO person reviewing you says. Are you aware that the Education Act does not itself specify any particular subjects to be taught (except in the case of a private school, which is obliged to inculcate the values of citizenship and patriotism)? Section 60A of the Act merely says that national education goals and national curriculum statements may be published by the Minister from time to time in the Gazette. But the Act does not require even their own schools to teach reading or writing or arithmetic (or social studies), so it is certain that they cannot require you to teach anything in particular. They can suggest, they can encourage, they can plead, but they cannot cajole or require or threaten without going outside their legal powers. Now, MoE and ERO people are human and, like any other government agent, will be tempted at times to go outside their legal powers, or just stretch the boundaries a little, although they are very careful about this and have procedures in place to prevent such events. It is pretty much up to us home educators to know what their limits are and to keep them to it. If we don’t, who will?

The MoE or ERO would only insist on a certain subject in the quest to see that your curriculum is “balanced”.

Remember, your curriculum includes everything your child does every day of the week. It is quite likely your children take in various aspects of social studies and technology (for example) in somewhat informal ways. Their hobbies, their chores, church and club activities, visiting relatives and friends will all have educational components which you can consider as part of your curriculum and which provide the balance both the MoE and ERO will be looking for.

Demonstrate that you had thought about these educational components and count them as part of your obligation to see that the child is “taught at least as regularly and well…” The Act does not say that you have to do all the teaching. Your curriculum vision could well encompass formal instruction by you and the Sunday School teacher and the Scout Leader as well as informal instruction by the student himself or life experiences or friends and relations.

Making an Application for Exemption from

Enrolment and Attendance

For a cut-down and clarified version of an exemption application, showing exactly what statements / questions on the application the MoE expects parents to respond to check out this link:

http://hef.org.nz/2010/making-an-application-for-exemption-from-enrolment-and-attendance-at-a-school/