November 26, 2014

What should we be doing now that there are no longer ERO reviews

1995

Now that the ERO is no longer reviewing homeschoolers, different groups are calling for a closer look at all  homeschoolers. Should we be thinking of organising our own ” self-policing” or ” self-reviewing” agency before the State comes up with something which could possibly be more oppressive?

An answer from:
Peter Butler,
(Peter was a teacher and headmaster in NZ state schools for 35 years. Since 1983 he has devoted himself to the needs of homeschooling parents through CHESM [Christian Home Education Support Ministries] which is a voluntary association of parents who are seeking a Christcentred and Bible-based education for their children. Support is given through prayer, letters, personal contact, newsletters, provision of a Christian Curriculum and Parents Guide, specific programmes of work, resource materials, professional advice, testing and evaluation of children. CHESM does not offer a “package type” curriculum, but as each family is unique, all assistance given is designed to meet individual requirements, especially through an integrated and thematic approach as part of a total lifestyle. This have been developed in more recent years through the “Living Beyond Conformity” series.)

Why Patch Up Government Mistakes?

As I see it there are two issues which have to be considered. The 1st was well debated at the time of the charter business a few years ago–the responsibility God has given to us parents for our children’s education, whether we do it ourselves or delegate it to someone else. The State has assumed that it has the right to make laws which govern how our children are to be educated. Having made the laws, it sets in place the administrative procedures and want fiscal restraints whereby the ERO is unable to carry out its functions in reviewing homeschoolers.

Therefore the second issue arises–should homeschoolers do anything to replace the ERO’s default in those procedures which the Government originally put in place? And if so, what? There is no point in debating the first issue here.

The second issue however is valid if for no other reason than the fact that some homeschoolers may take advantage of what is no longer there.

The reason why I have put the two issues together is that as the State has taken on certain ”responsibilities” and is required to enforce them, then it has to accept the consequences if it can’t. Some have mentioned the possibility of an increase in people who may abuse their exemption certificate requirements and so give homeschoolers a bad name. This would lead to tightening controls over all homeschoolers and especially future homeschoolers. Why should the innocent suffer syndrome!

I personally am opposed to homeschoolers doing anything to “patch up” the Government’s failure to meet its self-imposed regulations. After all, shouldn’t they be doing what they think they should? To become an “agency” of the State could well involve wrong motives and be misinterpreted and misused in the future.

“Package programmes” such as ACE, ATI and Carey College could say that those enrolled in their programass receive instruction “as regular and as well …” because, in a sense, this is part of the package. However there is more to ERO’s function than the “regular and well” bit. As we all know, the wording of the Education Act and the fine print of the MOE and ERO and those who are supposed to interpret it, have created many tensions in the past (and no doubt will do so in the future,) as parents and officialdom come face to face. If homeschoolers were to play some sort of ERO role, a whole range of factors have to be considered, e.g. *The wide scope of programmes and approaches used by homeschoolers
*Determining goals, expectations and philosophies (especially when Christians and non-Christians are involved) *How would homeschoolers determine standards and goals acceptable to all homeschoolers and the State?

*Who would do the monitoring? And how?
*It seems likely that no one homeschooling body could achieve agreement, so there would bave to be a number of different “agencies” doing the monitoring.
*Would not homeschoolers monitoring (in ERO sense) other homeschoolers create undesirable tensions? These tensions would certainly exist if there was any sort of “contracting out of services” of homeschooling review agencies to the ERO.

The ERO is part of a political structure and is tolerated by most homeschoolers. I don’t think any homeschoolers group could, or should, be part of that structure. I certainly would not want to be involved in any such situation.

So is there an answer?

The Local Support Group - I think an answer lies in what has existed for many years and is developing even more these days, viz support groups. These fall into two categories–groups that extend support all over NZ, and the smaller local groups. Such groups seem to offer the following positives: ’Parents can exercise choice. They can be associated with one or more groups, according to their needs at any particular time. Giving some way to overcoming philosophical differences and /or emphases.

*Parents can take the initiative in asking for help or advice, and they can also be in a position where they can be helpful to others. There are opportunities for sharing and giving.

‘Hopefully in a local support group situation no one,- or no group, is going to carry out a ”judgemental” type of review of the family’s homeschooling.

*Parents associated with support groups are less likely to flounder around drawing attention to themselves, and if they do then they are ignoring opportunities which they can initiate, and they can’t complain if they get the “chop”. ”Opportunities are afforded for families to share resources, strengths, facilities, etc., and these all contribute to a positive “image” as often reported on in local newspapers, etc.

I know the MOE, in some parts of the country at least, do give new homeschoolers details of support groups. As I’ve said above, families on “package type” programmes are often automatically accounted for by the controls over the programmes which are part of the conditions of enrolment, such as parent training, seminars and rallies.

Conferences such as the ones Craig and Barbara Smith of CHomeS/HEF have organized in the past are all part of a responsible and positive image. I think there is room for more regional get togethers-not necessarily highly structured and ”organized”, but providing opportunities to fan sparks into flames.

One very important aspect to responsible homeschooling (certainly from a Christian perspective) is the need for strong convictions. If these exist and are soundly based, there is less possibility for airy-fairy programmes. Support groups help develop and hone convictions. It may not eliminate “cranks”, but those with strong convictions will either find others of like mined to support them, or they wilI have to stand alone.

Therefore the role of the ERO is quite different to the role homeschoolers should play in maintaining standards and responsible attitudes. We’re on different sides of the fence, and for very diierent reasons.

SO what is the answer? I don’t know if there is any one answer to this. However if we continue to maintain an effective “voice”, and if we are always alert, then we can monitor, and take action if need be, on any attempts the politicians and bureaucrats may make in changing conditions for homeschoolers.