The number of children being taught at home in NSW has ballooned by 65 per cent in four years, with many parents citing bullying, philosophical objections to schooling and a desire for personal learning as reasons for rejecting formal education.
Children being home schooled have increased from 1703 in July 2008 to 2802 in July 2012. Over the same time, the school population of NSW grew by less than 3 per cent.
The secretary of Home Education Australia, Sharyn Grebert, said: ”There is a culture of bullying within our schools. That has had a tremendous impact on a number of home schoolers.”
Noting the increase in home schooling in its 2012 annual report, the Board of Studies found applicants for home schooling who provided a reason for not using school cited ”philosophical choice or individualised approach to learning dif?culties”.
Since 2008-09, the number of families registered for home schooling has risen from 1177 to 1625 in 2011-12.
David Zyngier, a senior lecturer from the Faculty of Education at Monash University, said he was concerned the rise in home schooling was linked to the false perception that public schools were unsafe and the undermining of the professionalism of teachers.
‘‘All of a sudden everyone’s an expert in education,’’ he said.
But many parents now claim their decision to opt out of the system is under threat from growing government regulation. Home educating parents have recently begun campaigning against what they say are attempts by the NSW Board of Studies, which is responsible for registering children for home schooling and making sure the curriculum is being covered, to do so in a more rigid and prescriptive way.
They claim a new information pack released by the board in August means there are now greater requirements to align their child’s education with outcomes of a standard curriculum, more onerous reporting requirements and changes that make it easier for staff from the board to visit their homes.
Ms Grebert said this could cause people to not register or not be part of the system. The changes had engendered ‘‘fury and distrust’’.
‘‘We don’t want to replicate the school system within the home. The reason that the children are out of it is for that very reason,’’ she said.
Sydney mother Lindy Hadges chose to educate her five children at home because she did not want to separate from them and believes in a more ‘‘organic, fluid’’ style of learning.
‘‘For me, really early on, it was a very emotional, personal thing,’’ she said. ‘‘It was just a desire to be with them and a feeling that being with my children is how I model and train them and care for them and guide them through life. I can’t do that in absence.
’’Each day involved ‘‘lots of activities’’, she said. ‘‘They would go off to home school swimming, home school surfing, home school creative arts. Every morning we would have our reading and maths time … and then depending on what flows out of that, that will govern where we go next.’’
The board insists that parent concerns are misplaced, that information has been misinterpreted and said the policies were only updated to reflect new aspects of the national curriculum.
‘‘It is incorrect to suggest that the updated information package reduces the flexibility home schooling parents have for providing an educational program based on the child’s pace of learning,’’ a spokesman said. ‘‘The minimum curriculum continues to be the Board of Studies syllabuses.
’’Ms Hadges said parents were concerned the board was trying to create more of a ‘‘school approach’’ to home schooling and had been disappointed with its response.
‘‘I think what that shows is that they don’t really understand the heart of home schooling and that’s kind of sad,’’ she said.