The walls of the living room are plastered with number charts and illustrated alphabets, and fun facts about gorillas.
But it would be wrong to call this room in a home in Tarrawarra a classroom, even though Annie Regan and Tony Hickey choose to home-school their three children – Caitlin, 9, Liam, 7, and Millie, 4 – in this space.
Caitlin loves dancing and maths, Liam loves animals and books, and Millie loves everything and everyone, meaning opportunities to teach arise everywhere, from the swimming pool to the supermarket.
“Learning is a part of life,” Ms Regan said. “There’s no separation. You find knowledge wherever you can, and everywhere you are.”
She is not against traditional schooling, and was once a primary school teacher.
“This is the option, right now, that works for us. But that could change,” she said. “It’s not for everyone, but the advantage I see is being able to make learning fun, with freedom from teaching to standardised tests.”
Home-schooling has doubled in Victoria in six years, leaping from 1829 registrations in 2008 to 3718 in 2013. There are dozens of regular gatherings of home-school groups around the state, including one run fortnightly by Ms Regan at the Memorial Hall in nearby Yarra Glen.
More than 20 families in the area take part, meaning parents can swap stories, ideas and lesson plans, and the children benefit from a large circle of friends with a wide range of ages.
“I love going to home-school group,” said Caitlin. “Even the older kids, they’re not like most teenagers, who ignore me when I’m around. These ones actually play with me.”
The family also takes advantage of educational programs at Tarrawarra Museum of Art, the Australian Centre for the Moving Image and Melbourne Museum. Then there are extracurricular choices: gymnastics, Girl Guides, Cub Scouts, dance and basketball.
Sue Wight co-ordinates the Home Education Network, which runs camps and connects local support groups. She has seen perceptions of home-schooling slowly shifting.
“Twenty years ago when you told someone about home-schooling, their first response was: ‘Is that legal?’ ” she said. “Now, the first response is: ‘I know someone who does that.’ ”
The internet has supplied a wealth of teaching materials as home-schooling has become more popular, but Dr David Zyngier of Monash University warned that home-schooling had become a “no cost, no brainer” for too many parents.
Victoria has the highest rate of home-school registration in the country. The 3718 Victorian students last year compared with 3194 in NSW, 1108 in Queensland and 719 in Tasmania.
Victorian families need only register with the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority and sign a statement agreeing they will provide regular instruction addressing eight key learning areas. In other states the requirements are far more strict.
In Tasmania, parents must submit an application explaining how they will implement and evaluate a learning program. Once home-schooling is approved, the Tasmanian Home Education Advisory Council conducts home visits to ensure standards are met. Other states have similar rules.
From the Smiths:
Updated: 30 September 2013: One year on (Craig Smith’s Health) page 7 click here
Needing help for your home schooling journey:
Here are a couple of links to get you started home schooling:
Information on getting started: https://hef.org.nz/getting-started-2/
Information on getting an exemption: https://hef.org.nz/exemptions/
Exemption Form online:https://hef.org.nz/2012/home-schooling-exemption-form-now-online/
This link is motivational:https://hef.org.nz/2012/home-schooling-what-is-it-all-about/