Exemption – assessment



I have received a letter back from the MOE saying;
“Please add to the sections on assessment, including your plans to set learning goals for………… and the evaluation of these goals over time in a planning and review cycle. You need to show how you will evaluate the overall teaching and learning programme you have set for………….”.


They aren’t really asking for much. And also, having your exemption held up while they ask for more information is standard procedure….it happens to everyone.

I should point out that when they ask you to list learning goals they are in fact going outside their legal parametres. The law says the MoE must be “satisfied the child will be taught at least as regularly and well as in a registered school.” Note that it is the teaching, not the learning, that needs to be as regular and well. Note also that “Registered school” is not the same as state school, but includes all the schools in the country, including alternatives and weird ones too who never do any assessment. In other words, there are no objective standards by which your application can be judged apart from “as regularly and well”.

You shouldn’t have to write more than a single paragraph. I’ll attach (and pasted below)some lengthy examples of what schools have written in their ERO reports…this will give all kinds of ideas. Here is what I wrote a while back to someone else on the topic:

“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. You know when he has mastered the skill involved and when he as not. When he has understood/mastered the material/skill to your satisfaction, you progress or move on to the next subject. When he has not understood/grasped/mastered it, you review until he does. 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 also get a hold of formal tests which are available here or there, tests like the P.A.T., Progress and Achievement Test, which is available from: Alan Curnow, 200 Hill St., Richmond, Nelson, (03) 544-7728.”

Do spend a bit of time thinking about assessment, remembering that there are no hard and fast rules or anything specific that they’re looking for, just that you appear to know what your’re talking about…also remembering that what you write down is not a contract or a promise of what you WILL do, but more of a statement of intent.

Russell St. School 1999, Primary

3.2.3 Student Assessment

Although there has been a clear schoolwide focus on developing sound learning programmes, considerable progress has also been made in the area of assessment. Assessment schedules each term set out the requirements for assessing student learning. The focus areas for both Terms 1 and 2 this year have been English and mathematics.

Goal setting is an integral component of every classroom programme. Class, and individual goals in some classrooms, provide the base for students to take responsibility for their own learning. Students are assessing their own work to varying degrees, throughout the school.

A schoolwide report on student achievement in mathematics (number and basic facts), spelling, and reading, provided the school with good information from which to analyse student achievement and evaluate programmes. From the results, recommendations have included introducing a schoolwide programme for spelling. The school has also established expectations for students’ recall of addition, subtraction and multiplication facts. Regular and consistent review is leading to continual improvement in school programmes and ultimately, student achievement.

Teachers monitor student progress by including achievement objectives and learning outcomes in their unit planning, and continually assessing these. In some classrooms learning logs are being used as an effective record of student progress and achievement. A variety of other methods of recording ongoing achievement is being used. The school acknowledges that a further stage in the assessment system will be the development of a schoolwide cumulative record of student achievement.

Russell School, Porirua East, Decile 1, Primary, 2000

Assessment Processes

The assessment policy and recently developed school achievement statement provide appropriate guidance to teachers for monitoring, recording, and reporting student achievement. Since the 1998 Review Office report a great deal of work has been done to address the recommendations relating to assessment. The school is well on the way to developing an effective and manageable assessment system. The recommendations that follow are designed to assist the school in ensuring that valid and useful information is generated by valid and useful assessment practices.

Teachers use a range of suitable monitoring procedures to evaluate students’ performance. These include checklists, anecdotal notes, and formal and informal tests. The administration of entry, one month, six month and six year net diagnostic tests provides sound baseline data for junior school teachers. The senior teacher compares each result with previous data so that student progress is monitored. Results are used to ensure that appropriate intervention programmes are provided to students with identified needs. New entrant teachers use the information to determine suitable groupings for literacy and numeracy teaching sessions.

Under the leadership of the deputy principal the school has developed links between planning and assessment requirements. Junior, middle and senior syndicate teachers maintain a consistent system of assessing and recording progress and achievement as students move through the school. However, because the national achievement objectives are not always redefined as specific learning outcomes, the quality of the assessments suffers. Some teachers do not always have a clear focus for their teaching, therefore they do not always have a clear focus for assessing the learning. Specific and accurate assessment of individual students and their level of attainment should result from clearly established NAO, SLO and assessment item links.

The codes used to record achievement levels are open to interpretation. This affects the accuracy of assessments. It is exacerbated by the fact that there are no consistent criteria for determining the extent to which a student has met the stated learning outcome. No moderation across classes takes place, leading to inconsistencies in applying the codes. Senior managers are aware of the need to address this to ensure that assessments are comparable and fair.

The points reported above lead to difficulties in keeping accurate cumulative records. At present the cumulative record cards show very broad notions of progress and achievement, with a ‘best fit’ curriculum level being allocated. The usefulness of the cumulative record would be enhanced by the addition of brief anecdotal notes to detail actual achievement against the stated learning outcome.

The school has a well-established system for reporting to parents on student achievement. This includes interviews and written reports. Reported comments are based on assessment data, work samples and test results that are collected in individual student profiles. The profile samples would be enhanced by the inclusion of brief annotations that record the level of achievement and the context for it. This should, alongside the improved cumulative records, provide teachers with a more substantial base of evidence for reporting purposes.

The deputy principal has undertaken comprehensive analyses of art, social studies and mathematics test results, to determine school-wide trends and patterns of achievement in these areas. The data analysis has provided some useful information, however, it is important to ensure that the tests are appropriate. This will help ensure that information gleaned from the analysis of results is valid and reliable. Staff and trustees would then have more accurate information for determining priorities in planning and resource allocation.

Some teachers undertake evaluation of units of work. The evaluations tend to be general and descriptive rather than evaluative. As senior managers and teachers make the suggested refinements to the assessment system, the data gathered should provide a useful base for achievement related evaluations of units of work. This will add an important facet to the school’s curriculum quality assurance system.

Russell School BoI, Decile 5, Primary, 2000

Assessing Student Progress

Teachers regularly monitor and assess student progress against curriculum objectives. They demonstrate a good understanding of the cyclic nature of planning and assessment, and evaluate the effectiveness of their teaching programmes after each study unit.

In a number of essential learning areas, teachers individually select what they consider to be appropriate learning outcomes against which to assess students. It would be beneficial for teachers to work together to identify more consistent benchmarks of achievement criteria that could provide a developmental profile of expected achievement over time in different subjects. This would help teachers track student progress more consistently and provide an established framework of appropriate learning outcomes for planning purposes.

The principal and staff are exploring summative methods of collating and analysing student achievement. They have prepared some good reports on student performance for the board in aspects of English, mathematics, and social studies. Staff are seeking ways to provide comparisons for trustees and parents about the performance of their students against general age expectations in New Zealand.

Teachers are attempting to do this by having advisers provide them with external tests such as the one recently completed in mathematics. Using this material in comparative ways can be problematic. Comparisons of this nature should be made against normed and standardised materials such as those already used by the school in the Progressive Achievement Tests. Analysis of these results would provide better quality comparative data against national age expectations. It would also be interesting for staff to compare these results with the school’s own achievement information to determine the effectiveness of its own assessment procedures.

Paroa School, WHK, Decile 1, Primary, 2001

3.2 Assessment of Student Learning

Assessment practices have strengthened since the last review. What is to be assessed against the relevant achievement objectives is decided for all essential learning areas and all levels across the school. Teachers assess student learning in specific units of work against the specific learning outcomes identified in unit planning. Students’ learning is monitored in a way that is methodical and purposeful.

A school-wide formal assessment timetable ensures there is consistency in data collection. The timetable includes all essential learning areas and is well understood and followed by teachers. This should lift the quality of assessment data that is collected.

Individual student profiles are used consistently and well. Formal assessment requirements are fully reflected in these profiles. They provide a cumulative record of achievement for students across the school. Parents are invited to view them when they attend report interviews. They report that they are able to understand more graphically what their children can do. To make this information more useful, work samples and evaluations should be dated.

The growing use of student self evaluation and assessment is commendable. Students are taking a more active part in their learning. They are being encouraged to become independent learners and reflective of the learning process.

Conclusions drawn from assessment information at year eight indicate that there is little difference in levels of achievement in English between rümaki and mainstream students.

Tamariki School, Primary Integrated, Decile 5, 2001

Assessing, Recording and Evaluating Student Achievement

The principal and teachers have made some progress in managing these aspects of learning. Their involvement in the Assessment for Better Learning (AbeL) contract is enabling them to consolidate their ideas and improve their assessment practices. They have trialed a number of different data gathering methods and have introduced portfolios and cumulative record cards. These development have helped the teachers, the students and their parents to identify some of what the students have learnt and to begin evaluating students’ progress more effectively.

The next development for teachers is to establish assessment programmes that identify students’ progress against the national achievement objectives. They need to make sure that these developments result in school-wide assessment and recording procedures that enable teachers to evaluate student achievement and their curriculum programmes more effectively. [Action 4.2]

The teachers and principal have also taken steps to formalise their curriculum evaluation and reporting procedures. A curriculum delivery report by the principal to the board in 2001 contained some useful self-review information. This process needs to continue so teachers can evaluate the effectiveness of their programmes as part of the school’s self-review programme. [Action 4.3]

PN Boys High, Decile 8, 1999


The emphasis on external examinations also limits the development of approaches to assessment. While a wide range of classroom assessment practices is used, formal school assessment systems currently reflect a norm referenced approach. Student achievement at all levels in many subjects is recorded and reported in terms of marks, percentages and grades. Such an approach yields limited data on student performance that can be used to improve learning. It does not demonstrate what students can do and what their learning needs are.

Some departments are developing a wider range of methods for recording and monitoring progress. Examples include the reporting format used in physical education, core art, metalwork and woodwork, which more clearly indicate levels of performance in defined areas. Also, an approach to assessment and reporting that reflects the objectives associated with national curriculum levels is used for students requiring additional support in English. This approach should be extended across the department.

In addition, the school’s approach to assessment impedes the progress of departments in fully implementing the new curriculum. The link between recorded assessment and the achievement objectives of the national curriculum in mathematics, science, English and technology is often tenuous or non-existent. Consequently, the requirement to monitor student progress against the national achievement objectives cannot be met. The school needs to face the challenge of reviewing its approaches to assessment, recording and reporting, and develop systems that enable it to demonstrate student progress more effectively.

The development of approaches and systems related to the assessment and recording of student achievement would enable the school to better respond to the changing nature of its intake. Increased rigour in approaches to the identification of students’ individual needs on entry and the collation of information on a schoolwide basis, would promote a more proactive approach to decision making, and the planning and resourcing of programmes to respond to learning needs. The availability of more meaningful and useful assessment information, would inform departmental evaluation, and facilitate the setting of specific targets for improving student performance and the development of appropriate programmes.

Some large departments, such as mathematics, have well-developed systems for monitoring curriculum delivery. Similar systems need to be developed to track and ensure implementation of the technology curriculum.

Collingwood Intermediate, Decile 7, 2002-08-07

Student Achievement and Assessment and Reporting Practices

During the review, the board adopted a potentially useful policy on the reporting and analysis of student achievement information. When this policy is implemented, the board and teachers will be in a better position to use student achievement information to target support for individuals and groups of students.

At present, the board receives only a limited range of information on student achievement. In 2001 trustees received curriculum review reports in mathematics and English. The mathematics report described the organisation of student class placements resulting from two sets of standardised tests. The results of these tests were later made available to trustees. The English review report included graphed information from standardised testing in aspects of English, with a generalised statement of results.

The principal and teachers have worked hard to implement a computerised assessment system to report to parents on the achievement of individual students. When it is fully operational, teachers expect to use this system to report to trustees on the achievement of students and groups of students, and to analyse trends and patterns in achievement.

Teachers use the computerised assessment system to report to parents on their child’s progress in the essential learning areas and essential skills. Parents receive comprehensive reports on their child’s achievement. These reports include information on the levels of achievement that a student has reached, and the effort the student has shown.

Aspects of assessment and reporting practice need to be improved to ensure that the information on student achievement is more useful and reliable. The computer system records student achievement against sets of progressive criteria. Teachers acknowledge that this criterion-referenced assessment provides only a snapshot of a student’s learning. Some of the criteria do not give a reliable and accurate picture of a student’s level of achievement. The principal and teachers should ensure that these progressions of learning are moderated by comparisons with external benchmarks and exemplars, as they become available to schools. [Action 4.3]

To report effectively to trustees and parents on student achievement, the board, through the principal, should:

establish comprehensive guidelines for the management of the assessment and reporting of student achievement;

specify the duties of the persons responsible for managing the reporting of student achievement and the development of the assessment system;

ensure that staff continue to develop the computerised assessment system; and

ensure that the board receives detailed analysed information about trends and patterns of student achievement and progress over time, including information about the progress of Mäori students. [Action 4.3]

The principal and teachers are likely to require further professional development if they are to be successful in completing the development of the assessment and reporting system. At present, teacher knowledge of the system is limited. Teachers report that the school librarian, who has responsibility for this area, has made significant progress in the development of the system. As the librarian was unavoidably absent for a major part of the review, and in the absence of much achievement data in hard copy, reviewers were unable to obtain information on student achievement.

Teachers keep individual portfolio records of student achievement that are shared with parents. Where students take care with the presentation of work, these portfolios form an attractive record of student achievement. For portfolios to be more useful, teachers should ensure that they consistently contain information for parents on the learning expectations for each piece of work, and information on whether the student has met the expectations. Teachers should make more extensive use of these records to identify and address student learning needs. [Action 4.3]

Homeschooling NZ – Applying for exemption

This is now filed in archives.

For up-to-date information please click on these two links:

Making an Application for Exemption from Enrolment and Attendance at a School


A Collection of Exemption Tips and Ideas

Home schooling exemption form now online

Needing help for your home schooling journey?

Applying for a Homeschooling Exemption

Tags: homeschooling NZ; Home schooling requirements; Applying for an exemption from the MoE in New Zealand; How To Get An Exemption From School In New Zealand; homeschool application information nz; application for exemption from enrolment; school exemptions; education at home/free; homeschool application form;homeschooling families in new zealand; ministry of education and how can I apply for an exemption for my son; new zealand curriculum; exemption from school; home school schedule; homeschooling government requirements; applying for home schooling exemption; Home school association; Radical Unschooling Association (RUA); homeschooling application







Hi there, I have just received my application to apply for exemption and was wondering whether there was a way of getting hold of an example to use as a guide, which will help me with my application. I am just getting started so don’t know of many groups and don’t really know who to call upon. If you are unable to help could you please point me in the right direction. That would be much appreciated.


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 postitive 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 sub-topics, 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!


Craig Smith

PS — A lengthy book on how to fill in an exemption is available for $15 from:

“The NZ Homeschooling Guide to Applying for an exemption ” by KayChristensenTo Order please write cheque to:
Accentor Enterprises
48 Myers Road, Manurewa, Auckland
Ph: (09) 266-9218
Email: robert(dot)ryan@xtra(dot)co (dot)nzCost
$15.00 per copy
plus $1.00 per copy p&pDon’t forget to include your return address
Allow two weeks for delivery
If urgent, we will try to deliver ASAPHome 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 must 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.

Yours in Christ’s service,
Craig S. Smith

Phone: (06) 354-7699 or (06) 357-4399
Email: hedf@xtra.co.nz