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… 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