The number of homeschooled children in Western Australia has almost doubled in six years – ABC News | Team Cansler

The number of children being homeschooled in Western Australia has almost doubled in the last six years, with around 6,000 children now registered with the Department of Education.

The figures show an increase of 35 percent in the past year alone.

Home Education Association Australia President Janelle Barnes said many parents who started homeschooling during the COVID pandemic have decided to continue with the method.

Ms Barnes began homeschooling her own two children in 2020 and continues to homeschool her youngest daughter.

“No offense to the schools; the teachers are doing an excellent job with the resources available to them, but I have worked with two children while they were one of 20 in the classroom,” she told Nadia Mitsopoulos on ABC Radio Perth.

A mother and daughter sit on a bright orange couch in the foyer of the WA Museum.
Janelle Barnes says homeschooling allows her daughter more flexibility and support.(ABC News: Kate Leaver)

“My younger daughter has dyslexia so it was always a struggle in the classroom because if you can’t keep up with the other kids reading and writing it’s very difficult to do the same work.

“Even though the teachers do their best, they can’t give her the same attention that I can give her when I’m working with her right at home.”

School “Refugees”

Ms Barnes said the Home Education Association is seeing an increase in homeschooling across the country.

Anecdotally, she said this was for “various reasons.”

“There is definitely a large and growing group of children that we colloquially call ‘school refugees’ – these are the children who have dropped out of school because the school is not meeting their needs,” she said.

“It may not meet their neurodiversity needs, or they may have had issues with bullying, or they may just have struggled and not been getting what they need in the school system.

“Families feel that sometimes their only option is to take on homeschooling so their children can emerge as viable adults on the other side.”

Girl in yellow top is walking while her father carries her school bag.
In the past year alone, the proportion of homeschooling has increased by 35 percent.(ABC News: Cason Ho)

Flexibility of the curriculum

In Western Australia, home educators are required to develop a learning program that conforms to the guidelines and requirements of the school curriculum and standards legislation.

Student progress is assessed annually by moderators from the Ministry of Education.

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Homeschooling Boom in WA: Why Some Kids End Up as ‘School Refugees’

Ms Barnes says there is a “huge amount” of flexibility in home education that allows for personalized learning.

“[Moderators] evaluate us every year to make sure our kids are making progress, but the great thing about an exercise bike is that as long as my kid shows progress in all of their learning areas, I’ll hit my milestones,” she said.

“Everything in life is learning – the world is our classroom. We’ll be at the grocery store adding up, we’ll calculate quantities.

“It’s not: This is school and this is life – life is a learning adventure.”

Mother reads a visitor's guide to the WA Museum to her daughter
Ms Barnes says there are many reasons why parents homeschool their children.(ABC News: Kate Leaver)

WA Department of Education Director-General Lisa Rodgers said there were many factors that influenced a parent’s decision to homeschool their child.

“This isn’t just limited to the COVID-19 pandemic, but also includes the increased availability of online resources and study materials that have made it easier for many parents who choose homeschooling,” she said.

“Registered home schooling accounts for just over 1 percent of the total number of students enrolled in WA.

“In WA we have had a unique and successful experience where schools have been able to open up and continue in person learning as the pandemic has unfolded. This was a very different experience than that of students and their families in a number of other jurisdictions.”

A headshot of Lisa Rodgers in a black jacket in an office.
Lisa Rodgers, Director General of the WA Department of Education.(ABC News: Rebecca Carmody)

Ms Rodgers said the Department of Education has “streamlined” the process for assessing a home-raised child’s progress by introducing the option of online assessment meetings.

ABC Radio listeners had a number of reasons why they chose homeschooling:

Anonymous: I homeschool my son because he committed bullying at school which the school administration has not addressed. He is autistic and cannot lie but the staff didn’t believe him when he was hit on the head!

Debbie: We homeschooled the two older kids on the go for 26 weeks in the 90’s, one in elementary school, the other in high school. Both came back into the mainstream as they had music scholarships. Our daughter was homeschooled for 16 weeks while we were travelling. All have university degrees.

fiona: I have homeschooled my three children and my eldest is 22. They are wonderful people, hardworking, community oriented and have a variety of friendships.

Iman, 12, called ABC Radio Perth Mornings to share his experiences.

“It’s like school but in a different environment,” he said.

“I like homeschooling because I can do things at my own pace and follow my interests and mix different subjects. I attended the (regular) school for elementary school; it worked for me.”

Sophia: With all due respect to homeschooling parents, school may be a nightmare, but it is a necessary education for life. Adults are often bored, ignored, bullied, ahead of or behind their peers: we learn to deal with that in school!

Peter: Is it fair to deprive active youngsters from socializing with their peers at school just because their parents believe in the concept of homeschooling?

Stefan: I work as a pedagogical assistant in a high school and it amazes me how these people without pedagogical training think that they can enable their children to achieve better educational success. One of the big problems we see in school is the lack of resilience that the kids who are coming through now have. Taking them out, packing them in cotton wool, won’t teach them resilience.

But Chantelle, whose children were homeschooled after experiencing bullying at several schools, said there are opportunities for homeschooled children to make friends and socialize.

“We joined a bushwalking group at home. There are many social events and groups,” she said.

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