Homeschooling your children

The schooling system isn’t for everyone – here’s an alternative.

By Donna Fleming
Homeschooling your children

Choosing to educate your child at home is not a decision parents make lightly. It’s a huge commitment, and not a simple matter of listening to them read aloud or helping them with their times tables. But for some parents, it’s the best option for their child and their family. If homeschooling – or home education, as many prefer to call it – is something you are considering, here are the answers to some common questions.

Do I have to get permission to homeschool my kids?
Yes – you can’t just pull your child out of school because you want to. Children aged between six and 16 are legally required to be enrolled in a registered school. If you want to teach them yourself, you have to apply for a certificate of exemption from the Ministry of Education. Contact your local Ministry of Education office for a homeschool application information pack. You then have to write an application showing that your child will be taught as regularly and as well as they would be in school. If you are granted an exemption and can teach them at home, you aren’t obligated to follow the national curriculum nor do you have to sit down with them for six hours a day and stick to a rigid timetable. They don’t have to be tested or sit exams (although many parents do choose to do this).

How do I know what to teach them?
You can use the national curriculum as a basis for your lessons if you wish – the Ministry of Education can help with this. You can also buy pre-packaged curriculums and educational resources from companies such as ACE (Accelerated Christian Education) or Te Kura (formerly known at The Correspondence School – conditions apply). You may want to devise your own curriculum based on what your child is interested in. There are many resources around to help parents who are homeschooling. Some of these are available on the internet for a small fee or even for free – do a Google search and you’ll be swamped with information. There are also various agencies for homeschooling parents that provide information and resources. Other parents who homeschool are a great source of help, so it can be a good idea to join a local network.

Is it going to cost a lot?
It could, or it can be very cheap – it depends on how much you want to spend on resources. Don’t forget about the library, or you can share resources through homeschooling networks. The main cost of educating your children yourself is likely to be the loss of one income while you’re at home teaching them. Funding is available for parents who homeschool their kids in the form of a supervisory allowance paid out every year. This is $743 for the first child, $632 for the second, $521 for the third and $372 for each child after that. The money is paid in two instalments and is not available to five-year-olds – the child must be six.

Can homeschooled children still get into university?
Yes. They can still work towards NCEA at home and some tertiary institutions recognise qualifications from schemes such as ACE. Cambridge exams are now also available to homeschooled students. It may also be possible to get in to some universities or polytechnics even if the students haven’t sat exams, depending on the institution’s policy. This looks at what the student has achieved, and it is up to them or their parents to provide evidence of the work they have done and the standards they have achieved.

The home front
There are many resources around to help parents who are homeschooling. Try the internet or ask other parents who homeschool – they can be a very valuable resource.

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