Jenny lived in NSW and she was trying to work out her first Australian home education plan. She was swimming in a pool of paperwork that she had downloaded from the powers that be and she was buying workbooks and joining online websites all because they had the magic phrase – conforms to the Australian curriculum. She wanted to offer her child a new way to learn but she was feeling strangled by the Australian Curriculum. What should she do? She had no idea how to tick the government boxes and still give her child the opportunities she had dreamed of when she first began contemplating Australian home education.
Australian Home Education Is Changing
Australian home education for our children has changed since I began homeschooling fourteen years ago. We had so much more freedom to prepare a curriculum based on what we felt was important. Home educators could research different educational methods, and as long as we were following the key learning areas of math, English, science, arts and humanities, we could be confident that we were also meeting the registration requirements for Australian home education.
Home educators often swapped philosophical ideas on different educational methods. Many of us looked deeply into the ideas that we were presenting to our children and we searched for the best way to teach our children and meet their specific needs. In those days, no-one talked about following a Australian Curriculum, because it didn’t exist. We talked about following Charlotte Mason, Classical Education, Natural Learning , Unschooling, Montessori and Steiner. We gleaned from each other and taught ourselves how best to teach our children.
Australian Home Education Is Being Strangled By The Australian Curriculum
Now because of the push by a few states, particularly NSW, families planning to home education in Australia have found that the Australian Curriculum (or NSW State Syllabus) has become their principal concern. This has meant that much of a home educators’ planning time is spent trying to understand and replicate the content of the Australian Curriculum to their children in order to say to the powers that be, “I teach to the syllabus.” The content, and the sequence of teaching this content, hampers home educators’ ability to develop their ideas on education because they have been forced to comply with this new standard. And as a result, the quality and suitability of the children’s education has suffered.
The overfull Australian Curriculum has kept many homeschooling parents preoccupied as they try to sort out how to cram everything in to their children’s timetables. This has resulted in parents choosing quick fix solutions and ‘tick-the-box’ schoolish resources just because they have been marketed as complying with the Australian Curriculum. Some parents find their children are getting bored and missing out on rich educational opportunities. Their curriculum lacks the structure of a balanced education because it has now become about meeting a stage outcome, ticking a box, and teaching to a test.
We need to stop worrying about the National Curriculum!
I know that when some of you read the above sentence that it will send a cold shiver down your spine. You’ll probably think: What if my child falls behind? What if I lose my homeschool registration? What if my child can’t get into university? All of these are normal fears, and I’ve had them as well. However we need to take a step forward and free ourselves from this curriculum trap and turn our attention to examining what a balanced education looks like for our child. The National Curriculum can still be a part of that education, but it should not be the major focus.
Let’s instead look at the National Curriculum as a guide, and not as the chief document that dictates what our children’s education should look like. Whilst it is a good idea to understand the basics of the Australian Curriculum (if needed for registration) you do not need to know or follow it in great detail. To gain understanding you can read the Australian Curriculum (it’s an easier read than the NSW Syllabus). I’ve also written a few homeschooling guides that you might find helpful.
Instead of starting with a state syllabus let’s instead look for resources that teach according to the philosophy or method that best suits the individual needs and personalities of our children. For me the Charlotte Mason method is the perfect place to start. You may have a different starting place.
“Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.” Charlotte Mason’s Motto
Most of you would already know that I am a Charlotte Mason fan. Her motto has the ingredients that I look for in a balanced education. She believed it was a mistake to think that just by studying a certain set of subjects we would produce a child with certain character and conduct. In her book A Philosophy of Education, she wrote 20 principles of a good education. I encourage you to read about them.
Making Your Australian Home Education Balanced
I had twelve years of home schooling behind me before I was expected to present, to the NSW Board of Studies, a teaching plan that linked up with the National Syllabus. It did take time. After a great deal of reading, and connecting content, I could see that I was already teaching at least 85% of the Australian Curriculum. After that I made a short list of content that I needed to add in order to comply with the National Curriculum. I decided I’d incorporate this list into my curriculum rather than throwing out what I already knew was a balanced education.
On my need to comply list I added the following:
- Incorporate indigenous history and literature into my reading list most years
- Include more Asian studies in my history lessons in high school
- Teach environmental science within geography in high school.
- Give lessons in using technology for presentation
The order of teaching content was not the same but I still had most of it. If questioned by the powers that be I could usually identify the approximate year I was planning on teaching a particular topic.
However the greatest revelation was how much more I was teaching that wasn’t in the Australian Curriculum. For example I discovered that my Charlotte Mason based program was:
- 50% – 70% more literature rich,
- covering 70% more geography of the world,
- teaching 60% more history and teaching it chronologically,
- encouraging thoughtfulness and the knowledge of God.
Don’t Be Afraid To Look Beyond The Australian National Curriculum
I wrote this article today because I hear so many home educators like Jenny who are anxious about following the Australian National Curriculum. I believe it is sucking the joy out of preparing a balanced curriculum that will give children a rich and living education. It is also robbing a whole generation of children the opportunity of an individually tailored education. It is my hope that you will be able to shake off those fears and plan the curriculum you want and then learn how to add in the small amount of content that you may have missed from the Australian Curriculum.
I hope this has helped you.
Please comment and tell me your thoughts!
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