Finding Ways To Balance Australian Home Education

Australian home education
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.

How To Homeschool

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.

Balanced australian home education

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!

If you found this article helpful please share this article with other Australian home educators that you know.

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  1. Vivienne Fox  August 31, 2016

    A great article, and very important information – home education allows for so much more than the broad and shallow curriculum our Education Ministers take pride in. The important thing for NSW home educators when registering is not the Australian Curriculum but the NSW Syllabus. I have seen APs query books stamped ‘Approved for the Australian Curriculum’, during registration visits asking if they have linked to the NSW syllabus. We don’t need to follow ‘scope and sequence’ either. As long as the Stage Statements are there, or some other proof of linking, one can use the rich resources we have available, and not change anything. Record keeping needn’t be to the syllabus, just s record of learning opportunities.

    • Michelle  August 31, 2016

      Yes some good points Vivienne. I would also add since the NSW Syllabus is BASED on the Australian Curriculum you needn’t worry about the distinction much. I’m in NSW, and have used the Australian Curriculum for registration. As homeschoolers we only need to BASE our curriculum on NSW BOS syllabus anyway.

  2. Michael Ahearn  January 14, 2015

    Having studied the NSW primary curriculum so that I could put together a teaching plan for our first-time registration, I ended up considering it to be very comprehensive and detailed. I actually wonder how the teachers can cover all the outcomes. Well, in fact, I know how – they don’t. Most of the time it’s the students who are the brightest who end up covering what they need to, either by themselves, or with the help of their parents.
    This is why there are so many Chinese parents putting their children through the private tutoring, and that the competition for OC classes and selective schools is so fierce.


  3. Annette  January 9, 2015

    Thanks Michelle for your article. I have been home schooling for 12 months now and you posts and resources are very encouraging. For the last six months I have had all three of my girls at home which has put a new perspective on educating my children at home. Looking forward to hearing more of your wonderful insights. Hope everyone has a wonderful year!

  4. Samantha  December 30, 2014

    Here in Qld we have not needed to worry about the National Curriculum… yet. (No doubt the time will come.) But I think your thoughts are spot on – there is so much more that we DO teach, even if we fall down in a few areas.
    I’ll be checking back in here if I do need to “teach to the syllabus” down the track and making use of your recommendations and guides. But then, I check in here anyway to find out what else is new on your site, especially the years we focus in on Australian history, literature and nature studies. Thanks for your business. It’s been a blessing to me.

  5. Anna Vaschina  December 21, 2014

    Great post Michelle. Very positive and true.
    The pressure is on in Qld but not to the extent that NSW is experiencing. I too believe that we are giving our children a much fuller and richer education.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Have a very happy, love-filled Christmas and God’s blessing for 2015.

    • Michelle  December 21, 2014

      Happy Christmas to you also, Anna.

  6. Ruth Stuettgen  December 21, 2014

    Hi Michelle, I loved reading your blog. Is there a way we could talk on the phone? I am not homeschooling but would like to consider it more and more.
    Ruth 🙂

  7. Melissa  December 20, 2014

    This was fantastic. Thank you so much for sharing.

  8. Catherine  December 20, 2014

    Excellent advice, Michelle. It is so important to think beyond and see that opportunity to provide a much richer education for our children. For me, personally, this is what our whole homeschool journey has been about.

  9. Sydneyhomeschooler  December 20, 2014

    THANK YOU for posting this!! We have six years homeschooling experience and I do feel like we are now ticking the boxes and rushed through a lot of content this year just to prove we had covered it! The worst thing is my son doesn’t seem to have retained much of it all!
    I found planning a few larger projects that meet different subjects outcomes along the way helps , but it is HARD to keep it engaging and productive.

    • Michelle  December 20, 2014

      My pleasure!

      You raise a good point about retention. What is the benefit of just brushing over a huge amount of content but missing out on true learning!

  10. Cathy  December 20, 2014

    I love this Michelle! I agree with everything you have written in this article. This is what I am trying to do as well. Having looked closely at the NSW syllabus, I too discovered what you have. That we need to cover those things listed in your comply list, but that there is also much more that we are covering as well. I am trying to hold fast to a type of education that suits each of my children and NOT get sucked into the whirlpool of National curriculum vortex. A vortex that sucks the life out of a true and full education. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.

    I wish we could go back to conversations of Charlotte Mason/Classical/Natural Learning/Unschooling/etc type educations instead of talking about syllabus/content/outcomes. We would have much more interesting and fun conversations if we did!

    • Michelle  December 20, 2014

      Thanks for commenting Cathy. The vortex of the National Curriculum is an excellent metaphor. I agree talking about educating your child well is far more interesting than discussing how to make sure you have ticked all the boxes.


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