In need of a comprehensive guide to homeschooling in Australia? You’ve found it!
This guide covers homeschool registration in Australia, homeschooling facts and figures, socialisation and homeschool support groups, and answers all the questions you need to know to help you get started homeschooling in Australia.
There’s a LOT of helpful information here, so I’ve also put it in a PDF ebook that you can download, print, and refer back to.
Want me to email it to you? Just pop your details in below and you’ll get it straight away.
OK, let’s get started mastering homeschooling in Australia!
If you’re thinking about homeschooling in Australia, you’re not alone. The number of Australian homeschoolers has increased exponentially in the last decade.
In our early days of homeschooling we considered ourselves lucky to have a group of five families in our area. Now, in the same area, there are over 100 families.
But when you begin homeschooling it can seem completely overwhelming, especially if you’re homeschooling unexpectedly.
- There’s paperwork to be done and decisions to be made.
- There may be an anxious child to reassure or an irritated school to deal with.
- Maybe your partner isn’t too keen on homeschooling.
- Maybe YOU’RE not too keen on homeschooling
- And every friend and family member will have a concern they want to discuss with you.
Just take a few deep breaths and focus on the next task that needs to be done. As with anything new there’s a learning curve you need to get through before it gets easier, but it WILL get easier.
And remember there’s plenty of assistance out there if you need it – us homeschoolers tend to be a helpful bunch!
What is homeschooling?
Homeschooling simply means your children learn at home and in the community, rather than school, and parents are responsible for their education, rather than an outside organisation.
It DOESN’T mean you’ll be at home all the time, or that homeschooling will look anything like school.
It’s a difficult concept to get your head around in the beginning, but school does not equal education. They’re two totally different things.
And as you’re educating, not schooling, you can do it in whatever way you like. Many homeschoolers don’t spend a great deal of time doing traditional schoolwork but instead attend activities in their community or with homeschool groups, explore the outdoors, read dozens of books, do hands-on activities and experiments, travel, and take advantage of the endless range of activities and resources that happen to be educational.
Distance education vs homeschooling
OK, so you just enrol with a school, they send you the work, and you’re homeschooling – right?
That’s distance education. And while distance education and homeschooling are often seen as the same thing they’re quite different.
Distance education involves enrolling with a school, who provide all the work. You make sure the work is done, send it back, and they grade it and produce reports. They often have online classes to attend. As the parent you are responsible for supervising the work, doing some teaching, and making sure it gets done.
Homeschooling involves registering to homeschool, choosing your own course of work, and ensuring your child receives an education. Other than infrequent reporting and re-application to your state or territory homeschool body, you decide what your child’s education will involve.
You choose your content and your style. You can use complete curriculum, build it from scratch yourself, do in-person and online classes, and use tutoring.
You can add whatever you like to your homeschooling mix to create a truly individualised and interesting education. In some states you must deliver a program that addresses the curriculum, but it’s quite easy to get creative with this.
How many homeschoolers are in Australia?
In 2017, there were 19,004 registered homeschooling students, an increase of 8563 since 2011. I told you numbers were growing!
Thanks to Stuart Chapman for crunching the numbers – you can view the full homeschooling statistics chart here.
However, it’s difficult to know the true numbers, as apparently many homeschoolers in Australia are not registered.
I’ve seen estimates ranging from 1/3 to 1/2 of homeschoolers not being registered, but it’s impossible to know. Just assume there are many more out there than the numbers state.
And for that reason, don’t go asking people you barely know if they’re registered. They may not want to share.
Why do Australians homeschool?
There are many reasons, but most fall into the following categories.
- Schools can’t manage special needs – The biggest growth in homeschooling numbers is coming from children who don’t fit the system, mostly on the autism spectrum. After years of struggling (and failing) to get help from the system they drop out to homeschool.
- Bullying – Unfortunately, bullying is a common reason. Again, after the school doesn’t fix the problem their parents feel they have no choice but to homeschool.
- Provide an individualised education – When you create you own learning program you can tailor it directly to your child. You can organise it in a way that is suited to their learning style and body clock and addresses their unique interests.
- Believe school doesn’t provide the best academic environment – Let’s face it, we don’t have the best school results. PISA scores are declining alarmingly, and anyone who uses older resources knows how much the curriculum has been dumbed down over the last few decades. Finally, the home environment is usually still the key factor in academic success, even for school kids, so many parents decide to skip the school part.
- Religious reasons – Families who want to raise their children with strong faith often choose homeschooling over a religious school.
- Avoid school socialisation – Many people don’t like the socialisation that school provides. They don’t want their children to be exposed to bullying, early sexualisation, the glorification of drinking and drugs, a shallow appearance-oriented culture, or anti-intellectualism.
- Build a strong family unit – School doesn’t support families. Many parents want their family relationships to be the strongest, and homeschooling supports that goal.
- Believe school starts too early – Many parents don’t want to send their tiny children to school and decide to keep them at home for at least the first few years.
Many parents have more than one reason, and reasons may evolve and change over the years. A family who begins homeschooling to escape bullying may realise their child is doing better academically and socially, and so add those reasons to why they homeschool. Someone who begins because their child isn’t being challenged academically at school may be happy that their child is now learning more, but also realise that their family is much closer as a result.
Homeschooling registration in Australia
Ah, the dreaded homeschooling registration!
First up, please remember that homeschooling registration and actual homeschooling are two different things, and both need to be addressed. Many people spend too much time obsessing about registration, when it’s the day-to-day stuff that will really make or break your homeschool.
So register, but spend MORE time making it all work for you.
Second, getting your registration rejected isn’t common. In 2015, NSW (known as a ‘tough’ state) only knocked back 0.27% of applications for not providing a good enough application (reference). That’s only 1 out of 400! Know that if you put some effort in you have a huge chance of success.
Now, over to the legal stuff.
Homeschooling is legal in all states and territories in Australia.
Registering to homeschool is a legal requirement. It terrifies most people who are new to homeschooling, but if you follow the instructions and access the guidance available it is not especially difficult, and it gets easier each time you do it.
Some parents even say they enjoy being required to record, review and plan because they wouldn’t sit and do it otherwise – there’s always a silver lining.
If you’d like more guidance, there are 8 workshops addressing homeschool registration and reporting in Australia included in the Australian Homeschooling Summit recordings. They’re full of step-by-step information about planning, recording, and everything you need to know about homeschool registration.
I also recommend contacting your local homeschooling group, or an online group, to obtain assistance and support. Just don’t expect them to do EVERYTHING for you – ask for tips and help with the tricky parts, but ultimately it’s your responsibility.
Here are the basic requirements of homeschool registration in each state. I’m not a law expert, nor do I play one on the internet – this is simply my summary. The requirements may change at any time, so please refer to the websites linked for the most up-to-date information.
Homeschooling in New South Wales
First, fill out and submit the Application for Initial Registration form. You need to do one for each child.
Next, you’ll need to put together a plan – again, one for each child. You must address the NSW curriculum and personalise it to your child’s needs, but you can use your choice of approach to cover the content. Examples are provided on the site.
An Authorised Person will visit your house and assess your plan, learning area, and intended recording and reporting methods. It’s recommended you have an impartial third person sit in on the meeting – many homeschooling parents are happy to do this so get in contact with your local group. Your child must be sighted, but there is no requirement they participate in the meeting.
Registration periods can be 3, 6, 12, or 24 months, but initial applicants can only get a maximum of 12 months.
Renewal is similar. Three months before the end of your registration fill out and submit the Application for Renewal of Registration form. You’ll then have your second meeting – you will need to show some samples of work done, plus provide a written assessment of each child and your plan for the upcoming period. You can register for 24 months if the Authorised Person agrees.
There’s a workshop about how to prepare your NSW registration in a few hours in the Australian Homeschooling Summit – check it out!
Homeschooling in Queensland
You register with the Home Education Unit between the ages of 5.5 – 17. You will need to submit the application form, your plan of education for the year, certified identification, and the certified Statutory Declaration. You need one for each child. Templates are provided for several planning methods (there’s a great workshop about theme planning here).
Six months into your registration you will receive a reporting pack. This needs to be completed and returned by the tenth month, along with your plan for the next period of registration. There are no home visits.
Homeschooling in Victoria
You will register with the VRQA. You need to submit an application form, ID, and a learning plan for each child between the ages of 6 – 17 ONCE. This isn’t a yearly thing. The learning plan must cover the prescribed eight learning areas, but the content is up to you.
Around 10% of students are chosen randomly and reviewed each year. If your family is selected ONE child will be reviewed. You can choose to send VRQA the evidence of learning, describe it via telephone, or have an in-person interview. If the review is successful you won’t be reviewed again for at least two years.
You can partially enrol at school.There are no home visits.
Homeschooling in the Northern Territory
The Northern Territory only accepts homeschool applications for limited periods, twice a year, for children 6 – 17. You need to fill in an application form and attach a weekly learning plan and teaching and learning plan, plus identification documents. Your plan must be guided by the National Curriculum, but you can apply for an exemption.
The application is assessed, and if approved you will have a home visit from a local principal or other senior school staff member, or Department of Education officer. Once approved, the process for each year is virtually the same. You need to submit next year’s application by the end of each year.
There is a workshop specifically about Northern Territory homeschool registration in the AHS.
Homeschooling in the ACT
You can get provisional registration for six months to give you time to plan your full registration, simply by filling out the application form and attaching the necessary ID documents.
You need to apply for full registration at least 20 business days before the end of your provisional registration period. This application must include a written statement, called a Parent Report, that addresses how you will meet the requirements. You can request a template for your Parent Report.
You’ll then meet with an Authorised Person in the Education Directorate’s office to discuss your plan. You’ll need to take details of your program and materials. Registration lasts two years, but at the end of each year you must submit a Progress Report. These describe your child’s educational progress over the year.
For renewal, you must submit a registration renewal application form plus your Parent Report and Progress Report at least 3 months before your current registration expires. You will have another meeting with an Authorised Person, but renewal meetings can be done via videoconference.
Homeschooling in Tasmania
In Tasmania you’ll register with the Office of the Education Registrar. Part-time homeschool registration is allowed.
You need to complete a single application form for your family that includes each child aged 5 – 18. You’ll them create a learning plan for each individual child called a HESP (Home Education Summary and Program) which details how you’ll address each of the standards. Templates are provided, and THEAC provides completed examples plus an excellent FAQ.
After your program has been assessed you’ll have a visit from a Registration Officer, which can be at your home or a suitable place of your choice, or via phone or Skype. Your child must be sighted.
Registration renewal is essentially the same – fill out the form, produce a HESP, and have a meeting. In your renewal meeting you’ll be expected to evaluate and show evidence of learning from your previous registration period.
Homeschooling in Western Australia
You’ll register with the Department of Education. You need to lodge an application form with your nearest Regional Education office.
Within three months you’ll have a meeting with a home education moderator. You’re not required to have a formal plan, BUT you do need to be able to show evidence of learning. You can do this by showing work samples, diaries or other recording methods, photos, completed projects, certificates, or any other suitable method. It’s a good idea to have a document outlining the child’s program and progress ready before the visit so you can ensure you cover it comprehensively.
Registration renewal is similar – you’ll have a meeting with a moderator every 12 months and you’ll need to provide evidence of learning.
Homeschooling in South Australia
Homeschool registration in South Australia is a little bit different. You don’t register to homeschool – instead, you enrol your child at a school and then apply for an exemption from attending.
You need to email to obtain an application pack, and you only need one application for all your children. You’ll provide a short outline of a typical day, and your intended program/curriculum – it’s not a full yearly plan and should take less than a page. You will need to detail how you will assess their progress and the learning environment, plus the social interaction they will have.
BOTH parents must sign – even if the second parent is not involved or is hostile. Parents and home education groups are campaigning to change this requirement.
Once you’ve submitted the pack, a home education officer will visit your home to discuss it. Your child must be sighted but does not have to participate. It’s recommended that you have an impartial third person there to observe and take notes of the meeting. Many experienced homeschooling parents are happy to do this for each other – join your local group and ask.
You’ll have an annual review, which is a similar process. You’ll fill out a form describing educational progress and the resources used in each subject area, and a paragraph about your plan for the following year. You’ll then have a meeting with a home education officer where you will show evidence of learning in the form of your records. These can be work samples, summaries, lists of curricula completed, photos, attendance records, whatever form your record keeping takes.
*A note about age in all states – Generally, from the age of 15 you can fulfil education requirements in other ways without being registered to homeschool, such as TAFE, employment, university, or an apprenticeship.
If you’d like to get your registration application done quickly and easily I highly recommend you watch the homeschool registration workshops in the Australian Homeschooling Summit. There are 8 workshops all about homeschool registration, including specific workshops for Queensland, NSW, and the NT. The information provided in those and the general registration and reporting workshops will show you how to put together a plan quickly and with minimal stress, in a way that is very likely to be approved the first time.
Travelling and Homeschooling in Australia
Homeschool registration while travelling can be confusing. NSW and NT specifically mention travelling, and state that you are not allowed to homeschool and must enrol in distance education if you intend to travel for longer than a term. Tasmania says you can travel if you intend to return as a permanent resident. Two families from WA have contacted me because WA refused to register them when they were going travelling, and seemed content to have them go unregistered.
Each state’s regulations state that you cannot enrol to homeschool if you aren’t a permanent resident of the state. And if you don’t have a fixed address, you’re not.
For example, this is what the ACT has to say about travelling –
Can I become registered or renew my registration while my family is not residing in the ACT?
No. Home education must be provided from the ACT home base listed on the registration certificate. If you are travelling at the time of registration or renewal you can re-apply for provisional registration on your return to the ACT.
What are you meant to do in the meantime in states other than NT and NSW? Nobody’s really sure. If you’ll only be travelling within your registration period it shouldn’t affect it, but you may find you don’t qualify for registration when your registration expires if you’re not in the state.
If you’re refused registration or told you’re not eligible keep a record. I know several people who have re-registered or enrolled at school after a period of not being registered and they’ve had no issues at all, so don’t fret – they’ll most likely just be happy to have you back in the system.
Interested in travelling? We’ve spent over four years travelling Australia as a family. Read my guide to Travelling & Homeschooling in Australia.
Don’t stress about the uni thing! It’s quite easy to get into university as a homeschooler – it’s easier than finishing school, in my opinion.
In fact, in 2016 only 26% of university entrants used an ATAR. The other 74% used alternative methods. The ATAR is definitely not the only way.
Here are a few of the options available
- TAFE to university
- Open University
- Enabling/bridging courses
- STAT (Standard Tertiary Admissions Test)
- Portfolio entry
There are homeschoolers who have never stepped foot in a school studying everything from medicine to music, and entry gets easier all the time. My 15 year old is doing an enabling program that guarantees entry into many degrees while teaching university-level study and writing skills, and all she had to provide to qualify was her tax file number. And it’s free!
So don’t worry about this one – you can work out an alternative entry path for any degree.
Financial Support for Australian Homeschoolers
There is no specific financial assistance for homeschooling families.
If you receive Newstart proof of homeschooling registration exempts you from looking for work. You can also receive this exemption if you have four or more children.
Assistance for Isolated Children – This payment is available to families who have school aged children who can’t attend school because of distance or special needs (physical, psychological, or intellectual). There’s a bit of paperwork to do, but it’s a substantial payment. Many families with children on the autism spectrum, or with anxiety, receive AIC.
Apart from that, financial assistance for homeschoolers is rather random and fragmented. Homeschooled students receive free dental care via the School Dental Services in each state. Queenslanders can receive the Textbook and Resource Allowance, while Territorians can access the Back to School Payment Scheme.
Many states/territories can claim sports vouchers once a year. WA residents can claim the Secondary Assistance Scheme, and both WA and NT residents can get free swimming lessons.
Financial subsidies for homeschoolers are always changing and there may be grants in your local area – ask your homeschool group for information specific to your state and area.
Do homeschoolers have to do NAPLAN?
Definitely not! Testing is not required by any state or territory.
Your children can choose to do NAPLAN at a local school, but it’s not compulsory. Some homeschoolers do NAPLAN, and homeschooler scores are well above average. However, it’s a very small self-selected sample, and as the children who are likely to do well at NAPLAN are the ones who do it, we can’t use the results to say that homeschoolers get a better education.
Do I need any qualifications to homeschool?
You’ll get asked this a lot, and the answer is…
You don’t need an education degree, or a special certificate, or anything to ‘prove’ that you’re able.
The only thing you need is a strong commitment to providing a great education for your child. If you’re willing to put in the time and effort, to troubleshoot and persevere, then you have a great chance at making it work.
Most importantly, you don’t need to know everything to homeschool your child.
Homeschooling tends to be less like teacher and learner, and more like committed co-learners. If you don’t know something you can learn along with your child. You can source a great complete resource, online lessons, or tutoring if you need to.
As an example, I just leaned over and pulled this sentence from Asha’s MOOC (she’s 14).
Specialised statistical analysis ruled out phylogenetic autocorrelation as the sole explanation of the relationship between BMR and aridity.
Huh? Apparently, it’s from a study about larks and how arid environments affect their energy use. I can’t teach this (I can’t even understand it without looking up definitions), but she can certainly learn it.
How long does it take to homeschool?
This is a difficult question to answer! As homeschoolers, we’ve turned learning into a lifestyle, and we’re always learning.
If you decide to do school at home, with workbooks addressing the National Curriculum, you can expect to spend less than three hours per weekday covering core content. One hour a day is plenty in the younger years, and four hours is enough for most teens. The teens will do most of it by themselves, too.
It may not seem like enough time compared the hours a day spent in school, but us homeschoolers can be efficient. Much of school time is wasted on organisation, assemblies, notices, and activities that aren’t particularly educational.
And when you spend the rest of your day reading books, pursuing interests, doing arts and crafts, watching documentaries, and other interesting and incidentally educational activities, it adds up to many more productive learning hours, even if it doesn’t look like school. These hours tend to greatly reduce the hours spent on workbooks – if your child has already learned it from a board game they’ll fly through the worksheets.
Here’s how homeschoolers save time –
- No time spent moving between classes or changing focus at inconvenient times.
- Many tasks are redundant with one-on-one learning – there’s no need to do 30 maths problems if they’ve mastered it with 8.
- We can focus because we have fewer distractions – even if you have a large family it’s still easier than managing 25.
- We can ensure topics are learned thoroughly the first time, eliminating most review.
- No admin necessary – we don’t need to record and grade daily for dozens.
- Interest-based learning is astonishingly effective and efficient. If your child has a true interest in a topic they’ll become an expert in it with very little effort and time from you.
So don’t think you need to schedule 6+ hours a day of study for each of your children! You won’t be racing around non-stop with no time to brush your teeth – if you’re working harder than them you’re doing something wrong.
You’ll get asked about socialisation ALL THE TIME, and you may think it will be a big issue.
Luckily, you’ll soon realise that homeschool socialisation is not a big issue.
Except in the media, which isn’t known for accuracy….
Homeschoolers leave the house. They go to homeschool group, and to groups like Scouts, they play sports and games. They do the shopping and errands, visit museums and galleries, and spend lots of unstructured time with family and friends.
In short, our children interact with a wide range of people of all different age groups from many demographics. While doing so they’re guided by adults who care for them and have a vested interest in their future.
This is how homeschooled kids get socialised – they learn to interact with many people across varied areas of society by interacting with many people across varied areas of society.
Not by being stuck in a large number of mostly age-group peers within an institution and play-acting life skills like shopping (does anyone else think that’s utterly ridiculous?).
As I mentioned earlier, many people don’t like the socialisation that school provides. They don’t want their children to be exposed to bullying, early sexualisation, the glorification of drinking and drugs, a shallow appearance-oriented culture, or anti-intellectualism being ‘cool’. Frankly, I’m baffled as to why people fret about children ‘missing out’ on it.
If you’re stressing about social skills, make a conscious decision to put that worry aside for six months. Join your local homeschool group (or start one if there’s none around) and go about your daily life. When you assess your worry after six months you’ll most likely realise that it’s not worth worrying about at all.
Australian Homeschool Groups and Support Groups
Repeat after me – you don’t have to homeschool alone!
Chances are there will be a homeschooling group near you. Join it! Even if it doesn’t suit you perfectly you’ll still get a sense of belonging and be able to chat to families in a similar situation.
It’s great for your child to see that this homeschooling gig is normal. It also gives you a group to organise activities with, whether that’s a visit to the local BMX track, a camp, or a tour of a historical site.
Or rafting on lilos and dressing up in costume and beating on each other with wooden swords – whatever takes your fancy.
If there isn’t a local homeschooling group, try to start one. Advertise at your local library, community centres, and online groups to find families. You may get a lot of people with toddlers who are only thinking about it, but persevere. Even 1 or 2 other families can make a great group.
Now, I could try to reinvent the wheel and create my own list of Australian homeschooling groups, but Beverley Paine has already created a fantastic one. It’s full of in-person and online support groups you can join – there’s something for every niche.
Download Beverley’s Support Group Directory here.
She also has four other resource directories (all free!) – you can get them all here.
Australian Homeschooling Bloggers + Instagrammers
Finally, I quite like watching what other homeschooling families are up to and following people over the years. I like getting insight into people’s day-to-day lives, ideas and inspiration from what they’re doing, and watching their children grow and change over the years. And I’ve actually met a few, which is always fun!
Check them out to find your reliable sources of ideas, inspiration, and friendship.
You CAN homeschool
Finally, remember that you can do this. All sorts of people homeschool successfully – you don’t need to be well-educated, have superhuman patience, be militantly organised, or have a huge budget.
If you needed those qualities I would have quit years ago!
Take it a day at a time, continue to read and experiment, and enjoy your kids – homeschooling can be much easier and more enjoyable that you think.
I wish you the best of luck with homeschooling in Australia, and I hope you have as much fun doing it as I do.