Did you know homeschooling is really taking off on the Central Coast? While many of us can’t wait to send our kids back to school when lockdown lifts, for some families, home learning has provided an unexpectedly rich and rewarding experience. If this is you, and you’re considering homeschooling as a long-term option for your family, read on! We’ve got all the info you’ll need to make the most of the many opportunities teaching your kids from home provides. Plus, we’ll show you how to join in the thriving Central Coast homeschooling community.
What is Homeschooling?
Homeschooling means different things to different people, but at heart, it’s simply doing life with your kids and learning together along the way. It involves parents and carers opting to educate their kids from home, instead of enrolling them in a public or private school. It’s a recognised educational option for families in Australia, with the State Government providing guidelines and rules for operating at home in NSW. Children can register to homeschool from Kindergarten right up to Year 12.
Homeschooled children can go on to attending TAFE and university, complete apprenticeships and gain employment. There’s plenty of support available and many pathways to higher education and employment.
How Does It Work?
There are many ways to homeschool – it’s as individual as your family is! It can involve using a structured curriculum, creating your own eclectic learning path, or just following your child’s interests and seeing where that leads. Often families use a combination of these options – it really is up to you to decide what works for you and your children.
It’s worth noting that homeschooling is a lot more flexible than attempting traditional schooling from home, which is what we have all been experiencing during lockdown. For example, structured homeschool learning may take up only an hour or two of your time each day, instead of the longer sessions often required by schools.
And, you don’t need to be completing worksheets at the kitchen table for it to count as an educational activity! While there is a curriculum set by the government that you need to follow, things like watching documentaries, listening to podcasts, reading together, going for nature walks, caring for pets or building with lego can all help to meet educational outcomes in a no-stress way.
Who Is It For?
People homeschool for many reasons – for some, it’s a philosophical choice, for others a lifestyle decision, and for some it’s the best option for their children when traditional school hasn’t been a good fit.
You do need to have time available to supervise and teach your kids, resources and space to do so and a willingness to learn alongside them. It’s definitely an option to use tutors and external courses to complement your input – you don’t have to do it all yourself, although you do need to be prepared to spend time on things like curriculum research and lesson planning. Many families manage paid work alongside home educating – it does keep you busy but it’s definitely doable!
What’s Available for Homeschool Families on the Central Coast?
One of the most common concerns people have about homeschooling is the social impact of staying home – and that’s where we are really lucky on the Central Coast! There are over 500 local homeschooling families, and that means there’s a large, active community that you and your kids can become a part of. There are so many opportunities to meet other children and make friends – it can take time to build up a rapport, but with more people registering every week, it’s getting easier and easier to find your tribe.
The best way to find out what’s on is to join the Central Coast Home Educators Facebook group. You can even join before you begin homeschooling, to ask questions and learn more about local activities on offer. Here’s what you can expect to find once lockdown lifts:
Group Meet Ups
There are social groups that meet regularly and cater for a range of ages, interests and stages. For example, there’s a group for teens, a fortnightly Flip-Out session open to all families, and there’s also a group for families who live on the northern end of the Coast – find it here.
Homeschool families love getting out and learning. These classes usually run during school hours and are a great way to meet other families and make those all-important friends (for the parents as well as the kids!). There’s so many to choose from – think gymnastics, archery, horse riding, circus skills, martial arts, surfing lessons, art classes, bouldering, science classes, creative writing and more! Class times and days can change each term, so make sure you check in the Facebook group for current details.
Interested in taking the kids to local theatre productions or museum exhibits? There’s homeschool excursions you can opt into, often with affordable group pricing. You’ll get to share amazing experiences with your children and meet other local homeschooling families! Excursions are usually organised via the Central Coast Home Educators Facebook group, so jump in there to see what’s coming up, or to even organise something yourself!
How to get started with homeschooling
The first step to homeschooling is to register with the NSW Government. The NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) looks after registration, and you can find out more about the process here. You need to submit a short form, prepare a learning plan in line with the government’s curriculum requirements, and then have a registration meeting with an authorised NESA representative. Once this has been done, provided you meet the requirements, you’ll be officially registered, usually for one year.
A great organisation to contact is the NSW Home Education Association . They can provide sample education plans, review your draft plan and even provide a support person to help you pass your registration with flying colours. They have a support helpline and can connect you with other local homeschoolers too! The NSW Homeschooling Registration Support Network Facebook group is another really helpful resource – it’s a great space to ask all your curly questions so you can get up and running with confidence.
The registration process can take up to 12 weeks, but typically takes around one month. Don’t be daunted – it can seem a little overwhelming but it’s really just a few simple steps, and there’s plenty of help available to get you started.
Once you’ve registered, it’s over to you and your kids to start your learning adventure together. Good luck and have fun!
Written By: ALISON MCCANN
Alison is a busy local mum who enjoys exploring the Coast’s spectacular natural spaces. You’ll often find her out on a bush trail with her husband and three kids. With a background in media production, communication and marketing, she loves sharing stories about the wonderful region we get to call home. Follow her on Instagram @CentralCoastNatureKids.