Home schooling, distance education and other flexible options

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Flexible schooling Australia options: Have you come across people who do not send their kids to school and wondered how that works? What do they do and what is involved? I will look at homeschooling, distance education and flexible option available from independent schools.

Flexible schooling Australia – Alternatives to traditional schooling

Why would you want to know about flexible schooling in Australia? Maybe you need to travel for work for a longer time, your child becomes sick or you as a carer becomes sick or you want a lifestyle change for you and the children or you think you will make a really good teacher or want to include subjects of particular interest to you and your child.

Considering flexible schooling options can also come about out of desperate need arising from a variety of causes. Most kids at some stage during their schooling will experience difficult times and that is usually just a part of growing up and lessons are learned and life goes on. Occasionally, though, parents may feel that it is beyond the child to continue the schooling in the traditional way.

The reasons for getting to this point can be many and varied. It may have to do with social relations and mental health like bullying or student anxiety or depression; Processing of trauma and grief, a serious disease in the family or carer responsibilities are other factors that can disrupt and make schooling difficult for kids. We are not only talking about the child’s ability to attend school, it can also be the family’s ability to support a child’s educational needs appropriately during periods of crisis.

The question for parents and carers is what you can and should do. There are three avenues open to you. I will not cover special needs education here such as programs for autistic children and other special needs because the specialists attending to your child will be able to guide you on the best schools and options for your child.

Homeschooling

This is where you have to set out a plan for how you will teach the curriculum to your child and you can add electives of your choice. There is an approval process involved and you should expect that homeschooling will take several months to set up. There are many resources available and your state’s education department will be able to tell you about how the process works. This option is hard work and will be very demanding of the parent/guardian. Only approach this option after researching and considering in detail what will be required of you.

How: find information on the education departmental website for your state.

Distance Education

You have two choices here: go private or get approved to enter the state-distance education system.

State Distance Education

Depending on why you want to enter the state distance education system, there may be a lengthy process involved. If you live far away from school, work in the entertainment industry, have heavy sporting commitments or are in a similar situation, you should have no issues being approved. If your child has a physical injury or condition of any kind that a doctor will say prevents the child from going to school, you also will have no problems and you will get approved on the spot and they will have the books out to you in a few days.

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If you fall into the grey area of having a child with a mental illness, mental health issues like anxiety or depression or who suffers from bullying, you will have to go through a more lengthy approval process. You will need to collect reports from teachers, treating professionals like the GP, psychologist, psychiatrist, pediatrician of applicable specialty as well as your own statement and all this will be put to a board that will decide whether your child will qualify. You should expect this process to take some time. The regional education unit will handle your application. If your child is already in the state education system, the school will assist with the initial application to this education unit and you will then follow up with the reports. If you are at any description of the non-government school, you must find your local education office and contact them to get your child into the state system in order to process your application. If you are uncertain where that is, any local state school should be able to tell you.

How:

  • local state school (if already in the state school system);
  • Regional state education office

Private Distance Education

These colleges are hard to come by and I am only familiar with Australian Christian College, which operates in Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia, and they do not cover all year levels and you will have to look this up as this may change. ACC is the largest non-government distance educator in Australia. This is a fee-paying school and there is no approval process apart from paying your fees. Expect to pay $3-400 a term with four terms a year plus extra for residential camps run twice a year and attended by choice or cost of attending residential week held at the campuses. All lessons and materials are accessed through an online portal. They can process your application anytime during the year and the setup, after paperwork is in, is very fast.

How:

  • Australian Christian College

Feel free to use the contact option on this website to let us know about other options and we will list them on this website for free.

Modified teaching in Private schools

This is not a formal term but I am challenged to describe this last out-of-the-box option. Any non-government school can choose how they teach the set curriculum to the kids and they are not required to teach all kids in the same way. You can work with your school to decide on whether there is any way your child’s needs can be accommodated in a non-traditional way. This can be e.g. to split time between school and home where the student gets set tasks to do at home and come to school only for certain lessons and teacher contact time.

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Senior schools have to include vocational options for interested kids. This means that a child can be approved to pursue a vocation outside of school in particular circumstances. This can be a suitable option for kids who are not interested in pursuing tertiary education after year 12 and who cannot function in the traditional school context. Vocational courses do not score any points towards the tertiary entrance.

Case study: student in year 10 suffers from debilitating depression and some bullying. She is approved to finish her schooling out year 12 by completing tasks for core subjects at home and coming into school one day a week for teacher contact but no lessons and she works three days a week in a hairdressing salon.

Other things to consider

Deciding whether one of the flexible schooling options is right for you and your child will be difficult. If you are dealing with very common scenarios of bullying, anxiety or depression, you have to consider how bad it is and whether the child will be better off learning skill-sets to deal with this or whether one of the above options will suit on a temporary basis or to finish schooling. Safety is the primary concern – how safe is your child if everything continues on its current course. Physical injury from bullying is a real concern as is self-harm and suicide resulting from mental health issues.

Ask yourself too what will come out of removing your child from a traditional schooling context. A child with anxiety will not be as anxious but will also not learn to deal with anxiety and will actually not become better from this mental health condition but only avoid situations that cause the anxiety.

A child with oppositional behaviours will not be such a hell-raiser at school and cause so much trouble but will this child be able to conform to any educational requirements in the new context. Will you have any better luck than the teachers or will you get yourself into even more trouble?

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Lise Copeland
Author: Lise Copeland

Lise writes about current topics concerning young people, education and mental health. Can usually be found with a cup of tea discussing education policies or the latest research on a topic of interest when she’s not working full time. Lise has two kids at University and one in high school. They have attended State, Catholic and Independent schools in three States and Territories as well as overseas, providing plenty of background to her writing. Education: BA(Hons) with Philosophy, Latin and Ancient Greek languages and BA Law (LLB).

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