In this part of the world, all children six years and older have to either be in school, or be registered as a homeschool student. In practice, not all homeschoolers are registered. Some people refuse registration as a form of protest. Others register their kids, but then neither the Board, nor the parent remembers the renewal, and the whole thing fades away. The Board of Studies appears to be so overstretched that it seems there are no penalties unless somebody is absolutely compelled to take action.
I have no problem with registration. Applications are not accepted before a child is five years and nine months, however, so I found myself applying for something I had already started, with no back up plan for what to do if they said no. Of course, they were not going to say no, but still, I found myself in the grip of a strange kind of exam anxiety. What if my plans were too vague, too complex, too simple, too different? It certainly would not be the first time I realised too late that an assessor and I had vastly different ideas on what was expected.
I had been specifically warned to keep my assessment criteria hazy, and with low expectations. This was based on an urban myth style story about someone whose registration renewal was refused after they failed to meet their own overblown goals. That particular story, along with all the other worries I had, turned out to be a load of nonsense, as the reasoning part of my mind knew all along.
We have all come down with the flu, so the semester had lurched to an end due to a lack of inertia. By chance it fitted in reasonably well with the calender, so I didn’t much mind. Also, this meeting and a semester break timed nicely together to provide an opportunity to assess how we are going, and where we are going, as well as to tighten up my plans for the rest of the year.
Actually, the whole process was a friendly, informal, and very informative chat. The assessor summarised it by saying ‘When you choose to homeschool your child, the Board of Studies washes their hands of you. We don’t give you any help, and we don’t accept any responsibility for what happens. My role is to see that you are prepared for that.’
Despite being told that there is no help given, there are actually quite a lot of resources available on the Board of Studies website if you have the password which comes with registration. I like this, because they are all Australian, and relevant to what we are doing. The vast majority of information I find comes from the United States. It does not always make a comfortable fit.
Although there is plenty of advice not to compare ourselves to others, I think it is a little unrealistic to completely accept this. I am not going to punish myself with my comparisons, but I need some indication on what are reasonable expectations. The only way to do this is to check my boys work against some typical examples of comparable groups. When my registration comes through, the assessor assures me I will be able to see a lot of this via their website. I like this idea, because it avoids the idea of a formal assessment, which I feel does more harm than good, but still gives an indication of where we float.
In theory, we are supposed to study for twenty five hours a week. It is fairly easy to get through a weeks official lesson plan in a fraction of this time. I was never quite sure what to do with the rest of it. Do we do the next weeks work, or just play with some kind of educational intent? Mostly, I just make stuff up as we go to fill in these gaps. I am often unsure whether I am being adaptable or haphazard.
I had not heard this problem described with the phrase he used, but he suggested I was asking about acceleration versus enrichment. He strongly advocated for enrichment, and I liked his argument. It is not just about getting through the required work, but exploring the underlying concepts, and taking the time to play with them.
In this regard especially, he encouraged me to think outside the norm, and also to ignore the criticism which will inevitably come from outside. For all that homeschooling is easier and more popular than it was a couple of decades ago, it is still poorly understood in the broader community. People don’t like what they don’t understand.
There is no shifting responsibility onto anyone else with homeschooling. It is all down to the parents, which is something of a double edged sword. It is important, and not always easy, to feel confident in what you are doing.
I quite enjoyed my meeting with the assessor. It answered a bunch of questions for me, as well as reassured me that it was all working properly. I see him again in a year.