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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Government Slowly Withdrawing from Control Of Homeschool In New Zealand

I received a very interesting (and nice) letter from a mom in New Zealand that I’d like to share with you. (I’d like to thank her in advance!) She describes the homeschool situation at this time in New Zealand. Here, slightly abbreviated, is her letter.

I thought you might be interested in the current situation in New Zealand as it has recently become somewhat freer to home educate here since our new right wing government was elected and all is about making money and reducing costs now. In order to home educate here, it is necessary to apply for an exemption for each child before their 6th birthday in which you must cover in detail your curriculum plans and when this is approved the family receives a meager allowance from the government every six months - this is, of course, nothing close to the amount a school would receive for having the child enrolled with them but every little helps. This exemption application need never be updated unless the child goes to school and then returns home again. In the past, home educating families were also then subject to periodical review by the same governmental agency inspecting schools and it could make recommendations including rescinding their exemption certificate and requiring the child to go into school. The new government, however, has determined that home educating families will no longer be subject to inspection unless they are referred by someone who has a concern over the care and education of the children. They have done the math, apparently, and found that there were never any concerns about a child's education when families were reviewed as part of the ongoing periodical reviews so it is not a good use of their resources. They will continue to review families where concern is expressed by an outsider as it has only been in these cases in the past where the inspectors have found the education being received to be wanting.

So, even though the reason for the change is not pure in spirit, it is certainly a good outcome for those of us who wish to be free to educate our children in the way we see fit.


I appreciate her letter, and found it very interesting. Here are some thoughts:

First, how can a parent possibly know what their curriculum plans will be for a six-year old? That child is just starting his education. The parent has no idea what will or will not work for that child. The family may (and should) start with a certain approach, a certain curricula, but they may discover that it flat out does not work for their child.

This idea of determining in an inflexible manner the curricula and approach to be used, when applied to homeschooling, forces the parent into the same set of limitations that schools have! It locks the family into a specific approach. That’s what schools are stuck with. Schools can’t tailor their curricula or approach for each child, they’d never keep up. But why should a homeschooler have that problem!?

Homeschooling allows for the maximum in flexibility. That is except when government sticks its nose in. This restriction removes one of the most important advantages of homeschooling. And who reviews the curricula which a homeschooler may use, on behalf of the government. Um…probably someone familiar with what their schools are using, like a teacher in a school. What on Earth would qualify a teacher trained in school technologies to evaluate a homeschool situation. Simply put, they are the least qualified people to evaluate homeschooling. Such teachers and administrators are completely locked into doing things “as they are done” – in the schools. Again, the homeschooler is almost assuredly going to find themselves limited by the system.

Second, I’m not sure that I’d take any of the government’s money. With money comes restrictions. Governments already control far too much regarding education, and with far too terrible results.

Third, I’d like to know more about what “referred by someone who has a concern” means. Can the “someone” be anyone? Because that could mean a pissed off neighbor who just longs to make trouble, a grandparent who believes in schools, even the local postman who, walking by one day, heard the child cry (because Little Johnny stubbed his toe). That’s a dangerous situation. And since a report leads to investigation, it’s also sort of “assumed guilty until proven innocent”. I find that mentality pretty abhorrent.

I do like that the exemption is forever, barring a change in circumstances. I think government, as a whole, should have nothing at all to do with education, but at least this is a real step in the right direction. And I like the limit on inspections, though what gives a government the right to EVER inspect the private workings of a family eludes me. Like the very nice mom who wrote the letter, I agree that the government’s motives are questionable, but I do appreciate that the results are moving in a laudable direction.

I guess the real question I have is why on Earth do we hand over control over our children and their education to any government?

I’ve recently completed writing a book about the woes and possible solutions of education today, and had to really look at this. I simply do not believe that a monolithic organization such as a government (national or local) can successfully do something as intimate and personal as educate a particular child. I don’t even think a school, public or private, can do this very well.

Governments (like schools) work with numbers. Governments even assign people numbers. You have a bar code, trust me. Look at your driver’s license. But to your government, you don’t have a name or face. They don’t know you or your children, not at all. So who made governments the “experts” in the educating of YOUR child?

You did. We all did. We relinquished both responsibility and control over our children’s education. And having done that, we really can’t complain about the lousy results, can we?

The answer, and the only answer to successfully educating our own children is to reassume both responsibility and control for them. This is exactly what homeschoolers like this terrific mom are trying to do! Given the utterly miserable results that public education has had now for many decades, governments should utter a loud sigh of relief and throw a parade each time a family takes the homeschool route.

Of course, that said, the two words I used were “responsibility” and “control”. It’s not enough to have control over what and how your children learn. You must also succeed at educating them, that’s the “responsibility” part. And please note, education is not “indoctrination”. Education is not religious or political in essence, though it can certainly include religion and politics as components. Knowing your Bible or Koran, knowing that you live in “your great country”, is not the same thing as knowing your Algebra and your world history. The homeschooler has taken on the assignment of preparing a child for a good, productive, intelligent, moral life in a very complicated world. They must succeed where the schools have failed. If the homeschool family fails, then homeschooling has no value over schooling for that child.

It’s up to us to more than simply homeschool our children. We must also succeed at the goals of education. If schools accomplished these goals, I’d have no complaints with schools. They don’t succeed at these important goals. Neither does government.

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