Trude Armstrong, of Campbell, is home schooling her sons Sebastian, 11, and Patrick, 15, with the teaching tailored to their strong points. Photo: Jeffrey Chan
WHEN school starts back this week, there will be no forgotten lunches or fights over homework at one Campbell household.
Shannon and Trude Armstrong are part of a growing group of Canberra parents choosing to educate their children at home.
According to the ACT government's Education and Training Directorate, 196 students are registered for home education in Canberra this year, a 70 per cent increase on 2010.
But the number is still a small fraction of the 68,800 students in ACT schools.
Mrs Armstrong said their eldest son, Patrick, had attended primary school for more than two years but the couple felt they were better able to meet his individual needs.
The flight attendant and her husband, a public servant, share teaching duties and at the beginning of each week negotiate with Patrick, now 15, and his brother Sebastian, 11, about what they would like to study.
Mrs Armstrong said one advantage of home schooling was parents could work to address their children's academic weaknesses and encourage their strengths without being limited by grade levels or strict time frames.
"People have different times when they operate at their best. My younger son has got a slower start in the morning and if we allow that to happen we get great work coming out, whereas if we push him to start at an arbitrary time it's frustrating,'' she said.
Mrs Armstrong checks the NSW curriculum to ensure her sons are reaching expected education benchmarks.
Mr Armstrong is president of the Home Educators Network Canberra and Southern Tablelands, a group that gets together to provide learning and social opportunities for their children.
He said both his sons enjoy active social lives.
University of Canberra assistant professor Iain Hay, an expert in pre-service teacher education and student wellbeing, said parents commonly chose home schooling because they wanted to give their children a richer learning environment or believed they were their child's best teacher.
Dr Hay said he respected parents' right to educate their children at home and welcomed active interest and involvement in facilitating learning.
But he said there were potential pitfalls with home education and in some cases children missed out on the opportunity to socialise and learn from peers.
Also concerning was the lack of quality control over parents' teaching compared with that of trained professionals.
"If there's a relationship that works at home, that's great, but what if there isn't?" he said.