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Home schooling increases by 122 per cent in Canberra

Emily Baker

Published: May 15 2017 - 12:00AM

Michele Allen was already working as a teacher when her husband proposed they home school their eldest son.

Academically gifted but struggling socially, Alex, then in grade one, would cry himself to sleep every night after a long day in the classroom.

Home education was not easy choice but it's not something the family regrets.

"It's not an easy thing because you are giving up a whole wage, and for me it's giving up a career in some ways but not, because I'm still teaching," the Queanbeyan mother said.

"I still get to practice my skills and while I don't have a class of 30 students I have a class of two and get to enjoy seeing them excel and have those penny drop moments and the light bulb's on."

Home schooling has risen 122 per cent in the ACT in the past five years, from 122 in 2012 to 271 in February this year.

Mrs Allen, president of the Home Education Network of Canberra and the Southern Tablelands, was unsurprised to hear of the boost.

"We haven't looked back," she said.

"It's been - for [Alex] and for my youngest son, who said nope, if you're home schooling him you're home schooling me - it's just worked."

It is estimated that up to 2 per cent of Australian children receive a home education.

Some parents Mrs Allen knows chose home schooling because their child was gifted, and some because they were struggling.

Other parents removed their children from school because of bullying or behavioural needs.

Australian National University education sociologist Larry Saha said religion, illness and injury could also play a part.

Professor Saha said it was not always what was taught in the classroom that mattered to sociologists, but what else was learnt at school.

"What people argue when they talk about the hidden curriculum is that many of these things the children are learning in school, they're really learning about how society works and how the workplace works, so meeting deadlines in school is just an introduction to things they have to learn in the work world," he said.

"Things like punctuality, dealing with authority, or maybe even dealing with teamwork and things of that nature. All of those are seen as non-academic preparations for society generally and adult life generally."

Mrs Allen said home educators often fielded questions on the socialisation of their children.

Groups like the Home Education Network of Canberra and the Southern Tablelands provided the opportunity for their children to meet other kids, she said.

HENCAST meetings also allow Mrs Allen to meet and talk with other adults - and she said the other parents were just everyday people looking out for their child.

"It's become less of that idea of just for religious people or the old hippies or something like that," she said.

"It's become a bit more accepted and a bit more mainstream and most of the people I meet would seem like that average public servant."

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