April 15, 2019


Homeschooling is legal in Australia and thousands of families are doing it.

Rebecca English, Queensland University of Technology

Home education is a legally recognised alternative to enrolling a child in school in all Australian states and territories. Children need to be enrolled in either a school or home education from around the age of 6 until completion age (around 17 years-old). If the parent chooses home education, they must apply to the state or territory authority for permission.

In most states and territories, the parent or a hired registered teacher is responsible for the education of the child, usually at the child’s home. Any parent, regardless of their educational background, is legally able to apply for, and homeschool their child.

Parents must submit a plan for their home education, which, in most cases, should show an alignment between their child’s learning and the national curriculum. Parents can buy a program, but in most cases, they develop their own, in line with their philosophies of education.

Read more:
Record numbers of children are now homeschooled, but who’s keeping an eye on the parents?

How many Australian children are being homeschooled?

Across Australia, there are around 20,000 homeschooled students and the numbers are growing. Around 1,100 students were being homeschooled in Queensland in 2013. By 2018, this had increased to 3,232 students.

This means there are around the same number of homeschooled students in Queensland as the population of Brisbane State High School.

The numbers are rising in other states too. In New South Wales an estimated 4,700 students were enrolled in homeschool in 2017 compared to around 3,300 in 2013. Around 5,300 children were being homeschooled in Victoria in 2018, compared to 3,545 children in 2013.

These numbers may not tell the whole story as they only represent families who have registered to homeschool their child. Research suggests there may be thousands who haven’t registered, and so are homeschooling their children “illegally”.

Why do families choose to homeschool?

There are many reasons parents choose to educate their children at home. For some families it will be because of religious beliefs. Geography or financial reasons might stop these families from accessing a suitable private school.

Some families choose to homeschool for cultural reasons.
from shutterstock.com

Other families might be ideologically opposed to mainstream schooling and see it as an unnecessary or inappropriate intrusion into family life.

Some of the biggest growth in home education is in the “accidental” home education group. These are families for whom school was a first choice, but it did not work. There are many reasons school may not have worked, but often it’s down to special educational need. These families would traditionally have moved their children around between schools but are now homeschooling instead.

Studies suggest families who take their children out of school, when they have a special need, and homeschool are more satisfied with their child’s education than when they were in traditional school.

Read more:
School is not always a safe place for students with disability – this has to change

The rise in homeschooling also appears to have links to worldwide changes in education. Many parents see schools as failing their children including for cultural reasons, and believe homeschooling is a suitable alternative. Some families feel schools are not meeting their primary objectives of education and (healthy) socialisation for their children.

What about assessments?

After a period of time (in Queensland, for instance, it’s ten months) parents report to their state or territory’s education department on their homeschooled child’s progress. The reporting requirements differ across states and territories.

For some states, such as NSW and WA, the report is delivered to a person who visits the family. For others, such as Queensland, the parent writes the report and sends it to the department.

Unlike traditional schools, parents don’t usually “assess” their child’s learning through exams or assignments. The reports must show progress in key areas. Some homeschooled students might choose to participate in NAPLAN testing while others won’t do any testing at all.

Homeschooled students can choose to go for an ATAR and do a school-based apprenticeship or traineeship, even though they don’t do assessment.

Is it the same as distance education?

Some parents may like the idea of home education but feel they want a more school-like experience. They may choose to enrol their children in distance education.

While it’s also conducted at home, distance education is not home education and the enrolment counts as a “school”. Because it’s technically a school, distance education students are not counted among home education numbers.

The differences are many. Home education is conducted by the parent, but distance education is a school program delivered by teachers at home frequently using the internet. It is also usually delivered to a group of children, rather than a family.

There are private and public distance education schools. Some states, such as New South Wales, limit the enrolment to students who are geographically isolated or may be experiencing a special need that stops them from going to school. In others, such as Queensland, any child can enrol in a distance education school.

What about outcomes?

The volume and quality of the research on outcomes for children in home schooling is limited. In Australia, studies have focused on NAPLAN results. These suggest home-educated students score higher than state averages across every measure. The effect continues even if the child returns to school.

These children may be doing well because they receive one-on-one attention. Or it could be because the child’s learning is personalised and the child has agency over their learning.

Read more:
Evidence of home schooling success erased from inquiry report

Studies from the US, where there is far more data, suggest home-educated students enjoy benefits in reading, language, maths, science and social studies. And many families there cite dissatisfaction with schools’ achievements as a reason to home educate. There is no difference between home education in the USA and Australia.

The rise in numbers poses issues for education departments and government authorities charged with managing the practise. They may not be set up to deal with large, and increasing, numbers of registrations. For most departments of education, the numbers of families choosing home education has traditionally been low.

In addition, authorities may be unable to police those families who choose not to register.

The increasing choice of home education is an issue that should be on the radar of every state and territory education authority.The Conversation

Rebecca English, Lecturer in Education, Queensland University of Technology

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

  • Lots more now with Covid I should imagine.


  • My son did years 11 and 12 via home school/distance education. His grades improved massively. The teachers at school always used to tell me his work suffered because he was easily distracted by others. At home, he didn’t have those distractions


  • When I began homeschooling 18 years ago, homeschooling was unheard of. These days everyone seems to know a homeschooler. I know that the stats seem to indicate that it is up by 300% in some regions. https://www.homeschoolingdownunder.com/australian-homeschool-statistics/


  • I did homeschooling for about 6 months (long story) and it sucked. It was hard to get the motivation to do the work and I missed having a teacher there to help when needed. Plus it was lonely. That was my anxiety-redden situation, though. I’m sure there are many people who thrive at home. I went back to high school and finished it and was much happier. It depends on the environment at home and at school. School can be hell for some people, and some people learn better with no distractions.


  • With all the extra bullying that’s happening at schools lately, I’m not surprised parents are turning to home schooling


  • With so many safety issues and bullying issues going at schools these days, I’m not surprised parents are choosing to home school. I did it with my son for his last 2 years of high school. His grades went through the roof, which helped him get the career he wanted in the defence force


  • Not sure I could do it but I know a lot of people do while the kids are little so they can travel.


  • Many children will benefit from this sort of schooling, especially those who live a long way from any school or whose parents live a nomadic life. Personally can’t see anything wrong with it – as I had to work it wouldn’t have worked for me.


  • It is a good option for many kids.


  • I have done homeschooling, distanced education and sent children to schools. As a mother who done these and still doing two of these, I can understand some peoples wondering. Yes when homeschooling there is the chance to work at your child’s rate , which may be faster or slower then others. You can teach subjects your child is interested in and use this as a basics for the learning.

    The only way of teaching that was not by choice was distance as I did not have the time to help properly with doing home schooling. Distance is great for travelling. I prefer home schooling but it is up to my children which they choice. Have had a child do school then homeschooling then go back to the same class with the teacher surprised that his maths and English skills were ahead of the class. No I was not working to the school’s program but my own. While being home schooled he was recovering from a mental breakdown as the Dr put it.


  • From a different perspective. I homeschool one of my daughters, and my other daughter goes to school. I have seen both sides. I understand people’s concerns, as I was unsure about it all too, until I questioned further and have had my own experiences with it. I would never have imagined 5 years ago, that I would be homeschooling, but due to an illness in our family this is where we are at. At first, I was so worried I would not have the skills to teach my daughter what she needs. I was also worried about the ‘socialisation’ aspect, however it turns out my fears were unwarranted. We follow both a curriculum as well as add in studies according to her interest. The benefit is that we have really been able to tailor her education according to her interests and needs. If I don’t know something, we ask for help. There is such a big community that someone within the community is bound to know and this really helps. The socialisation benefit that we have seen is that she now socialises across all age groups and speaks well with all ages, not just her own age group, who she socialises with regularly and loves it. They don’t have the commonality of shared school experiences, but do have shared teen/interest/sport/dance experiences. I liken it to friends who go to different schools. I think if you are open to it, and are prepared to be on a learning curve yourself, then it is a rewarding experience for parent and child. Just thought I’d add my comments as someone with a child in both forms of education.


  • Never never never, how can you provide your child with an education for life with out experience and training. Plus school provides skills that need experiences to develop like social skills and conflict resolution


  • Oh my goodness I am not smart enough to homeschool and what about the social aspects


  • My friend started homeschooling this year, with reason that our educational system is just not good enough. Good that it’s possible, it’s just not for me.

    • Good to have options but not for us either.


  • I know one child who is going to be home schooled because she has a severe allergy to a medication sold in supermarkets. If somebody touches the child within 10 hours of taking the medication the child has a severe reaction including breathing and has had to have cpr once. Because there is a shortage of Epipens and it is not a potentially fatal food allergy. There is also a waiting list for medication allergies for Epipens,


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