Starting homeschooling this year? Here’s what you need to know as a beginner homeschooler in Western Australia.
How do I register? Do I have to register my child? Is it expensive?
You legally have to register your child/ren for homeschool if they’re compulsory school age (in WA, it’s the start of the year they turn 5.5 to the end of the year they’re 17.5 or they turn 18). You have to be an Australian citizen living in WA to register in this state.
It doesn’t cost anything to register your children.
You have to contact the WA Department of Education within two weeks of taking your children out of school or the start of the school year. You’ll need to fill in a form for each child and provide their birth certificate and any Family Court orders. If you’re not the child’s parent you will probably need to provide proof of guardianship.
The Department of Education will post or email your certificate of registration to you. This document proves that you’re a home educator and that your child is homeschooled. You might need it to give to Centrelink, Transperth to get Student Travel Permits, school dental service, etc. You’ll also get leave passes so you or your child can prove that they’re not legally required to be in school during school hours (sometimes shops will ask to see this).
Do I have to tell my child’s school?
Yes. You have to advise them in writing within three days of withdrawing your child from school, if you took them out after the start of the school year. Otherwise the Department of Education will notify them at the start of the year.
What do I have to do? Do I need to be a trained teacher? Can I pay teachers to teach my child?
The registered home educator is responsible for making sure their kids are learning and progressing. You don’t need teacher training (although some understanding of how learning works is helpful, but you can get that from the library and Youtube). You can pay for third-party lessons or courses but you need to monitor your child’s progress and present this to the moderator. It’s usually much cheaper to find your own resources and teach your children yourself.
Is there government funding for home education in WA?
Not really. If you are homeschooling because of geographical isolation, disability or mental health reasons you may be eligible for Assistance for Isolated Children payment from Centrelink. It’s worth looking into because it gives you about $1000 per term while you’re eligible. You have to send in your registration certificate again at the start of every school year. Not all families qualify. Families with secondary students can also access one payment of about $350 per year through the Secondary Assistance Scheme, if you have a concession card. You have to apply to your local Department of Education office before the closing date each year and provide receipts for text books for at least part of the payment. This payment normally goes partly to families (uniform allowance) and partly directly to high schools (text book allowance) but it’s recognised that homeschool families purchase all their own textbooks.
Is it expensive to homeschool?
It can cost as much or as little as you choose. There are thousands of free resources out there. It’s totally possible to do it for free or super cheap. I recommend to wait a few months before signing up to any expensive curriculum. Meet some other families, ask what they use, trial some programs, use your local library, find out what your child is interested in and how they learn best. If your child can’t stand the awesome resource you bought, it’s not very useful for you. We’ve tried out lots of different resources, learning styles and levels of structure. I’ll do another post with some of our favourites. Most of my homeschool budget goes on books, online resources and attending events. The great thing about homeschooling is that it’s flexible to fit your children.
Is it possible to homeschool if you’re a single parent, work part time or have a disability?
Yes. I was a single parent working part time when I started. If you have limits to your energy or time, just design around it and create a support network. I managed by teaming up with a couple of other homeschool families who were able to have my son regularly for the first year or so. I worked in a supportive workplace where it was possible to bring my son to work with me if I needed to (not ideal for productivity, so I tried to minimise that option!). It’s easier now that he’s turning 13 as I can leave him at home for half a day (schoolwork may or may not get done!).
If you’re living with a disability, you may need to pace the day differently and plan for some activities that you can do from bed or that the kids can manage on their own. If you take a little longer to get through the workload, it doesn’t really matter at the end of the day.
Do I have to follow the curriculum?
Theoretically, you do have to follow the WA Curriculum but in reality it’s very flexible in how you teach it. Your moderator may also be quite flexible in when you teach the content, or even approve unschooling or child-directed learning which will probably look quite different to the standard curriculum. If you prefer more structure, expect that your child will return to the school system in the future or aren’t sure about choosing/designing your own learning program, start with the curriculum provided. It’s all available for free online. It is quite open-ended and you’ll need to find your own resources or activities to match it but there’s a government resource for that too called Scootle. You need to be an Australian educator to access this but it’s easy to do. After your children are registered with the Department of Education, just email Scootle with your child’s name and date of birth and request access. Then you can browse thousands of curriculum-linked activities and resources.
The WA Curriculum for kindy to grade 10 covers eight subject areas (Mathematics, English, Science, Technologies, The Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, Health and Physical Education, and Languages), three cross-curricular priorities (Asia and Australia’s engagement with Asia, Sustainability, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures) and seven general capabilities (literacy, numeracy, information and communication technology (ICT) capability, critical and creative thinking, personal and social capability, ethical understanding and intercultural understanding). It’s all written in technospeak and you’ll need to decode it a little. Basically, follow those seven or eight subject areas (your child may not need to study Languages, depending on their grade – it’s compulsory for grade 3-7 in 2022 and next year it will be compulsory for grade 8 students as well. It’s optional for grade 9 and above). You’ll find you cover most of the general capabilities in daily life. If you also seek out how all of those subjects relate to Asia, sustainability and Aboriginal culture, you’re doing a great job. For example, we watch Studio Ghibli movies and discuss the cultural differences in them, we attended a Japanese taiko drumming performance, we did an energy audit of our home for technology and we visited local historical Indigenous sites when we were looking at the Stone Age.
If your child has learning struggles, you can customise the curriculum to their abilities. You may find the ABLE-WA (Abilities Based Learning Education) more appropriate. It’s not mandated and has four stages A to D at each grade level. There’s a Professional Learning Course on the curriculum website to teach you how to use this curriculum.
Your child can still do NAPLAN as a homeschool student (National Assessment Program for Literacy And Numeracy). If they’re in grade 3, 5, 7 or 9, the Department of Education will contact you at the start of the year to ask if you want to register them. It’s optional and free. All schools, including homeschoolers, are expected to participate in the testing online from 2022 instead of using paper tests. It’s held in May. There are several pieces of paperwork that you need to complete and return by certain deadlines if you’d like to participate. You might find it useful to place your child’s ability against their peers, or you might decide it’s irrelevant to you and avoid the stress of testing. You can opt in to some of the tests and not others. It’s up to you.
Do I have to write reports, grade my child or keep records of my child’s learning?
In WA, you do not need to create a learning plan, write formal reports or keep records in a specific way. You will need some way of demonstrating to the moderator that your child is learning and progressing, but it’s very flexible in how you demonstrate this. The level of reporting is up to your personal preference. It’s often helpful to have some form of records or reports for your own peace of mind. Some homeschoolers keep beautiful scrapbook-style journals of their child’s learning, some jot down daily notes in a planner, some upload photos to an app. I like to write my child a detailed report each semester, including what resources he’s used, progress, challenges and competence level, but I like writing! I don’t grade him because it triggers off his anxiety, but some of the online programs he uses include tests & scores. As a homeschool parent, you’re generally in touch with what your child understands and what they are struggling with, so grades are not very important. I use a simple weekly page divided into the eight subject areas to record his learning activities (above). If you’d like to download this template, you can find it on my Teachers Pay Teachers store for just two dollars (and some beautiful planners, too!).
It’s totally fine for your child to work at the level they’re at. If they’re at different levels for different subjects, just follow that. They can work ahead in some areas and behind in others. It’s normal for kids to be stronger at some subjects and less so at others.
What does the moderator do?
The moderator is your link to the Department of Education. The three current moderators in my region are all approachable and supportive. You will usually have your first moderator meeting within three months of registering your child. The mod will check you’re covering the curriculum including literacy & numeracy, make sure you have resources in mind, clarify what your intentions are and that you know how to make sure your child is meeting the outcomes you’ve set. They don’t test your kids. If all goes well, they’ll probably meet you once a year. If you need a little more support, they might meet you more often. They evaluate you as an educator. They usually come to your house. They might suggest strategies or resources and can answer your questions.
What happens at a moderator meeting?
The initial visit is basically to get to know you and your child. You don’t need to prepare much or stress about choosing all your resources for the year. The moderator will expect that you’re still finding your feet. You could show any projects or resources you’re tried and talk about your child’s interests, strengths and weaknesses and your plans for the year. Make sure you let them know if your child is neurodivergent or has any learning difficulties so they can take that into account when they’re looking at how your child is progressing. You may need to let them know about major disruptive events like sicknesses, holidays or family struggles too, as that will probably affect your child’s learning.
For annual meetings, you can present any of the following:
- student’s worksheets, folders of completed or workbooks
- student’s planning or research notes
- copy of progress/reports/tests from online learning programs
- certificates or progress from courses or units
- dated writing samples to show progress
- first draft of writing projects
- visual diary, nature journal
- completed projects (digital or hard copy)
- educator’s diary or records of activities
- reflective journal (digital or hard copy)
- photos of key learning activities
- art portfolios or display (2D or 3D artworks)
- short videos of performances/activities
- digital content created by student (animations, websites, videos, etc)
- discuss learning activities (educator or student)
- books read, documentaries, apps
- curriculum or resources used
Can my high school child still go on to higher learning after homeschool?
Absolutely. Even though your homeschool secondary student can’t get a WACE or ATAR, there are lots of pathways to university or other higher learning. They can do a bridging course at TAFE or university, study open university units online, apply for RPL for homeschool learning or online units, enter as a mature age student using the Special Tertiary Admissions Test, study at TAFE first and then transition to university, and more. Have a look at your local universities and see what pathways they offer. Some of them have special programs for specific situations. You have a lot of options.
What about socialisation?
You can organise multiple daily social activities if you have the energy. Your kids will probably be in contact with a wider range of people in a wider range of situations compared to being stuck in a classroom with people the same age five days a week. You can attend classes specifically for homeschoolers or weekend/after school activities; you can buddy up with other homeschool families and regularly catch up for learning or social activities; you can seek out workplaces or activities that interest your child and talk to adults about their real jobs; you can volunteer with your children; you can involve your child in your own business and even employ them if you own the business (as long as it doesn’t interfere with their education, there is no minimum working age in WA in a family business!); you can host events for other homeschoolers and meet up in the park and cinema and museum. Seriously. You’re probably going to be craving quiet time at home.
What if I’m just not good enough to educate my kids?
All of us have bad days and doubts. It’s natural to want your child to succeed and be happy, and it can be exhausting having your kids around all day every day. Only you know the limits of your capacity. Take a deep breath, have a cuppa, phone a supportive friend. Drop the learning activities for the day if it gets overwhelming and reconnect with your children again. You’re in charge of the timetable and you can change it whenever you need to. The best part about homeschooling is the flexibility. You can change when, where and how you learn, which resources and styles you use, and customise everything to your family. We use a lot of ADHD-friendly resources – here’s a huge list.
Fearless Homeschooling has a great list of ways to rescue a bad day and a free email course to get you started as a home educator. You don’t need to know everything. You can be a life learner along with your kids. I’ve done a lot of colouring in and learned a lot about history and the periodic table since we started homeschooling. Get out a book and read – lots of us read books aloud even to our highschool students (we’re currently reading ‘Sophie’s World’ and just finished ‘The Girl Who Speaks Bear’). You’re not a failure if you end up putting your kids back in school – do what suits your family. Reframe it as a learning adventure. Just keep doing the best you can with what you have. You got this!