31 Jan 2022

Homeschooling on rise as Ministry faces application backlog

From Checkpoint, 6:08 pm on 31 January 2022

As thousands of kids head back to the classroom this week, a rapidly growing number of families are choosing to keep their tamariki at home for school.

Figures from the Ministry of Education show home-education applications in November jumped to nearly 900, well up from less than 200 the year before.

The ministry says so many applications are now being dealt with it is taking more than six weeks for each one to be assessed.

Covid-19 changes and mask mandates are adding to the demand - Shirley Erwee from the Auckland Home Educators committee discussed the numbers with Checkpoint.

She said home education was becoming more accepted because people had heard about it or knew someone who had done it.

"It's not such an unusual choice any more and so I think people are feeling a little more brave and comfortable to choose this option for their children because they see some benefit obviously."

Covid-19 had contributed to the trend with some people having "a test drive" during lockdowns. Erwee said it has been a wonderful opportunity for people to get the chance to juggle their own work with overseeing lessons for their children.

"People have seen it's not as daunting as they initially thought it would be to take on educating their children themselves."

She agreed some parents would be keen to see their children return to school.

"But I think many parents have seen that it's enabled them to have a different kind of lifestyle and to be more involved with what their children are learning; to cater to their children's unique needs, perhaps where there's special needs or where there are personalities and interests that are different to what the average is in schools."

There had been some discussion about the mask mandate, with some parents concerned young children might have to wear masks in the warm weather, but Erwee did not believe it was a strong factor.

Home education was not something people decided to do "willy-nilly" for a single reason, she said. 

"I think there is probably more than that to it....It's a big decision, it's long-term."

Rather, she said home education had more media attention during the pandemic, which helped people to realise it was a workable option.

In the first year parents "were still finding their feet", but once they saw their children learning "their confidence grows in leaps and bounds".

One of the biggest advantages was that it could strengthen relationships between parents and their children, Erwee said.

"That's the hidden blessing of home education... it's really good for everybody all round."

Group of homeschooling children with parent teacher studying indoors, coronavirus concept.

Photo: 123RF