Consider carefully how you complete the NT application form.

The Forward to Parents is promising on the surface. It tries to give home educating parents an impression that the Department understands the unique nature of home education. It acknowledges that home education differs from home schooling because "home schooling implies a more structured activity and curriculum position akin to school". However the Forward then emphasizes the term 'home' which is common to both terms: home education and home schooling, rather than the difference between the terms i.e. the difference between 'schooling' and 'education' and this is reflected in the Guidelines and the Application form. This paragraph doesn't make sense.

The Forward also indicates some understanding that home education is a 'choice' of parents that is taken because it 'best meets the needs of the child and is not determined by the inability of the child to attend school…" but the Application form asks for the names and distances in km from the nearest primary and secondary school. The document doesn't hold together. How does the Officer Responsible for Home Education use this information in assessing approval? How is the distance to a school relevant?

The application form asks some questions in order to assess the parent's commitment to educate their child. It also asks for details of your resources and facilities. However, there are several questions that are irrelevant and also put the parent on the defensive. Considering that many home educating parents find that school at home doesn't work or are principled against this approach - I've completed much of the application form below in much the same way many home educating families would like to complete it.

Q12 'I'm seeking your consent because the law requires it. My aim and purpose is to protect my child from harmful aspects of the school environment and provide him with a good education.'

Q13 'I have no plans at present to employ a tutor.'

Q14 regarding curriculum 'I mainly use a mix of the Conversation Learning studied by Dr Alan Thomas and the Charlotte Mason approach in our home education program…. and I would add some information about these. I will generally take my child with me wherever I go and teach him what he shows interest in. I will look out for any opportunity by which he may learn and give him as much access to the real world as is reasonable. In the next year I expect we will: visit the orange factory, visit friends in hospital, visit a country town, visit a coastal town, go shopping in the city, care for a vegetable garden, cook and do general housekeeping, meet regularly with other home educating families socially, visit the library, art gallery, museum regularly, swim, ride, run and climb, listen to stories and ………you might go on and on to give them an accurate idea of the sorts of things you might do. I will also use Homework Contract Book A. If this does not cover the Board of Studies Curriculum requirements please give me details and I will supplement our program to accommodate.' Let them do the work of finding out if it complies with their requirements; you've got better things to do.

Q15 'I am unable to tell you when he will 'receive instruction' but I will implement the program whenever he is with me which is generally every day of the year except when he occasionally spends time with family and friends, and those occasions are also within the program. It is impossible for me to detail this section of time allocation over the subject areas'

Q16 Qualifications: 'parent' ; Experience: '6 years of parenting'

Q17 'He will be educated from a home base and has access to the kitchen, bathroom, garden, chook pen, trampoline, tool shed, garage, etc and will be able to access to the facilities offered in the local community such as library, museum, shops, swimming pool, ABC Education programs etc ' I would list everything I could think of and if he was older I would include Uncle Ted's vet business, the quilting guild, pottery class etc

Q18 There is some overlap with the previous question but… 'We have the resources of an average home, and these are available to him at any time, including a family library of fiction and non-fiction books, audio and video tapes suitable for his age and interests, we have a TV, Video player, PC and various educational and recreational software programs, we have a car and a tape player, various bats and balls, nets and hoops, and a variety of craft equipment, we have board and card games suitable for his age and ability, charts and posters, wall hangings and paintings, telephone and Internet connection.' I would list everything I could think of but I don't know why these questions are asked when these things are assessed during the home visit. Is it a test of honesty?

Q19 'Other students' I'm thinking of his younger siblings but I can imagine other family cultures where grandchildren or cousins might be included. The essential differences between home education and schooling are due not only to the family relationships but also the adult to child ratio.

Q20 Blank

Q21 Details of little sisters.

Q22 'I will keep a diary, about a paragraph, each day or so listing our activities. I will provide samples of his work which illustrate his standard of achievement in each of the subject areas but where these are not available I will provide a written evaluation.'

Further information: I note in the flowchart that 'the delegated officer examines student portfolio to assess efficiency in terms of achievement of learning outcomes'. I have not been supplied with the Department's so I presume the learning outcomes are mine. So, though this was not specifically asked for in the application form, I list those things that I expect my child will learn this year.

At this point I use a simple educational developmental chart and copy down whatever is currently relevant to my child.

  • Will enjoy learning, will feel that learning is part of life.
  • Will be able to follow a set of 2-3 directions in order, understand and relay simple information from the telephone or TV, recall details from stories he has heard getting the main points, make a logical complaint, speak with confidence to people he doesn't know well, speak on the telephone to get information across eg I live at …….., express himself well in a group situation- waiting for others to finish speaking- elaborating on a point or making a new point, understand that printed materials relay information when decoded, begin to read simple words eg stop, McDonalds, try to read simple sentences, guess new words, write his own first name, attempt to write other words, write all the letters of the alphabet looking at a guide, add to rhyming words.
  • Will recognize numbers to 100, even and odd, first second third etc, add and subtract to 10, recognize all coins, know basic shapes, make and use simple graphs, do word problems when shopping, add and subtract simple 3 term sums, measure in cm & kg, know o'clock and half past time, knows simple fractions.
  • Will know how and why to keep his body clean - including teeth, knows seasons, how animals cope with the seasons, understand the animal needs of food, water, air, shelter etc, will know how to use garden and kitchen tools, know the senses, understand the problem of littering.
  • Understand how the family works together both in our family and other families with different structures eg. Aboriginal families, know the difference between city and rural life, be able to draw a simple map (of home), know what a globe is, can find his way around the local neighborhood, know how to express different emotions within and without the family, at home and in public, know how to treat a guest child or adult, know basic terrains, can describe his own environment.
  • Will draw lines and make simple pictures, control a pencil and scissors, know primary colours and mix secondary colours, understand printing, make a clay sculpture, tie shoe laces.
  • Will hear, sing and see the difference in high and low music, copy simple rhythms, tell the melody from other musical lines in a song, know loud-soft, fast-slow, recognize sounds and sights of various percussion instruments, move to the beat of 4/4 time.

This is how a home educating parent might wish to fill out the application form. One might doubt it would be well received by the Officer Responsible particularly because Q14 &15 require the submission of a school program and the Officer will probably be the local school principal.

Most school principals will work out from this information that you are committed and able to educate your own child and even though they don't know what you will be doing at what time on what day they will appreciate that your child will be learning a broad range of subject matter. If they have a pet subject they may want to give you advice about how to go about something so take advantage of the opportunity, be open minded and co-operative and try to implement it. You may also be able to share some of the schools facilities.

The big problem with the NT application form is that the program submitted is part of a contract that the parent is required to sign. It requires you to sign a declaration that says in part: "I hereby declare that all information provided regarding this application for home education is correct". So you need to be considered in the information you supply. Theoretically you cannot change it if it's not working, if circumstances change or disaster strikes. It's very unlikely you would find yourself in trouble over it but it's still a contract.

Home educators in other states are only required to sign basic information about their family such as names, addresses and DOB's. It is understood that many things can go astray with a program e.g. the weather, can't find good books on a topic, other interest arise etc

Write your home education up in a way that you can contract to; discuss your philosophy, don't include details, and use indefinite terms (similar to the one above). Otherwise, rewrite the declaration so that you can sign it and complete the application form in the light of your declaration.