There are a variety of reasons why some families choose to educate their children at home, whether short- or long-term.
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Some families make a positive choice of home-schooling or distance education as the best option for their child and family. Others home school because they are unhappy with other options, as a temporary measure due to their child’s needs at the time, or if their child is suspended or expelled from school.
Students who are unable to attend an appropriate government school on a daily basis due to geographic isolation or because they have a disability or special health-related or education need may also be eligible for financial help from Centrelink, for example through the Mobility Allowance or Assistance for Isolated Children at School.
- Visit the federal human services website and for more information.
In Victoria, home schooling is a recognised alternative to attending school. Regional and rural families are more likely to home-school. Around half of the 2,030 Victorian families registered for home schooling in 2012 lived outside Melbourne. Reasons that families give for choosing to home-school include the family’s philosophical or religious beliefs, having children with special needs, and dissatisfaction with school choices (Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority, 2013 Information sheet no. 1, ‘Home Schooling’).
Victorian law is supportive of a broad range of approaches to home schooling, and many networks and resources are created and shared by home-schooling families in Victoria and beyond. For these reasons, families sometimes choose to move to Melbourne or regional Victoria to home-school their children.
You can home-school your child from the beginning of their schooling (officially, the year they turn six), or at any time. Some families take their children out of school and home-school for a period, before seeking another school option.
By law, every Victorian home-schooled child must be registered with the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority (VRQA). This is a very straightforward process that aims to ensure every school age child is participating in an education, whether at home or at school. Young children must be registered for home-schooling by the year they turn six. It is possible to partially enrol a registered home-schooled child at a school for particular activities, or for part of their week, in negotiation with the principal.
No government-funded resources are available to support home-schooling, although some home-schooled children might of course be engaged with therapists or other professionals in early childhood or disability support services, funded through early intervention or Individual Support Package funding through the Department of Human Services, the NDIS (in trial areas) or federal Helping Children with Autism funding.
- Networks and resources on the Home Education Network Victoria website
- Registering for home-schooling with the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority
- Guidelines for partial school enrolment of a registered home-school child
Distance education involves enrolment with a school – a distance education provider. Distance education is taught by registered teachers, and delivered online and through printed materials and regular contact between teachers and students. As a parent or carer, you play a key role as your child’s ‘study supervisor’, working in close partnership with your child’s teacher.
Distance education is a good long-term education option for some children. For others, distance education can be used as a temporary option during times when it is difficult for your child to attend their usual school, for example due to their medical needs or emotional/behavioural issues. If your child is in distance education short-term, strategies must be put in place to support your child to return to school if and when they are able.
The main Victorian provider is the Distance Education Centre of Victoria (DECV), a Victorian government funded school. Enrolment depends on eligibility under one or more of these criteria:
- the distance between home and the nearest government school or public transport stop
- if you are travelling for six months or more
- medical reasons, including severe disability, chronic illness and/or social/emotional difficulties
- having been referred by your child’s school.
Your child’s application must be supported by documentation from you, medical or other practitioners, and your child’s school (if applying under that category). Enrolments in several categories must be approved by the regional DET director. It might be possible for a child enrolled with DECV to have a dual enrolment with another mainstream or specialist school. Contact DECV for more information.
- Distance Education Centre Victoria – for enrolment information, download the relevant enrolment handbook.
Temporary home- or hospital-based options
The Victorian government expects that students of school age with severe disabilities will attend school or be registered for home schooling. If your child is enrolled at a mainstream or specialist school, but cannot physically attend school due to the severe impact of their health needs or disability, the Home-Based Educational Support Program can provide funding to help them continue with their schoolwork at home.
Your child’s program is developed by your child’s mainstream or specialist school, in cooperation with you as your child’s main caregiver. You then implement the program at home, during the period when your child is unable to be at school. The major aim of the program is to support your child’s eventual return to school.
Your child’s school should always provide this type of support if your child needs to be at home for a time, due to their medical needs or disability, regardless of whether they access additional funding to do so through the Home-Based Educational Support Program.
If your child has extended stays at the Royal Children’s Hospital, their learning can be supported by teachers from the RCH Education Institute, who work with your child’s usual teachers to keep them in touch with the curriculum.
- The Victorian government’s Home-based Educational Support Program
- Read more about support for your child’s complex medical needs