“We’re not hippy rejects, we home school because there was no other option.”
Some families in New Zealand choose to home school for philosophical reasons, but many others are home schooling because the education system cannot support them. There are no accurate statistics around this, and it needs to change, says Stephen, dad to Lucas, eight.
“At kindy, Lucas was a happy and relaxed child with good friends. He wasn’t developing as fast as his peers, but he was curious and loved tactile, play-based learning so we weren’t worried. He was just going at his own speed.”
He started school at five and immediately struggled with the highly structured environment. Instead of being supported to learn at his own pace, the school reported back that he wasn’t meeting expectations. Unable to keep up with the class, he disengaged from learning and was considered disruptive.
The school felt he must be ASD or ADHD, and they pushed us to seek a diagnosis. They provided a speech therapist and some support with handwriting, but they told us without a formal diagnosis they couldn’t do more. However, a paediatrician confirmed there was no diagnosis to be had, he was just developing more slowly. He began to be left to his own devices at school, he felt stigmatised, lonely and dejected.
“I was quite against home school, but we couldn’t see any future at school either. We pulled him out and after a few months of loving care we started to see our happy-go-lucky little boy back again. My wife Pauline and I provide him with good structure and variety at home, and while I don’t think he will be a rocket scientist, everyone has a little place in the world and Lucas will find his.
“Home school has been a good decision for us, but we didn’t end up here by choice. We aren’t trouble makers or hippy rejects, the system just wasn’t able to support Lucas – and there are thousands of families like us. There are so few stats around home schoolers; how many are there because the system doesn’t work for them? How many go to university? Why does home school work? Understanding this is key to getting better support in schools, and hopefully better support for those of us home schooling as well.”
Tell us your story
We want to hear your stories and opinions about what is being done well, and what should change. IHC will be making a submission before consultation closes on 7 April 2019 to provide feedback on the key issues and recommendations. We will collate these stories and send them to government.