The exemption pack is available online from the Ministry of Education website. Your exemption application should be posted to your local MOE office. Even though many people in NZ send their children to school from five years of age, an exemption only applies from when a child turns six as the law is that a child must be in school (or exempted) from six years of age. You can post in your exemption application any time after your child’s 5th birthday. If your child’s 6th birthday is in late December, January or early February then it is a good idea to send your application in early due to the public/school holidays. The Ministry will want to see an individualised programme for each child, including twins (though of course some aspects of the application will be the same as you may be using the same family routines, resources and community facilities, etc).
At first glance, the exemption requirements can look somewhat daunting. Don’t be discouraged, it’s a document that can really help you to develop your approach to home education and your plans for the first year and beyond. You will readily find other home educators willing to assist you if you ask for help in one of the online discussion groups or from people you know who are already home educating. It’s worthwhile having an experienced home educator critique your application before you send it to the Ministry. It can also help to look at examples of others’ exemption applications which have already been approved. We have members who are willing to help if you would like some assistance, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. There is also an online guide available (for a fee) written by Cynthia Hancox, an experienced home educator – click here to view it.
You are not required to follow the NZ Curriculum if you home educate, however you are unlikely to get an exemption if you do not at least cover the basics (reading, writing, maths, etc). The NZ Curriculum is online if you want to view it. The Ministry of Education officer who evaluates your exemption will need to be satisfied that you will educate your child as well as if the child was attending a registered school. Of course, that is a benchmark which is open to wide interpretation – the Ministry of Education defines “as regularly and well as in a registered school” as follows:
“A homeschooling situation can provide an opportunity for a more flexible approach to organisation than that which is likely to operate in the average school. Nevertheless, the Act requires you to teach your child “at least as regularly … as in a registered school.” Homeschooling applications should, therefore, provide evidence of a commitment to certain routines appropriate to the maturity level and abilities of the child and should outline these. Regularity should extend to the treatment of elements within your stated curriculum. It would be helpful to provide a specific timetable for a typical week, or you may describe your organisational routines in sufficient detail to enable the Ministry to assess the regularity of your programme. However, unsupported statements such as “John will let us know what he wants to study” will not assist an application.Section 35C of the Act (which deals with the registration of private schools) says that one of the elements necessary to ensure registration is the existence of “a curriculum for teaching, learning, and assessment” and has “suitable tuition standards”. To indicate that you will teach your child “at least as well as in a registered school” you must, therefore, communicate to the Ministry something of your curriculum vision for teaching, learning and assessment. Your statement should be more than an overview – it should give some indication of what you will intend to cover in different areas of your stated curriculum.Some people will want to use a commercially prepared course of some kind. There is no problem with this but it is likely to be insufficient if your application simply says, “We will be following such and such a course.” You will need to show that you at least know where the course is taking you. It is not possible, of course, for the Ministry to judge the quality of your teaching (the standard of tuition) in advance, but Ministry officers will look for some evidence that you have the confidence and knowledge to provide tuition in a planned and balanced way that could be expected in any registered school.”
You must state in your application whether or not your child has any special education needs.
Once you have received an Exemption Certificate for your child it is valid until your child’s 16th birthday unless you cancel it at any point (or unless the Ministry revokes your exemption, which happens only very rarely). Twice a year (in about May and November) the Ministry requires home educators to sign a written declaration confirming that they are continuing to home educate in accordance with the law. This paperwork is sent automatically to the home address the Ministry holds on file for you (the one you wrote on the exemption application), so make sure you keep the Ministry informed if you move house. Parents/guardians are paid a supervisory allowance once the declaration is processed in about June and December of each year. You can continue to home educate and receive the supervisory allowance (upon completion of the home education declaration twice a year) until the end of the calendar year in which your child turns 19yrs provided he/she is still being home educated.
At a glance …
- Your child needs an exemption in order to be home educated
- You apply to your local MOE office for each child you wish to homeschool
- You need to satisfy MOE that you will educate your child as well as if the child was attending a registered school
- Once you have an exemption it is valid until the child’s 16th birthday
- You do not need to follow the NZ curriculum or any other specific programme
- You must state whether or not your child has any special education needs
- A child with special education needs will require a more comprehensive application
- You receive a supervisory allowance every six months on completion of a declaration