Yes. The right to home educate is outlined in the Education Act 1998 and overseen by the Ministry of Education.
Begin by thinking about what you would like your child to learn and how you would like life to ‘look’ for your family. What’s important to you? What’s important to your child? It’s a good idea to talk to other home educators, in person or online. Remember that you don’t have to have all the answers before you start. Pretty much every home educator finds that their approach, philosophy, understanding and motivations change and grow as they continue on their home education journey. The first year is usually the hardest so it is important to have support. The exemption application is a thorough process and working through the requirements can be helpful in figuring out your approach and philosophy. More about getting started can be found here.
Not unless they are under six years of age. For children six years and older you need an exemption from attendance at school in order to home educate.
No, if your child is under six then you can just unenrol them from school and begin the process of applying for an exemption. Legally your child does not need to attend school until six years of age, so you do not need anyone’s permission to withdraw your child from school before his/her sixth birthday (however you should let the school know you are unenrolling your child).
No, they are completely different. The correspondence school in NZ is called Te Kura. Students do their school work at home (supervised by their parent or caregiver), under the care of teachers who send them work and check in with them regularly online or by telephone. Your child needs to meet certain eligibility criteria to be admitted to Te Kura, and must follow the set curriculum. No exemption is required as Te Kura is a public school (just like the one down the road). Home educated students are able to do papers at Te Kura but sometimes the cost can be prohibitive. More information here.
You need to apply to the Ministry of Education for an exemption from school attendance for each child you want to home educate. You can apply any time after the child’s fifth birthday. The exemption application is a detailed document outlining your education plans for your child, proving that you will educate your child “at least as regularly and well as in a regular school”. You will also need to provide a copy of your child’s birth certificate, and proof of guardianship if you are not the birth parent. Until you have an exemption from the Ministry of Education, legally your child must be enrolled in school if aged between six and 16 years. Information about the exemption application process is here.
Any time after your child turns five years of age. More information here.
No, only one parent/guardian needs to sign the application form.
You apply just once for each child you want to home educate. The exemption is valid until your child turns 16 (unless it is revoked by the Ministry of Education in a rare situation, or unless your child goes to school for a term or more after the exemption has been granted). The supervisory allowance will continue to be paid until the end of the year in which the child turns 19 if they are continuing to be home educated.
The law states that from the age of six until the age of 16 children must be enrolled in, and attending, school. If your child is six years of age or above, they must be attending school while you are waiting for the exemption to be approved. If there are particular issues then it may be worthwhile discussing options with your school, your child’s GP, or the Ministry of Education.
Yes, if your child is already attending a school then the Ministry of Education will contact the school to discuss your child’s educational progress to-date, so that the exemption application can be accurately assessed. You can ask for the record of progress as well and the school must provide it to you under the Privacy Act.
The Ministry of Education does not normally visit you while assessing your application and if they ask for a home visit please contact NCHENZ or your regional group for support/advice. Once you have an exemption for your child, you will probably not hear from the Ministry except for a letter twice a year asking you to confirm that you are still home educating. You do not need to provide additional material to the Ministry as you continue your home education journey, even if your programme changes from what you wrote in your original application. You will need to notify the Ministry if you stop home educating and enrol your child into school. If the Ministry has any concerns about the education of your child they may ask the Education Review Office to review your programme – this is rare as only a handful of reviews are conducted a year (and there are thousands of home educating families in NZ). More information about reviews are here.
This is where a support community is invaluable – either online or in person. Your local home education group may have someone who can help. Start by making an outline of your application and then perhaps look over exemptions other people have had approved. Have an experienced home educator review your exemption application and suggest amendments. Another option is to contact Cynthia Hancox, she is an experienced home educator who has written a comprehensive document to aid those applying for an exemption. Cynthia is also a member of the NCHENZ Executive Committee. You are welcome to email the Committee or post a comment on the NCHENZ Facebook group or the NCHENZ Forum.
No, you do not have to follow the NZ curriculum or any other programme. You are not legally bound to include any particular subjects in your home education programme, however it’s unlikely your exemption application will be approved if you don’t at least outline how you will cover the basics (reading, writing, maths).
Yes, there is no requirement that you conduct the home education of your child exactly as you have outlined in your exemption application. The Ministry of Education expects you to assess things as you go and to make changes.
No materials are supplied to you by the Ministry however you may be able to order some items for free from the Ministry’s resource supplier for schools: Down the Back of the Chair. It is entirely up to you to decide how you home educate – what materials you use, what activities you do, whether you take a structured or unstructured approach to lessons, and what home education philosophy you follow. You can access the NZ Curriculum online as well as National Standards, however there is no legal requirement for you to use either. The Ministry website has some links for support documents as well.
Unfortunately home educators are not able to access discounts to education materials via the Ministry of Education the way that schools do. However, NCHENZ organises a range of discounts for members – both online programs as well as resource discounts, check the Members Area menu and also the Resources menu on this website.
Not at all. The Ministry of Education does not require students to be tested. Some parents do choose to assess their children at times and there are a range of tools available for this.
Home education support groups exist online and as ‘real life’ groups of like-minded homeschoolers. Local groups usually organise outings, events and other get-togethers. They vary in size and activities. Here on the NCHENZ website you can find a list of local/regional support groups, online social networking groups, and also blogs by NZ home educators. Make sure you join NCHENZ by completing the free membership application, and join the NCHENZ Forum or Facebook groups so that you can be kept up-to-date with member offers and other news.
Many home educators have children with special education needs. Read about the support available here and also check the Ministry website for more details.
Most medical centres now offer zero-fee visits to the GP for children under 13yrs. You can also access the Before School Check via your GP. The eyesight and hearing test that is part of the Before School Check, and the eyesight and hearing check done at 11yrs, can both be accessed via your local District Health Board. All children receive free basic dental care until they are 18yrs. Contact your Community Dental Service via your District Health Board.
Absolutely. Exemptions are per child, not for the whole family.
All children miss learning some things – whether they are at school or at home, all children have gaps in their education. Most home educators do not have the goal of teaching their child “everything”. Guiding the child to know what to do when they encounter gaps in their knowledge – where to go to find the information or to learn the skills – is seen as an important lesson in itself. Home educators also place a high value on ‘non-academic’ skills such as character development, self motivation, problem solving, lateral thinking, etc.
You receive a supervisory allowance every six months for home educating your child, on completion of a form confirming you are still home educating. The form is posted automatically from the Ministry of Education to the address you supplied when you submitted your exemption application. If your address has changed then it is important to notify the Ministry. You must complete the form regardless of whether you wish to receive the allowance or not.
Yes! If you are travelling in NZ then you need to make sure you still complete the home education declaration every six months. If you are travelling outside of NZ for more than 28 days then the supervisory allowance will be docked (see here for more details). If you are travelling for an extended time overseas let the Ministry of Education know to put your exemption on hold then, when you return to NZ, ask for it to be reinstated.
This is a tough one. It’s a lot easier to handle if the parents/caregivers are aligned and deal with the issue together as a team. Home educators have found different things work depending on the circumstances. Some people just keep moving forward and trust their extended family members will eventually see the benefits of home education and come on board with the philosophy; others sit down with their extended family and outline in depth why they are choosing the path of home education, and request that their family members accept their decision. It’s a difficult scenario. It can help to remember that, at the core of the family member’s concerns, is usually love and care for the child. However, at the end of the day you are the parent and it is your decision.
Every family is different, no two families home educate in exactly the same way. On this website are a bunch of “typical day” stories – have a read and get an idea of what life looks like for different families following different philosophies. But remember, it’s up to you what your “typical day” will look like as you can tailor your home education to the exact needs of your child and your family circumstances.
It’s amazing how often home educators are asked about socialisation. Click here for more information on discussing socialisation with concerned family and friends.
Yes! Lots of home educated children go on to do NCEA or other high school level qualifications, and to university. There are many options, read more about qualifications here.
The first year is the hardest, many families don’t continue after the first year (which is a pity as it gets easier after that!). Here are some great tips:
- Having a like-minded support network is essential, but allow yourself time to develop the right connections.
- Establish links with your local home education community so that you can attend outings and activities together. If there isn’t a local group, get together with a couple of other home educating families and start your own informal group (that’s pretty much how all the groups started in the first place!).
- Get online and join home education networks. Talk to others about what they do and why.
- When things are not going well make sure you talk to a supportive person so that you get empathetic practical advice, not “well you should send them to school then”.
- If your children have been in school, expect and allow a substantial period of deschooling.
- Allow plenty of time … months even … for a routine to develop. Understand that the routine will change as your children grow and that there will be many periods of adjustment.
- Avoid diving straight in and purchasing expensive curriculum materials. It can be very difficult to initially see how home education can be conducted differently to a traditional ‘school-at-home’ model – but once you have more experience you may find you would choose quite different education materials or maybe that you don’t have a need for a purchased curriculum at all.
- Take regular time out for self-care. Learn the art of having time to yourself without being alone.
- Take a long term view – do not expect your children to progress evenly in all areas, expect bursts of growth and interest.
- Ignore grade levels – do not put excessive pressure on yourself or your children to meet arbitrary standards.
- Relax as much as possible. We all have doubts. Reach out to your support community when you are questioning yourself and your methods.
- Take photos of what you and your children do, make notes about learning experiences if possible – it’s helpful to have something to look back on when you are having doubts so you can see how far everyone has come. Maybe one day think about doing a homeschool yearbook for your child.
- Don’t expect to have no ‘bad days’ – these happen whether your kids are at school or at home.
- Don’t read too much at the beginning, find your own groove first. But after that, read widely and be open to change.
- Embrace the flexibility that home educating provides – change what you are doing when it stops working.
NCHENZ stands for National Council of Home Educators New Zealand. NCHENZ is the only national body representing all home educators. NCHENZ is an incorporated society run by an elected Executive Committee who are all home educating and volunteer their time for the betterment of home educators in NZ. There is always space on the Committee for passionate home educators who want to volunteer their skills! It doesn’t matter how long you have been home educating or what your approach/philosophy is. More information about NCHENZ can be found here.