Investigating the Idea of Homeschooling

by Mandy Tyler

Things that surprise most people

The first thing that surprises most people is that public schooling as we know it has only existed for about the last 200 years. Before that, everyone learnt at home with a tutor or governess, or more commonly, learnt by apprenticeship - "learning by doing".

The second thing that people are surprised about is that attending school is the only time in our lives where we will be forced to spend 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, with people who are classified as having the same abilities (and weaknesses) as us, just because they happen to be within one year of our age. In reality, this is anything but a stimulating learning environment. Much of what goes on in school is crowd control, or moving from class to class.

Thirdly, they are surprised at the answers to the most commonly asked question about homeschooling - "But what about their socialisation?". For a start, I answer this one by stating that children bloom when they are removed from the strains school create which people call "peer pressure". They bloom within their own loving family environment, interacting with family members (immediate and extended) of all ages. From there, they interact safely within all community socialisation contexts. From homeschooling groups, sports or music groups, and playgroups, to involvement within the daily routines of banking, shopping, visits to the library, elderly or infirm, homeschooled children are socialised on a hearty, healthy level.

I couldn't homeschool because ...

People will also often say "I would never have the patience to homeschool". Yes, you must enjoy the company of your children for a large amount of time if you are to succeed in homeschooling. (Why else did you have children in the first place, if not to enjoy their company?) However, no-one is suggesting that you become a martyr and abandon all hope of a life or time to yourself, if you homeschool your children. Almost everyone has a sympathetic parent, sister, in-law, grandparent, or friend that is happy to give you a break from your children so that you may spend time "recharging your batteries". If not, your partner may be prepared to take the children out for a day in the weekends. You may take your time out exercising when the other parent is at home and able to care for the children.

Some people take turns with friends having all the children on a certain day of the week, to give the other some time off. Other alternatives are attending playgroups or homeschooling support groups for time out of the house, Barnardos daycare for a few hours per week if necessary, or even the homeschooling parent working for a few hours weekly to gain some "adult time", as well as the bonus of some extra money. Almost everyone who finds themselves becoming desperately in need of a break from the children is missing one or more of these factors in their lives.

"I'm not clever enough to teach my children" is another common cry. If you have basic literary and numeracy skills, and you are able to access resources in the community or on the internet to find out where to get the information if you don't have it, you are qualified enough to homeschool. Remember, too, that no-one knows your child and his or her strengths and weaknesses better than you do. This gives you a unique insight into your child's learning ability. Libraries, homeschooling support groups and magazines, other homeschoolers, educational suppliers, and community resources such as individual maths tutoring, are only scratching the surface of the resources at your fingertips when you homeschool. Half the joy of homeschooling is learning with your child - all those things you really wanted to know, or areas you needed to improve on, but never had the time at school!

Gaining confidence in what you are doing is one of the key factors in homeschooling. Borrowing books by John Holt and Dorothy & Raymond Moore, through your local library, is an excellent start. These may be available through interloan (accessing all the libraries in the country) for a cost of about NZ$3 per book. Also, try searching under the subject "homeschooling" or "home education" (your librarian can help you with this). If you live in a rural area, you might think about putting up a notice in the library or supermarket stating that you are looking for other homeschoolers. This can have great results.

New Zealand Resources

New Zealand has a wonderful resource in the existence of HENA, Home Educators Network of Aotearoa. They can be contacted at P O Box 11-645, Ellerslie, Auckland 1131, or by phoning (09) 579-8573. They put out a quarterly magazine for NZ$15 per year, which includes information, articles, events in the homeschooling world, etc. They also have an amazing 76-page (A5 size) Resource Directory, for $11 including p&p. This includes information about how to go about getting an exemption (which is legally required if you intend homeschooling your child in New Zealand), information and reviews of curriculum packages, book lists, lists of educational suppliers, places to go and things to do in Auckland (an issue is in the planning for other areas, pending the flow of information inwards to HENA!), and organisations to join. Membership with HENA, along with your quarterly magazines, also gives you a copy of the HENA membership list of homeschoolers, and also the support groups by area listed with HENA. This enables you to contact other homeschoolers in your area (often your best means of support, information and encouragement).

Internet Resources

If you have access to the internet and/or email, there are a number of options available to you. Sites to check out:

Natural Learning Net (A New Zealand site)

NZ Home Educators (Phil Astley)

NZ Homeschooling Federation

NZ Home Educators Trade & Exchange (Andrew & Christine Smith)

New Zealand Libraries Online

Eduweb Educational Web Adventures

Unschooling Essays

School Is Dead, Learn In Freedom!

Home School Resource List (Tons of unschooling links and articles!)

Virtual Tours

NZ Ministry of Education

NZ Education Review Office

Email lists

There are also email lists available, both within New Zealand and overseas. A mailing list collects the email address of everyone who subscribes. From then on, whenever anyone sends a message to the mailing list, it gets copied and sent out to all of the subscribers. Everyone can therefore read discussions that are going on, participate themselves, reply to other people's messages, or send messages themselves to raise an issue, ask for advice, or interact with each other.

I run the New Zealand Unschoolers email list. Since November 1998, NZUnschoolers has been what you might call an online support group for New Zealanders who are interested in discussing unschooling (or "natural learning",
"relaxed home education", etc). "Unschooling" is a word that was first coined by author John Holt, to describe those children who did their learning outside of the traditional school system. This list is for people who either *are* unschooling in New Zealand right now, are planning to unschool their children in New Zealand in the future, or who want to find out more about what unschooling means within New Zealand. We also believe that unschooling teaches our kids THE most important lesson in life: Learning *how* to learn.

To subscribe to NZUnschoolers, send email to

If you attempt to send a message to all the members of the list without first subscribing, you will receive a message back saying that non-subscribers cannot post to the list. You can also subscribe online at

Another recent list that has sprung off from my list is Radical Unschoolers of Aotearoa (RUA).   To subscribe to this list, send a blank email to

The original NZ homeschooling email list is Hefnet, run by Craig Smith. To join, send your name and suburb to:

Overseas mailing lists are as follows:

My report about unschooling

The word "unschooling" has evolved somewhat over the years and now defines a particular "style" of homeschooling/home education. Instead of using a just pre-packaged curriculum, unschoolers believe in allowing their children to learn via the pursuit of their own unique interests/hobbies/current passions, and using a great variety of resources available to them, which may or may not include using parts of various curriculum packages. Interest in this topic lead me to write my report, "Unschooling Instead: Aedan and Keszia's First Year Homeschooling". What if we were making a mistake homeschooling? Were we actually doing anything of any use for the childrens' education? What would I show people who doubted homeschooling could work? Thes result was a report about what we achieved in each subject during 1997, using the relaxed unschooling method. The kids were 4 and 3 at the time. There are about 4000 educational references to things we
did, under the appropriate subject headings.

It may be particularly useful to:

(a) people starting out homeschooling;

(b) people who don't understand how unschooling can work;

(c) parents with preschoolers interested in homeschooling them; and

(d) people looking for a method of record-keeping.

It includes about 50 photos/copies of the children's work.

It's $30 (NZ) including p &p and can be bought directly from me. My details are:

Mandy Tyler
29 Meadowvale Rise
Titirangi, West Auckland
Ph: 818-1969

Or buy the book HERE


I recommend reading the following articles:

If you have any further queries about homeschooling, please
feel free to contact me.

Copyright Mandy Tyler, April 2000

Posted by Mandy Tyler on February 10, 2002