Homeschooling in New Zealand. How does it work?

Thinking about teaching your child at home? Homeschooling is on the rise in New Zealand but before you decide, let’s look at the benefits and challenges.

Cluey Learning Thursday, 21 October 2021

Why homeschool?

There are 101 reasons why parents decide to teach their children at home. It could be that they’re not satisfied with the formal schooling system, that it doesn’t fit their religious or philosophical beliefs, or they simply want to be more involved in their children’s education.

Originally set up in 1922 to cater for the most isolated students, homeschooling became more popular in New Zealand in the 1970s and 80s. Many people homeschool because their child didn’t fit in at school, or they feel that their learning needs were not met in a normal school setting. Concerns about bullying are another consideration, and it’s an option for families that travel or live far out of town.

The Covid-19 pandemic caused another surge of interest. July 2020 saw the biggest-ever increase in homeschooling enrolments yet, with 619 more children learning from home than at the same time the year before. As of 1 July 2020, there were 7,192 home-schooled students in New Zealand, which is 0.9% of the total school enrolments.


Discover how Cluey can help you with homeschooling support in New Zealand

Find out why New Zealanders are choosing Cluey’s homeschool programmes


How can I get started?

Every family is different, and they all experience their own benefits and challenges when they decide to homeschool. This non-traditional approach to education is fully legal and possible in New Zealand. However, as it’s compulsory for students between the ages of 6 and 15 to be enrolled in a school, you’ll need an exemption from the Ministry of Education if you want to educate your child at home.

Essentially, parents or caregivers must satisfy the Secretary of Education that their child will be taught “as regularly and as well as in a registered school.” Children with special education needs will need to be taught “at least as regularly and well as in a special class or clinic or by a special service”. Once an exemption from enrolment is granted, the Education Review Office (ERO) is responsible for monitoring the teaching that the children receive.

Who can home educate?

Any parent or legal guardian of a child aged between 5 and 16 years of age may apply to home educate.

How do I apply?

You will need to complete an application form and prepare the required supporting documents, then send them to your local Ministry of Education office.

What information do I need to provide with the application?

The Ministry can only issue a Certificate of Exemption when it is satisfied that you are willing and able to be responsible for an appropriate programme of education for your child (ie. that your child will be taught at least as regularly and as well as they would at a registered school).

The application form asks you to provide full details about how you intend to home educate your child, including:

  • a description of your home education approach, philosophy and/or curriculum
  • a description of intended learning areas and/or subjects
  • a description of the resources and reference materials you have available to teach your child, and an explanation of how you intend to use them
  • short- and long-term educational goals for your child
  • an example of a special project or topic plan covering learning goals, resources, teaching methods, progress and achievement measures
  • a description of how you intend to measure and record progress and achievement in relation to the learning goals
  • a demonstration of regularity – when, how often and for how long you will teach your child.

Further guidance is available in the application form and guidance document.

When should I apply?

You may apply to home educate any time after your child turns 5 years old, to come into effect when your child turns 6.

Why choose Cluey homeschooling support?

If you’re not comfortable teaching one or more subjects, or if you’re looking for some extra support which aligns with your approach or method, Cluey is an excellent learning partner. Our flexible, online model means that your child can log in to our online platform from anywhere, utilising video, audio and collaborative whiteboard capabilities.

You can choose the areas you’d most like to focus on and specify your learning goals. Our programmes can be tailored to your teaching philosophy and the needs of your child. What’s more, you’ll receive a report at the end of every session which can form part of your portfolio of learning progress.

Learn more about homeschooling support with Cluey >>

More information

More information about the exemption process can be found on the Governments Ministry of Education Home Education page and National Council of Home Educators New Zealand (NCHENZ) website. You’ll also find a section there with more information about home educating a child with special education needs.

The pros and cons of homeschooling

The biggest benefit that families who homeschool mention is the flexibility it offers, and children may find that homeschooling is a good fit for their natural learning styles or personalities. It’s usually a personal decision to homeschool, and it’s not necessarily right for every parent or child.

The biggest challenge is obviously the commitment that’s required to homeschool successfully. Children who go to school typically leave their houses by 7:00AM and spend the next six and a half hours or so attending to a schedule that’s organised by their school. It’s a big task for anyone to do all that at home.

Maintaining a balance in life, work, and family can be a tough and when you add the responsibility of homeschooling, things can get even dicier. Now you are not only a parent but a teacher, too. You’ll have to do the housework as well as teach a broad range of subjects, some of which you may be a bit rusty on. When’s the last time you’ve opened a science book?

Deciding the curriculum, the lessons according to the children’s needs, keeping them occupied, and grading their academic performance involves a lot of effort and time. However, most of the potential complications of homeschooling have little to do with academics.

While family togetherness is certainly a perk of homeschooling, people who spend several hours together each day, every day, will at some point also see the worst of each other, rub each other the wrong way, and crave time apart. Brothers and sisters who are together for that much time tend to get on each other’s nerves.

If you are on duty basically 24/7, you’ll enjoy less opportunities to relax, tune out from the stresses of parenting, engage in adult interaction, and pursue your own interests. That could lead to frustration and even burnout.

Luckily, there are plenty of support groups and online connections available for homeschoolers. Most of them don’t stay isolated within their family group all the time. Sports teams, clubs, volunteering, on-site classes, and play groups are some of the ways that homeschoolers in New Zealand interact with others and socialise outside of the home.

How to approach home education

It all depends on what works for you and your child. Some families literally choose to “school at home” with a fixed curriculum and schooling hours that mirrors the traditional classroom method. Others feel that a more unstructured child-led or free-range learning philosophy is the right approach. Most parents who homeschool tend to blend different education methods, depending on the ages and personalities of their children.

It’s up to you to decide how you homeschool. You can choose what materials you use, what activities you do, whether you take a structured or unstructured approach to lessons, and what home education philosophy you want to follow. Though it’s not a requirement to use it, you are eligible to receive The New Zealand Curriculum or Te Marautanga o Aotearoa free of charge.

Alternative homeschooling options available in New Zealand include distance learning or Te Kura, previously known as the Correspondence School. This is a state-funded distance education provider that offers a wide range of personalised learning programmes and courses in both English and te reo Māori from early childhood to Year 13. The education is mostly delivered online.

Students that learn via Te Kura are supervised by their parent or caregiver, but they are under the care of teachers who send them work and check in with them regularly online or by phone. Schooling hours are roughly the same as the hours spent attending a local school and exemption is not required as Te Kura is a public school, just like the one down the road.

Before you make the decision

If you are considering homeschooling, think carefully about the potential positive and negative effects it can have on yourself, your child, and the family dynamics. It’s also a good idea to talk to other home educators first, either in person or online.

The first year is usually the hardest so getting support is hugely important. The exemption application itself is a thorough process and if you work with someone who has gone through it already can be helpful to work through the requirements. It can also help you figure out your own approach and philosophy.

Choosing to homeschool your child is a big commitment, but you should know according to research, being homeschooled does not impact a child’s social, emotional and psychological development or their achievement levels. Homeschooling is not right for every family but if you have the time, the drive, and the home set-up to make it work, your family may well thrive in this environment.

Learn more about homeschooling support with Cluey >>

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