Registration (and not) as a homeschooler


Education law is different for each state and territory in Australia.


As of time of writing, all states and territories have a legal requirement that homeschooled children should be registered with the Department of Education.  In practice, most estimates are that non-registered homeschoolers greatly outnumber registered ones - there are many unregistered homeschoolers who get away with it until the children are old enough to graduate.


If you are unregistered and it becomes an issue with the Department of Education, all they can do is make you register.  In general, the Department of Ed is not looking for trouble.  If you can stay out of their way, they generally don't want to find you.  They have enough trouble with the kids who are enrolled in school.  The people in our education system have not enough staff, not enough funding and not enough time - they generally do not want more problems.


If you are withdrawing your children from school to homeschool them, you will probably need to register yourself as a homeschooler - the kids are in the Department of Education records, and there has to be some explanation of where they go when they stop attending school.  I believe that identity tracking numbers have been introduced that are supposed to follow students across all schools in Australia, though I am not sure of this.


I think of registration this way: assume you want to pass through life with a minimum of paperwork.  You have three lines of defence: 1) First line of defence: avoid notice by the Department of Education.  2) Second line of defence: If noticed, some people have tried court cases to be exempted from registration - this line of defence is usually because they have a strong religious belief that registration is wrong.  This second line of defence can be carried out for a long time, but is probably more trouble than it is worth for most people.  3) Third line of defence: Register.  Notice that if you do need to register in the end, you haven't actually lost anything by delaying before - and there is a good chance that you will never be called on to register.


In most cases I have seen, registration has been reasonably painless, as long as the parents were confident about what they were doing. 


In the A.C.T., you are entitled to 6 months provisional registration automatically.  The Education Act sets out a broad requirement for home education, but the goals are very broad.  You need to come to some understanding with the people who are responsible (as part of their job) for dealing with homeschool registration at the A.C.T. Department of Education.  Because of the small numbers of individuals involved, it's hard to predict exactly how these people will be for you - but many homeschoolers have described them as sympathetic.


The A.C.T. Education Department's official info on homeschooling is at:

This has full copies of the relevant forms and manual, and excerpts from the A.C.T. Education Act.


Professional school teachers complain about the amount of documentation they need to do teaching their school students.  What about home schoolers?  Some parents do produce huge piles of lesson plans, processes, outcomes, key learning area maps and more.  However, let's assume you are interested in passing through life with a minimum of paperwork - what is the minimum standard?


I have seen people who adopt a "natural learning", "unschooling", "free range learning" approach.  The Wikipedia entry is at  The basic idea, in a nutshell, is that kids will learn more effectively by following their own interests.  This throws lesson planning and key-learning-area maps out the window.  I know homeschool families who have been registered for years on a "natural learning" model.


You can certainly make a good case if you have a neat collection of "school-worky" stuff your children have done recently, collected in a tidy folder in plastic envelopes.  But I have heard of cases where the kids hadn't produced much that was tangible at all, and the registration still went okay.


Bottom line is: your kids are probably doing better than a lot of kids at school - because your kids have a parent who cares enough to homeschool them.  It's not their fault, or the school's fault, but a lot of the kids at school have parents who are criminals, alcoholics or drug addicts.  Those kids have problems, and they're tearing the school down with them.


Your homeschool inspector from the Department of Education needs to get through the working day.  As long as what you are doing is halfway reasonable, and your kids are doing all right at basic literacy skills, you should be able to get through.  Make your best attempt to write something reasonable on the Department's forms, be very polite but firm, and you should be okay.


Here, though, there is a world of difference between people, because of personalities on both sides.  Most government officials are fine to deal with.  Some may be nasty, or have a grudge against home schooling.  I heard of a case in another state where the principal of the school that the kids had left was pushing a bureaucratic attack on a homeschool family.  The law that governs exactly what you should be doing in your homeschooling is loose - so a lot depends on who you get from the government, and how intimidated people get. 


NEVER be rude, always be firmly reasonable. If you start on mindless aggression with Government officials, there are all sorts of interesting Government powers available under child-welfare legislation - don't make anyone bear a grudge against you.


Don't forget, if you think you are halfways reasonable, you should have some sort of rights of appeal.  Government officials are accountable.  Also don't forget that the Government DOES have a legal right to check that you are home schooling well enough.


In the vast majority of cases, though, registration goes smoothly - and non-registration does too. 


(The laws about Parenting Payment may make it very attractive for you to register if you receive Parenting Payement and your youngest child is about to turn 7.)


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