The role grandparents can play in the home schooling revolution

Jan 22, 2024
Source: Getty Images.

It is estimated that if you send your children to private schools, it will cost you up to $377,000 to fund their education from Prep through to Year 12. The price varies from state to state, with Tasmania the cheapest at just over $223,000 and NSW the most expensive. Almost 16 percent of Australian students attend independent schools.

A public school education, according to Futurity Investment Group’s cost of education annual index, will set you back about $95,000 in NSW. For thirteen years of Catholic school education in NSW you won’t get much change from $189,000. My three daughters went to private schools. My brother and I had the benefit of a Catholic education, so we know what it is like to be flogged senselessly by nuns and Christian brothers in the name of The Father, and of The Son, and of The Holy Spirit.

At different times, I asked each of my daughters this question: “Would you have preferred to have been sent to a public school, but have been given a cheque for $282,000 (the difference between private and public education) when you turned 18?”

What would you say?

Surprisingly to me at least, my daughters all said that they would have opted for the private school education. They were adamant that their education played a significant part in who they are, and what they believe. It’s now their turn to make the education decision. It is looking like private schooling won’t win out. We have five grandchildren. The sixth arrives in April. Two, Ralph and Skipper, are school age. The others will get there in the next few years.

My middle daughter has opted for a mixture of home schooling and bush school, where Ralph and Skip learn survival skills and connect with nature in a meaningful way. At the moment, home schooling isn’t factored into the Futurity Index, but no doubt one day soon it will be because it does come with costs. I used to think that home schooling was something kids did when their parents decided to take an extended break and travel around the country for 12 months.

In my day, in the late 1960s and 1970s, home schooling was done primarily for three reasons – religious beliefs; parents with staunch left-or-right political views; or families with “back to the land” priorities.

It’s far from a fad these days though. It is a rapidly growing trend. When I did my stint as Santa last year in a shopping centre, there were so many kids who told me that they were being home-schooled and that they loved the experience. Across the country in 2023, there were just over 43,000 children registered as being home-schooled. There are many more not registered. In Queensland, year-on-year, there was a 20 percent growth in the home school numbers from 8,461 to 10,048.

In America, a country whose trends we tend to sadly follow blindly, home schooling has become the fastest growing form of education.

According to a detailed analysis by The Washington Post:

  • In states with comparable enrolment figures, the number of home- schooled students increased 51 percent over the past six school years, far outpacing the 7 percent growth in private school enrolment. Public school enrolment dropped 4 percent in those states over the same period, a decline partly attributable to home schooling.
  • Home schooling’s surging popularity crosses every measurable line of politics, geography and demographics. The number of home-schooled kids has increased 373 percent over the past six years in the small city of Anderson, South Carolina; it also increased 358 percent in a school district in the Bronx.

In part, COVID caused a spike. Lots of parents were forced to become “teachers” when kids were ordered not to go to school.

Many of those kids never went back to the classroom because parents decided that home schooling was a viable, and often more pleasurable, option. There are many reasons for this. Bullying in schools appears to be out of control and parents believe their children are safer at home. Also, children with disabilities – such as autism, ADHD and mental illness issues can be more comfortable learning in their own household environments.

The Queensland Government is concerned with the rapid rise in home schooling numbers and is moving to put more regulations in place to make sure that children comply with the State’s education standards.

For me, that approach is fraught with danger. Parents are already opting out of Government-run schools, so the last thing they want is for governments to start interfering in home schooling programs.

So, what role can grandparents, who are probably a little skeptical, play in the home school revolution?

Here’s some tips from the website Midwest Parent Educators who say that grandparents have a lot to offer:

  • Teach a skill like cooking, sewing, or woodworking.
  • Teach one academic subject to give your children a break. If you can’t do it face-to-face you can do it on Zoom.
  • Take them on a Grandparent camp. Home schooled children are at risk of missing out on things like school excursions. Why not jump in and take the kids somewhere where they will not only learn something but might have some fun and forge a closer bond with you.
  • Engage with them by writing letters and sharing your stories and saddling them to share their stories with you.
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