Child-led and interest-inspired learning, home education, learning differences and the impact of regulation


Research into the impact of non-consultative home education regulatory change in New South Wales (NSW), Australia, identified clear benefits of a child-led, interest-inspired approach to learning and a negative impact on student learning and well-being outcomes, particularly for learning-differenced children, of restricted practice freedom. Autoethnographic research revealed a clear difference in practice and learning outcomes pre- and post-regulatory change. A move from a flexible regulatory process which enabled child-led, interest-inspired learning, to an inflexible, strictly regulated process that restricted the possibilities for such approaches resulted in poorer learning and corroded well-being for learning-differenced students. Analysis suggests these changed regulatory processes were founded upon a particular concept of “children’s best interests” which frames all children’s needs as identical and can make individual children’s needs invisible. In this situation, the question of how children’s best interests are defined, and by whom, becomes urgent.


  • home education
  • homeschooling
  • child-led
  • interest-inspired
  • learning differences
  • regulation

Home Schooling

 The Treehorn Express

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The Treehorn Express Theme song: ‘Care for Kids’

Home  Schooling

During February, the media reported that there had been an enormous increase in the number of parents who prefer home schooling for their children,  despite its enormous demands on time, home resources and energy. Ken and Suesie Woolford, home-schoolers from Toowoomba the base for an extensive and lively net-work of home-schoolers, tell The Treehorn Express that the major reason for the startling growth is that more and more Mums and Dads, whose ‘bete noire’ is the Australian Klein System of Schooling, want their children to develop, seamlessly,  a wider range of skills and literacies required for the modern world than schools provide. At this time of the year, schools around Australia are concentrating on passing blanket, standardised tests. It ‘possesses’ Australian schooling. Homeschoolers are ‘possessed’ by their children.

Many Mums and Dads, it appears, dislike the assembly-line styles of learning of one-size-fits-all, using  hyper-prescriptive curriculum directives that might, only by chance, suit the plans of experienced teachers. Learning for home-schooled children continues smoothly through the year without the terrors of the month of May.

Those whose life experiences have embedded primary schooling per se into their DNA, as I have, must feel saddened that some parents do not find their neighbourhood school attractive enough for them to enrol their children. I love primary schooling with a passion; and to see what is happening to it, when there were so many glorious, effective and efficient options available within it, hurts like hell. I can’t describe how much it hurts. To have seen so many classrooms sparkle with the joy of learning for its own sake and now experience the sad vision of fear based schooling, supported by both sides of politics just because of their attachment to big business, is gross.

Schooling should be so learning-attractive that no parent would be able to resist enrolment. Home schooling, in this day and age, as an alternative to NAPLAN-based fear-driven-schooling, is worthy of serious support. Other parents, also increasing in number, choose to opt-out from the tests on the school location. Both sets of parents need as much support as do those who conform. It is difficult for governments to provide for these three styles of pupilling. They created the three modes. They are stuck with it; conscious, hopefully, that each child needs an equal fair go

In my time as a state department administrator, I can only recall one case of home schooling in the greater Brisbane area during those thirteen years. Of course there must have been a larger number around the state, but I guesstimate that there were no more than twenty instances during the entire 1980s. There was no blanket testing regime to ‘opt-out-of ‘ or to turn people away from regular schooling, of course.

The 1980s held promise, I’d suggest. There were many problems and the times were not perfect for the compulsory schooling of children, but teachers were getting there. The promotion of Learnacy, the desire to learn how to learn with confidence – while it was not called by that name – was on its way. There were schools where children did not like the mid-summer vacation because they were away from school for too long; where they loved to be in the classroom for as long as they could because of  the learning challenges there [and the computer era had not arrived]; where they shared their achievements with those they respected and, encouraged by their successes, aimed for the moon; where teachers shared their teaching secrets with each other; and were encouraged in their efforts by their parents and superiors.

It looked pretty clear at the time that, by the new century, Australia would have the greatest schooling system in the world. Folk from other countries were coming in increasing numbers to admire the efforts and they transported the ideas to their own. States proudly shared their better ideas with each other and around the globe. Although educational progress is always slow,  local schooling stalwarts were patient. Australia was certainly on a roll in the ‘80s and the year 2000 became a target year, full of promise.

Then…..managerialism became the catch cry. 1990 was a key year for the collapse of meaningful schooling. How such a kitsch organisational concept ever gained any kind of reputation as a panacea for improvement of a learning institution, remains a mystery. It’s effects still last. The capricious belief that people who are smart, as adjudged by any kind of  academic success, can run any kind of institution,  persists.  This belief led to the demise of one Australian state government and, if it persists, will lead to others. No government yet has thought of a reform agenda that starts its dialogue from a classroom of learnacy and considered its role as a focal point for a state structure.

Back to home schooling. Why it is enjoying such a dramatic rising popularity is explained above. Former principal, Ken Woolford, now an ardent home schooler also has this to say…

”The parents I work with – and have been working with for almost twenty years who choose to homeschool are motivated by their children. Home schoolers ask, ‘How can family centred learning be so appropriate at 4 years of age but inadequate at 6, 9 or even 15? How can decades of research into children’s brain and physical development have no impact on school practices?  Why do any parents today accept without question syllabus documents based on tradition and ritual rather than research and field testing? Homeschoolers are not ‘sheeples’. They have dared to be different – because each child is different.

Parents have a vested interest in the outcomes of their children’s education, more so than any distant bureaucrat or temporary politician. And while many homeschoolers struggle [and suffer] under a mediaeval and punitive bureaucracy in Queensland, they also benefit from the learning they experience hand in hand with their children. They model for their children the very freedom of choice our democracy needs to foster and support. Homeschoolers are parents and educators – and are often better read educators than those running our ‘schools’. And it is difficult today to be a well read educator and remain in the current school system.

Which really answers the questions – Why are so many parents leaving the school system? Because they are reading!!


Ken Woodful later extended this message and his comments are available here as an attachment. Highly recommended for those who wonder why the home-schooling movement is growing.


A Story re. ‘reading’. Ken to note. In the ‘old days’, I had the impression that school principals did not read much professional literature. I stated, at a meeting of principals,  that I thought that the best way to entice them to read more about their job, would be to put a centre-fold in all professional literature.  Guess what I was given to me just prior to retirement! Yep…an EOG – Education Office Gazette – with a comely centrefold included.  I treasure it…of course.


If you have 4 minutes 17 seconds to spare from your busy schedule, click on the theme song “Care for Kids” above, relax and ‘take in’ the words. Meditate on the plight of today’s generation of Aussie kids.

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