AUSTRALIAN HOME EDUCATED STUDENTS: Opportunities for Self-Regulation at Home & in School

Record: Glenda Jackson, “Australian home educated students on self-regulation opportunities at home and in school.” Cogent Education, 3, No. 1 (2016). [Abstract]

Summary: In this article, Jackson, an educational consultant with the Australian Home Education Advisory Service (AHEAS) and a PhD recipient from Monash University, discusses self-regulation opportunities at home and in school among Australian home educated students

Previous research investigating Australian home educators found that self-regulation (the ability to make one’s own decisions) is something that contributes to the success of home educated students but that is generally lacking from the conventional school experience. Self-regulation is particularly prominent in child-centered education in which the right of children to pursue their own interests is a central tenet.

In one of Jackson’s previous studies, a group of 40 home educated Australian children identified self-regulation as their most valued quality of their home education experience. These students mentioned many sources of of self-regulation such as:

  1. Flexibility: many students enjoyed control of the use of time, the pace of learning, and of curriculum.
  2. Freedom: many students enjoyed the freedom they had to set their own schedules for learning and for pleasure activities.
  3. School choice: many of the students felt empowered by being included by their parents in conversations about their attendance at an educational institution.

Nevertheless, some of the students who had experience in both traditional and home education mentioned that some positive features of traditional schools were the classroom set-up, the varied learning environments, the regularity of taking roll, the organization of the curriculum, the pressure to perform, and the inclusion of extracurricular activities. The students at the technical schools said that the focus on real-life contexts was similar to the focus of their learning at home. On the other hand, they found the forced timetables and behavioral expectations of conventional schools to be challenging. Particularly significant and difficult for the home educated students were rules that discouraged speaking since speaking formed an important part of their learning experience at home.

Jackson next discusses differences between home and traditional schools. With home education, every family is different, though they can usually be described as structured, semi-structured, or unstructured. In one of her previous studies, Jackson found that students from semi-structured and unstructured home school environments valued their ability to self-regulate, while those from structured home schools were generally more dissatisfied with their home school experience. While both traditional and home schools recognized that each child is unique and in need for a personalized learning program, the ability to provide an individualized learning experience in traditional schools is severely restricted. When the children in the study entered the conventional school system, most of them adjusted quickly, but many failed to see the importance of many of the restrictions that the schools placed on them. They interacted well with adults but appeared uncomfortable interacting with peers. While they admitted that they had fewer friends at home, the friendships they made through home education were more likely to share common interests and less likely to be segregated by age and ability.

Appraisal: Self-regulation is an important part of home education, but when studies like Neuman & Guterman (2016) mention it, it is usually only in passing. For this reason, it is good to have an entire article dedicated to the subject, even though its not particularly in-depth.

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