The Unofficial Guide To Homeschooling in NSW 2021

If you want to try homeschooling in NSW, you are following a growing trend. More and more families are taking up the challenge, especially after they gave it a go during the COVID lock downs. According to NESA (NSW Education Standards Authority) homeschooling in NSW numbers rose by nearly 20% from 2019 to 2020. There are now more than 7000 families registered in NSW for homeschooling.

All four of my children were homeschooled in NSW. For 18 years I prepared registration applications for my own children and helped others. I wrote this guide for those of you homeschooling in NSW to help you with your application.  Through My Homeschool we continue to help home educators in NSW and around Australia with their homeschool registration. 

NSW homeschooling guide
This is the unofficial guide to homeschooling in NSW, I have condensed the information, replaced the jargon with words you will understand and added a few personal touches of how it works in practice.

Let me put your mind at ease, demystify the process for homeschooling in NSW and break down the esoteric language into words regular folk like us understand.

By the way before I tell you what I know, I want to make it clear that this isn’t legal advice. I’m just sharing what I’ve observed.  If you want the official guide on homeschooling in NSW from NESA you can download it here.

We got the ‘go ahead’ for our first year of homeschooling from the Assessor today and he said that he gave us a full year to start us off because he was, and I quote, “Very impressed with the level of detail” I was able to provide him with and that is thanks to My Homeschool!!

I love the weekly schedule so much, Jo – I know they will make the organisational side of my week much less of a task.

Wendy from NSW

Home Educator, Year One My Homeschool Course

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Homeschool Part Time in NSW?
Part time homeschooling is not an option in NSW.
When Can I Remove My Kids from School?
Theoretically you are supposed to wait until your registration is approved. This process can take a month to three months (but usually it’s less than a month). However, many parents remove their child before their homeschool registration has been officially approved. Some parents get a doctor’s certificate for stress leave for their child until registration is approved.

Many schools can be quite supportive of homeschooling and will leave the door open for you to return if homeschooling doesn’t work out. However, some parents report having problems with the school administration (they lose funding and possibly a teacher when you leave).

You need to know that schools don’t have any power to stop you from homeschooling. It is a legitimate option. However, they do have legal obligations to fulfil for non-attending students. You do not need to show the school proof that you are homeschooling although some schools will be quite insistent, until they are given documentation. If you anticipate having problems, I suggest you mention as little as possible to the school and get your registration application in ASAP.

How Much Does Homeschooling Cost In NSW?
It is free to apply for homeschooling in NSW, however you do not get paid by the government to homeschool.

Some people are eligible for Centrelink payments such as Newstart (with a no work exemption) and the Isolated Children’s benefit scheme. You can find more information about those payments here.

Then there is the cost of curriculum. You can do it on a shoestring, or you can go crazy expensive. Here are some things to think about when trying to work out the real cost of homeschooling.

Do I Need To Buy A Curriculum? Can I Unschool or DIY My Curriculum?
You do not need to buy a curriculum but you will need to do an educational plan regardless of what method you choose. If you are interested in unschooling in Australia you may find this interesting.
Can My Child Get A Higher School Certificate If They Were Homeschooled?
When you choose to homeschool for Year 11 and 12 your child can’t get a High School Certificate (HSC), however your children can study for an HSC alternative.

All four of my children went to university at 16 without an HSC, one is a doctor. Many homeschooled children go on to tertiary study without an HSC. 

Will Homeschooling Limit My Child's Options For University?
Your child can still go to university. In fact they can probably get there earlier than if they went through the normal school system.

All four of my children went to university at 16. One became a medical doctor at 22 years old, and another got his Masters degree at 21.

I can tell you many other university success stories. Read about homeschooling and university here.

What if My Child Has Special Needs?
Many parents who are homeschooling have children with special needs. NESA allows you to adapt your curriculum to suit your child’s needs.

Can I Register for Homeschooling In NSW If Travelling?
I’ve also had people contact me who are living overseas temporarily (or travelling) who have tried to get registered but have been refused.

There is no written NSW homeschool NESA policy excluding homeschoolers from travelling whilst homeschooling. However, if you try to register because you want to go travelling, they will usually say you should withdraw your application and then suggest that you do distance education while travelling. Distance education can be very restricting whilst homeschooling and is generally not liked by travelling homeschoolers.

Therefore, if you want to homeschool, it is usually best not to mention travelling plans when applying for registration.

NESA says they refuse applications because you are of “no fixed address” and they cannot “approve” your educational facilities.

Another state registration homeschooling body suggested to one homeschooling family that since they were of no fixed address while travelling that they did not need to be registered in a particular state.

Do You Have To Register to Homeschool in NSW?
Yes!  You are legally required to register to homeschool in NSW if: your children don’t attend a school, are between the age of 6 to 15, you live in NSW and are an Australian citizen or resident. If your child is between the age of 15 to 17 then other rules apply such as part time work and/or having another form of education such as TAFE or Uni.

Exceptions

However, there are always exceptions to the rule; if you are a temporary resident or have no NSW address then you cannot register to homeschool in NSW. For example – a friend of mine who’s children were New Zealand residents could have registered but did not. It was a grey area.

Do People Get Refused Registration?
Yes, some people do get refused NSW homeschool registration. But usually, it is due to court orders, being unavailable for the assessment visit, or being ineligible to apply in the first place. Only 0.19% were refused because they did not meet the requirements.

Another 10% withdraw their application. This may be due to a change of mind, finding another solution or because they were travelling.

See the 2020 homeschooling data report here.

What Happens If I Don’t Register?
After homeschooling in NSW for nearly 20 years I know there are plenty of families who do not register for various reasons. In most cases nothing happened. I have known a couple of parents who have been reported for not being at school. In these cases, they were just asked to apply for home education.

Here are the NSW laws regarding school absence.

However, it can be difficult/impossible to get some Centrelink payments without registration documentation.

Application For Registration to Homeschool in NSW

Before you register your child for home education, get your documentation ready and find out the basics of how to homeschool. Planning your curriculum requires thought and there is a great deal of information and resources to absorb.

If you are in a hurry to register and want to get the process started immediately then send in your forms but you will need to start working out your documentation and resources immediately.

Registration Appointment With NESA

The AP (approved person from the NESA) usually contacts you 2 – 3 weeks after you send in your application. They will want to make an appointment within a week or two. The application does say you need to allow three months prior, in reality I’ve never heard of someone whose registration took that long. Since COVID restrictions have been in place, all of the meetings have been done online which has sped up the registration process.

You are not required to send in documentation prior to the appointment although it is often requested by the AP. You can refuse and say you will be showing documentation during the meeting. If you do choose to send your documentation in please specify that these are private documents and not for sharing.

After your registration is approved at the visit you will have to wait about a week before your official NSW Homeschool certificate arrives in the mail.

I just wanted to say thank you for all the effort that’s been put into My Homeschool! I had my AP visit yesterday and it went great! He’s giving me 12 months registration and said if he comes next year and I’m still using the My Homeschool curriculum then he’ll give two years, even for my kindy child who’ll be a new registration. Thank you so much for helping make this transition to homeschooling so much easier and providing such detailed documents. I’m truly grateful!

Jerus from NSW

Homeschool Reviews, My Homeschool Multiple Grades

Filling In the Registration Forms for Homeschooling In NSW

There are two forms: one for initial registration and one for re-registration. The application forms and official requirements for homeschooling in NSW can be found on the NESA website.

Send off your form appropriate to your situation.

Tick YES, to all the requirements for an AP meeting such as:

  • Educational Plan based on the NESA syllabus (You will need to prepare one).
  • A plan for the next educational period (Same as above really)
  • Record of progress (or a plan for one)
  • Records of time allocated to learning.

Note: With regards to time allocated to learning, it helps to know the legislation here – NSW Education Act 1990 section 14.4 states that NESA can suggest an amount of time, but not make it mandatory. So as a homeschooler you can say that they are always learning. Here is the direct quote:

“Any syllabus developed or endorsed by the Board [NESA] for a particular course of study may indicate generally the period of time that should be allocated to the teaching of the course but is not to make a specific period of time mandatory.“

  • Sufficient resources for learning. (You will need to have resources to show).

Note: You do not need to DIY all your resources. You can use pre done curriculum. At My Homeschool we have complete NSW curriculum packages that are aligned to the NESA syllabus and we also have provided the documentation with most of the planning already done.

What Is The Application for Exemption?
Some people hope that the exemption means they will be exempt from applying. Unfortunately, it does not. It just means your name does not go on the registration list. You still need to fill in the exact same things and get approval in the same way.

I sometimes ticked this option just because I wanted to see what happened. Nothing is the answer.  It is really not an exemption at all. But still, it is a personal conviction that makes parents choose this path.

How Long Can I Get Registered for Homeschooling In NSW?
It is NESA policy for new homeschoolers to only get 6 to12 months approval. After initial registration you can be registered for up to 2 years.

Preparing Your Learning Plan for NSW Homeschooling Registration

The planning process is there to help you set goals for your child’s education.

The AP will not read most of your plan, so adding weblinks and short summaries is fine.

If you decide to change your plan three months later which people commonly do, it will not matter either.

Your plan will not be looked at the next time you apply for registration.

To prepare a homeschool plan you will need a basic understanding of a few terms of the NSW syllabus.

The NSW School Stages
Stage One: Foundation (Kindergarten) – Year Two | Ages 5-8
Stage Two: Year Three – Year Four | Ages 8-10
Stage Three: Year Five – Year Six | Ages 10-12
Stage Four: Year Seven – Year Eight | Ages 12-14
Stage Five: Year Nine – Year Ten | Ages 14 -16
Stage Six: Year Eleven – Year Twelve | Ages 16 -18

At My Homeschool we offer curriculum from Stage One to Stage Five (Year 10)

Planning Based on NESA Syllabus

When documenting your plan for registration the NESA Home Schooling package states your plan only needs to be based on the NSW syllabus. You do not need to follow it identically. It needs only to be BASED ON the NSW syllabus.

To do this you can use:

  • NSW Syllabus Outcomes – what you are hoping to achieve.
  • NSW Syllabus Content – the subject content.
  • NSW Stage Statements (are summaries of the content for each subject set into two-year periods. You can use them as part of your documentation, but it probably will not help with planning).

Now I know this all sounds a little scary, but we are not required to plan to the level of a school. Many learning plans are only a few pages long. I do not recommend using outcomes for planning. It is really for school teachers not homeschoolers and it’s complicated for most of us.

The easiest way to plan is using the NSW Syllabus Stage Statements however they are vague and can be a bit hard to understand. Nevertheless, some people like the vagueness because it means they can pretty much ignore them and just teach what they want. I see the merit in that!

I find the syllabus content is the best way to work out what is expected. 

Here is the official NESA stage statements planning tool. It includes stage statements and outcomes from Stage 1 to Stage 5.

Planning With The Australian Curriculum

The NSW Syllabus is based on the Australian Curriculum, but it is written in two-year stages (3 years for Stage 1). However, the Australian Curriculum is set out in one-year blocks. I prefer using it for planning. Here’s why:

  1. the Australian Curriculum has less information and is therefore easier to absorb.
  2. the Australian Curriculum website is easier to navigate. It also provides PDFs on each subject for you to print off which includes syllabus content and achievement standards.
  3. the Australian curriculum is easier to understand because you do not need to sort through all the elaborations and outcomes to get to the content.
  4. sharing information with other homeschoolers from different states is easier when the same reference point is used.

If you want to research this more, here is a comprehensive article on NSW and the Australian Curriculum. 

What Subjects Do I Need to Teach?
The NESA syllabus has a list of Key Learning Areas that need to be taught. The other thing you need to know about is the Cross Curriculum Priorities. These are ideas that are meant to be reflected or embedded into each subject.

They are:

  • sustainability – which is mostly environmental issues.
  • Australia’s place in Asia
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history

If you add something into your curriculum each year that somehow addresses these issues you can comply.

Key learning areas in primary are:

  1. English
  2. Mathematics
  3. Science and Technology
  4. Human Society and its Environment – HISE (history, geography, economics, and civics)
  5. Creative and Practical Arts (fine arts, drama, dancing, and music)
  6. Personal Development, Health and Physical Education – PDHPE (health information and physical education)
  7. Languages (This is an optional subject for homeschoolers).

Key learning areas in high school (7 to 10) are:

Compulsory Subjects

  1. English,
  2. Science,
  3. Math,
  4. HISE (history, geography, economics, and civics)

Electives Subjects you can choose to study 2 of the 4 other subjects in the syllabus.

  1. Creative and practical arts
  2. PDHPE
  3. Languages
  4. Design and Technology
Do I Need A Diary Or Timetable?
You do not need to keep a diary or timetable. However, you do need to have a record of learning.

Here is a quote from the official NESA Guide.

 “Each family will vary in the specific types of records to be kept. A diary is one way of keeping a record of how the educational program has been implemented. A timetable is one way of planning learning times for different subjects. Parents may also use other approaches to planning and record-keeping.” p.49

Here are some of my documentation methods.

Can I Buy A Plan?

Yes! When you use My Homeschool we give you the essential building blocks for your personalised learning plan.

We’ve done 75% of the work. We provide idea prompts and suggestions to help you personalise your application to suit your child’s specific needs.

With each grade we include:

  • A learning plan in an editable Word document. Just fill in the sections we recommend.
  • A scope and sequence with all syllabus outcomes and codes linked to resources.
  • Editable Term Reports to make re-registration easy.

100% of our members report passing their registration and reregistration when using our templates.

You’ll find more information on home education registration and planning here.

What a relief and blessing for homeschool families to have all the nitty gritty details of daily homeschool and homeschool registration designed for us. It is wonderful to see how simple registration can be. Michelle you have created a method for recording that oozes simplicity and that is what we all want. Michelle and Jo you are a very present listening ear and help on the My Homeschool forum and your advice is all about making homeschool work for each one. I have absolute freedom in how I use this resource. I have not followed the schedule as is but have felt encouragement from you to make it work for my busy family lifestyle, quirks and passions. Year 5 is helping our ten year old to move into written narrations and I have found Our Sunburnt Country broken into small chunks with a notebook page for each reading, is so simple and achievable. My daughter’s confidence in writing has grown in the first term of using My Homeschool following this very natural method. Thank you Michelle and Jo, for your commitment to making homeschool simple. What a blessing you are.

Renelle from NSW

Home Educator, My Homeschool, Year Five

Let Us Help You On The Homeschool Journey

My Homeschool is more than a curriculum, it is a holistic education community that supports parents and children on their homeschool journey. When you buy a graded homeschool program through My Homeschool you are joining a community that supports and mentors parents interested in educating their children academically and spiritually.

We give you a shortcut to help you get straight into giving your child a delightful and robust education without spending days and days researching and tweaking unsuitable content.

We Wanted A Curriculum That Worked For Home Educators

Our curriculum writers have already done the juggle of homeschooling a few children at once.

  • We knew how lovely and important it is to learn as a family so we made some lessons and read alouds possible to teach as a group.
  • We reduced the time needed for formal academics by crafting our curriculum so our resources and books often teach multiple topics.
  • We made each grade fit each state’s syllabus so you can get registered easily.
  • We gave you a streamlined intentional curriculum so you could give your children a wholesome integrated education from kindergarten to high school.
  • We made sure it was academically challenging so your children will have career options, and a pathway to university if needed.
  • We put it all in one place so you weren’t hunting around looking for resources every time you wanted to begin lessons.
  • We made it easy to access your lessons and planner when you were out and about or travelling just by picking up your smartphone.

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