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December 3, 2002

Australian Christian Academy Supports Homeschooling

The Australian Christian Academy (ACA) is the largest non-government homeschooling provider in Australia and the South Pacific. Over 1,500 families have enrolled their children under this private school covering. Families with the ACA have access many differnt curricula to suit their academic requirements. The year 2002 is their 20th anniversary.

Terry Harding, the president of ACA, has long been an active proponent of homschooling, even teaching at home all five of his children. (His eldest now teaches at a local university at age 22.) Harding's master's of education thesis asked the question: "Why do families choose home education?" He is currently working to complete his doctorate and has been accepted into Queensland University of Technology's "Center for Innovative Education." In October he presented a paper to the prestigious Australia and New Zealand Educational Law Association conference addressing the question, "Who is responsible for the education of the child, the parent or the State?" Harding has set a ten-year goal to work on changing the laws in the states of Australia.

The six states of Australia and two territories all have different education law. However, they share the same core philosophy: homeschoolers must have permission to home educate and the state's approval regarding curriculum choice. This mentality is assumed and expressed in varying ways in different education acts in each state and territory.

One state, Victoria, is trying to break from the mold. Victoria has an education law that provides that parents have the responsibility to determine the educational path of their child. This is called a "first instance" authority. The state has the authority in the "second instance" only if the parent chooses to delegate this authority by enrolling the child in a state-approved school. All other Aussie states operate their educational assumptions in reverse of that model: i.e., the State is the authority in the first instance, and if a parent wishes to home educate, permission must be sought from the state to do so.

A major hope among homeschoolers in Australia is to see the government recognize the God-ordained responsibility of parents to educate their own children. Terry Harding says, "I want those parents who believe the state has the first responsibility to ensure the education of children to not hinder the efforts of other parents who wish to see the law recognize the God-ordained responsibility of parents to educate their children."

Harding reports that most ACA families do not seek the permission from the state, but a growing number of homeschoolers around the nation do. He adds, "It is a monumental task to win on this issue in our Parliament when the matter does not affect a large majority of the population."