with Cynthia Hancox

What is home education / home schooling?

In NZ the law is that children between the ages of 6 and 16 must be enrolled in and attending a registered school unless they are exempt. Homeschooling involves parents obtaining an exemption which allows them to take the responsibility of educating their children themselves.

Homeschooling can look like so many different things as each family gets to decide what approach they might take, what curriculum they will use and how they might structure their days. Some say the learning isn’t actually happening at home so much because they are out so much of the time engaging in group activities, exploring the museum, zoo, park etc.

We can look at homeschooling like a spectrum. On one end you have the structured school at home approach and on the other end the unschoolers or free range educators who don’t have any structure and don’t model the school system at all. In between you’ve got everyone else on the continuum and most are not really completely one thing or another.

Most homeschoolers fit what is called the eclectic model where they pick and choose the best bits out of the different approaches and apply them how they see fit.

Homeschooling is a hugely varied approach and that’s one of the best things about it. It’s very individual and it’s very flexible.

Understand - the big idea (why is this important)

Children learn best when they are engaged, interested, and motivated. For some learners this occurs better outside of the traditional school setting than it does inside. Homeschooling allows the option for children to learn in a flexible environment that is best at the time for their and their families needs and wants.

As at the 1st of July 2022 there were 10,945 exempt students from 6,334 families across NZ. According to a national survey by NCHENZ (National Council of Home Educators NZ) the main reasons families choose to homeschool are:

  • To achieve a closer family unit or to keep family values more central.
  • To provide a higher quality tailored education.
  • To avoid problems at school such as bullying, mistreatment, negative peer pressure or other negative aspects.
  • To achieve a more relaxed lifestyle.

For some families, they also want to provide a faith based education or because their child’s special education needs are not able to be met at school.

Benefits to homeschooling include:

  • Parents being able to experience their children’s eyes light up when they learn something new or a milestone is reached.
  • Building closer family environments with family values being central.
  • Having a more relaxed lifestyle and schedule without needing to get out the door on time each morning.
  • Being able to tailor learning to the needs, speed and interests of each individual child.

Know - the knowledge (what do I need to know)

Homeschooling involves parents applying for and receiving an exemption for each of their children to not attend a registered New Zealand school. To complete the application parents need to know what their plan is for the first 12 months. Thinking and research needs to go into what you want to teach your children, how you’re going to teach them, what philosophy or approach you might take, what resources you might use, what’s within your community and environment you might engage with etc.

Homeschooling families are not required to follow The New Zealand Curriculum, which is more a set of ideas that gets interpreted and applied rather than a prescribed set of steps and resources. Some parents that have a background in teaching or more experience with the NZC methodology may use the ideas and apply them themselves in similar ways teachers do in the classroom. Others will be looking for curriculum resources that follow that methodology. This means they may purchase workbooks or textbooks from publishers that fit The New Zealand Curriculum model and then may build on that further with their own ideas. This curriculum is used by a portion of home educators but is not the most popular way to home educate.

Just like most teachers care for their students, parents for the vast majority care deeply about their children too. They want them to succeed. They want them to do well. If they decide to homeschool and after some time realise it’s not the best fit for their family they seek other alternatives. It’s important not to think that parents who jump into homeschooling will never jump back out of it if it’s not the right fit for their family.

The current law in New Zealand doesn’t allow for formal flexi schooling or hybrid type models where children attend school for some days and home school for others. It does however allow for principals to use their discretion to release students for some of their schooling if they are satisfied they’ll be receiving suitable tuition elsewhere. It would be great to see the law changed to allow more flexibility as there are many situations where both the teacher, the learner and their peers would benefit if a learner was formally allowed to be in school just part time and at home part time with a more tailored individual program, but some ability to also be in a classroom setting.

Do - the practices (how do I implement this)

It is the sole decision of parents to homeschool their children so the process on applying for an exemption, planning for learning, choosing resources/experiences is theirs to undertake. Teachers and schools however can support families who may be looking at choosing this education option.

Teachers can be aware of home education options, they can support parents by pointing them in the right direction to more information if they’re considering homeschooling. This includes what parents need to do and where to start. Resources for this information can be found:

School leadership can be aware of the principle’s release clause in the Education and Training Act and use this to allow their students a more flexible approach to schooling if it is likely to be beneficial to everyone involved.

Parents first need to first gather information about homeschooling and apply for an exemption for your child. To complete the application parents need to know what their plan is for the first 12 months. Thinking and research needs to go into what you want to teach your children, how you’re going to teach them, what philosophy or approach you might take, what resources you might use, what’s within your community and environment you might engage with etc.  These sources have been provided by Cynthia to support parents with the process:

Further Learning

Cynthia’s website is a hub of information and support for parents both at the beginning and throughout their homeschooling journey.  Information on contacting Cynthia can be found here

Cynthia also recommends several books and papers on home education that can be found to the right of this page.

Kate at freedom ed is a keen advocate for the education option that is best for the child, including homeschooling.  If you are a homeschooling parent and are interested in learning support directly for your child from a NZ registered teacher then take a look at options available here.

Picture of Cynthia Hancox

Cynthia Hancox

Cynthia home educated her own 5 children, who are all now adults, for over 20 years. For the last 10+ years she has dedicated herself to serving families who are home educating or considering home education. She serves as Government Liaison for the National Council of Home Educators of NZ (NCHENZ), meeting with the Ministry and other govt departments to discuss policy, process, law, or to advocate for families individually or collectively. She provides information, resources, and various services via her website. Cynthia and her husband live on a small lifestyle block, where she loves to grow as much of their own food as possible.


Better Late Than Early - Raymond & Dorothy Moore
The Well Trained Mind - Susan Wise Bauer & Jessie Wise
A Charlotte Mason Education - Catherine Levison
For the Children's Sake - Susan Schaeffer Macaulay
Homeschooling the Easy Way - Cindy Rushton
A Charlotte Mason Companion - Karen Andreola
Teach Your Own - John Holt & Pat Farenga
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Thesis Paper - Leo Roache 2009
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Thesis Paper - Christina Laughton 2020
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Thesis Paper - Amee Parker 2023

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