More than 2000 students have entered into home schooling programs since the start of the last year. This shows how home schooling is becoming an increasingly popular alternative to traditional schooling systems.

While there is no bias against either option within the law, parents who want to home school their child will need to consider a number of factors to ensure it is a viable option. This is particularly important for parents or guardians that are separated.

These considerations include:

1.    Will home schooling have an impact the child’s welfare and best interests?

The key consideration for any child care arrangements is ensuring that any decision is made in accordance with the child’s welfare and best interests. Generally, will depend on the specific circumstances for each child and family.

Some things which may factor into whether it is in the best interests of the child may include:

  • The child’s characteristics (their age, gender, any disabilities, etc.)
  • If the child is currently enrolled at a public school (if the child is already enrolled in a school system, it may be more disruptive to remove them from it);
  • If the method of schooling would advance the child’s identity (for example their culture, language, and religious denomination and practice);
  • If the child has expressed an opinion one way or another; and
  • If it is to protect the child from any form of violence (for example if the child is being continuously and/or or seriously bullied at school, then home schooling may be more appropriate)

2.    Do you have approval from the Ministry of Education?

In order to home school a child, a parent will need to apply for a Certificate of Exemption from the Ministry of Education for each child that is going to be home schooled. Any parent or legal guardian of a child aged between 5 and 16 years old can apply to home school their child. However, for an application to be accepted, the Ministry will require proof that the child will be taught regularly and as well as they would be if they were in a registered school.

Part of the application process also includes providing extensive details about the intended home schooling program such as the intended areas of learning, any special projects that  will be done and, a description of all resources and reference material that will be used. The Ministry will also require a demonstration of the regularity of home schooling (i.e. a timetable of hours) and how progress will be recorded.

3.    Do both parents agree?

In situations where both parents have guardianship over the child, then it is best practice for both parties to jointly agree on the education of the child. If there is a conflict between parents, it is best to come to some form of agreement. For more information on what to do in these circumstances, click here.

While both should jointly act on this arrangement, it is likely that neither a school nor a Ministry of Education officer reviewing an exemption application would reject an application solely on the basis that the parents do not agree on the type of schooling. However, this will depend on the circumstances.

4.    How will current custody arrangements impact the home schooling?

As mentioned above, a parent needs to demonstrate that a curriculum will be followed regularly. If there is a custody arrangement where both parents have split custody, then it may be impractical to home school a child as they would have no access to the teaching parent on the alternating weeks or during the full day periods during weekdays. This means that the arrangement would likely be declined, as the child would not be taught regularly.

If both parents want to be involved in the home schooling program, then there should be a clear and robust teaching curriculum implemented which can be easily followed by both parents during their alternating weeks or days where they have custody of the child. It would be essential that an open line of communication is kept between both parties if such an arrangement was to be used.

The Ministry of Education are required to continue to monitor the home schooling program you are teaching. This means that a Ministry officer may contact you to ensure that the education program is of the appropriate standard. If one parent is not fulfilling their obligations, the matter may get referred to the Education Review Office and the Certificate of Exemption could be revoked.

If you are looking into home schooling alternatives to the traditional schooling system and you are unsure about your next steps in terms of your custody arrangements, it is always a good idea to obtain legal advice. This will ensure that you are fulfilling any obligations you may have as a legal guardian of a child.

Leading law firms committed to helping clients cost-effectively will have a range of fixed-price Initial Consultations to suit most people’s needs in quickly learning what their options are.  At Rainey Collins we have an experienced team who can answer your questions and put you on the right track.


Please note that Rainey Collins is not contracted to provide Legal Aid, other than in the Treaty of Waitangi area.  We therefore are unable to take on any Civil or Family Legal Aid work. If you require Legal Aid in those areas, you can search the list of Legal Aid lawyers on the Ministry of Justice website.