In NSW the picture is similar, with an increase of 65 per cent from 2008 to 2012, swelling to close to 3500 children in 2015.

Combined, the numbers of home schooled children would fill several large secondary schools.

But these children are educated without funding or input from the various education departments, and generally do not have access to learning materials via distance education.

Their parents are instead making the decision to plan, resource, deliver and evaluate their teaching and their childrens’ learning independently.

Their right to make this choice is protected under the various Education Acts, with each state and territory taking slightly diferent views of how, when and why parents should register and report on their home schooling activities.

So what is going on for these children?

Is it simply a case of families having different sets of values and educational philosophies than the school system?

Or are there other reasons that they choose to home educate their children? And is home education really a viable choice that can provide a sound basis of learning which will equip children for the future?

There is a widely held perception in the community that home schooled children are poorly socialised and lack the interpersonal skills to function well in a group situation.

But for many, this is far from the truth.

A quick read through the Home Education Network Facebook pages reveals myriad different activities and opportunities for children to interact and share their learning journeys with each other.

There are sailing programs where young people support adults with a disability to use an Access dinghy boat on a lake, mock parliament sessions to help children learn about the functions of government, collaborative learning sessions at co operatives, art in the park sessions, and extended outdoor education camps at Mittagundi in the high country of Victoria or Camp with Wings in southern Queensland.

Also shared science programs and museum visits, robotics and coding lessons, accredited first aid, active volunteering, business administration and food handling courses, history and creative writing classes, photography clubs and casual get togthers in outdoor settings.

This is education on the fly, with action-packed weeks and multiple opportunities to get together with like minded learners anxious to get on with the important business of learning.  

It seems that in fact many of these young home schoolers are highly social people who are given many chances to build their skills in collaborative, non judgemental group settings.

For some families, the decision to home educate is made before their child reaches school age.

They are typically families who have long held a strong commitment to home education, and believe firmly that it is a more positive option for their children.

Some families find their values and views simply do not fit with those of the education system, and they wish to assert their rights to educate their children in the manner of their choosing.

For other families, home schooling is an option of last resort, arising out of situations of unresolvable bullying, assault, trauma, anxiety, depression or unmet special learning needs.

These are families who have, out of necessity, withdrawn their children from a school setting in order to maintain their physical or mental safety and to ensure they are able to continue to learn and thrive.

It is this particular group of families who are most likely to be affected by proposed changes to the Victorian home education regulations, as a new requirement would demand that these families keep their children in school for at least 28 days, until an application to home school is assessed by the VRQA, leaving children in potentially damaging situations for extended periods.

This is in stark contrast to the current arrangement where parents are able to withdraw their children immediately if the situation demands it, with the VRQA then needing to provide a decision about approval within 14 days.

Academic achievement and social and emotional outcomes can be challenging to measure in a meaningful way for the homeschooling cohort.

Anecdotally, many children do well in home schooling as they are able to work at an individual level, direct their own learning and focus on personal interests and are able to work without distractions for extended periods of time.

This is particularly true for academically gifted children, some of whom are up to two years ahead in their learning.

Sue Wight, Co-ordinator of the Home Education Network in Victoria, says ‘“Gifted students thrive in home education and with an education tailored to their needs, and often move on to university studies early.”

Many educators worry that home educated students are ill equipped for further education and will fall behind in their academic learning, but it seems this is far from the case.

Adolescents who are graduates of home education go on to complete further education, vocational training and gain university entrance, often finding as they do that they are already far more equipped for the rigours of higher education and self directed learning than their secondary school counterparts.

A recent request for alumni information from previous home schoolers found that home schoolers had gone on to achieve a diverse range of qualifications and now worked in jobs including farrier, lawyer, IT specialist, theatre technician, nurse, primary teacher, electrician and diesel mechanic.

Previous home educated students in Victoria have gone on to complete courses as diverse as Advanced Diploma of Electronic Engineering, PhD in Aerospace Engineering, Advanced Diploma Drafting, Advanced Diploma in Applied Science, Grad Dip Education, Diploma of Theatre Arts and Bachelor of Social Work (Hons).

One recent Victorian student, Jasmine Vermeer, commented "I thought I might be a bit behind. I wasn’t. I was really disappointed that school wasn’t going to be as challenging as I thought it would be. I graduated at the end of 2016 from the local public school with an ATAR of 92.35 and Dux of the school. Home education did not disadvantage me at all."

Although not always a viable choice, home schooling certainly does provide a meaningful, stimulating and positive educational experience that meets the needs of many young people across the country.