This would not seem to be a surprise to most Australians, but Hans Ulrich Meier, a father of six children, had claimed that his daughters aged 14 and 15 could choose for themselves whether or not they went to school. They missed almost three terms of school last year.
He stated that he didn't like the idea of his children being locked up in a classroom and suggested they could learn on-line and with the aid of libraries.
He has now been charged, but given a conditional release order in Midland Magistrate's Court. David Price from the WA Education Department welcomed the outcome, saying it would compel Mr Meier to work with the department to ensure his children attended school.
Well-Being Australia chairman Mark Tronson says that this raises a number of interesting issues for education authorities elsewhere in the country (primary and secondary education are state matters in Australia).
In most states, 'Home Schoolers' are permitted to educate their own children. There is a strict registration system, which involves the parents setting very specific course work and showing evidence that they are engaged and involved in an appropriate school program.
Representatives of the Education Departments can visit the homes periodically and inspect the learning environment and check the program. The parents often seek out educational activities or music or environmental or sporting or religious programs for their children to attend (depending on the family background), so that they get the company of other children with similar interests and families can get to meet other 'home schooling' families.
There is also a well-established distance education program in Australia for isolated children, the famous 'School of the Air', which is a correspondence school that has been running since 1951. This is now an overall organisation covering hundreds of individual primary and high schools.
Children talk to each other and their teacher (formerly on two-way radio, now online) and follow a well-established set school agenda, closely supervised by parents or carers and monitored by class teachers (formerly by post, but now mostly online).
They arrange to meet other isolated children in their general area about four times a year for sporting, cultural and educational activities or they arrange excursions, so that whole families get to meet other families in a similar situation and the children get to meet their teachers face-to-face.
These are both very different situations from Mr Meier's; he reportedly stated that his children spent their time watching videos, listening to music, or else drawing and teaching themselves.
Mr Price from the WA Education Department said that the law acknowledged that "chronic non-attendance" affected a child's prospects in life, therefore school attendance becomes a child's 'human right' for his or her future and well-being.
Mark Tronson agrees. Attending school, he says, has many more advantageous features than a simple a mechanism to ensure children have learnt the three R's.
He notes that, perhaps 'we don't know how lucky we are'. The overall benefits of increased schooling can be seen in developing countries, where, as the proportion of girls is educated better, then the whole society benefits.
Studies over many countries since 1970 have shown that not only do educated girls have better jobs and earn more (up to 15% more for a primary education alone), but on average every further year of education reduces a woman's fertility rate by 5-10%: in other words, they have fewer children.
It appears these children are healthier, as different studies have show that the infant mortality for children of educated mothers can be up to half that of illiterate women (eg in some parts of India).
In our developed society, we 'take it for granted' that children should go to school. School is a microcosm of the wider society. Children make friends and enjoy the close bonds that friendship provide. Children learn to accommodate other people and their opinions and begin to develop cognitive understanding of a community.
The playground and classroom of Australian schools are also places where children learn about team work in sports and in project work; and the implied importance of challenge in learning and the broadening of their immediate horizons.
They also learn various disciplines of behaviour that society deems important, and they may need to learn to overcome personal barriers to achieve their goals. For example, in some states, wearing a school uniform (or even just a sports uniform) brings a sense of school identity; and the need to settle down and conform to classroom rules can bring personal rewards when children see that it helps to enhance the learning for everyone.
Children also learn that at school 'pushing in' is not tolerated, that cheating is seen as a failure of character, and that telling lies is not tolerated. These things carry over into the adult world of commerce, business and personal interactions.
So M V Tronson agrees that these 'intangibles' lay the foundations of 'human rights' within western societies, that are essential building blocks in the workings of the community. These are encouraged by the school system, and as all children have both good and bad experiences at school, these 'human rights' stand them in good stead to overcome the ups and downs of later life.
But the school community is nonetheless only as effective as are student's home environments. Having compulsory schooling is an important aspect of imparting society's values, and the WA Government is right, in Mark Tronson's view, to enforce the law.
However, universal education will always be most effective if the home life parallels the ideals of integrity, community and decorum that are taught (formerly and by implication) at school.
We can only aim to have a more cohesive society if parents echo and support our education system in these endeavours.
"We don't know how lucky we are! Moreover we're blessed in Australia as the education system was initiated by the Christian churches."