National Home Education week is coming up (November 21st-25th of November) and to help spread the word I am going to be doing a series of Home Ed based blog posts that will explain our home ed journey as well as providing links and resources. For more information on National Home Education Week please visit the Australian Homeschool Network. They will be running free online chats about home education as well as park days and get togethers during Home Ed week where you can find out more about home education.
If you had told me years ago that we would end up being a home ed family I would have laughed at you. After all I thought home ed was for hippies and religious nuts…not for an ordinary lower middle class family.
Our home ed story only began last year. I had just gone back to working part time at home so he could go back to work after years and years of him being a stay at home dad while I worked. The twins had just started school and I could work from home easily enough doing shoots on the weekend and admin/editing while the girls were at school. The older girls were in grade 5 and 3 and the twins had just started prep.
We held the twins back a year for social reasons as until their second year of 4yo Kinder they refused to talk to any of the other children. They probably could have done with another year of kinder (even now socially they are still quite immature and tend to play with kids a few years younger than them) but academically the kinder teachers had done all they could. They had even gone on speciality training to make sure they could keep up with them. At the start of prep the teachers tested their maths and English and discovered they were working at around a grade 4 level, socially however, they weren’t even close to their peers. After 3 months I discovered that the twins were sent to their desks to colour most of the day as they already knew well beyond what their peers were learning and socially they were barely coping. We also bowed to pressure to separate them as we were told they should learn to rely on themselves (and they were identical and the teachers thought that would be hard). It was a total disaster.
It was around this time that I also had a conversation with our middle child. Up until now she had been telling us how school work was so easy. The wording changed quite suddenly to school work is “boring”. She has always been extremely bright so we assumed we could just have a chat with the teachers and try to extend her a bit.
Also – while all of this was going on – I was at school a lot. Our eldest daughter, even though she was in the “popular” group was quite unhappy. She was constantly stressed, stopped eating and couldn’t get to sleep at night. She was only 10! I was at school constantly talking to teachers and parents and the vice principal. She started seeing the school counsellor and still she was getting worse. We also noticed that she never caught up in class again from when she was mostly deaf for 3 months in grade 3 and her teacher had explained there was no way for him to go back and fill in the gaps now as there was no time. The only option available for children who were slightly behind was remedial reading and as she could read there was really no help for her.
So all four of my girls, all of a sudden, were not enjoying school. Every single one of them had been so excited to go off to school and to see that it was all falling apart was extremely distressing. We couldn’t afford private school and none of the other public schools in the area were in a better position to help us.
Now a little disclaimer here before I jump in to how much I love home ed – I do not believe it is the solution for everyone. We are so lucky to live in a country with OPTIONS! There are some amazing public schools (and up until that moment we loved ours and still think it is a remarkable school), there are private schools, speciality schools (like an amazing agriculture school in Sydney that I applied to when I was in high school), Steiner Schools, distance ed and home ed. There is no “one size fits all” schooling option. There is often not even a one size fits all option for a single family. I have heard of families who have had one child in home ed, one in distance ed and another at school. It is all about finding out about what works for YOUR child and YOUR family. This post is just to inform you about our journey and that there are options beyond traditional schooling.
I had recently picked up a book from the library about teaching kids philosophy. It was a wonderful book and it got me thinking about ways to teach the girls various things at home. After another discussion on the bus (on the way home after school) with the girls, it was decided that I would look into work for them to do at home. Nervous that I would never know what to teach and how I looked into home schooling pre-packaged curriculum.
The more I had read about homeschooling the more I was interested. I spoke to the girls father about everything I read and we just kept coming back to what a wonderful idea it could be for us and our girls. We have always loved spending time with our kids and dreaded the weekends and holidays ending…so this seemed such a family orientated plan. I ended up finding my way to an australian homeschooling forum Rockpool Homeschool. And my first post was on the 10th of May – we were almost halfway through the year. I posted a big long rant about how things weren’t working and that homeschooling looked like a great idea but I just hadn’t made the decision yet. Within a few hours of my posting I had gotten a message from a member who homeschooled her 5 children not far from me. The following day she welcomed me into her home and I got to see my first home ed family. Her children were all polite, bright and engaging. I got to see what she was using in regards to curriculum and I even drilled her kids as to whether or not they enjoyed being at home, if they missed school, if they had friends…I just had to know if they were freaks or not….after all that was the idea I had in my mind. That all homeschooled children were social misfits. They weren’t. They were a pretty normal family. They did school in the morning and their afternoons and evenings were filled with spots and piano lessons and scouts. Maybe we could actually make this work.
I received a lot of support and information from the forum. I learnt about how to register to homeschool in Victoria and what resources I could access. I went into total overload with most evenings spent discussing the option well into the early hours of the morning. Another forum member sent me the book “Getting Started with Homeschooling: Practical Considerations for School Aged Children” by Beverly Paine (one of Australia’s homeschooling gurus). All that was left was to make the decision.
By the 12th of May the decision had been made. We just needed to talk to the girls again. At first they were quite reluctant at the idea. They were worried they would miss their friends. They were upset they would miss out on excursions. The twins were upset they wouldn’t get to buy lunch from the canteen. Our eldest was upset she would miss out on the grade 5 camp she had been wanting to go to for 6 years. In the end we decided we would finish up the term and then trial homeschooling for the following semester. After that if they really wanted to go back to school we would let them.
We sent off the form and made the decision to tell the school. We had always been very active at the school and felt super close to the staff. We wanted them to hear it from us. Despite the warnings from the homeschoolers I had met online I went in and spoke to the vice principal on the 17th of May. This is the post I made about it the following day
When I told her, her face changed instantly. She told me she disagreed with my decision, but would agree to it (how nice of her….I think she forgot they are my children and I wasn’t asking permission). She made me promise that if it wasn’t working within 6 weeks I would enroll them back in a school…any school (I agreed but was laughing in my head thinking I am giving it 6 months…not like my kids will be behind the others as they are already so far in front of their class). She told me kids need school to socialise with a wide range of people and to get used to every walk of like (like the bullies and chelseas friend who at 10 bought a knife to school). She asked accusingly if I was going to follow the vels (thanks to our planning over the weekend I whipped out my rough curriculum for the next 6 months which shits over their school one….pardon the language…and not that I will do it all straight away) which shut her up. When I explained why – told her the kids were bored she said we will do something about that and honestly thinks the next 6 weeks will be to change my mind (so all i needed to do to get my kids a good education was threaten to leave).
But within a few days all hell had broken loose at school. Teachers were trying to talk me out of it, we had become the talk of the school with parents pointing and staring. Our eldest daughter was nearly making herself sick at the thought of going to school so we made the decision to let her finish up that week and then come home with the rest of the girls wanting to finish the term. But when we found out that the vice principal decided to meddle things came to a head. She took it upon herself to try to convince our daughters they didn’t want to leave school and told them they needed to tell me they wanted to stay in school. I don’t think I have ever been as angry as I was when I found out. How dare she try to bully my children into something. It was at that point I realised I lost all faith in the school system and we made the decision for them all to finish the week and then no more school.
On the 29th of May the girls left school for the last time and on Monday the 31st of May we had our first official “homeschool” day.
stay tuned for the journey, my nervous break down, homeschool camp and more!