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.
The new year came and went and I decided that I wanted to focus on bookwork again. I became obsessed with curriculum and pretty much everything I saw other home ed families using I wanted, lusted over and eventually bought. Even though the girls were quite happy and contented in their own learning. So much so that while my bookshelves were filled with various curriculum non of it was being used. Our other bookshelf (we had to get one as the girls one broke) was now filled with novels, historical fiction and an ever expanding collection of reference books. Books on History, on science, encyclopaedias we picked up at the salvos, an entire science reference collection of 20 books and a collection of 35 odd books on the human body. The girls had also become extremely proficient at being able to use the internet to discover new things and answer questions they had, that I couldn’t.
But the thing that everyone was most focused on….was CampFest! When we took the girls out of school our eldest was upset she was going to miss out on her first camp, so when we discovered homeschoolers have camps we were in like Flynn.Of course the main difference between school camp and homeschool camp was this was a family affair. Everyone came, not just the kids.
Toward the end of march we jumped a vline out to Albury where we were picked up by a friendly homeschooler with a big car and taken out to the camp venue. The place was huge. Right on a lake (that apparently the year before had been 2kms away – but with the floods in was now right on the camp ground) with a swimming pool, tennis courts, playgrounds and basktball court. We checked into our cabin and headed down to camp registration where we learnt 80 families were present and there was more than 200 people here. We were given our goodie bags and itinerarys and were left to our own devises.
I can’t even remember the order of things, but camp was jam packed. The girls were all old enough to participate in the camp activities and as such there were two sessions each day – with groups on rotation – through hiking, abseiling, archery, rope courses ect. All our meals were included as well and the girls wolfed down almost anything that was put in front of them. They made new friends. They played. They swam. There was a trivia night for kids and one for adults. There were movie nights for the kids. A disco. A talent show (absolute highlight of the camp was the twins getting up to do a dance entitled “the twin pyjama dance” I am in tears just thinking about how hilariously awesome it was). In the afternoons parents ran activities in the main hall – the girls dad who is the king of origami did that with a bunch of kids, their was pasta making and “junior masterchef”, colouring in, craft and even one of the grandmas set up a little manicure booth. There was also a variety of talks/workshops on various home ed topics like how to avoid burnout and getting your home ed kids into university and tertiary studies. Even though the days were packed it was up to you if you joined in or not. I was still not handling crowds and long days well so I would spend either morning or afternoon in the cabin resting up.
Our eldest also celebrated her 11th birthday while on camp. To have so many people celebrate with her was incredible for her. She still talks about her awesome birthday at camp.
Believe it or not – the girls father and I were dreading going. We aren’t terribly social people and while we loved our little home ed circle of friends…what if we couldn’t stand everyone there? We went purely for the girls benefit. But we ended up having a blast. Home ed families are so similar to us (even if their schooling style or parenting style is different) in that we are all so family centred. We truly enjoy spending our days with our children. We love playing with them and being active in their lives. We don’t stand back and let someone else teach our children, we do it. We teach them and guide them and learn with them and don’t rely on others to discipline them or to raise them with a set of values that we don’t follow ourselves. We take the credit and ultimately the responsibility for them. They are also present and active in our adult lives. It is a lot harder to hide your flaws when you are observed 24/7 by your children. You are driven to be a better person, a better role model and a better parent. And to be around so many like minded families was just mind blowing.
We all had a ball and were honestly bummed when the week was over. So when the next camp announced a few weeks later we booked it. Next March we head off to Camp again and we are all so psyched. The girls are planning what they want to do for the talent show, they are emailing their camp buddies from last year and our middle child has been asked to take over the kids trivia night as the person who organised it last year won’t be going.
Our year has also been filled with amazing excursions. We don’t just go to one or two a year like school – sometimes we have 3 or 4 a month! We have been to the State Library, Scienceworks, the big girls went on a Chocoholics tour, there have been park days and playdates and our favourite excursion this year was probably our trip to the “Big Issue” where the eldest girls got to learn about homelessness and how the Big Issue is helping people get back on their feet.
We go on a few different types of excursions
- Group “school style” excursions. These are generally organised by families who want to have access to the same programs the schools do and they book for a group and spread the word through forums, home ed groups and websites. We show up at a certain time and go through the excursion as a group
- Individual excursions. These are just us deciding we will go to the zoo or the museum or something specific related to what they girls are learning at the time.
- Park Days. All over Victoria (and no doubt Australia) various families meet at a park to hang out. Usually in the middle of a weekday when we have the parks all to ourselves. The most popular one in Victoria is run by the Australian Homeschool Network and meets at Quarries Park on the 2nd Tuesday of the month.
- Playdates. This is just where families organise to hang out together it could be just two or it could be a whole bunch. Generally organised by one person and if I am organising it, nearly always at my house (as I don’t drive)
It may really surprise you (as I know it did me) to know how active and social us home ed families are. We are very rarely isolated. In fact one home ed mum wrote (on a forum I think)…”You know your children are socialised when they get headlice!”. In my area alone I know of quite a few families.
But how did we find these people to start off with?
As I mentioned in one of my previous home ed posts – my first homeschool port of call was The Rockpool Homeschool Forum. It is an Australian based site and tends to be a bit more ecclectic and secular than the other Australian Forum I know of – Aussie Homeschool. This site seems to be quite a bit more active, but is also quite heavily Christian based. However it has one of the most active second hand classifieds and I have purchased many a resource from here.
From Rockpool I discovered The Home Education Network – which is Victoria’s Home ed group…but it is more than a group. The website is filled with so many articles on home education and we are proud to be a fee paying member. As a member we have access to “Otherways” which is a magazine that is put out a few times a year. It is filled with articles and information and curriculum reviews. Sue at HEN is amazing. Not only does she homeschool (and her eldest is now at University…and she is a wealth of information on that topic) and run HEN but she also puts together the magazine. I was recently honoured to be interviewed about homeschooling with a mental illness for the magazine and I think it turned out great. They really go out of their way to cover as many topics as possible and in depth as possible.HEN also helps with things like public liability insurance for events held in Victoria by HEN members.
From HEN I discovered the Home Education Association – HEA, which is similar to HEN, but Australia wide. I don’t know a lot about this one as we aren’t yet members. But it also has a list of local contacts all over Australia so you can send off an email to a local member who can then help you with your home ed questions for the area. For example each state has a different registration and approvals process. So these dedicated support members can help you at the start of your homeschool journey and hopefully introduce you to some locals so you don’t feel you are in this on your own.
I have no idea about the following as I am in Victoria but there are the following groups in different states…
- Home Education Tasmania
- Home Education SA
- Home Education Network of Canberra and the Southern Tablelands
- Sydney Home Education Network
- Home Based Learning Network (WA)
- Connecting Queensland Homeschoolers
- NT – I was unable to find a group, but there is a support persons details HERE
stay tuned to more in my homeschool series where I will review some home ed books, types of “homeschooling” and more