Beyond School

While every other parent was complaining about how much it sucked to have the kids home, we were the weird parents excited when the holidays came around…same with weekends. And yet Homeschooling never occurred to us until we realised school just wasn’t working for them.

We started homeschooling in May 2009 and just finished our first week of “formal” schooling for the year. But do we really just learn during these “school hours”? During “formal” bookwork? We learnt to talk without teaching, same with walking. A good chunk of the knowledge I have was passed on to me from my family. My parents were quite relaxed (it might have been because they were stoned 24/7) and allowed my brother and I a lot of freedom. We ran lemonade stands in my Nana’s driveway. I went to work with my dad to building sites from as young as 6 years old (something worksafe would probably frown upon these days). I was with my mum so much of the time when she cooked. Even today, as much as I love recipes once I have cooked something I rarely ever again reference the book – not because I have a great memory, I don’t,  but because I know the taste, the smell, the texture and years of watching food being made, eating it and then cooking has given me more knowledge than I could get from a cook book.

My dad taught me to drive a manual car when I was 13 (on middle of know where back roads) and to change the oil in a car. He taught me how to change a fuse. I went with him when he started his own concrete business and I learnt more about maths during those times than I ever did at school. I would measure with him (multiple times for accuracy) and then when we were home he would let me work out how many square meters we had to pour and how much each bag of concrete made. I delighted in helping him finish fresh concrete – to make it smooth and to finish the edges nicely. The beginning of my business savvy came from him. An entrepreneur…always working, always trying new things in the quest for financial success.

From one of my Great Nana’s I learnt about being non judgemental and loving life. She was a good christian woman, but not even when I was pregnant at 17 out of wedlock did she judge me. It wasn’t for her to judge. Not only that she beamed at the knowledge that she would be alive to see yet another generation come into this world. When my catholic Nana was mortified I wasn’t getting married before having our first, my great nana turned to her and said “Betty, its 2000! Those things just aren’t that relevant any more. Be happy, you are about to be a great grandmother – it’s wonderful.” I never forgot that.

From my Grandma I was submerged into a different world. A world of entertainers, circus people, drag shows and jazz music. Almost all of my grandmothers friends were gay. I didn’t even realise that gay’s were seen as different until some asshole screamed abuse at a couple that took my brother & I to Luna Park. I learnt that AIDS can’t be transmitted by hugging your favourite clown (one of her friends was an awesome clown and came to all my birthdays…he died of AIDS when I was about 8 years old) and that it sucks to loose someone you love. I learnt to appreciate all sorts of music. I discovered musicals and “Soap”. I went shopping at “The Drag Bag” on Oxford st (where my gran got most of her costume jewellery) and learnt that beautiful sparkly shoes come in mens sizes too!

From my Nana I learnt more about parenting and child psychology than I ever did in my cert III child care certificate. I also learnt that you can survive anything. She was widowed in her early 20’s – leaving her with my aunt who was 4 and my dad who was 1. She rebuilt her life. Purchased a house, raised her kids, put herself through teachers college, got married (to who ended up being a psychotic, abusive, misogynistic schizophrenic), survived, kept her kids safe, divorced (even though she was catholic and it meant her church turned on her) survived and was always a lovely person. She showed me her world – a world filled with beautiful paintings and sculpture and watercolours. I learnt it’s never too late to find love when she found love again 15 years ago….her watercolour teacher and her have been an item ever since. She worked in child care until she was 70. She showed me endless patience (I was a horror child), she showed love and understanding toward all her family and the children she worked with. She also took me to work when I was younger and I learnt so much for her. She never smacked her children (unheard of in “her time”) and tried to say yes whenever she could.

Not to mention everything I learned from every single person I have ever met.

So while I believe in a good solid “traditional” style education  rigorous in maths, English, science and history….I believe this is only a tiny fraction of what we need to learn to not only survive in the world, but to thrive.

Take for example my 18yo brother. Mum also let him do whatever he wanted most of the time. But he was born in the internet/computer age. He never played a sport (and is a terribly bad sport), he spent all his free time playing computers, he can barely read, he can’t cook (he needed help boiling water  which pot, how much water, which burner, how to turn the burner on and how would he know if it was boiling yet) and he has no idea how the world works at all.He is in for a rude shock as tomorrow he moves out of our place and into a place of his own. I can’t wait for all the utilities connections to come rolling in in a few weeks!

The way homeschooling works is the kids are with their parents almost 24/7. Our girls come with us shopping, to the bank, to the post office. They watch me list stuff on ebay. They hear us say “we can’t afford that” or “let’s save up for xxx”. They watch us cook and help us clean. They can use the stove, the oven, the microwave, the kettle, the washer and the dryer. When we weren’t washing the big girls clothes fast enough they came and asked if they could be responsible for their own washing. Much like kids did before school….they are learning the way we learn to talk or walk….by watching, imitating, trying and practising over and over.

The big girls are learning another important lesson this year. They want to buy their own clothes. Rather than just take them to the shops and let them pick they will be given a budget for summer and winter. I will show them how to use ebay and some online shops. They will learn how to measure themselves to compare with an online size chart. They will realise how quickly our clothing budget goes. They are also wanting to know more than basics in cooking so we are planning on getting a good solid cook book and working through soups, sauces, roasts, cooking different vegetables ect. They have learnt about in season food by shopping at the fruit and vege store with us.

Our eldest is learning to sew from basic patterns. All four of them (even our 8yo twins) can use a sewing machine competently (they can thread the needle, trouble shoot and fill the bobbin) and without supervision. She asked for sewing materials for xmas and was given a sewing basket filled to the brim and learnt an important lesson on not leaving needles around when one of the twins ended up with a sewing needle in the foot.

Our ten year old wanted tools for xmas. So that’s what we got. She got a cordless drill, a jigsaw and a toolbox filled with basic hand tools along with two kids carpentry books. Her first job was to cut up the Christmas tree. She learnt how to cut away from herself and keep her workspace clean and safe.

They all play a team sport. It is especially important for our aspie daughter. She not only needs plenty of practice with co-ordination but she also needs to learn how to work in a team, to do what she is told (not something she likes) and to learn why teamwork is important…on her last game of soccer she set up a goal for someone which then was the winning goal. The goal wasn’t made by just that one person. They had to work together to get it to their end of the field and then someone had to set it up and someone had to shoot a goal. It wasn’t until that very last game that she realised all that. But at that moment it all came together.

just some thoughts I have been having and now that the internet is working I thought I would write them down.



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