We get a lot of practical questions about the legal side of home education. So, to coincide with the start of the school year in Australia, we thought it was time we talked to Home Education Association President, Vivienne Fox, about what the current registration and recording requirements in Australia are for homeschooling - and how they differ from state to territory. (This information is current as of February 2018.)
*Note: We will be publishing a larger article covering registration in North America very soon (and in time other countries, too) but we are starting with home turf -- Australia.
This is an audio interview that you can listen to on YouTube or in the video viewer below. In this discussion with Ms. Fox we cover:
Home Education Association (Australia)
HEA has a NSW specific Registration Pack, and provides good Registration Support in NSW and there are chapters of HEA in QLD, ACT, Tasmania, NT, SA, which are worthwhile contacting for support in those states - contact the HEA to be linked up with support relevant to your state.
The Mulberry Homeschool Planner
150 page homeschool planner download designed to help you record and track your children's learning for the year.
Want to save this article for later? Share on Pinterest.
The essence of Montessori education is raising children as thoughtful, self-aware, and engaged members of society -- as whole people. So what does that look like in a homeschool environment, and where should you begin? Montessori graduate and mother, Ayva Cowell explains.
By Ayva Cowell | Assistant Editor
“A child is not a stranger, one simply to be observed from the outside. Rather, childhood constitutes the most important element in an adult’s life, for it is in his early years that a man is made… Whatever affects a child affects humanity, for it is in the delicate and secret recesses of his soul that a man’s education is accomplished. ” (Dr. Maria Montessori, The Secret of Childhood)
Grace. Independence. Confidence. Freedom. Respect. Dignity. Self-awareness. The thing about Montessori is that the idea is BIG. Bigger than you or I or our own kids. And yet, simultaneously, the approach is laser-focused on every individual child.
It has been said that Montessori is, in essence, making sure a child has in her environment what she needs to fully grow and develop as a whole person. And what Dr. Maria Montessori saw in children was no less than the entire future of humanity.
Over five decades of close observation of children and their learning outcomes, she developed a rich, interconnected curriculum to support their optimum development into kind, thoughtful, intelligent, and capable builders of society.
Yes, mama… taking this on as a home educator may feel like a tall order. And it is. But we’ve no doubt you’re up to the task. Here’s where you can start.
There's no question that there are deep layers of complexity and detail that underpin the Montessori principles. It's a reality that can lead many curious home educators in another direction.
And it's true: Dr. Montessori's work can be dense and intricate. It's why the teacher training courses are so comprehensive and, arguably, intense. That being said, it may also be the only education system and curriculum so thoughtfully considered and developed. (Focused specifically on birth through age six, the Montessori approach does offer a component for older years as well, though in some places it is less widely adopted.)
Whether or not implementing a full Montessori curriculum at home is of interest to you and your family, there are many ways to incorporate key elements that will help you nurture the growth and development of an engaged, creative, life-long learner under your own roof. We’ve compiled some essential ideas to get you rolling.
Order in environment = order in mind. This is a great place to begin, because it underlies so many of the other principles.
A minimalist before her time, Dr. Montessori observed that children have the best outcomes when their environment is simple, tidy, logical, and accessible.
The Montessori space is incredibly well organised; it's often referred to as carefully considered. The furniture and tools are all child-sized, and the sequential, carefully designed learning materials are placed neatly on low shelves so as to be easily seen, used, and put away. The whole space, which is built around natural materials like wood, silk, and wool, is light, beautiful, and worthy of respect and care -- just like the children it's designed for.
"A minimalist before her time, Dr. Montessori observed that children have the best outcomes when their environment is simple, tidy, logical, and accessible."
While you may not be ready to take this approach to your whole home, you'll definitely want to prepare one learning area with those concepts in mind.
Here are some tips:
There is no question, as most home educators understand, that everyone learns more effectively when they are working on something they feel drawn to. We know it as self-directed learning, and it's an essential element of this style of education.
The sense of control that children feel within a prepared Montessori environment is one of its hallmarks, and it's a driving force behind the confidence and independence they develop as a result. Within the carefully considered space, each child shapes her own day; she selects materials that appeal to her, one at a time, with guidance from her teacher only as necessary.
Once you prepare a Montessori-style learning environment in your own home, you'll likely notice how it can promote exploration, focus, and engagement. There are many resources available to guide you as you learn about the materials and the order and manner in which they should be presented; within that framework, though, give your child a chance to choose their destiny each day. You'll need to be present to observe, facilitate, and support, but allowing her time to be her own will foster her sense of self-awareness, dignity, and freedom.
"Within the carefully considered space, each child shapes her own day; she selects materials that appeal to her, one at a time, with guidance from her teacher only as necessary."
This approach is about hands-on learning whenever and wherever possible, so if you have textbooks in mind, you'd be well advised to look elsewhere. Thanks to a strong belief that movement and cognition are closely linked (which has now been repeatedly supported by an impressive depth and breadth of research), Dr. Montessori saw the stationary child as something to be avoided.
Hence, children in a Montessori classroom move about quite a bit to use the learning materials, and to take part in many practical life activities like preparing snacks, watering plants, and tidying. All the learning materials are thoughtfully designed so each lesson is reinforced by the movement and use of the hands, bringing body and mind together as a whole unit.
In addition to adding as many Montessori-specific learning materials as you can to your environment, you'll want to get your kids moving in any way you can imagine.
A quick YouTube search will give you plenty of inspiration when you see Montessori kids as young as 18 or 20 months making omelettes, washing dishes, and acting as productive, contributing members of their household!
"The Montessori learning materials are thoughtfully designed so each lesson is reinforced by the movement and use of the hands, bringing body and mind together as a whole unit."
Unlike conventional schools, Montessori classrooms don't offer any extrinsic rewards or punishments. That's right... no grades, gold stars, or detentions. This approach is focused on protecting the natural, intrinsic motivation of humans to explore and learn. A large body of research has shown, without doubt, that extrinsic rewards decrease intrinsic motivation, and in some cases can negatively affect cognitive functioning, creativity, and prosocial behaviours like kindness and empathy.
Your mission (if you choose to accept it!) is to fiercely defend that built-in desire for lifelong learning. In your homeschool, that could look like trying to give your little ones the opportunity to have a whole experience that is their own... not forced, judged, interrupted or applauded. Recognising that their experience is enough can be challenging. But emphasising mastery of material over scheduled performance will bring an important Montessori goal to life in your home environment -- the love of learning for learning's sake. No Paw Patrol stickers required!
"In your homeschool, that could look like trying to give your little ones the opportunity to have a whole experience that is their own... not forced, judged, interrupted or applauded."
Choosing collaboration and cooperation over competition gets much easier when you remove the grades, tests, and stars from the picture. Another feature of Montessori classrooms is their mixed-age approach. Children of varying ages spend their time together and thus organically experience student to student learning. As they work together, they learn together and from one another.
It's easy to answer the question every homeschooler gets tired of hearing... what about socialisation?... when it comes to Montessori, because this model suggests that in optimal conditions, our kids spend time with humans of all ages.
Living, working, and learning alongside a wide variety of other productive people can bring out the best in us, and open our eyes to the intricacies of life on a grand scale. Joining mixed age groups of any kind, volunteering in your community, and spending time building positive relationships with friends and family can give your Montessori-homeschooled children just what they need to develop prosocial behaviour and skills.
"Living, working, and learning alongside a wide variety of other productive people can bring out the best in us, and open our eyes to the intricacies of life on a grand scale."
Unlike the disembodied approach to knowledge that is so prevalent in traditional education, the focus on relationships across the entire Montessori curriculum helps children easily assimilate new information and ideas. By making connections across subject areas and to the outside world very clear, the strategy is to help each child piece together the big picture. A collection of facts, Dr. Montessori felt, was of no use.
She wanted to support children in seeing that everything in the universe is interrelated, and she realised that skills and knowledge learned in context were better understood and retained. This is reflected in her design of the learning materials, and the significant role of nature in her curriculum.
Regardless of learning style, we all learn best by interacting in some real way with material. So bring context to your homeschool lessons by doing! Instead of telling your child how bread is made, make some yourself. Learn about nature in nature -- look for animal tracks with a companion guide or collect the leaves of different trees for tracing and colouring. The possibilities for exploring this principle are endless.
Just think: real life learning. Ditch the textbooks and offer tactile experiences that are relevant and build on your family's current interests and knowledge!
"Learn about nature in nature -- look for animal tracks with a companion guide or collect the leaves of different trees for tracing and colouring."
Dr. Montessori was very specific about the way her teachers worked with children. She saw that their mannerisms, style of demonstration, and word choices all played important roles in learning outcomes. As such, she focused on the ways in which teachers can build strong, secure relationships with their students.
As a homeschool parent, you are likely already perfectly positioned to guide your little ones in Montessori style, which advises genuine warmth and sensitivity towards the needs of every child. Providing a safe, secure base while remaining open to and supportive of independent exploration (some key concepts of healthy attachment parenting) are things to keep in mind.
And in demonstrating the use of curriculum materials - simplicity, precision, and objectivity are the qualities you're after. Beyond that, keen observation and a strong respect for your child as a brilliant, whole person are key!
"Provide a safe, secure base while remaining open to and supportive of independent exploration..."
Bringing Montessori into your homeschool -- however that looks to you -- will likely require some additional reading, learning, (and maybe even training!) for you and/or your partner.
A clear place to start is, of course, with Dr. Maria Montessori's books themselves. The Absorbent Mind and The Secret of Childhood are both great reads. The Joyful Child by Susan Mayclin Stephenson is also worth considering for wee ones, and the brilliant Montessori: The Science Behind The Genius by Angeline Stroll Lillard does an incredibly deep analysis of the current science which has come to light supporting virtually all the principles that Dr. Maria Montessori intuitively built into her curriculum.
While there have long been accredited training courses and curriculum packages available for Montessori teachers (that some homeschool parents have taken on!) NAMC (North American Montessori Center) recently developed a comprehensive homeschooling-specific curriculum that may be worth exploring.
Have questions? Have we missed something? Let us know in the comments below so we can keep this article a helpful free resource.
Now a mamma who has taken a Montessori approach (alongside other influences) to raising my son, I’ve always had a strong interest in the core ideas of this system. A graduate of the full Montessori program myself, I’ve spent a great deal of time researching and considering the intricacies of Dr. Montessori’s work and how it’s played out in my life. All that being said, I am not an accredited Montessori teacher. This piece and the ideas it contains is based on those years of reading, exploring, and considering this system, in addition to the many online and print resources that are readily available to all parents wishing to dive deeper.
Want to save this article for later? Share on Pinterest.
Mulberry Assistant Editor
Ayva is our Assistant Editor. She's currently the mama of one chatty toddler and has a baby on the way! A Canadian writer, photographer, and graphic designer, she lives on the road with her son, husband and two giant dogs. When not exploring field or forest with her pack, she can usually be found stand-up paddling, reading profusely, yoga-ing, or some combination of the above!
Curious to know how other families use and customise the pages from The Mulberry Planner? We asked some homeschooling + unschooling mothers to share their tips, strategies and ideas.
The other day we got a request from a new homeschooler:
"I'd love to hear someone actually sit down and give a good run down about how they use their planner since there are so many options? I'm a planning newbie - I need help!"
Great question, right? So we asked a few mums who have been using the planner to share their ideas, tips and strategies with us, and here's what they said...
Leah made a walk-through video to show us exactly how she's used her planner, complete with audio narration. >>
"We have definitely not used all the pages, and even though we're now onto our fourth year of homeschooling, there's an evolving nature to it so I've used the pages that immediately spoke to me in terms of how the rhythm of our days go."
"I like to use the blank Morning Circle templates and customise them for myself."
"I've definitely used the Mama's book list - love that [the planner] has stuff for mums, not just kids."
This video includes Leah's narration. If there's no sound when playing, click the speaker icon.
"Setting out my planner I put the vision, snapshot of our family, yearly calendar, and lists at the beginning. Next is monthly calendars applicable for the current term. From there I set out week by week starting with notes, then lesson plans, morning circle, records of learning, reflections and notes. I add the nature finds, notes and quotes wherever I feel I want or need them."
"I have the homeschool planner in a 3-ring binder. The sections are:
"The Mulberry Planner has made my home education journey so much simpler, and so far, flow much more smoothly.
In a nutshell, here’s how I use it:
It is my diary, planner and journal all-in-one.
Here are some photos of our first fortnight, we are currently up to week three and just loving it!
Hope this helps, it’s hard to condense it down when there are just so many good things to say about this planner! This planner ticks the boxes for learning records for my son, myself AND the authorities. And it’s all in one neat, gorgeous space. I found documenting the planning really overwhelming at the beginning. [We're] two and a half years in now, and it’s definitely a joy, not a labour."
* Cherie was kind enough to create a walkthrough video too (this one just has music, no narration), but is an excellent peek into another homeschooler's layout).
"So far, really enjoying it and grateful to you for preparing it for us.
"As an unschooler I don’t plan a lot but I like to have all my homeschool materials organised and in one place and the Mulberry Planner has allowed me to do that.
What I like about this planner is there are so many options and you only need to use what works for your family and your homeschooling situation. The addition of the blank templates means you can fully customise the pages if you want to. And it all looks cohesive and stylish!"
This homeschool mum with a decade of experience shares how she uses the List templates in her homeschool planning.
"I was very happy to see the new Mulberry Planner has LOTS of list templates, and I’ve been busy filling them out and feeling virtuous about my gorgeous new lists (as opposed to the creased and crumpled bits of repurposed paper I usually use).
I keep a book journal for myself, but I’m using the Mama’s Book List to keep track of the homeschooling-specific books I’d like to read or re-read.
Having a curriculum list means I can keep track of what we’d like to try, what’s good now, what may be good in the future, and what’s not good for us at all. I’ll download and use each sample as we need it, and then either cross it off the list or purchase it."
Kelly wrote a whole article on Using Lists in Homeschooling. Read it below.
Kirstee shared how she uses the Morning Circle templates with her morning basket routine.
"Look at your rhythm and find a time suitable for a big, long out breath of activity. Plan out what you are going to do in advance. I like to write it all out on the circle time planning form included in my Mulberry Homeschool Planner. Knowing what you are doing next helps maintain flow. Things fall apart quickly if you have no idea what happens next."
Kirstee wrote a whole article on Morning Circle time. Read it below.
Email your tips, strategies and photos (optional) our editor Grace, firstname.lastname@example.org
Want to save this article for later? Share on Pinterest.
So often we talk about deschooling our children, but what can deschooling look like for parents, and why is it necessary when beginning homeschooling? Crystal Wiley shares her journey.
By Crystal Wiley
This article was originally featured on Simple + Free and has been republished with permission.
When we began homeschooling almost two years ago, I never would have guessed how much I’d learn about my children, my husband, my family, my community and myself as a result…
It means removing all the negative thoughts and emotions we’ve carried around with us regarding the conventional schooling we received. This included both my husband and I.
Usually deschooling means throwing everything out the door and starting over.
This was true for our family, but deschooling also meant revisiting how I specifically felt as a child pushed through class after class in which I had no desire in attending.
We have to understand we as a species never truly retains information gathered due to force or coercion from teachers, no matter how well-intentioned they are.
For it wasn’t until midway through my college experience I realised what I enjoyed.
The passion I have to offer my kids an interest-led learning environment flows in waves as I continue to grapple with a slew of mixed emotions. I feel like I could have spent a more significant chunk of my young life learning what I was passionate about, instead of sitting for hours and hours at a desk doing my best to stay awake in the midst of uninspiring information.
It could have been inspiring if it was something I was interested in, of course.
I’m convinced you do not need to be a philosopher or a scientist to understand a few simple truths...
Real learning happens when someone is passionate and open-minded.
Real learning happens when someone has time to explore.
Real learning happens when you feel safe and loved, not exposed and judged.
Real learning happens when you have the ability to go deeper into an idea and not be told: “we’ve come to the end of this idea and now we’re moving on to the next.”
Real learning needs no boundaries.
How do I refer to “real learning?” To me, it simply means knowledge well-kept, not discarded shortly after a test.
Additionally, I aspire to offer my children the conviction to experience the joy of critical thinking and deep exploration of parts of the world they’re interested in without society’s confines and push and pull by homeschooling… something I struggled with immensely.
And since no one knows what our future holds, I feel our children innately do – they were built that way. They were created in God’s image which means they intuitively know how they’re supposed to fit into the community. They know what their bodies need to do. They know what they need to learn. They know, planted like little seeds, how they’re supposed to spend the majority, if not all of their time here on Earth.
Our kids may not express their desires verbally but instead subconsciously, if they listen to their heart – given the opportunity to listen to that still, small voice whispering in their ear what path to take – they’ll follow it unceasingly.
Now, if your children attend a traditional school this article is not an attempt to shame you as a parent. I know many homeschool families who shift in and out of schools as well, so this is in no way directed to those who choose a different path. In fact, it’s possible to offer your children the opportunity to follow their dreams, it will just look much different for you considering your time with them is much more limited. Please never doubt your abilities or intentions as a parent – for this unshakeable persistence to be a better parent is at the core unconditionally loving your children!
Regardless, a few things in our future are certain whether your kids attend a traditional school or not. Our children will need to know how to be:
1) Adaptable – our world and the information in it changes constantly. We have to learn to adapt.
2) Limitless – knowing they have the power to make a difference in our vast world.
3) Self-Empowering – not allowing friends or society to tell them they are doing it wrong.
4) In Touch – with who they are as a human being and who God created them to be.
5) Steadfast – never giving up because too many people in life they know will do just that.
For me, it took a good 25-plus years to realise what I was called to do. And I’m still learning every day alongside my kids how good it feels to follow my dreams and surrender to the glorious unknown.
And it took me having children to realise my offspring deserve a chance to find for themselves exactly what they’re meant to do early on in life and then given the encouragement, resources and environments to pursue these ideas.
No gold stars, prodding or pushing or bribing necessary.
"Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution." – ALBERT EINSTEIN
Want to save this article for later? Share on Pinterest.
You may also like:
Blogger at Simple + Free
Crystal Wiley is wife to an exceptionally gifted and patient husband with whom she's owned and sold several companies, and a mother to two adventure-seeking children in the Pacific Northwest of America. She loves simplifying through minimalism and slowing down to enjoy each season in life all while focusing on God's big plans for her family's eclectic, interest-led homeschool. Depending on the day, you can find her hiking, snowboarding, camping, mountain biking, reading a plethora of books (to herself and her children) or writing about whatever strikes her heart.
Kelly George has been homeschooling for over a decade and swears by list-keeping as the ultimate way to keep organised, stay sane, and plan and record her whole family's learning.
By Kelly George | Fearless Homeschool
Lists are the only way I keep track of anything.
To-do lists, meal lists, to buy lists, wishlists – if it’s not on the list it really doesn’t get done.
So it makes sense that lists are invaluable in our homeschool, too. We use lists to keep track of what we’ve done, to remember what we’d like to do and to make sure everyone’s doing as much as they planned.
I’ve tried digital, but it’s just not concrete enough for me, and seeing as I usually don’t know where my phone is it didn’t make sense to keep important information on it.
I was very happy to see the new Mulberry Planner has LOTS of list templates, and I’ve been busy filling them out and feeling virtuous about my gorgeous new lists (as opposed to the creased and crumpled bits of repurposed paper I usually use). I’ve also discovered an unexpected bonus of having a beautiful planner - I’ve been more intentional about looking after it, which means I can feel justified when preaching to my children about presenting their work well.
Homeschooling lists are also a great form of record keeping, saving hours of work when re-registration time comes around. You can quickly glance at the books you’ve read, the movies you’ve watched, and the curriculum you’ve completed, and expand on it to make a pretty good report.
Here are the indispensable homeschooling lists we keep.
Books are our thing. We borrow 60 books at a time from the library, think books make the best presents, and book sales and well-stocked op-shops are our favourite places to shop.
We all keep a yearly list of the books we read – each child, myself, and my husband. They help us keep track of interests, remember which authors or series we wanted to read more from when it’s library ordering time, and remember what that book was called when we’re chatting about them.
Plus, it’s a subtle competition. Gabrielle always makes sure she’s ahead in numbers. She’s up to 139 books read as of November 20th, so it’s not likely she’ll be overtaken this year.
I also keep a read-aloud list, which I’ll adapt one of these for.
I keep a book journal for myself, but I’m using the Mama’s Book List to keep track of the homeschooling-specific books I’d like to read or re-read.
Finally, I’ll also be using the Kids Book List for a to-read list for each child. I usually make sure I order or buy quality books regularly, so there’s always some available to choose from, but they don’t always get chosen.
I’d like to make sure they each read at least ten classic or high-quality books each year – dragons and battles are all very exciting, but should be balanced out by books that get the brain cells working, in my opinion.
If I give them each a list in January they can zoom through their requirements, and then return to reading Percy Jackson for the umpteenth time. And I can then give them another list in June – surprise!
There’s SO MUCH to keep track of! I used to save samples in a folder on my computer, assuming I’d remember what was in there.
Most of the time I would forget there was even a folder, so when we wanted something new in a certain area I’d start researching again from scratch.
Having a curriculum list means I can keep track of what we’d like to try, what’s good now, what may be good in the future, and what’s not good for us at all. I’ll download and use each sample as we need it, and then either cross it off the list or purchase it.
If I get very organised, I’ll use another to keep track of the curriculum each child finishes.
I’m a word lover, and I love quotes. Anyone who has visited my website or taken one of my courses may have noticed that. Homeschooling means I get to expose my children to what I think is important, and subjecting them to quotes is something I do enthusiastically.
Right now, I put a new quote up on our whiteboard each week, and we chat about what it means. I choose quotes that make us think, that help us define our ideas or values, or show an everyday issue from a new angle.
This quotes list is replacing my Pinterest board (again, I fail at digital – I don’t even have the Pinterest app on my phone because I couldn’t turn off the notifications), and it’s so much easier to pull out the quotes list and choose the new quote.
As a bonus, I don’t get stuck looking at quirky designs for vintage dresses, so the process is much quicker!
Want a free Mulberry Planner sample?
Pop in your name & email and we'll send our free Day Notes printable over to you right away!
I started listening to podcasts this year, and really like them (again, late adopter of digital). They’re a great way to get through cooking and cleaning without noticing what I’m doing.
Unfortunately, the children aren’t as fond of podcasts about entrepreneurship as I am. I’ve found a couple of ‘educational but entertaining’ podcasts we all enjoy, like The Ancient World and TED Talks Daily, but I’d like to find more.
This is my list of podcasts to trial before adding to our regular listening list. We’ve already trialled Douchy’s Biology, and it’s a hit – Gabrielle has been geeking out to hominid evolution while cutting out sewing projects.
We fail at films. We haven’t had a TV in over a decade, and that pretty much sums it up. We find we have so many other things to do that we never get around to watching movies.
But there are some things I’d really like to watch with the children. Generally, they’re adaptations of books, and our chief delight is shouting criticism at how much it deviates from the book (you really don’t want to watch Eragon with us, how did they get it so wrong?)
I’ve decided documentaries count as films, because we love nature, farming, and science documentaries. And because the sheet would probably compost before we got through that many movies.
I hope that gives you some insight and inspiration into how lists can be useful in your homeschool. The lists included in the Mulberry Planner are a great place to start if you’re new to list making – they’re extremely relevant to the core needs of homeschoolers. As well as the lists I’ve detailed, there are also lists for music, YouTube, and children’s lists for their achievements and things they’re proud of, plus templates for you to DIY. If you don’t use anything else except the lists, you can still have a well-organised homeschool.
Kelly George is a married mum to five adventurous children who have never been been to school. She runs Fearless Homeschool, which is full of articles, resources, and courses aimed at helping parents break away from the school model to craft their ultimate homeschool, and also organised the first Australian Homeschooling Summit. In her spare time she's a nursing student who enjoys juggling dozens of hobbies.
Want to save this article for later? Share on Pinterest.
*This post contains affiliate links.
Helping our children delight in the discovery of nature is one of our most important responsibilities as parents. Homeschooling offers the perfect opportunity to take learning into nature far more often. Here are eight ideas to inspire you...
By Grace Koelma | Founder of The Mulberry Journal
“We have such a brief opportunity to pass on to our children our love for this Earth, and to tell our stories. These are the moments when the world is made whole. In my children's memories, the adventures we've had together in nature will always exist.”
I often contemplate the words of Richard Louv, author of Last Child Left in the Woods and coiner of the term 'nature-deficit'. There is no denial that our children face an uphill battle when it comes to spending time unplugged and unfettered by the alluring and incessant technology of our modern world. And yet, once we discover the rejuvenating and necessary power of nature for the soul, mind and body, we can't help but share our love of the earth with our children.
While it's unrealistic and ultimately unhelpful to completely cut our children off from all technology (and what does that even mean? Isn't an oven or a microwave technology too? What about the car you drive? But I digress!) many parents are resisting the pull towards swipe-able screens and glowing devices in favour of a pared-back, 'old-school' focus on spending time in nature. Nature in all its forms...
Homeschooling parents are among those leading the charge, with terms like nature play and earthschooling popping up more and more frequently. So, if you're feeling a pull towards nature here are a few ideas on how to incorporate more nature study and focus into your homeschool.
8 ways to invite nature into your homeschool
Most often, these groups meet outdoors and often visit national parks or reserves. You can find out about local groups by searching for location-specific Facebook pages, or check out our (by no means comprehensive) Australian co-op directory here.
Nature Guides are a handy resource when venturing out into nature. Giving your kids a sense of purpose and sense of adventure in the form of a 'nature spotting checklist' can help keep them involved and motivated.
You can purchase fantastic nature guides from Brave Grown Home and print them off at home, like this gorgeously illustrated backyard birds set. Each Guide includes beautiful watercolour illustrations on easy-to-print posters, information cards full of fascinating facts, and smaller three-part cards for the littlest learners. The cards also tie in with the Charlotte Mason philosophy of nature journalling.
Tip: Laminate the identification cards so they withstand dirt and water while you're out in nature, and last longer.
The peace and quiet of nature provides the perfect setting for practicing mindfulness and meditation with your children. Mindfulness is something that can be modelled to kids at a surprisingly young age, and even very small children can learn to sit still and just 'be'.
Get Mulberry in your inbox and never miss a story.
Pack your paints and paper before you head out so you're ready to capture the beauty of nature in paintings, sketches or mixed media. If your kids lack artistic confidence or haven't yet found a passion, we can highly recommend Artventure's online lessons as a great resource to start with.
Issue 3 of Mulberry Magazine also features a wonderful step-by-step nature journalling tutorial to get you started.
Starting a Cabinet of Curiosities or Wunderkammer is a great way to motivate your kids to head out into nature and observe, delight and forage (where appropriate) curiosities to take home and display. For more inspiration, check out our article where three homeschooling mums share how they started their Cabinets of Curiosity in Mulberry Magazine Issue 7.
Tip: Remember to check the rules in the area first (national parks often have limits on what you can remove).
When the weather turns cold or icy, it can be tempting to put off outdoor adventuring until the warmer season begin again. But exploring nature with your children in the wet, mud and snow is vital. Many studies show that the winter months spent indoors can impact mood negatively, and getting outside in the fresh air is a mood-booster and improves the body's energy, vitality and immune system. It also 'toughens kids up', so they are not afraid of a little bit of rain or cold.
Observing the cycle of nature through different seasons, especially how many of the plants and animals hibernate or adapt to survive harsh conditions is a fascinating aspect of nature study that shouldn't be missed!
Remember, there's no such thing as inappropriate weather, only inappropriate clothing!
While nature reserves and national parks are wonderful wildernesses to explore, they can often be a considerable drive or hike away. For quicker nature trips, don't forget about botanical gardens, private estates and greenhouses in your area. Observing finely cultivated plants and topiary is a wonderful aspect of nature study, too.
Tip: When visiting a private estate or botanic garden ask at the information desk whether they have a nature or botanical guide you can use that is specific to that garden.
A subscription to National Geographic’s Little Kids magazine is an affordable starting point for the 3-5-year-old set and audiences of all ages will be mesmerised by film series like Planet Earth with its stunning visuals and insightful commentary.
Global Guardian Project’s Learning Capsules are perfect for older children needing a mix of hands-on activities and informative content.
Tip: YouTube is a great resource for nature documentaries. Check out these fantastic tips on curating a YouTube playlist for your children here.
What are your strategies for getting your kids outside and enjoying nature? Tell us in the comments below.
Want to save this article for later? Share on Pinterest.
Grace is the Editor of The Mulberry Journal and when she's not reading submissions, divides her time between hanging out with her simultaneously delightful and headstrong 2-year-old, running multiple ventures, writing and travelling full time with her little family. You can follow her travels at @darelist.family.
The Mulberry Planner is Here. Check it out.
Taking the leap into homeschooling is a decision that may take months or years, but sometimes happens in an instant. So how do you know whether it's right for your family? A UK based mother of two shares her thought process.
By Sophie Copeman
The decisions that we make will shape the futures of our children. This is not a new concept, but for me it is a profound one. On a daily basis we are making decisions; simple decisions such as what they will have for dinner, where shall we go today, who shall we meet... and bigger decisions such as child-rearing techniques, childcare providers and where they will be educated.
So what do people consider when it comes to education? For some this is about location, school quality, necessity. For others this is about exactly how their children will be educated and whom will do it; and this is me, this is where I am at.
My twin daughters are almost 3, so in the coming year my husband and I have a big decision to make, a decision that will affect our children for years to come and quite possibly the rest of their lives. I have lots of questions to ask and only the beginnings of answers.
There are lots of valid arguments for not putting my children into mainstream education, but for me it boils down to these factors right now:
Though I guess if I am 100% honest about my hesitation to put my daughters into mainstream education it comes down to one word: freedom.
Freedom refers to freedom of choice, freedom of expression, freedom to allow a child space to develop in a supportive environment, freedom to learn outside all day if the sun is shining not just go out between the lunch break bells, freedom to have an input into what and how they learn each day so that they feel empowered as individuals, and the freedom to take them places we couldn’t go to if we were restricted to term time.
Freedom, or the lack thereof is what puts me off mainstream education.
My husband is open-minded but also a traditionalist, so for him, the default decision is already made - he wants the girls to go to a mainstream school. So not only do I need to decide what route I want for the girls, if I decide I want to homeschool them I also have to put together a well-reasoned case to convince him that homeschooling is the better option for us.
On any given day hundreds of questions churn through my mind. Thoughts like:
These are some BIG questions that I need to answer.
- My first step is going to be talking to homeschooling parents and their children and to adults who were homeschooled. Luckily enough I already know parents whom are homeschooling their 8-year-old, and a young woman who was homeschooled, went on to a top UK university and is now training to be a lawyer, so I’ve arranged to meet up with them to discuss their experiences.
- I’ve contacted a local homeschooling group to see if I can go to one of their weekly meetups and plan to contact more so that I can get an accurate idea from as many people as possible about the realities of homeschooling. I’m hoping those conversations will allay some of my fears and answers some of my questions.
- I’ve begun to look up the logistics of how to homeschool. For example, I’ve read through my local council's guidelines on home education and the laws around it, I’ve begun looking into homeschool resources, using websites such as www.educationotherwise.org for information and support.
- I’ve started calculating whether or not we can afford not only to provide resources but for me to continue only working part-time whilst homeschooling.
So that’s it, I have a plan, I have a way to find the answers and I have a belief and hope that freedom of education will be at the end of my search.
Sophie is 32, lives on the coast in the South West of England with her husband and twin two-year-old daughters. She is a full time mum but also works part-time from home for a sea kayaking company. Undoubtedly her biggest passion is her children but she also loves the outdoors, gardening, crafts, photography and adventure. Sophie and her husband raise their daughters in an attachment parenting style, sharing on Instagram @life.as.a.twin.mum
The first months and years of homeschooling typically involve a lot of deschooling for your kids and yourself. Here's what it looked like for Caroline.
By Caroline Silver
Our four-year-old was pouring her usual wonder on the world as she inspected some dead leaves. Her questions led to a conversation about compost, the seasons and the sun. I paused for a moment... if everything was so intrinsically connected, why was school separating the universe into boxes and shutting kids indoors?
I did a tonne of research to find the answers and I wasn’t impressed.
Why? We thought she might thrive despite our doubts.
After nearly three years in school, she told me how unhappy and bored she was that school was wasting her time.
So when everyone else went back to join the new academic year, she didn’t. Instead, we rocked up to a Home Education “Not-back-to-school-picnic” in a beautiful Park with about 50 other families. I didn’t know anyone. It was a perfect introduction.
We started our days with me answering Isabel’s questions. It was such a delight. A spark of a particular curiosity would catapult her out of bed and off to make, write, draw or research something. I also kept a world learning picture book by the bed to introduce new topics if need be.
As she was so fired by her own curiosity, I treated Maths and Literacy as the only things in need of focused time.
I would do 20 minutes of Maths and then we took turns to read to each other, followed by some spelling games. The rest of the day she explored through books, DVDs or the Internet on the topics that most interested her – Space, Tsunamis, Hurricanes and inventions!
I based our weekly “schedule” around socialising at a couple of local midweek groups. Other days were a mix of spontaneous Museum or Gallery trips and Home Ed organised events. She refused to go to anything that had a formal learning environment.
These were the same except for a few adjustments. I realised that even 20 mins Maths a day was not necessary. She loved numbers anyway so I waited for her to ask me questions or I used supermarket trips and cooking as my main vehicle. Maths is the art of measuring things, right?
She wrote tonnes of stories because she was inspired by books and movies and I learnt not to correct spelling as it was soul destroying for her to have her creations criticised. I just made a note of what kept cropping up and made spelling games for another time.
I also dropped asking her to read to me as she would read out messages or signs perfectly because she was learning this through everything else she was doing.
I always sat with her when watching the TV or DVDs because of all the questions she would have about the content. I used the Pause button a lot. Great learning time!
We travelled to a variety of countries. Holidays were just an extension of our everyday life of learning by now.
We had a very successful first visit from the Local Authority Education officer. We had covered masses of life knowledge in a year.
I started to become more focused on good parenting skills as a means to a successful Home education and by using Pam Laricchia's weekly podcast and the online conference run by HappilyFamily.com I was and continue to be reassured when I have wobbles about, “Are we doing OK?”
My role now is still to be available to answer questions but has evolved more into being engaged with and interested in her work and to carry on providing new vistas of learning at appropriate intervals.
On a typical day, Isabel still wakes up naturally and busies herself or comes to me for a chat and a cuddle. She is now nearly 10.
She’s almost completely self-reliant, using YouTube to research tutorials. Her favourite activity is coding, making stop-go animation movies and inventing cartoons. She is reading and spelling all the time to enable her own progression. At bedtime I still read to her to keep her love of new books alive and then she writes in her diary App and Spell-check helps her spelling. She drafts new game ideas on paper ready for the next day or reads Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Prompted by whatever questions she has, we also chat about anything and everything. Last night it was Alzheimer’s and Donald Trump.
These typical days are mixed with play-dates with a handful of good friends and peppered with outings like a recent one to see “The Lion King”. After the show, we caught the Thames River boat home so we’d see all the London landmarks. As usual, she had loads of questions…”Why was Simba going to be the next King? Who decided who would be the first King of England?” And on passing the Houses of Parliament… “What does the government do if the Queen is in charge?” And so on….
Which reminds me, a day’s outing to find a Geocache at the British Library started a discussion about “Mad King George III” because we discovered that his entire collection of 82,000 books was there.
Learning is truly everywhere!
Caroline was born in the lush green countryside near Oxford. She became a mum in her forties and lives in London now and homeschools her daughter. She's had many jobs - Tax Specialist (Ugh!), Fitness Trainer (Yay!), Architectural Designer (Finding myself at last) and now Artist (Yes!).
"Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood." - Fred Rogers
By Natalie Goodacre | homeschoolmummy.com
I used to believe that I had to teach the girls, and I felt an immense amount of guilt when I "left" them to play, or didn't feel like we'd done enough structured activities. But after finding our daily rhythm, stepping back, and taking life at a much slower pace; I realise just how ignorant I was before. Play is learning! In fact, now I believe that the girls learn more, and gain a greater understanding of the world around them just through playing together.
It has really taken the stress out of homeschooling for us and made our lives so much more enjoyable. I still try to carve out specific time to focus on maths and literacy at least three times a week (although this usually involves a game or manipulative materials so some may say this is still 'playing'). But the rest of our time is spent playing and exploring the world around us.
Some of the girls best learning experiences have come from ideas that developed during play.
Our recent project - The Borrowers - is proof of this. All I have to do as the adult is to provide the stimulating environments, real life experiences and plenty of lovely open-ended materials to aid in their play.
It is hard not to worry or compare when children the same age as the girls, who attend school, can write reams and reams of pages and read much more. But what is the point in all of that 'work' when it leaves children (and adults) tired and stressed - there is plenty of time for them to be tired and stressed when they reach adulthood!
What is this huge rush to have our children know everything by age 7? In my experience it leaves everyone feeling pressured, they eventually forget most of it, and it definitely doesn't benefit the children.
I trust myself, and them, that when they are 16 they won't be illiterate. They will be accomplished in all of the core subjects. Exactly the same as the majority of children who attended school. But I am hoping that by giving my children this magical childhood full of experience, travel, wonder and joy, that they will have a little more sparkle within them. A special zest for life that I am rediscovering every day as I share their learning journeys.
This post was originally featured on homeschoolmummy.com and has been republished here with permission.
Natalie is a a homeschooling mummy to two gorgeous girls aged 7 & 5, from Lincoln, England. She's passionate about learning through play and inquiry based learning and spends her days with her daughters baking, hanging in trees and using their imaginations during hours of play. She blogs at homeschoolmummy.com and is on Instagram @homeschoolmummy.
If you're starting homeschooling and want to read more of the research behind why parents choose homeschooling, this article by Dr Rebecca English is a good place to start.
By Dr Rebecca English | QUT university
Home education is a growing educational choice in Australia (Townsend, 2012). Like all educational choices, its legality is embedded in the notion of parents’ rights to choose an educational provider most suitable for their child. As I’ve argued elsewhere, home education is a choice that exists on a spectrum of legitimate school choices in Australia.
Home education choice is an interesting phenomenon to study, particularly for a university lecturer whose non-research work is in preparing pre-service teachers and who’s had a nearly 20 year career either in schools or in teacher education.
However, if it is growing, and evidence suggests more and more parents are making this choice, it’s important that governments, policy makers and the general community understand why parents choose home education, the types of home education and the impact or the effectiveness of this choice.
There are many reasons parents choose to home educate in Australia and elsewhere. The reasons, while generally understood through stereotypes in the media and the general community, are many, varied and nuanced.
There’s a great quote from Ruth Morton, who says the stereotypes range from “social 'misfits': either 'tree-hugging hippies', religious fanatics or 'hothousing' parents determined that their offspring should achieve academic excellence at an early age” (Morton, 2012, pp. 45-46). We can see from this quote that Ruth believes the stereotypes of home education families are hippies, the religious or those who are determined to give their child every leg up (the snowplow, helicopter or tiger parents of popular parlance).
However, Ruth’s and my own research has shown it’s far more nuanced and individual than the stereotypes suggest. My work has suggested parents who choose to home educate do so for a number of, not mutually exclusive, reasons.
Glenda Jackson, in her 2009 PhD thesis, describes these reasons as push and pull factors (Patrick, 1999). These factors were evident in a Life Matters segment on ABC radio in 2014 where John Kaye, the New South Wales senator leading the inquiry into home education in Australia discussed the government’s interest in home education (you can listen to the piece here).
These families would experience the pull factors. In the words of Jackson (2009), they may be enamoured with the “positive features of home education” or believe in the “negative aspects of traditional schools” (p. 14). These parents may choose for religious reasons, for example Christian families who do not want their children exposed to the small ‘l’ liberal, irreligious attitudes of teachers. These parents may also believe that schooling interrupts family relationships, is unnatural and does not facilitate socialisation with outside age peers (cf. English, 2013; 2014; 2015; Jackson, 2009).
These families may have had children who experienced high levels of distress in schools because of bullying, various intellectual and social impairments, achievement needs that cannot be met in schools or because they are ADHD, ASD or some other specific situation that the inflexibility of schools cannot address.
Many of these parents describe their children as “twice exceptional”, a term implying children are highly gifted but also have social and emotional needs that make mainstream schools unable to cater to their needs. These children usually start their education in a mainstream school at prep but may then be moved around to several other schools as parents search for a viable alternative. By year 3 or year 5, they may be home educating as their parents give up on the mainstream schooling system and find they have to DIY their children’s education.
While there is a good deal of research on school refusal suggesting there are two groups of refusers (separation anxious whose mother was likely also a school refuser and phobic school refusers who have a phobia of schools), little of this research has been undertaken in the home education community.
Further, anecdotal experiences of friends and colleagues who’ve described their own children who either hate school or don’t want to go anymore and who “would love to stay home and be homeschooled” suggests school refusal may be a significant push factor toward home education choice. In my own experience, it is school refusal that means my children will be home educated for a few years yet.
In addition to the reasons for choice, some research does exist on the types of home education. The types were featured at the New South Wales inquiry into home education in 2014. Findings from the inquiry suggest the NSW senate categorised home education as “structured”, “unit”, “classical”, “Charlotte Mason”, “eclectic”, “unschooling or natural learning” and “other approaches”.
My work, mainly with unschoolers, suggests the categories are much more fluid than is suggested by the work of the inquiry which may have struggled to understand some of the approaches.
Structured approaches are those that follow the curriculum more closely. These approaches may involve distance education (in Queensland, distance education packages can be purchased even where families are in close proximity to schools), purchasing curriculum from overseas (in many cases, religious home educators will purchase materials from the USA), or those who follow the Australian Curriculum closely in their approach. Some of those structured approaches would include the unit or classical models outlined in the inquiry documents. Many of these families have at least one teacher in the family (see my discussion here).
Unstructured home educators are generally understood to be “Charlotte Mason” or unschoolers whose approach is defined by Holt and Farenga (2009) as “allowing children as much freedom to learn in the world as their parents can comfortably bear". While Holt coined the term, he preferred the label natural learning.
Scholars such as Carlo Ricci use terms such as self-determined learning (2014) or a willed curriculum (2012) to define the approach (Ricci and I are currently working on a special edition of a journal dedicated to the practice which will be available soon, the call for papers has recently closed).
In my research, I was mainly exploring the motivations of unschool families in Queensland. The results of my research have been published in the Journal of Unschooling and Alternative Learning (2015), a book I edited about online connections among men and women (2016) and a piece I wrote with Karleen Gribble of the University of Western Sydney focusing on out of home care and home education families (2016).
I found most families who identified with unschooling did so because they were strong believers in their children’s natural motivation or inclination to learn, trusted their children, were able to see their children learning in a way that suited them and saw a noticeable improvement in their children’s happiness with the approach. However, I did not see many families who exclusively unschooled, many for various reasons, did a combination of unschooling and some book work, often motivated by snide remarks from family members.
The effectiveness of home education in Australia is under-researched. In a field that is notoriously lacking in rigorous research, there is even less on the effectiveness of home education. It’s notable the Select Committee on Home Education findings focusing on student outcomes included an anecdotal section in the report.
The report listed research work by Cairns (2002) whose small scale study found 78% of graduates of home education went on to university of technical education securing jobs in technical, scientific, teaching or nursing. I cited the work of Ray (2003; 2014) who found, in the United States,
Following from this inquiry, a study was commissioned by the NSW senate to explore NAPLAN results in home education and mainstream school students.
The findings of this study were that home educated students outperformed their conventionally schooled peers. On all six NAPLAN measures: reading, narrative writing, persuasive writing, spelling, grammar and punctuation as well as numeracy, home educated students outperformed their conventionally schooled peers. It is significant that these effects persisted even if previously home educated students returned to school.
While the study was a small sample size, as few home educated students undertake NAPLAN testing, the study suggests home educated students are able to perform well on standardised tests and measures of effectiveness. You can see me talking about the report here.
As the norms and constructs of our society shift over time, and legislation on vaccination requirements and religious education in public schooling change, so too do parent's motives for home educating their children. The huge gap between home educating parents and the state and federal education governing bodies needs to close.
Like it or not, homeschooling is here to stay, and our government should be doing all it can to better understand the motivations and the effectiveness of home education, so that it can champion Australian homeschoolers to succeed and flourish.
What were your reasons for choosing homeschooling? Do you agree with Dr English? Share your thoughts in our comment box below.
Dr Rebecca English
Researcher at QUT
Dr Rebecca English is a researcher and lecturer in Education at Queensland University of Technology. Her work is concerned with the reasons parents make the education choices they make for, and with, their children. After her PhD, she has focused on alternative education choices, in particular home education. Rebecca has published book chapters, journal articles and popular pieces on home education and was invited to speak at the New South Wales Inquiry into Home Schooling. She is a mother of two young children, one of whom has asked to be home educated.
Click the social icons to share this photo on Pinterest or Facebook.