Category Archives for Homeschool Graduates

Homeschool graduate: Sophie Cottrell

Perth-based travel expert, Sophie, chats to us about her experience being homeschooled from Year 3 onwards. She explains how she transitioned from Cert IV qualifications to founding a print travel magazine and intrepidly travelling the world.

Sophie Cottrell

Hi Sophie. Lovely to chat to you. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

My name is Sophie Cottrell and I was born and raised in Perth, WA. I currently work full-time for myself and own a travel magazine named Sceen’ry Travel Journal. We create print city guides for around the world that also second as pretty coffee table books. I travel the world shooting for this, but when I am not travelling, I am lucky enough to live in the prettiest place in the world.

How long were you homeschooled for?

My parents started homeschooling me when I was in grade three, and my brother was in grade five. My other two siblings went to school for pre-primary before they both started homeschooling. We all homeschooled the whole way through our schooling years before we went on to further education. Ironically, two of my siblings are now school teachers.

What did learning from home during primary and high school look like for you? Was it curriculum based or more unstructured learning?

We definitely had a structure to our learning in some capacity, otherwise, I think we would have gone a little crazy. I remember on our first day of homeschooling, because I was so used to school, I set the time for recess, lunch and afternoon recess and went around ringing a tiny bell when it was time!

We hit all the main subjects and did some of them all together and then mostly had a structure that my Mum set up for each of us which was tailored to the way we learned. I honestly couldn’t have imagined learning in a better environment as I felt heard and she had the time to really work through the harder subjects with each of us. She also was an incredibly creative teacher, and we learnt some very regular, boring things in such a fun way that I have never forgotten those lessons.

What freedoms did homeschooling give you regarding your choice in what you wanted to study and focus on?

So. Much. Freedom. This is what I reiterate to anyone when they ask me the benefits of homeschooling. We had the world handed to us in a way because we weren’t told that there was a specific way to achieve. We were given tools, and we had the opportunity to put them into action. We spent as much time was needed on harder subjects for us, and we knew the faster we had them done, the faster we could do the things we loved. It was very different for all of us, so it was amazing that we got to focus on our favourite subjects individually.

Many people see ‘socialisation’ in high school as crucial and believe that ‘isolated’ homeschooled children are hugely disadvantaged. What kind of social support system and friendships did you have?

I laugh when people say this to me. If you ever met my family or my friends that were also homeschooled, you will find that we are some of the most social people. We can totally handle doing things on our own but we definitely know how to socialise, and I think in a way, we had more social opportunities than my friends in school.

Tell us about completing year 12. Did you do the leaving certificate or an equivalent? Did you go to university or TAFE? If so, what did you study?

So, I finished my year 12 equivalent studies by the time I was 15 ½ and then went on to further education. I had a Certificate IV in Creative Arts and Certificate IV in International Retail Travel Sales by the time my friends finished high school and then went into full-time work in the corporate world at 18.

TEE was the equivalent exams at the end of year 12, but I didn’t do those. Because I was doing further education already, that was complete enough for me to get into university. A minimum requirement for entry into a lot of degrees is a Certificate IV. There are so many other ways to get into university without doing those exams and so I knew if that was the path I wanted to take I could get in.

What do you do for work now?

As I said, I work for myself and have two other girls working for me. I launched Sceen'ry Travel Journal almost two years ago now.

Looking back on your experience being homeschooled, how would you say that being home educated has impacted you and your choices in life?

I wouldn’t be doing what I am doing without having been home educated. This directly impacted my choices and gave me so much experience to be able to run my own business. Self-motivation gets ingrained in you as you have to be the one that makes sure you are on top of all your study, especially in high-school. I am so grateful to have had all the life experience that I have at such a young age.

What advice would you give to parents who are considering whether to homeschool their child?

It is such a massive sacrifice making this decision. It requires giving so much of yourself. Don’t ever pressure yourself into either putting your child in school or homeschooling, only you know what is right for them. I don’t think being home-educated is 100% the right decision for every child, I think there are some that thrive more than others.

You know your child, and the advantage of homeschooling is you get the opportunity to see them thrive and get to know them on a level that so many others miss out on. As hard as it is, it is also an honour and privilege to get to do it. And being on the receiving end, I am forever grateful for my parents doing it. Sign up for loads of activities with other kids and make sure you surround yourself with a like-minded community, so you don’t feel alone.

What advice would you give to homeschooled teenagers about considering their future careers and exploring their interests in a real-world context?

Don’t feel like you have to fit in a box. The decision you make now doesn’t have to be the career choice for the rest of your life. What motivates you? What gets you out of bed in the morning? Do something that makes you come alive, and I bet it is a pathway to something that you will find along the way. I never set out to start a print magazine, but being in the travel industry was what set me up to do what I am doing today.

Take all the pressure off and enjoy what you are doing.

Sophie Cottrell

Sophie Cottrell

Contributor

Sophie was homeschooled from grade 3 onwards. She later graduated and became full-time in the corporate travel industry. She now runs her own business, a print travel magazine and travels around the world in the process. She's on Instagram @sophiecottrell and @sceenrymag.

Homeschool graduate: Myla Yeomans

Brisbane-based graphic designer Myla Yeomans shares what homeschooling was like growing up, and how it enabled her family to travel Australia long-term.

Myla Yeomans

Hi Myla, thanks for chatting to us. Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Myla. I was homeschooled/unschooled and grew up primarily in Brisbane and Byron Bay, although my family travelled a bit as well.

I studied Graphic Design and recently started working for an Indigenous Creative Agency.

How long were you homeschooled for and why did your parents choose home education?

I have never attended school. The approach to my education that my parents took was based on my interests.

I was born in Brisbane, and at age three my parents decided to set off in an old Coaster bus and travel around Australia. About a year into our travels, my parents received a letter of acceptance for a place in the local community preschool. As my mother tells it, she opened the letter and read it aloud, but before she had the chance to find me and ask what I thought, a little voice from the back of the bus yelled out “no way!”. And that was that! We continued to travel.

Camping by the river.

Tell us about travelling around Australia. What did your life look like?

The two years we initially spent travelling around Australia are some of my first and fondest memories. We didn’t have a set agenda, so we travelled slowly often staying in places we liked for weeks at a time. We never had a big budget for the trip, but we didn’t need one. My father is an electrician and as we travelled he was able to pick up bits of work in the towns or caravan parks of the more remote areas we ventured.

Myla learning to camp cook on her trip around Australia.

Our next proper adventure was when I was seven. We paddled down the Murray River living out of out kayaks for three months. Again, some of the best memories of my life.

More recently I've travelled to New Zealand for a holiday, and on a separate trip, to Nepal - to distribute funds we raised after an earthquake.

What did learning from home look like for you? What kind of curriculum did you use?

Taking an unschooling approach, I never had a set curriculum. My parents were eager to expose me to new things, but nothing was ever really forced.
I can imagine it must have been daunting for them when - for the first ten or so years of my life - I showed virtually no interest in “the 3 Rs”, or doing any structured activities. I preferred to give my attention to cubby building, tree climbing, crocheting, recorder playing and lighting fires in the front yard…

Travel-schooling gave Myla a wealth of experiences.

However, as I got older, I realised that I was going to have to learn things that didn’t necessarily fill me with excitement, but were life skills I needed to be proficient in.

My parents found tutors for English and Math, and I attended classes or did online courses for my other interests.

What freedoms did homeschooling give you in terms of your choice in what you wanted to study and focus on?

Total freedom, all the freedoms.

Many people see ‘socialisation’ in high school as crucial, and believe that ‘isolated’ homeschooled children are hugely disadvantaged. What kind of social support system and friendships did you have?

Many of my friends originally came from the homeschooling group we were a part of in Brisbane. The group was a bit of a bubble really, but a nice, inclusive bubble.

Myla on a trip to New Zealand.

We weren’t separated by age, gender, economics, perceived intelligence, religious views or any of the other ways that we would likely have been divided by in the school system. There was no mould to fit into, so we never had to try.

For that reason, I was quite an outgoing child, happy to start up a conversation with anyone. I think that helped me to find and make friends relatively quickly.

Things became a little harder socially when I left the homeschooling group and moved down the coast. I was a pretty odd child by conventional standards, so fitting in with groups of kids my age was a little more of a struggle. Nevertheless, I made friends, and the older I got, the less the people around me seemed to care about “fitting in” anyway.

The whole anti-social homeschooled thing has some merit in the sense that you’re probably not going to walk straight into the “cool group”. That said, I had far closer and more varied friendships than a lot of my friends ever made in school.

Tell us about completing year 12. Did you do the leaving certificate or an equivalent?

I hit the ‘minor’ wall of having an entirely unrecognised education at about fourteen, but after some Googling it was evident that a Certificate IV or Diploma in my chosen field would put me in better running for Uni then having completed the HSC.

The only thing in-between me and the study I wanted to do was a six month TAFE course which gave me the equivalent qualification I would have received for doing 10 years in school… It was a no brainer right!?? With a minimum entry requirement level, I found it easy and completed it in three months by which time I had met a lovely woman teaching in the Design sector who encouraged me to explore my interest in the field further. Two years later, I finished a Cert III, IV and Diploma in Design/Graphic Design.

Hiking in Nepal

What do you do for work now?

I work for a Creative Agency in Brisbane. After finishing my Diploma, I set up a portfolio website, mainly with the intention of working freelance. In between that and travelling, I was ready to have a crack at being self-employed by the beginning of this year. However, after doing freelance work in Brisbane, I was recently offered a job there and now work there full time. A lot of our projects revolve around social change and giving Indigenous Australians an active voice in media. It’s early days for me, but I love it!

Looking back on your experience homeschooling, how would you say that being home educated has contributed to and shaped your life?

For me, I think the experience of being homeschooled has significantly contributed to the way I view the world and my desire to learn from it. Not having a set structure to slot myself into, I grew up always setting and re-setting goals based on my passions and interests. That has certainly shaped my life.

Myla travelled to Nepal as part of a fundraising initiative.

What advice would you give to parents who are considering whether to pull their child out of high school and homeschool them?

School doesn’t suit everyone. If it doesn’t suit your child or the life you want to lead with them, there’s no need to force it.

I think it's important to expose your kids to as many different experiences as possible, something that is particularly important in the context of homeschooling.

What advice would you give to homeschooled teenagers about considering their future careers and exploring their interests in a real-world context?

Most of us are in the insanely privileged position of being able to choose what we want our “real-world” to look like. I guess you just work back from there. I think it’s important to build a future and career based on that.

If you have kids one day, will you consider homeschooling them and travelling the world?

Most definitely, even if it was just for a few years earlier on. It’s something I’d like to do.

Myla was interviewed by Grace Koelma.

Grace profile image square

Grace Koelma

Editor

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.