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