For children who are homeschooled from age 5, there will be a natural curiosity in what goes on at school. Here's how one mother handled it when her kids asked if they could try a mainstream school.
By Ally Blase
Hey friends! I'm Ally, wife to Jeremy and mama to three great kids! As a family, we decided to homeschool the year our eldest was due to start prep. Our decision was based both on the lifestyle we preferred, and the fact that we thought our little girl was way too small to be at school! It turned out to be a pretty great decision! We loved the freedom that homeschooling gave us, and when we launched a charity based in South Asia in 2013, the fact that we could leave Australia whenever we needed was a definite bonus.
We travel often, spending months at a time living in Asia, our kids doing school work in mega cities, Starbucks, high rise apartments and dusty rural villages. They have shopped in chaotic markets, pumped water from wells, eaten strange food and been chased by monkeys! Kids learn so much from travelling and experiencing life in other cultures, and I felt as though we were creating an amazing life of learning for our kids.
And then they asked to go to school...
We had arrived home after four months overseas, and our eldest wrote us a letter outlining her reasons for wanting to try school. They seemed well thought out and consisted of things like “learning alongside other kids”, “making school friends” and “seeing what it's like to be taught by a teacher.” At first, we resisted, thinking that she may change her mind. The problem was, she didn’t.
One thing I have always loved about homeschooling is that education can be personalised, children can follow interests and exert control over what and how they learn. As our daughter continued to ask, and now our son too, we began to see that maybe by letting them try school it was perhaps just an extension of that personalised education.
Eventually, we concluded that going to school for a season did not completely detract from the homeschooling path we had chosen, it was just another part of life to experience.
Finding the right school
I had no idea where to look, I had never looked for a school before and all I knew was that I did not want to send them to our local school. In fact, I had a long list of things I didn't want in a school which made the decision that much harder! How do you find the right school for your kid, when you're convinced that home is so much better?
We called a few schools, most expressing a lot of disdain over the fact that our kids had never been to ‘real’ school before. Their immediate response was that our kids would need a lot of testing before they would be accepted or placed in a grade, and that was not what I wanted their school experience to be like. Eventually, we found a gorgeous little school with 50 kids located 30 minutes away from our home. The staff there were amazing and so welcoming. In contrast, they didn't want to place endless tests on our kids but wanted to come alongside them and support them in their new journey.
Our year-long experience at school
Our kids really enjoyed their 12 months at school. For all the backlash homeschoolers get over socialisation and keeping up academically, our kids managed to slip into school life well. They weren't behind academically and really enjoyed the social side of school. Sport, book week, art classes and peer group learning actives were some of their highlights, and they leave school now with wonderful memories and some great little friends!
Like all things though, there were some things we didn't enjoy. From our parent perspective, our kids were always tired. Our youngest, Tillie, started Kindy at the beginning of this year and has been emotional ever since. We often felt like we only saw them when they were completely exhausted. We were rushing out the door first thing in the morning, grabbing bags, lunches and trying not to be late, and then rushing around in the evenings with homework, dinner, and bedtime. Weekends were our only down time, and while that may be the norm in most households, I missed the slow mornings and quality time together that homeschooling gave us.
As the months at school went by, our kids started telling us that they missed being able to learn about the things they were interested in. They would often be working away at something they loved but had to put it away to start a new subject.
They began to notice the restriction of a school timetable and having to work around a classroom of other kids. As these conversations about what they missed continued, and our family made plans to travel more full-time we decided to finish this season at school and begin homeschooling again.
Looking back, I'm glad our kids wanted to try school, that experience has boosted their confidence, stretched their social skills and given them an understanding of what other kids do each day. It also gave me 12 months to concentrate on my work, and have uninterrupted coffee dates, which I must admit, has been pretty awesome!
The next step in our journey...
As we now walk into our next season, homeschooling and travel, I know our kids are excited to be back in control of their learning. They have a list of things they want to learn, and are eagerly anticipating spending more time in other cultures, perfecting their foreign language skills and in the words of my ten-year-old: ‘living the dream.'
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Ally is the director of Sparrow International and a homeschooling mama to three. Ally, her husband and children have the privilege of traveling a lot and love being able to work and do school in many exciting places! Some of her favourite things include adventuring with her family, good books, long walks on the beach and blank journals.