An Australian mum who has been homeschooling for eight years reflects on what her concerns were early on in her journey and what life without school looks like for her children now.
We started on this home educating journey eight years ago. At the time I had a shy six-year-old, a bouncy four-year-old and a chubby baby boy of eight months. Looking back, life was simple. My oldest loved to read, and being at home gave her the freedom to read widely. The other two were happy to buzz around, play, go to the park or just do whatever.
Taking the leap
We left the formal education system during April’s grade one year. It was a lot like jumping off a cliff. There was a lot of fear associated with taking that leap. There were a lot of unknowns and a lot of what ifs.
I was one of those mothers who never got used to “the system”. I thought I would, as everyone told me I would. I did think that talking with the school and having meeting after meeting might all lead to some happy solutions, but alas, no.
The theory was, to try home educating for a term and see how we went. If it didn’t work, we could find another school. As that one term came to a close we were having such a lovely time with it that we didn’t even consider another school.
Now that the little grade one child is almost 15, I realise that there would never be another school and that it was the system itself that we had a problem with.
There was quite a lot that I worried about at the time, but now I see how those things have panned out. Some of my major concerns were around making friends, learning, getting time to myself, what they might be missing out on and how they were going to turn out as people.
They will make friends at all ages and stages of life
They may not be a kid of the same age. They may be a grandparent or another grown-up or someone who is way older or younger than them. Friendships happen through commonality, not necessarily because you are the same age.
They will learn
Learning happens in so many ways. The notion that kids learn only when sitting in a classroom or when a qualified teacher is with them has slipped away. Having gone to school ourselves, we are heavily indoctrinated that this is the case. Changing our own beliefs around this is the first step.
Learning happens everywhere
Where you least expect it. Car conversations, chance meetings, quiet time alone, reading… not just in a classroom. Interests are ignited and fed. Dreams are born.
They aren’t missing out
They really aren’t. Well, actually they are missing out on the rushing, the lining up, the forced curriculum, the Naplan testing. You get the picture.
Time alone to pursue your own interests comes eventually
If you need it to come sooner, there is always a way. If you ask it of them, they will learn to give you the space you need.
It’s so worth it
Even for the sacrifices you have to make. The relationship with your kids will be the reward. The gift.
I don’t feel I am their teacher. I facilitate their learning. At times I teach them things. Other times I stand back and let them figure something out, or I stand aside and bring in an expert.
Those precious days when they are little are so fleeting. If I could go back I would stress less and play more. Go on walks, beach trips and bake and just drink in their curiosity.
We have a groove now
I was concerned that being with them all the time could drive me batty. At times, yes it has. But, as humans to hang out with, I enjoy the company of my children. Over all this time we have moulded and melted into a group/team/thing that chugs along at learning, discovering, eating, playing, sleeping, working.
What I try to tell myself now as they get older is that swimming against the tide is hard, we all get worn away by the constant ebbing of water when we are the minority. But, there is a plan for my girls, and their life will unfold, regardless of what I do or say, regardless of their music lessons or art classes, and the beauty of their curiosity will have flourished.
What were your worries early on in your home educating journey? Share in the comments below.
Rachel is a mother to four children. She lives on the beautiful coast of southern Australia and spends her days home educating her family, cooking, gardening and adventuring. She's on Instagram @rachel_parkinson.