I live in Moe, Victoria, and have two sons aged 12 and 10 . Until the beginning of 2016 neither son had been to school.
I chose home education primarily because I really enjoyed spending time with my children and did not want to hand them over to others for a large part of each day. Secondly, having worked as a primary school teacher myself (before having children), I knew full well the weaknesses of the school system. As a teacher I found myself becoming increasingly frustrated with rigid and limiting curriculum, endless testing and a lack of support services.
During my sons’ preschool years, I read many books on child development and I started to ponder the idea of home education. Through everyday life experiences such as shopping, reading together, going for walks and playing outdoors, my children were developing a keen interest in their environment, and this naturally included an interest in letters, words and numbers. Why not simply continue on in this way, providing materials and experiences and let the learning occur spontaneously? That is how our journey into home education began.
For the next seven years the boys and I enjoyed a varied and productive home educating lifestyle. As the years went on I gradually introduced more structure into our days, with set times for literacy, maths, science, music and art. The boys were happy and made good progress at home. Our curriculum was broad and negotiable, with the boys having lots of input into what was studied. We were actively involved in our local home education group and in many community activities including sports, scouts and swimming.
However, life changed significantly at the start of 2016 when our family decided to give traditional schooling a go. Ultimately it was a family decision but my husband was the initial driving force behind the change. 2015 was my elder son’s last year of primary schooling and so discussion began between my husband and me on what we would do for the secondary school years. The communication and negotiations that followed tested our interpersonal skills to the maximum. Suffice to say it was not easy to reach an agreement. Nevertheless, we finally agreed to send our elder son, Aaron, to school full-time, starting in year seven at our local state secondary college.
Luckily, Aaron was quite excited by the idea. While he had enjoyed being educated at home, and had several good friends, he was curious about what school had to offer. Our younger son Liam was less enthusiastic. He knew he would miss his older brother terribly while he was away at school. We gave Liam the choice of starting school too but he wasn’t keen on that either.
While it was possible for Liam to continue at home, I wanted him to have enough information to make an informed choice. We visited a fewlocal primary schools for a tour. Still hesitant, but a little more enthusiastic, Liam decided he would like to try school but wanted to continue meeting up with his home educated friends. Luckily our local primary school was happy to enrol Liam at 0.8 with every Friday off, so that he could continue seeing his friends at our regular home education gatherings.
So far this arrangement has been working well. Both boys are happy at school and enjoying the new experiences that formal education has to offer. The sports programmes are a particular favourite as well as science and the arts. While the boys are enjoying school, their home education background has given them a well-rounded perspective through which to view the interactions within the classroom and playground. They are each quietly confident in their abilities and have a solid sense of self- worth. Sometimes my sons relate their observations of anti-social and attention-seeking behaviours displayed by a few of their peers but neither feels the need to join in this behaviour to gain acceptance. Both boys seem to be liked by their peers and neither has had an issue with being teased or bullied.
I believe that home education during their formative years has had a wonderfully positive impact on my sons’ development. Without a home education start to life I doubt that they would be as positive, self-confident and respectful as they are today. The time spent together as a family, playing board games, reading stories in bed, playing outdoors, cooking, crafting and studying has forged strong connections built upon love and understanding.
Our home education group (Gippsland Educators) has been like an extended family and has been of tremendous support. Meeting twice a month for a variety of hall-based activities and excursions, this group was (and still is) something to look forward to. The group welcomes everyone. Its members come from diverse backgrounds and have chosen home education (full-time or part-time) for a wide variety of reasons. Home education approaches vary greatly among members but we respect one another, as we all know that there are many different ways to bring up healthy, happy children.
So there you have it. That’s our home education story from start to finish. I am a little sad that our years as a home educating family are over but I genuinely believe that the benefits of those seven precious years will live on for many, many more to come.
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