Permaculture is about design, observing nature and working with nature.
When we built our home, we faced it north (southern hemisphere), learnt about various building mediums and settled on recycled double brick for the heat transfer. We looked at our energy flows, and decided to have the vegetables growing near the kitchen and where the children play, as that’s where I travel most frequently. The chook shed? Well, that’s adjoining the orchard so the chooks can forage throughout the day and clean up insect pests.
So when it came to education, we observed our children and what natural behaviour is for them. Children are naturally curious, learn through play and do not want to be separated from their families at a young age. Placing them into a school situation is far from natural. Children learn about maths because maths is a part of our world. They learn about reading and writing because they get to the stage where they see a point in it and want to be able to decode it. They learn about their world because they have time to explore it, and have their parents at hand to answer questions, help them find out, and guide their progress.
We also considered the saying, “Children learn what they live.” Unit studies, where a topic is focused on for a few weeks and then moved on from, whether it be health, the environment, gardening or recycling, introduce but do not instill the values taught. We wanted more than that.
We go shopping together. My girls know we go to the local greengrocer because they stock largely local and organic produce. They know our local cheese-maker by name and understand that if we choose to eat meat, we need to find suppliers who have free range/organic for our health and to ensure respect for the lives of the animals. Food is real; it is for sharing and enjoying together. It is also about making ethical choices for nature and our health, and it is learning how to grow and provide it for ourselves. For us, these values are not instilled to this level in schools.
Children are naturally a part of a community. When home educated, they are out in their community. They are comfortable mixing with all ages within the community and understand all the jobs that make it up as they see them in action. The main question posed to home educators is, “what about socialisation?” When we really should be asking that of those whose children are institutionalised five days a week in a seven square metre room in the exclusive company of people their own age. Perhaps we have free range children.
Schools, by the very nature of the beast, have evolved to include a lot of time-wasting and busywork, mixed with a little learning. When learning one-on-one at home, the work isn’t busywork, too easy or too hard, it is at just the right level, at just the right time for the child. We combine natural learning and formalised bookwork at our place and find that bookwork doesn’t take five days of five hours each to accomplish, as is required in schools. This opens up the day for plenty of play; imaginative play, creative play, quiet play, social play and physical play.
Children are naturally curious. Permaculture is about designing with nature. Home education allows for children to learn naturally.
Jackie and her husband Gary home educate their three girls on the Mornington Peninsula. Her background is in early childhood and primary education. She has also studied environmental education, art, adult teaching and learning, and permaculture design.