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August 3, 2020
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August 11, 2020
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From Little Things

I’m a HEN volunteer, so I have the chance to speak to lots of new home educators, and see a variety of learning plans. So many parents doubt their abilities, worry that they will not ‘cover everything’, that they are ‘not doing enough’ or that they won’t pass a review.

I’m a worrier too, so I know where they are coming from, but I’m constantly amazed by the resourcefulness and ingenuity shown by new home educators. Many of them have children who have not thrived within the system, due to diverse learning needs not being met, bullying, anxiety etc, and the legacy of these negative experiences can create additional challenges, yet they have risen to meet them.

I’ve seen plans put together in a few days by parents with no experience of home education that were extremely sophisticated. Plans that managed to be innovative and deep, even though the children in question sometimes had very specific needs. It would not be possible for teachers within the system to create a plan that individualised. But these parents truly know their children, and understand how to work with their strengths whilst supporting them in areas of weakness, and this shines through in their plans.

Today I spoke to a lady who had all the usual worries, but it was immediately clear to me that she was doing a great job. She mentioned multiple ways in which she was facilitating for her autistic child, through an evolving programme that’s building the skills he needs, as well as introducing him daily to new ideas and topics, and building his self-confidence. She’s showing him how to learn, to try new things, to be the best person he can be. I honestly don’t think that she could do a better job, yet the reason this mother contacted HEN was because she’s worried about what would happen if she’s reviewed, and whether she’s doing the right things.

So please, if you sometimes wonder about your own home education journey, take heart. If you are facilitating for your child, if they have interesting activities and experiences, if they are thriving, then what you are doing is working. It doesn’t matter if your version of home ed is not as ‘shiny’ or well planned as the next person, or if your child prefers dismantling domestic appliances to maths. It’s fine if you don’t own any workbooks, or if your child always has her nose in a book. Curricula, styles, approaches are just different ways to look at the journey. No one way is better (or worse), and you can take as much or as little as you like from as many options as you fancy.

Don’t worry about reviews (because you will pass, HEN is here to make sure that you do). Keep records, don’t keep records – do what works for you. Don’t allow yourselves to be swayed by what others are doing, or think that you should be doing. Try not to be concerned if things are not progressing quite as you planned; remember that persistence and flexibility are great qualities and you are modelling these for your child.

And focus on the positive, even more important during these strange times. The mother I spoke to today voiced her fears, but her optimism, pride in her son, and joy in the process shone through. After years of negative experiences, he’s blossoming, learning, gaining in confidence. Silence the nagging doubts for a while, and acknowledge and appreciate what’s working. For children with greater challenges, you may only see little things, but remember – from little things, big things grow.

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  1. Miriam Mollema says:

    You can find some of the groups listed here: https://home-ed.vic.edu.au/groups/

  2. Christine Pettitt says:

    This is a great post. I am trying to find that balance of my need of structure and textbook-style learning, with my sons’ needs of learning the way they do. Have you got any tips on how to get away from my learning style to the way they learn? Yr 7 (Tactile/Visual) & Yr 9 (Visual). And how to record learning?

    • wphen says:

      Thanks for your comment. Sometimes it can be a bit of work trying to find the best approach but fortunately home ed allows us to be flexible and quickly adapt if something isn’t working. Many people start home ed with more of a structure/bookwork style but soon move to a more informal and relaxed approach, particularly if a child is more a visual or tactile learner and those ‘school style’ approaches (such as bookwork or memorisation) don’t work. If your sons learn best a particular way then it may help to think of ways to work with that: hands on activities such as pulling things apart, creating visuals like timelines or using things like maps. Some parents observe that learning about a topic with video instruction is far more successful and takes less time (and sometimes tears!) than using books and activities to learn the same content, especially if the child is able to explain concepts back to you, rather than answer questions in a workbook. Getting the kids involved as well can help, such as asking them what they want to learn about then making a plan with them about what they want to do: this is where the different learning styles can show themselves, for e.g. one child might want to build something while another may prefer to create an artwork, but fundamentally they are still learning regardless of how that learning is presented back. Some families prefer to look at structure as more of a family rhythm, with ‘looser’ routines in place. So there is still the sense of structure, but individual needs can still be met where one still prefers some structure.

      For recording learning, in Victoria we can do that however we want. For some, they like to take a lot of photos while others might prefer to jot down a few sentences every day. Things like online classes or activities outside the home can be input in to a calendar in a way where later, you can use a search or display option to list everything in the calendar assigned to each child. Photos do tend to be popular, as they not only jog the memory but also give you lovely mementos of your home ed journey 🙂

    • Kirsty & Alistair James says:

      Hi Christine. We can certainly give you some help to find a balance that works for you, but it would be much easier over the phone or email, so please do get in touch. https://home-ed.vic.edu.au/contact-us/

    • Miriam Baxt says:

      If you are on Facebook there is a wealth of groups to support you – whether it be a HEN one, a national one or something more local to you.

  3. Carla Cram says:

    I love this, thank you!

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