Paying it Forward

From Little Things
August 5, 2020
Living Science
August 31, 2020
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Paying it Forward

By Sue Wight

I delight in the fact that home education has grown so significantly over the last twenty years.
The HEN community I joined way back in 2000 was only 86 families whereas we now have over 1000.

While small, the early community was very active and characterised by a culture of skill-sharing. Some were good at maths but lost with craft activities, and for others the reverse was true. We took turns at organising a huge variety of activities, excursions and camps. And we all reaped the benefits of each other’s efforts.

That’s a culture I hope to see continue amidst the tremendous growth of our community.

Making the switch to home education can involve a big mental shift — not only do you take on the responsibility of educating your children, but you move from an outsourcing culture to a sharing culture.

We all pitch in. Whether you run activities, organise excursions, manage program subscriptions, take on a committee role or organise a camp, you’ll reap the benefits of everyone’s efforts as well as your own.

We know that it can take a while for newbies to settle in, that’s fine. For some of you, personal circumstances or children’s needs preclude you stepping up — rest easy, we understand. But if that’s not you and you haven’t yet organised something, I encourage you to make 2020 the year you do so.

The best starting point is something that interests your kids. Have you ever thought, “Why doesn’t anyone organise an activity in my neighbourhood?” or “I wish someone would organise an excursion to…” or “What we need is an incursion on…”

Guess what? You can do it! Every home ed activity is organised by a parent just like you.

More than that, I encourage you to run them as HEN events with member prices. Some home educators like to set up independent websites and brand their own excursions. I think there are huge advantages in doing things under the HEN umbrella instead. With HEN behind you, you are being covered by HEN’s volunteer insurance together with promotion of your event through our website and email list. The advantage to the community can be a larger variety of activities with member prices, which you can share when other members organise things.

In these COVID days, we’ve taken our extra Zoom accounts to facilitate online get-togethers. Members can use these to run academic or social events. We currently have photography lessons, baking club, MOOcs, bookclubs, play meets and more happening. What’s your passion? What are your kids’ interests? Why not run something to match? Email Miriam at with the details of what you’d like to do and we’ll set up a timeslot for you and put the word out.

Are you familiar with the concept of paying-it- forward? It is based on the knowledge that we seldom get to return a favour someone does us. ‘Paying-it-forward’ allows us to pass the favour on to someone else. Many of us have gained so much through home education and by paying it forward, we can help keep our community strong for future home educators.

Way back in 1992, a small but dedicated group stood up for educational independence in Victoria against the outrageous Out of School Education Bill.

At the time, I was lost in a joyful babymoon with my firstborn. I had no idea I would one day need to home educate, and no idea that this small group was making it possible.

I will always be grateful that they made a stand — many of them with a vision beyond their own families. The opportunity to pay-it-back never arose, but the opportunity to pay-it-forward did. In 2006-07 and again in 2016-17, I was part of a new generation of home educators who stood up for home education freedom.

I did it for you, and I’d love you to pay-it-forward by maintaining a strong sharing culture within the HEN community for the future.

We live in a society that only values paid work, but home education, and being supportive of others, certainly meets my definition of what John Holt called ‘meaningful work’.

Let’s pay it forward.


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