The End of Home-Ed: Where Are The Parents Now?

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The End of Home-Ed: Where Are The Parents Now?

The End of Home-Ed: Where Are The Parents Now?

Home educators sometimes wonder what life will hold after the home-ed journey is over. Some  feel lost, even down, particularly when the ending is unexpected. Others feel excited, having made plans for new adventures. 

Here are some personal accounts from former home educators. HEN would like to thank Jean, Carol, Dora and Jeanie for taking the time to share their thoughts with us. We hope their words offer some inspiration and also comfort to those who may be feeling blue about the end of their home-ed journey.

Jean

How long were you home educating, and how old were your kids?

We home educated for about ten years, other than a couple of short periods when all our children were at school.

How did you feel when your home educating was over?

It wasn’t a sudden end, our kids grew up and incrementally transitioned to tertiary education and then I found I was no longer describing myself as a home educator. But in fact, I had been gradually stepping back and letting them take over the reins for years. So it didn’t feel like a transition really, just a natural progression. 

How did your life change? What did you do? What are you doing now?

It took me a long time to figure out what I wanted to do next. I had been organising my life around the family for so long I’d almost forgotten how to even think about what I wanted for myself. I went back to school teaching because we needed the money, but it’s not what I want to be doing long term. I’m still trying to make a career transition years later. 

What advice would you give to those approaching this stage?

Do put some time into thinking about what you want for yourself and your own career. It’s easy with the busyness of home education to forget that there will be a life afterwards! I loved home educating but life does go on. If there’s something you really want to do, try to prioritise retraining for yourself. After so many years putting one’s children first, it’s too easy to keep prioritising their further education over your own.

How did your experience of home education inform your post-home-ed choices?

Not as much as I would like, unfortunately. I found my home-ed experience gave me a really different perspective on life, and I still think outside the box a lot more than many people. But it seems these are qualities not appreciated by employers. Even when employers say they are looking for innovative thinkers, they want to see a standard-looking CV. I’m not sure how a person who has lived their whole life in the ‘normal’ rut is supposed to have outside-the-box ideas, but there it is. Finding a niche where I fit is challenging. But I am persisting!

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Carol

How long were you home educating, and how old were your kids?

I decided to home educate my daughter when she was two years old. Once she had turned five or six (or whatever age school starts), nothing changed in the way we’d been doing things. She started school—her choice—when she was 14. My son, four years younger, started one-day-a-week school when he was 15. I was out of the workforce for almost 20 years.

How/why did your home-ed journey end; was it sudden/unexpected?

Just as there was no abrupt or formal beginning to our home educating life, there was also no abrupt or formal ending to it. My daughter continued to socialise with friends she had made through home education, independently and at family gatherings. My son went to school part-time in his teens and stayed in touch with friends he’d made through home education. Socialising was a big part of the way we did education without school. We did more of it than we did formal learning. The socialising didn’t end because the official school leaving age had been reached. It faded very gradually, but never completely. We went into it without a bang, and we came out of it without a bang.

How did you feel when your home educating was over?

I felt heartsick when my daughter wanted to go to school. I resisted it. But she was determined and I didn’t stop her. She displayed grit and I was in awe of that. I grieved for a long time about our home-ed-life ending. It felt to me that I was losing something I couldn’t bear to lose. I was sad, helpless and overwhelmed thinking about it. Sometimes, to this day, when I think about how central home educating had been in my life, how much of myself I gave to it, and how energised I had been (on balance, despite a lot of tiredness), fully committed to something I was passionate about, it takes my breath away.

How did your life change when home-ed ended? What did you do? What are you doing now?

I returned to study (professional writing) and returned to my old occupation (editing). As my children needed me less—or seemed to need me less than I seemed to need them—I gradually built up a business from home. It doesn’t pay very well but has other satisfactions. I stay in touch with friends from my home education days. The friends, and those years, are dear to me, precious.

What advice would you give to those approaching this stage?

Go easy on yourself, and your children, if you see yourself, and them, as ambassadors for home education.

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Dora

How long were you home educating, and how old were your kids?

My children were born in 1990 and 1995. There are roughly four and a half years between them. I began home educating when my eldest daughter was school age. Although not a lot changed from previous years. We had always spent a lot of time talking, reading to the children, going on interesting trips, but I guess that’s when we started participating in home ed groups. When she was six we went to our first camp at Raymond Island.

How/why did your home-ed journey end; was it sudden/unexpected?

Around the age of 16, each of the girls took a path towards higher education. This kind of happened because it was at that age we lost Centrelink money for them. The eldest did a combination of VCE subjects via Distance Ed and Open Uni subjects. It was the latter that got her into uni to do social work. Our younger daughter did a couple of days a week of VCAL at the local neighbourhood centre. She also did Textiles at our secondary college and a Certificate of Hospitality by travelling to Melbourne once a week for a year. We live near Daylesford. At 17 she was invited to do a traineeship in admin at the neighbourhood centre. She is now 25 and has only been out of work for six months. Both our girls left home at 20.

So basically we home educated most of their school lives and were also very involved in their education right up to the time they left home. My eldest still often ran work past me during her second, recent degree in Health and Nutrition. So no, not sudden or unexpected, just a natural progression.

How did your life change when home-ed ended? What did you do? What are you doing now?

When my younger daughter was 16 I went back to part-time work. Our eldest had moved to Geelong to go to Deakin. I still had to do a lot of taxi service until both had their licences as we live out of town. I also began training as a yoga teacher, and after I graduated I switched to teaching. I love it. I have been teaching yoga for about 10 years. I also teach a lot of workshops on making natural health care products, and also more recently, how to make beeswax wraps as a plastic replacement. We still live on our 40-acre property with a big garden and orchard so that keeps me busy. I am involved in several community groups in Daylesford. I have a very close and special relationship with my kids. 

How did you feel when your home educating was over?

I mainly missed the camps as they were a big part of our lives. I even went to a couple without the kids as I had a lot of my own friends who still had some younger children. We also had a great social group with people from all over Victoria and still get together regularly to this day. A group of us also go on holidays together. Whenever there are significant birthdays we get together as the kids always have an open invitation to parents and siblings as well as their peers. It’s great and so I never really miss anything. It just changed but never really ended.

What advice would you give to those approaching this stage?

Advice is difficult as things have probably changed a lot. I found my children didn’t know what they wanted to do … no burning passions. We tried not to put pressure on them to go in a particular direction. University is not necessarily the best thing to do. Our younger daughter with minimal formal education and living in a small country town has had an easier time getting jobs than our older daughter with two degrees living in a city. I think trades are an excellent choice as they are guaranteed lots of work. Other careers vary greatly in how easy it is to get work. Lots of Uni kids are not working in the field of their degree if they can even get work. And often their jobs don’t equate with their level of education and the time and money they have sunk into it. My younger daughter (with her partner, an electrician) has bought a home already. So consider all options.

How did your experience of home education inform your post home-ed choices?

I don’t think home-ed really had any influence on my choices. I have been a primary school teacher, a librarian, a receptionist and a garden designer in my working life, mostly before kids, so I often change what I’m doing. This is the last change though as I am coming up to the pension in the next few years.

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Jeanie 

How long were you home educating, and how old were your kids?

We began home educating our only child in 1999. M was four and a half and asking what the symbols were on the packaging. We had chosen not to send him to kinder due to his difficult ADHD behaviours and a belief that kinder develops peer relationships too early in place of family relationships and cultural values. We were then a home educating family for M through to the end of year 12, and for the two years following, as he completed a degree online via Open University. I did the bulk of the teaching and of facilitating learning, but it was a joint parent decision initially and then M’s choice after the first three years to continue this form of education, each year.  

We consider that we were in home education for fifteen-plus years of our family life. 

How/why did your home-ed journey end; was it sudden/unexpected?

Our home education lifestyle ended when our son completed his degree and left home … to go to Melbourne so that he could add his Honours year with daily lab-based work, not possible from home.  

This was a gentle evolution from M’s year 10. Then we had sought out as much ‘work experience’ as we could for M so that he could get an idea of what he would like to do for his future. His seventh choice was to go into a lab at a Melbourne University research organisation. He came home from that saying he needed to have his masters degree to do the work there and that is what he wanted to do. This is really when the seeds of the end of home education began.

He found a pathway to start uni online in the science subject area he needed for this future. From here, there was a gradual move into more online tertiary learning with me as back up for discussions and how-to’s, and at the same time providing traditional learning area subjects appropriate to senior secondary education. 

In M’s year 12 year, we took a family ‘end of school’ type trip to Europe, with him being responsible for many organisational tasks. But M was already on this uni pathway, so that was a blurred beginning/end too.

M completed his Bachelor of Applied Science degree at home within two more years. We all felt that the real end to home education was when this was celebrated at the RMIT Uni graduation ceremony in December 2016. 

How did you feel when your home education was over ?

My husband says he felt ‘relieved’, but he had worked full-time, so it was different for me taking the bulk of the home education load. However, I honestly can’t remember how I felt along the evolution to the ending of home-ed, except for parental ‘pride’ at his graduation ceremony. 

That evolution included a ‘peace’ in seeing an ADHD person becoming what he wanted to be and knowing that if he had gone through traditional schooling those choices would never have been possible. We had always felt very comfortable with the choices we made as a family for him and the outcomes it has given him as an ADHD person overcoming difficulties and honing skills that can be positive traits as an adult. Our focus through the difficult ADHD time was always that we were planning and preparing him for life as an adult and that we wouldn’t know if what we were doing would be successful or not until he was in his mid-20s (when brains are ‘matured’). 

Once something is over, you can reflect on it and think about how you feel about it. That has only been possible in the last year. M is now in his mid-20’s and we are delighted that he is the research scientist he strove to be and has not had behavioural problems since his early teens, but does have great awareness of the strengths of ADHD and how to use them.  

For me, the years spent in home education, as our son’s main facilitator of learning/teacher, was the most rewarding and valuable education that I have done in a forty-year teaching career.  

How did your life change when home-ed ended/what did you do/what are you doing now?

My husband says, the only change for him was that he went to hockey alone – it was something he had done with M – and he has continued to play for his own enjoyment. As I had worked casually from a home base in environmental education from before M was born, through the HE years and beyond, life just evolved into doing different things in education. I created new annual International Years based projects that drew on our home education learning style perspective – but I no longer actively shared learning with M.

What else did I do? One critical thing to happen was the Victorian government review of education. There was a real fear that it might have brought negative changes to home education in the mid-2010s. Having been one of the leaders in the mid-2000’s fight for home-ed-friendly Victorian government legislation when it was first brought in for home ‘schoolers’. I was also on the government’s home education advisory committee in that decade, and although no longer an active home educator, I helped home educators make representations to politicians when changes were mooted a few years ago.  

I am also still available as a home ed contact for the Wimmera and go to some Wimmera home-ed meetings, especially to catch up with home ed friends and to meet new people in this area! I do an occasional email of educational opportunities for those in a Wimmera Home Education Group that I set up years ago, and I am still writing the environmental education articles for Otherways. So I don’t think I am actually post-home-ed yet!   

What am I doing in 2020? COVID-19 took away my four casual jobs in education, however, I began a Diploma of Family History online in 2018 and I have put more effort into this, our farm, helping my 90-plus parents in Melbourne and still supporting home education.   

What advice would you give to those approaching this stage?

Good question. ‘Evolve’. I didn’t actually plan for an end to home-ed, but I guess it would depend on what kind of home educator you have been. We have so many different paths as home educating families that I wouldn’t want to suggest any particular way forward. 

How did your experience of home education inform your post home-ed choices?

My husband takes from it, his choice to play hockey – still.   

Home-ed was simply a part of our lifestyle. We considered that educating was possible at any time, anywhere, from almost anything. It was just a part of life. We can keep on learning at any age.

For me, home-ed confirmed something that I had begun exploring some forty years earlier in my Diploma of Education with education concepts that I first read about in Summerhill. I now have personal experience that, for some children, schools are not going to be a good place for their emotional or educational development. Having seen the results of home education, not just in our mid-20’s son, but also some others that were of his cohort, our home-ed experiences have assured me that our fight for a reasonable home ed regime was worth the incredible effort that went into it by so many people and we are still reaping the benefits of that. I will continue to support this choice for education and hope that there continue to be families, whose parent(s) are willing to sacrifice financial rewards for the holistic education of their children in this way.   

Jeanie Clark

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Otherways 165

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