Then and Now

Faye C

Ahh, those early days of my family’s home education journey! I had our Happy Homeschool House all planned out about ten years ago— something along the lines of perfectly co-operative children who would happily sit down and complete ‘work’ without a problem. My two children were going to be the poster children for home ed and beautiful sibling relationships. Too easy! Of course, reality can look quite different. 

The Dream: Setting my five-year-old up with some bookwork while I cleaned the house. 

The Reality: My son could not cope with me leaving the room and I needed to be seated next to him at all times. I might have managed to sneak out once to use the toilet, and that was still a race against time. As for cleaning the house, my son went through a phase of creating a rubbish dump in the middle of the lounge room, which was made up pretty much anything he could get his hands on. 

The Dream: A perfectly neat teacher’s planner that would solve all the problems of the world. 

The Reality: I’d spent a week filling in our first home education week, all in pencil, taking care not to crease the pages. Our first official day of home ed arrived so I turned to Monday’s schedule. Art first thing. Except son wasn’t in an arty mood. No matter, I’ll just erase Art for now and slot it in after lunch. There’s a knock on the door, family have arrived unannounced. They stay the whole day. I erase all of Monday and slot it in to Tuesday and Wednesday, feeling a slight sense of panic that our first day was a write off. Tuesday arrives, son sleeps in, so the morning schedule needs to be pushed down a bit. Thank heavens for greylead pencil and erasers. The phone rings, a relative invites us over as she’s cooked a dish we like. Off we go, goodbye Tuesday in the teacher planner. Instead of erasing and rewriting, I now use arrows to show that this scheduled work for Tuesday is now floating over to the columns for the rest of the week. Wednesday arrives, son wakes up sick. The next few days involve him staying in bed. I look sadly at my pretty teacher’s planner wondering where it all went wrong. The planner was supposed to be the cornerstone of Learning Stuff! 

I tried again for week two, before admitting defeat— life and last-minute hiccups quickly rendered the planner obsolete. “But it’s such a good planner I spent money on!” I wailed, so I did try again over the next couple of years before realising once and for all that my family life just doesn’t abide by what is pencilled in a planner day by day, in such fine detail. 

The Dream: Teaching my son one of my favourite subjects (Geography) with an oldschool atlas. 

The Reality: Sitting down all snuggled on the couch, me introducing the Special Atlas with pomp and ceremony. I turn to the pages showing the Great Pyramid of Giza, demonstrating how we can use atlases to find the location, all the while using my wise geography-sage voice. Son jumps up, runs off and comes back with his head buried in my mobile phone. Calm Geography Teacher is replaced with Annoyed Mum about to remind child this is Geography time not device time, when son happily announces, “Here are the pyramids and look if you do this, you get this kind of view and if you do this it calculates the distance from a point and if you do this…” Thank you, Google. Want to guess how many times we broke out the Special Atlas after that? Yet all these years later, with my son almost fourteen years of age, I’ve stubbornly held on to the atlases. 

The Dream: The cosy Homeschool Room where learning is a joy! 

The Reality: We have a sunroom that, for reasons unknown given life experience, is still designated the Homeschool Room. Think large desk, art supplies, all the books on the shelves separated into subject areas, my teaching resources, the token globe…take a guess as to how often we use the Homeschool Room for schooly stuff. 

I think for a lot of us, it’s fair to say the Home Education Room is pretty much the kitchen, the floor of the lounge room, the back yard or Mum’s desk. 

The Dream: My older child teaching his younger sister while my heart swells with motherly pride. 

The Reality: Me frazzled in the middle of a cooking mishap and my daughter, then four years old, wanting my attention while I’m trying to juggle pots of boiling water in a shoebox-sized kitchen. My son asking for help with the spelling tiles he was using and me thinking to myself arghgh not nowww kids. Son then pipes up with “Don’t worry mummy, I’ll teach D how to spell! Come here D!”. My daughter sits down all adoring-like next to her big brother and my heart is close to bursting with love and pride as I hear my son explaining how to use the letter tiles to make words. One of those sweet parenting moments where I begin planning how my son can take a more mentor kind of role because he has the magical power to make his sister sit still and listen, a power his mother has yet to harness. I hear my son run off giggling while my daughter comes up to me with the little spelling whiteboard, “Look Mummy, I spell poo!” 

The Dream: My son spending hours creating artwork using the fancy expensive artist colour pencils, purchased when he was a baby and waiting for him to come of age. 

The Reality: He insisted on only ever using black pens. 

The Dream: The walls of our house covered with educational posters that the kids would sit and study studiously. 

The Reality: The kids think it’s just wall, and the posters have been there for seven years, except for summer when the blu-tack melts and the posters fall down. 

The Dream: A perfectly tidy house. 

The Reality: BWAHAHAHAHA. 

The Dream: The kids sitting together in our Happy Homeschool House while I read aloud and have them do a co-operative activity. 

The Reality: “Tell her to stop touching me!” 

The Dream: “Oooh this resource on brains/ancient civilisations/ Parliament/ atoms/ flowers/ human body looks brilliant, I will be using this all the time now that I’ve spent money on it!” 

The Reality: Ten years later I clean out my shelves and computer files and find a ton of never- used resources and forgotten online subscriptions. 

The Dream: Many relaxing cups of tea during the day. 

The Reality: Finding a cold full cup of tea waiting for me hours after I made it. 

The Dream: Our Happy Homeschool House Library, where my children would spend hours poring over reference books and deciding which DK children’s encyclopaedia they’d read next. 

The Reality: Hundreds of books on our shelves barely earn a second glance because my son’s admittedly well-researched argument was always that the books were obsolete, and the latest information can be found online and why would he want to read an astronomy book printed years before gravitational waves were a discovered thing? 

Home education doesn’t always turn out the way we planned! But that’s one of the beautiful aspects of it: we can tailor it to best suit our individual children or family and we can adapt on the run. Our children are all unique and our family needs are all so different and so it’s important to find what works best for your family, even if that involves a fair bit of trial and error to begin with. 

Whatever path you choose should be what works best for your family. Remember that you are able to choose how to do things and you will find what works best in time. Whether that involves a teacher planner filled in with pen (go you and your confident self!) or waking up and planning your day around the weather forecast with no plans to get out of your pyjamas, it’s all okay! 

Otherways 157

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