University Goals and Home Education – A Relaxed Journey into G8 University

Tracey G

‘I will only do it if I know I won’t be hindering them from becoming an astronaut, orthopaedic surgeon or anything in between.’ 

These were my ‘famous last words’ words as my husband and I discussed the option of ‘trialling’ home education. Having had a private school education, tertiary opportunities, and a wonderful job in the medical-health profession, I was adamant this ‘home educating experiment’ should not deny my kids any of the opportunities I had enjoyed. How misinformed and uneducated about this lifestyle choice I was! 

Nine years later, I could now write reams about our journey and the things we have learned and been blessed by and regretted— the main regret being not starting earlier and being fearful of whether it would ‘work’ and what they would all become. If only I could tell my younger self, ‘They will love it, YOU will love it, and they will far exceed your expectations academically, musically, socially, relationally as a family etc’. And ALL with their self- esteem intact, great friendships, responsible ‘can do it’ attitudes and a healthy independence as well as incredible sibling relationships that we never had the time to create and foster when at school. Initially, we had planned to do it for one year while we travelled west to see my sister and their new baby. This then extended to ‘one more year’ after moving to a more rural property so they ‘could enjoy it’ before being inundated with homework at the ‘harder end’ of primary school. After this, we began to reassess our situation and how they were travelling along in their education journey. I had decided ‘never for high school’ and suddenly we were at the cusp of Yr 7. I now realised it really was only the next step, but I still found myself saying, ‘but they will have to go back for VCE’, thinking that ‘proper school’ was the only Uni/tertiary pathway option. 

When we reached Year 10, we were looking at some Open Uni subjects—just for interest’s sake and as a bit of an experiment—to see how it all worked and how unassessed home ed’ers would cope in this environment. Well, I almost visibly shuddered when my son declared, ‘I think I’ll do the Maths one!’ ‘Well, err, ummm, any chance you would like to do a literacy-based subject?’ said the suddenly terrified ‘teacher’! ‘No, thanks. I’d love to try the Maths subject.’ 

We enrolled him, and he took to it like a ‘duck to water’. He showed much initiative and confidence in asking the tutor specific questions and positively sailed through with exceptional marks. It was the first ‘exam’ he had ever done! Who says you need torturous semesters and years full of tests, stress and exams to practise for some unforeseen day. 

We have just recently sent all the paperwork in for son number two to attend uni and he is starting ‘halfway through’ Year 12. A friend asked me yesterday, ‘But how can he do that without finishing year 12 and getting an ATAR?’ Great question! Answer: because home education is awesome! And ATARs are not what they seem! 

Home ed parents, do NOT become discouraged, or feel pressured into sending your kids back to school simply for the option of attending University or further studies. The university system is very welcoming of home educated students. They love their problem-solving abilities, their self-directed learning and thorough understanding of subjects with genuine retention, which so many school kids don’t have time for in their efforts to ‘zoom through the curriculum’ or be rushed along by their teachers who have no other option but to ‘get through’ the workload. 

We have used the Open Universities pathway for our first two children – one now in their 2nd year at Melbourne Conservatorium of Music (Melb Uni), and the second about to begin a Bachelor of Biomedicine, also at Melbourne University. We plan to use this option for child number three also, who has very different interests in the areas of architecture and sustainability. We know of many home ed friends who have attended TAFE and completed a certificate IV or a diploma to meet uni requirements, so there are varied options available. 

I still find myself feeling surprised and delighted that we have gotten to this point. Our kids have had a childhood full of bush walks, exploring, animals everywhere (breeding chickens, ‘rescuing’ guinea pigs, training dogs and horses), music in every direction, drama groups, reading, books, books and more books, museum and gallery visits and workshops, creative space, time to just ‘be’, learning to instruct other local kids in various skills, cooking, home chores and maintenance, board games, camping trips etc, etc, etc, and all whilst being able to receive a ‘quality education’ that I dare any private school to rival! 

To get into Melb Uni and Biomedicine having never had the ‘torture’ of endless essays, exams, late nights and high stress levels for 2-3 years is such a bonus. Very different from my teenage educational journey! Obviously this path will not suit every child, every family or every situation. But I am so very glad we took the risk and started down this pathway. As well as having the opportunity to build incredible relationships within our family, learn life skills and have fun memories of growing up and time to learn and grow, they are also being facilitated to reach for their dreams and goals and achieve them—all without being pushed down a narrow funnel of ‘the system’. 

Parents: be brave, reach for the stars, and ENJOY your precious families. These years go by all too fast. Enjoy them, try not to worry, build your children up and equip them. They will be shining lights in the generations to come! 

Otherways 171 (Feb 2022)