Are you are considering, or new to home education?
I offer some insight from our personal experience with intent to ease the intimidation, uncertainty or self-doubt you may be feeling. Particularly since Covid, there's a lot of confusion in regards to what home education actually looks like, compared to remote learning, and how it can work. I will shine a light on the important differences, and break down the stigmas as you make your way through the post.
First the difference between home education and remote learning:
- Homeschooling is not receiving worksheets and content from a school. It is up to the parent(s) to provide all learning material.
- Homeschooling is not restricted to the home. It can take place everywhere/anywhere.
- Homeschooling is not having little contact with others (such as in lockdowns). It is forming authentic relationships with children of all ages.
- Homeschooling is not spending large blocks of time only learning from a screen and workbooks. It is an open world of intentional learning in many styles and methods.
- Homeschooling is not having no choice in what the learning material is.
- Above all, homeschooling is a choice that we consciously make for our children and families.
We have been registered home educating for 4 years, but for all of my children (9, 6 and almost 5), this is merely a government recognition.
The journey starts from birth as parents are the first teachers, this is one of the most important points to be mindful of as you take hold of confidence in your ability to move forward.
You are already a teacher and your child has already been teaching you as well. This doesn't change in a home education setting.
You learn together along the journey - it is a beautiful dynamic!
The home education journey looks different for every family and child. What works for one child, doesn't necessarily work for another and honouring each individual soul with this in mind will bring guidance in how you move forward.
Start with ease and be gentle on yourselves as you dip your toes in these new waters! You do not need to replicate a school or classroom setting.
It is important on an unschooling level to recognise how much information your children take in without any outside influence, through every day life. They all move at their own paces and they are always taking in knowledge through every day activities.
You have an amazing opportunity to create your own space for learning, let it be magical and personalised, whatever that looks like for your family.
Don't feel like you need to compare yourself or the content you're providing your children with, to other families. Do what feels best for your children and let that shine! You aren't here to impress, you're here to enrich your child's life. Inspire and be inspired in the process.
Building your support network
Unfortunately at one point or another people often get confronted with disapproval and judgement in their decision to home educate.
What's important to remember is that others opinions do not define you and negative views on home education usually come from people that are uninformed and don't actually understand how wonderful it can be. People tend to be scared of what they don't understand and it gets masked with an obdurate front in some cases.
The best way to break the stigmas attached to homeschooling and help people open their minds, is for them to see the positive impact it has on your children's lives and your family dynamic. Don't bite back in defense, share insight with compassion.
If you do have family and friends that are unsupportive, seek support elsewhere. It is out there and it will welcome you with open arms!
Remember that other people's issues are within themselves and not you. Keep doing what is best for family. Your family's journey is your own, and not others.
Connect with other home educators. Search online for your nearest home schooling groups and reach out. Don't be scared if your children aren't up to registration age yet. There's a range of home educators with children of multiple age groups where you can still be a part of the fun and learn from others about the registration requirements in your state/country. These groups will be one of your biggest support networks because they understand what it is all about.
Busting Myths (that we are often asked about)
Socialisation - It's often thought that if a child is home educated, they are never seeing the light of day or interacting with humans outside of their house. It's completely the opposite. They interact with people everywhere they go, of all ages and in this, their social interaction is more authentic and broad. There's still a lot of people who aren't aware that there are big homeschool communities where children of all ages form strong friendships and play together regularly.
"They won't be equipped with the experience to handle bullies" - The idea that children must be bullied in order to be okay in the world is truly disheartening and yet it's something I've heard and read often.
We do not need to be broken in order to be built up strong for a good life.
It is not okay and normal to be made to feel small and shamed for being ourselves.
People carrying trauma from horrible childhood experiences sometimes feel that because they survived, their children will too.
There's many who do not survive the ordeal of bullying.
Our childhoods have a huge psychological impact on the people we become later in life. It is not a trivial issue.
Children don't need to go to school to be bullied or understand what it is. Unfortunately it is everywhere, from all ages.
The difference with bullying in a school and home education setting is that it doesn't happen often. It is able to be dealt with straight away in a safe space where punishment is not the answer - education on compassion and empathy is. The confidence to tell another person why their actions or words are not okay. Being able to leave the situation if needed, but also being aware that there isn't anything wrong with themselves that the other person is having struggles in their own life.
How to deal with feeling frustrated at others etc. There's connection and emotional intelligence happening instead of hostile school conflict, anxiety, poor self-worth and even feeling isolated.
"Are you a teacher/do you have qualifications to teach them?" - Well if teaching my children to walk, talk, use a toilet, read, count, write etc isn't the beginning of my list of qualifications to continue teaching them then I don't know what is. You do not need to be a formal teacher to home educate. We all start from somewhere and no one is better qualified to understand and teach your own children than you. You are attuned to their needs.
"Don't you get stick of always having your children around?" - Call me crazy but I love having my children around. The average child in Australia spends 1,300 hours per year in school, that's 16,900 hours of their schooling life (not including preschool), that I would miss out on. Life is precious and I feel completely grateful and blessed to be on a journey where we are able to have that time together. It doesn't mean that I never have me time.
The main reasons we chose home education are:
- Mental Health - We want our children to go through their development with a positive self-worth and growth mindset. They are able to recognise that is it okay to make mistakes, that it is normal and we learn from them. We want to afford them the opportunity to learn with passion, not anxiety and stress. To feel comfortable within themselves and recognise that they are their own human beings, not to be ashamed of who they are or feel the need to compare themselves to others. They are happy and free to be themselves.
- Bullying - Hand-in-hand with mental health. Both myself and my husband were bullied at school and that's not a traumatic experience we wish upon our children in some of the most important years of their life.
- Family Connection - Our children do not have to be separated from each other during the day. They are best friends as well as siblings. They get to experience learning together as well as on their own individual journeys. We are blessed to be able to guide our children through their education and build amazing memories with them that we would otherwise not have.
- An Enriched Life - We want our children to learn about the world by being out in it. As much as we can read books and watch documentaries, we also have the opportunity to travelschool and explore different locations, to experience different cultures and meet people from all walks of life.
- Moral Structure and Emotional Intelligence - Allowing our children to feel the kind of connection a school cannot provide and through that guide them into compassionate, polite and empathetic human beings. Providing a safe space for them to learn how important all of their emotions are, to feel them and learn from them. How to embrace and be mindful of them. I link this with moral structure because you will often see in society, people saying that kids these days need more discipline and many who suggest that there is an epidemic of rude children due to the lack of action such as smacking. It's my personal belief however, that it is quite the opposite. Children are not lacking discipline - they are lacking connection in a society that is SO disconnected from one another in general.
- Interest-led Learning - We want our children to be able to explore their passions at their hearts content and delve as deep as they'd like into the subjects that take their fancy without set criteria with expectations testing them.
How home education works for our family
Following a seasonal rhythm - I describe our home education journey as nature-based and interest-led holistic education, with an eclectic approach. This means the core of my children's education is holistic (you can read more about that here), which in short, is honouring the whole child - mind, body and soul. We adapt elements that we are drawn to from a range of styles but mostly Waldorf, and forge our own path.
We are out in nature a lot and if we aren't able to be out in it, we are certainly incorporating it into our learning and crafts at home and opt for an outdoor classroom as much as possible, even in our backyard.
We humans are not separate to nature, this recognition is important and through it we can help children build their relationship to Mother Earth by being outdoors, and incorporating nature. Raising a generation that are conscious of their impact, intentionally caring for the planet because they want to protect what they love. It is an organic practice of gratitude.
We opt for Interest-led learning. As adults, we seek out knowledge for that which we are interested in and passionate about. This isn't any different for children and I find this practice amplifies their love for learning.
By providing content that interests our children we are supporting their individual identities.
It doesn't mean that they do not discover things they don't know about. If there is something I feel they might enjoy, I will introduce it to them. If they love it we can go further in, if they do not, we will move on to something else. I don't teach them about things that they are genuinely not interested in. With many years ahead of them, they may develop an interest later or instead or there may be a cross over while learning about something else.
We nurture what they would like to explore, which generally flows on into other subjects organically. We use these subjects to cover the KLA's where possible. We do subject-based activities as well, but we present them in holistic ways that they enjoy.
With multiple children, I tailor the learning material to the interests of each child. Sometimes two or all three will be keen to explore the same subject together, which may just require adjusting to their different levels.
We have a weekly rhythm that works well for us. I have a guide of activities I set out for each week. Organising this way is a key point in how I balance homeschool mum life with running a small business. If something doesn't work out on one day, I shuffle it to another. We don't always get every activity done but that's okay because our learning is daily, everywhere.
We do not take weekends and school holidays off. Learning is natural and constant and taking weekends and school holidays off feels unnatural for our lifestyle. Instead we take our holidays and breaks with intention when we actually feel we need them, and this serves us best.
When we can, we love to Travelschool - home educating on the road. We take a small amount of supplies (nothing that won't get used or take up too much space) and use the nature around us during our travels as our biggest resource. We've been away for up to 5.5weeks at a time learning this way and the places we visit along the way, such as museums, wildlife sanctuaries, and the organic discovery through exploration provide the richest learning opportunities.
The impact of Covid
The impact of lockdowns and restrictions due to Covid does interrupt and change a lot for home educating families and I feel it is important to acknowledge this.
Homeschooling normally looks like going out to the library, museum, art gallery, live music or theatre production. Many more facilities and events that are usually available.
It normally involves many homeschool group catch-ups, classes that interest the children, workshops and other opportunities that pop up.
It normally involves interacting with people from all walks of life and children of different age groups regularly. Learning from being out in the world.
It involves taking breaks and holidays when they feel needed, not when they are offered.
It involves making strong and beautiful friendships but also not being stuck interacting with others if children are overstimulated and need some distance.
It normally involves going out on adventures in nature and learning through travel and the seasons.
We learnt to better navigate this by giving our children the opportunity to do video calls with their friends during lockdowns and doing small meet ups with friends when there's restrictions on numbers and getting creative to provide the best substitutes for what we usually would be doing. The priority for every member of our family is creating sacred spaces and rituals to care for our mental health.
When there's no lockdowns or tight restrictions, we have catch ups within our homeschool group twice a week (which will often be for 5-6hours) and resume our usual activities of traveling to our favourite outdoor locations in surrounding areas, visiting local public venues and facilities. It's an adaption through the current times, like it is for anyone but home education is still something we would never choose not to do.
Some of our favourite things to do
- Poetry tea time
- Nature Journalling
- Hiking/bush walks
- Art & Crafts
- Board games and puzzles
- STEM activities and various experiments
- Various pop up workshops and experiences
- Handwork (such as sewing, french knitting, felting)
- Shopping (involving children in the process of writing lists, purchasing food and goods)
- Yoga and meditation
- Outdoor play and exploration at parks, creeks, water, beaches, forests etc
- Story telling
- Loose parts and small world play
- Museums, art galleries and science institutes
- Wild life sanctuaries, open range zoos and animal hospitals
- Books and ebooks
- Theatres and entertainment centres
- Board games and Jigsaw puzzles
- Tracing boards, wooden letters and number/symbols disks
- A variety of arts and crafts supplies
- Musical instruments
- Whole Beings (online holistic education program)
- Internet (Youtube, google, pinterest, Instagram and informative websites)
- Cosmic Kids Yoga
- Documentaries, movies and shows with educational points (such as Brain Child and The Magic Schoolbus)
- Volunteer Opportunities
- National Geographic Kids
- Workbooks (We don't use a lot of workbooks, however my children do enjoy incorporating some math and topic books).
- Letters from Afar
- Workshops (bushcrafts, permaculture)
- Local events and classes (ballet, wild flora and fauna talks, wild life exposure, multicultural events and cooking classes)
- Playgrounds and parks
- Open to public - farms and orchards