Home and Away – the case for homeschooling

There are many reasons why parents decide to home school.

Perhaps they live in the outback far from the nearest school, maybe there are philosophical or religious reasons, or perhaps parents want to travel, like Caz and Craig are doing, and as we did due to an international job relocation.

Is school compulsory?

It is possible to take your children out of school because although education is compulsory for children between the ages of 6 and 16 in Australia, school actually isn’t.

I found this out when we moved to Hong Kong from Lesotho in Africa and we couldn’t get our children into the school on Lantau Island because it was full.

To tell you the truth I was horrified. I hadn’t planned on teaching my lovely, wild kids myself. I was petrified by the thought of it, but we’d misguidedly signed a two year lease on our apartment prior to looking at schools.

Which was a dumb move, and one we couldn’t get out of.

Yes, there were other schools with available places, the Estate Agent told me with a smile. In Kowloon. About one and a half hours away. Bus, ferry, walk, ferry, bus. Twice a day.

This was a crazy alternative for my littlies who were then only 3 and 6.

What does home schooling mean?

It means that parents take responsibility to guide their children through a course of study at home.

Parents don’t need any special training or university degrees, and people who choose to home school are likely to come from a variety of different backgrounds and educational levels. Many have no special training and they’ll most likely be doing it for many different reasons.

Educational adventures were big on our curriculum

Education Otherwise

So until we could get Sam into primary school I taught him myself, and Emma came along for the ride and joined in at pre-school level.

At the time I found an English system called Education Otherwise really helpful and also two other mothers who were home schooling.

It’s a big decision to take responsibility for your child’s education so you need to have a life size interest in helping your children to learn because you’ll very likely find yourself having to learn with them.

And not just the curriculum.

My personal skills took a huge leap; skills like patience, flexibility, understanding and being able to retain a sense of humour even in the most emotionally charged situations.

Wearing two hats is not always easy

My children were absolutely gorgeous and I loved them to bits, but I could have throttled them on numerous occasions when I was not only Mum, but Teacher too.

It’s sometimes a hard call because you’re never truly off teacher roster.

I can remember once when we were on holiday in Thailand being frazzled from the total immersion in my kids and their schooling, so I took a child free break by the pool with a book (a thick one, as I remember!) and my husband took over child duty.

Some woman started chatting him up, took pity on him and said: “Ahh, it’s lovely to see single fathers who are so dedicated to their children on holiday! Poor you. Hard work too.”

Dave didn’t let me live that one down for months.

When I eventually find that woman, I think I’ll throttle her too.

Is home schooling expensive?

As far as I know there is no financial assistance for home schoolers. But you do have a choice as to how much you are prepared to spend.

There are tailored home school correspondence courses that set out the structure of your day to day teaching and provide all the required course materials and put you in touch with a personal tutor who oversees all the completed course material.

The benefits of homeschooling

There’s greater flexibility than at school, and so sticking to a rigid curriculum becomes unnecessary provided that the course work is covered.

And what I enjoyed was being able to take an afternoon off for a little cross-curricular diversity when certain projects proved stimulating – so going to a local place of interest when you’re travelling becomes possible at any time of the year, not just school holidays.

We used to love going to Ocean Park in Hong Kong, and to the outdoor markets in The Lanes not to mention stopping off at local restaurants for the freshest of fresh Chinese stir fries. Both my kids learnt quickly to use chopsticks.

Homeschooling and travel

Tips for homeschooling

I found that sticking to a time table was imperative so that home school became a habit rather than an interference.

Learning together ought to be enjoyable, not a slog to be performed each day, so we tried to mix things up a bit, and doing this gave me the rein to enjoy the process of being with my children 24/7.

My experience with homeschooling

At first I was bewildered and unsure about the consequences and practicalities of home schooling because it was something that I hadn’t anticipated.

It was the biggest commitment of my life, but I soon found out that we could turn most days into magical treasure hunts – hunts for information and discovery.

We made one day each week into our ‘Adventure Day’ which very often led on to a project for consecutive school mornings offering scope for discussion and creativity.

Living on Lantau Island meant that we were constantly travelling on ferries to Hong Kong Island, and these times were always turned into our ‘reading time’ rather than ‘when will we get there’ moments.

Paying for buses, taxis or shopping became practicals in maths.

We took photos as part of art class, as well as visiting art galleries.

Science, far from being purely book based became an excuse for a trip to a museum or an exhibition.

Physical education was as diverse as the children dictated because we made time for swimming and ball games as well as visiting different parks to make full use of the play equipment.

The world did indeed become our oyster.

Did the children miss out because of homeschooling?

People often asked me if our children missed out on socializing.

Admittedly, I had to make more of an effort to network and put the children in situations where they would meet other children, but I also made sure that they were involved in extra mural activities such as art, paper clay, cricket, cubs, swimming and dancing.

This meant that they were never short of an opportunity to interact with their peers and they had friends to invite home to play.

Although they were eager to be with other children, they were in a position to make friendships of choice, so bullying and peer pressure were not worries.

Home school meant so much more than just being at home in our 'classroom'

What other benefits are there to homeschooling?

Home schooled children often spend more time in the real world mixing with both young and old of different cultures in a lot of different life situations so it’s quite likely that they will develop a strong self confidence.

They are able to base their friendships on respect rather than fear of rejection, which can happen in a school environment.

And because they have an adult role model whom they trust, home schooled children can develop inter personal skills quite quickly.

If home schooling is successful, then their levels of motivation can be higher compared to children in large school classes. Often they become more focused on their goals and more mature in their attitude to learning too.

Would I do homeschooling over again?

Although I enjoyed teaching my children, I found home schooling very tiring and quite challenging.

It especially gave me a great respect for teachers.

It gave me the chance to form close bonds with my children, bonds that are evident today even though they are grown up, and it gave me great insight into what drives them and how they ‘tick’.

Ultimately, I felt that others more qualified should be in charge of their education as they got older, although home schooling taught me to keep a very close eye on what was happening at school, and to always follow through with homework and school projects at home.

It taught me to often ask questions at parent teacher interviews, and always to be there for my children in a supportive way, through thick and thin – although this could at times mean not agreeing with them or their behavior.

Overall I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to spend so much time with them when they were little and to watch them develop and grow.

More Posts on Homeschooling:

Fast Facts

You do have to register your children for home schooling in Australia if you are opting out of the traditional school system.

In Australia allegedly over 50,000 children will be home schooled, according to ABC News in January 2012,  although many parents will be doing it illegally (not registering as home schoolers with a State Government body.)

Here’s a link to the NSW information package and registration details. There is also some good information at The Home Education Association.

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