So we’ve made the decision…. What now?

After all of our long talks about homeschooling, which included me flooding husbands Facebook feed with memes and links to speakers that I found inspiring (like this one and this one by Sir Ken Robinson, if you’re interested enough to take a look), we finally made our decision. Which went a little bit like this;
Him: You know what? Just do it. We have to make a decision, so let’s just do it.
Me: Are you sure?
Him: No, I’m not sure. Not at all. But I love you, and I trust you, and I know that you’re going to go at this like it’s your life’s mission, just because you hate to admit defeat. There’s no teacher in any school in the world who is going to be as dedicated to my girls, as you. So do it.
Me: Schools aren’t going anywhere.
Him: I know.
Me: If it goes pear shaped, or if she asks to go to school, I will be the first person to drive her down to the local primary school and enroll her.
Him: I know.
Me: So are we really going to do it?
Him: Let’s do it.
He’s pretty special 😉
So the next day I was onto the website for the West Australian Department of Education to find out what I had to do to make it official. I’ve since found out that every state in Australia has a different system as far as registering and reporting to the board is concerned, and, luckily for us, WA is one of the more “user friendly” states. We will be assigned what they call a Moderator, who will check in on a yearly basis to make sure there is progress displayed since the previous visit. The Moderator will make an initial visit in the first three months as a kind of meet and greet thing (from what I’ve been told). As we are off on a trip overseas next week, I am not expecting to hear from our moderator until we get back. So one phone call, a couple of forms and a copy of Miss 5s birth certificate later, and we’re registered.
And that’s it. There’s no information evening, no course to do, no instruction book, or teachers pack. Nothing. As I am yet to meet our moderator, I don’t know if s/he will turn up with something of the sort or not, but to date there is nothing. At first I must admit, I found it pretty intimidating and more than a little overwhelming. Especially with so many people asking “are you capable?”, “do you have any qualifications?”, “how do you know what you have to teach her?”. The answers to these questions are no and I don’t know!! And then I had a little epiphany. I was over thinking it, and beginning to second guess myself. In the last 5 years I have guided her through sitting, crawling, walking, talking, feeding herself and dressing herself. We have already learned to count, the alphabet, to write her name and countless other things. My lightbulb moment was realising this, I am already her teacher. I already am schooling her at home, AND doing a damn fine job too. Once I realised this, I relaxed. Sure it’s going to get more involved and there are going to be times where I’m going to be burning the midnight oil studying up on whatever lesson is at hand, but I am already doing it! I’m already doing it, and there is nobody on earth that knows how to teach my daughter something, better than I do. This realised, I started to do even more research! I knew that I liked certain approaches to teaching. Certain philosophies of Steiner/Waldorf, Charlotte Mason and a few others made my heart sing, so I looked further into them. I read about homeschooling, deschooling, unschooling, classical methods, natural learning, relaxed schooling, Montessori methods, digital schooling and unit studies. And each one had at least one thing that made me think Yes! I want to try that. And then I heard the term “eclectic homeschooling” and that suits Miss 5 and I perfectly. So that’s how we plan to move forward. We are taking the methods and principles that we like from wherever we can find them, and applying them to us. And that’s the “how” part taken care of. Now for the what.
This part I found really easy. I just asked Miss 5. People think that you can’t trust children to want to learn, or to choose the way that they learn, but it disagree. I think, if left to their own devices in their own time frame, children will want to learn with a ferocious appetite. It’s when you force children to learn certain things in a certain timeframe, outside of their own rhythm, that the resistance starts. Learning is an indelible part of the human condition. So I asked her “What do you want to learn? How do you want to learn it? What do you think is really fun? What do you really not like to do?” After all this is her school and I will be her teacher, here to help her learn, so it has to be what she wants. We sat down and talked about it. She told me that she wants to learn about Ancient Egypt, how creatures live under the sea (Not about the animals, mummy, I already know what fish and sharks and turtles are. I want to learn about how they breathe underwater, and what they eat, and where in the world they like to swim, and why some creatures live in the icy waters and not in the warm waters), she also wants to learn about China, learn to cook and learn woodwork! She told me that she didn’t enjoy “mat time” when she attended the Kindy program she was in, she didn’t like to have to sit still and not talk. But she did enjoy the worksheets that they did at Kindy. This was enough to give me a start. I checked and cross referenced the curriculum to make sure I wasn’t missing anything as far as major subjects are concerned, like math, science, english etc. And I designed themed work sheets. I gathered a plethora of experiments and activities to cover the STEM subjects. I have a reading list compiled, which will be added to our own reading for pleasure (I am listing the books we are reading, as we go, on a page on this blog. Feel free to check it out.), and as I have a background in art and photography, there are arts/crafts ideas galore! After we return from our trip, I also have plans to enrol Miss 5 in a musical theatre class, as well as joining in various co-ops, classes and social activities that we have access to through the Perth homeschooling community. We’re going to be pretty busy!
I have deliberately left the “lesson plans” pretty vague. We will work it out in more detail as we go. Miss 5 is bold, and highly verbal and quite happy to take control and steer this ship in the direction of her choosing. And I’m pretty happy to go along for the ride 🙂

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To answer your questions…

Since we started telling people that we were planning to homeschool Miss 5, we have noticed a couple of things. Most people are positive, and those who know us best and understand our thinking and how much this means to us are not only positive, but supportive and encouraging and even offering to help by adding their own areas of expertise. We have had a couple of disapproving comments, although not nearly as many as I had anticipated, and a few who are – Im sure – operating under the “If you cant say anything nice, don’t say anything at all” umbrella! Regardless of the initial reaction, the thing that everyone seems to have in common is the questions. So many questions and so much curiosity! So I thought I’d write my first post addressing the most common ones.
Please remember that I am writing about my thoughts, my decision, my family and our lives. We don’t expect that everyone will agree with us, and we don’t claim that our way of doing things is going to be suitable for everyone, or is the only way of doing things. So here goes;

1) So does that mean you hate schools now?
No, it does not mean that we hate schools. We don’t hate schools or teachers or people who send their kids to school. It’s just not for us. We also think teachers are fabulous people, who work hard and don’t get anywhere near enough praise. We have a few issues with the model of education in mainstream schools, that’s all.
2) You know that she’s going to be left behind and won’t get a job because she hasn’t gone to school, and she’ll end up a beggar on the streets. Right?
We look at it this way; when we think of every person we know (not just family, but every single person we know), there is around a dozen people who have started kindergarten at the mandated age, progressed through primary and secondary school, gone on to university, graduated from their degree and got a job. EVERYONE else has either, not started when they were supposed to, interrupted the progression for travel, or illness, or relocation, switched from public to private schools, switched between school and TAFE, left school as soon as they were legally allowed, not gone to uni, gone to uni but not finished their degree, changed degrees (in my case 3 times!), graduated and not worked in the field in which they studied, or graduated and gone on to collect unemployment benefits. The point is, we believe that an “educated person” is someone whose learning encompasses every facet of their lives, not just what they learn to recite in school. And people who don’t follow the straightest path, still end up as contributing and functional members of society. We do not believe school (school, not learning) is necessary to that process.
3) So, have you like, found Jesus or something?
No. We are not becoming religious fanatics who want to teach our children creation instead of science. Although we do plan to include religious studies at some point. Not only of catholicism but Buddhism and the Jewish, Muslim and Pagan faiths as well.
While we’re on the subject, we are also not turning into tree hugging hermits who want to avoid the general population while we make soap out of rendered fat and weave baskets. Nothing about our current life has changed.
4) How long do you plan on doing it? Will she ever go to school?
Who knows? Thats the short answer. We will do this for as long as Miss 5 wants to, and as long as we, her parents, are comfortable with it. What we know for now, is that we believe 5 (or even 6, 7, and 8) is too young. Too young for the expectations that go along with attending school.
We are not projecting into the future. We are taking it one year at a time. “But you’re like, not going to homeschool her through high school, though. Right?” Who knows. She’s 5. High school is a long way away. But you know what? If she wants to, and we, her parents, are comfortable with it, then yes, we probably will.
5) Have you even thought this through?
Yes. We have. Long and hard. We have questioned ourselves. Questioned each other. Questioned everything that we thought had to be done, simply because it’s the way things have always been done. We have researched methods of learning, methods of teaching, curriculums (by school, by state, and on a national level), and we have researched the pants off homeschooling and all that goes with it. We have actually thought it through more than we would have, had we decided to send her to a mainstream school – private or public? can we afford it? which school do we fall in the catchment for? Done.
After all, she is our baby, we are not going to enter into such a momentous commitment lightly.
6) Its a nice thought, but who’s got the time or patience to sit down all day doing school work?
We wont be sitting down for 7 hours a day, Monday to Friday, doing schoolwork. If we don’t agree with the model of education in a school, why would we pull our child out of school, only to mimic that model at home?
7) How are they going to learn about real life/the way the world is/to stand in line?
Yes, I have heard “homeschool children do not know how to stand in line”, to which the reply was “Unless they plan on going to prison, I don’t think that is going to be an issue” 🙂
As to the other examples for this argument? She’s 5. There is plenty of time for my daughter to learn about deadlines, long hours in a place that you may or may not like, with people that you may or may not like, away from your family, not able to pursue the things that truly make you happy. She’s 5. There is plenty of time for her to find out about the judgement of others, bullying, the cruelty of cliques and “lining up”.
8) But how will she get any socialisation?
I saw a funny meme about this. It said “we socialise dogs, not children”. It made me giggle.
I guess to answer this question I need to explain the way I define being “social”. To my husband and I being social means interacting with the world and the people in it. All sexes, all ages, all religions, all races. WE believe that being at school does not necessarily teach this. Being at school teaches children to interact with their classmates, who are categorised by age. Smaller children are separated from the bigger ones, and kept separate. The only interaction they have with adults is with the handful of teachers they come in contact with, and the same ones every day. Their experience with religion and ethnicity is with whatever is popular within their postcode, and most schools will sweep any hint of sexual preference completely under the rug. I don’t believe that this is conducive to “being social”. My children interact with strangers daily. They play with children younger, older and children who are the same age. With our day to day and our travels, they are exposed to people of all races, cultures, religions and sexual orientations. They don’t have any issues talking to adults, and they are just as happy in the company of their parents as anyone else. Just because they are not going to attend school, does not mean that this will change. And before it comes up, yes, they do have friends. Good ones, who they see regularly. So they will still have birthday parties, play dates and (when they’re old enough) sleep overs.

If I had an open forum – which I do here, so I am taking advantage 🙂 – I would tell my friends and family these things that relate, not to school and our decision to not send Miss 5, but to us and our family and our decision to keep her home.
There are little things that matter to me. My 5 year old will be able to eat when she’s hungry, drink when shes thirsty, go to the toilet without asking and have a nap if she gets tired. It doesn’t sound like it’s important, but the little things matter. It’s important to me to be lucky enough to offer my daughter a hot lunch, or sushi (her favourite) instead of squishy sandwiches. It’s important to me to know that my child, who is still so very small, will have enough sleep and not suffer the “after school meltdown” because the days and weeks are too long. I like the idea of not running around in the morning yelling “quick! brush your teeth! hurry up! we’re going to be late!”. I like the idea (and so does Miss 5) of doing our school work in our PJs if we want to 🙂
We are going to be able to give our daughter the opportunity to pursue her interests. There are so many inspirational quotes that get thrown around, about people finding their passions and chasing them. Why shouldn’t this apply to children as well? Learning is a natural progression that stems from curiosity, interest and passion. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know that people learn more when they’re interested. Miss 5 proved that when she was Miss 3. As a 3 year old she loved dinosaurs. She could name them, categorise them and tell you which part of the Mesozoic they came from. Her current passion is Ancient Egypt. Pursuing home education means that she wont be told “no, we’re not learning about the importance of irrigation to be able to grow crops in an arid climate (my discussion with Miss 5 over breakfast yesterday), today we’re learning about farm animals.” 😦
We are going to have time. And share time. We wont be subjected to spending only weekends and weekdays between 4 and 7 (which isn’t really quality time anyway, because she’ll be so tired and cranky after a long day at school) with our child. We get to spend all that extra time, and treasure all of that extra time. I am so very lucky and honoured to be able to share in her learning – as a mother of a dinosaur loving 3 year old I too could tell you the names, categories and time periods of the dinosaurs! I have recently been reading about hieroglyphs and the 6 components of the Wadjet! – helping her learn is also pursuing my love of learning new things. And we get to share it together. We also have the luxury of having the time to follow a subject through to its conclusion. Miss 5 will not have to worry about getting engrossed in whatever project shes pursuing, only to be told its time to pack up and move onto a different activity. Just because thats what the timetable insists on. She will also have the added benefit of one on one tuition, which is an undeniable advantage.
And finally Miss 5 will not be told to sit down and keep quiet. She is not an inactive child, who enjoys sitting still. She is an active girl who loves to move, dance, run, jump, skip, climb and twirl. She also talks. A lot. But that is how she figures things out. She learns by voicing ideas and talking about things until the discussion/questions (endless questions!)/monologue leads to that lightbulb moment. Imagine the lack of lightbulb moments my vocal child will have if she is being told to keep quiet and speak when spoken to? She can be outside in her fabulous natural wonderland, as much as she wants. Dirty and barefoot and experiencing her world with freedom, not restricted to sensible shoes and a uniform that mustn’t get dirty, and don’t climb that tree, the insurance doesn’t cover it.

So this post turned out much longer than I anticipated. In the time that it took me to write it, Miss 5 has gathered specimens (dead ants) to look at through her microscope and she has made a hobby horse for both her and Miss 2, and is currently drawing up a storyboard to make a movie about ponies! I’m under no illusions about how perfect things are going to go. We are going to have rough days, days where we get nothing done, and days where the both of us throw our hands in the air and say “it’s all too hard”. But we’re going to have those days with or without school. I think we’re going to manage just fine. 🙂