“I have used the words “home schooling” to describe the process by which children grow and learn in the world without going, or going very much, to schools, because those words are familiar and quickly understood. But in one very important sense they are misleading. What is most important and valuable about the home as a base for children’s growth in the world is not that it is a better school than the schools but that it isn’t a school at all. ”
~John Holt~ Teach Your Own
I thought I would write a practical guide for those who are wishing to start home schooling but aren’t sure were to start. Below are a list of some of the things you need to get started.
- Get to know you local Law.
- Read up on Different types of home schooling
- Decide on what your Educational philosophy is
- Find your local resources
- Be confident in your decision
- Have fun
Is homeschooling legal
Yes!!!! Each country has different laws for parents wishing to home educate their children. Some countries require students still do annual testing, others require an annual review or report stating what education program has been used and what progress was made over the year, others have no requirements other than initial registration. It’s important that you first work out what the laws are, in the State you live. Contact your local home education office and ask if they can send you information on the Laws in your state, then do your research. Look up the specific laws and make sure you know the difference between recommendations and actual arbitrary requirements. You can also join online Facebook groups for your area, who can assist you on understanding more of what is required. In Western Australia we have pretty good laws pertaining to Home Education. Contacting your regional education office to get application papers is a simple process. It’s a two page application with the addition of sending in your child’s birth certificate. Once registered you are contacted by a local moderator who comes out to visit 3 months from the date of registration to meet you and discuss what your plan is for the year and to have a base line to record progress over the year. So basically they will see where your child is at currently and can document from there. They will then meet with you one year from the initial visit to review your years progress. There are lots of ways in which to show your progress and they do not expect your child to be at the same level as other children their age, but progress in the subject areas within the Australian curriculum should be demonstrated. Whether that be with work examples, photos, videos, certificates they have received, participation in certain activities, online courses etc. There are also lots of homeschoolers who arent registered by choice, beleiving that it is their right to make the choice about how their children are educated and dont believe they should have to answer to any government.
Different Types Of Homeschooling
There are several different ways in which people choose to home educate
There is the option of a pre packaged curriculum, people who choose this option often do so as they like the convenience of not having to lesson plan too much and everything they need is in the curriculum, often including the resources or list of resources needed to begin. They can be bought online for varying cost. Some are pretty costly though. The type of curriculum can be up to you. For those choosing are more alternative pathway such as Steiner or Montessori these can be purchased along with materials and resources online, and are a completely acceptable curriculum to be used as both meet National standards.
There is also the option of when purchasing a Curriculum to sign up for Homeschooling support that comes with your curriculum, so they will guide you through and answer your questions along the way. Which can be comforting for those who are starting out.
Project Based Home schoolers/Child Led is another way to home educate. Which follows a more child led approach and is far less rigid or adult directed. Children have the option to choose what they would like to learn about and the curriculum or learning is based around those interest. For example if the child is really interested in snakes. The parent may ask the child to draw pictures of snakes, they may read books about snakes, they may ask the child to write a story about their favourite snake, they may visit a reptile park and do a project at home making a snake habitat . The parent may use resources that align with the child’s interest to cover other subjects such as reading and maths and art. There is some adult guidance and teaching but it is the child’s interests that are at the core of this philosophy.
Natural Learners/Unschoolers is an educational philosophy that is underpinned by the belief that children learn best when they are interested. That children are born with an innate desire to learn and do not need to be forced, coerced or encouraged to learn. That life isn’t separated into subjects and therefore neither should a child’s learning. The child learns about maths by counting his pocket money and weighing the flour for his mum’s birthday cake, he learns to read by being read to and by being surrounded by books, and any form of literature. The parent follows the child’s interests and provides a resource rich enviroment for the child, where they spend their time pursuing the things they love . Enjoying living in the world together, exploring and learning. They do not put a time limit on when a child should learn a certain thing but accept that he or she will learn when the content is relevant to them and when interesting.
Eclectic Homeschoolers would probably describe themselves as people who embrace aspects of several different learning philosophy’s or styles. They may follow a natural learning approach but like many aspects of Steiner philosophy’s and providing a similar environment at home. Using many similar resources and approaches as Steiner in his teachings, for example limited technology and natural resources. Others take aspects from Montessori or Reggio Emilia and implement those in the home along with a more relaxed approach to learning. Others do a little book work and then a more relaxed approach for the rest.
The great thing is it is really up to you, and you make the choice based on what aligns with your beliefs, what works for your family and most importantly where you see your child shining the most. You have the right to educate your child as you see fit, its not your child who is responsible for making sure you tick all the boxes but yours. So you can be creative in how you can meet the requirements. Look outside the box. You will be surprised at all the learning you will find there.
Before you start the process you may have already made your own decision on what kind of environment you want to provide and what type of educational philosophy best aligns with you and your family, which is great. Having a good foundation is a great start to any homeschooling family. But if you don’t quite know yet it is ok to just start and no doubt when you watch your child in action it will become more and more clear what things work and what things just didn’t. Give yourself time and don’t put too much pressure on yourself to be a perfect at it. Keeping in mind though that some states require you have a clear plan or at least a direction in which type of style of home education you will be implementing, but they should be there to support you through this process too. So ask for help if you need it. Homeschoolers do very well statistically, and if you think about it practically, the ratios work in your favour. There is more time to spend one on one, dedicating your time and attention to your child specific needs and interests. This is one of the wonderful perks of homeschooling. No one knows and loves your child the way you do. No teacher as wonderful and as dedicated as they are, can match the love, patience or complete investment that you have in your own child. So its ok to not have it all figured out. You will all survive.
Finding your village
Don’t underestimate the absolute gems you will find in your local homeschooling community. There you will find the invaluable support and resources to help you on your journey. Hunt them down if you have too, lol. Search online, Facebook groups, forums everywhere. Home education is amazing but it can be at times a place of loneliness when you begin and everyone has questions, and family members look at your like you really have well and truly lost the plot, and no one really understand why you would ever want to spend every day with your kids. If you don’t have a village you can begin to question what you are doing, you can feel alone. But they are out there. The number of people homeschooling now is incredible. It used to be a small select group of people homeschooling for religious reasons or hippyish folk (I say that with the utmost love). The demographics are far more diverse now. So hook up with your local ‘homies’ and feel the love. Excursions, clubs, coops, play dates, mum dates, the works. There is actually a whole world going on without school. If you live remote then you might have to find a community online but there are heaps of great online groups, and maybe visit camp or seminar to keep you connected and inspired.
Shine on, Shine On
Pretty much everyone will have an opinion on your choice to homeschool. The questions range from ” But what about socialization?” “Don’t you worry about whether they will be able to get a job?” “How will they learn to read?” “What about being able to wait in line?” “I just couldn’t do it, I need my own time, don’t you get sick of being with your kids all day?”
Remember that you don’t have to answer. Unless you want to answer questions, but don’t feel like you have to answer intruding questions and interrogations. You wouldn’t ask personal questions to someone else about whether they worry that by sending their child to school that they wont grow up to be a successful adult. There are plenty of people who went to school who certainly didn’t grow up to be successful adults so I don’t know why people assume that school is a pre requisite to be a functioning person.
Read, research and listen to other people who have been through the journey and have come out the other side. Spend time with your children, connecting, learning, exploring and in time you will have the confidence to brush off those questions and answer with confidence or don’t answer at all. Just shine on Sista! Your making an amazing brave choice for your family. Be confident and when you have your moments of worry, turn to your village or just Fake it till you make it. What parent homeschooling or not doesn’t worry about their kids? Sometimes its looking at your worry for what it is. Is it a real fear that is valid or is it a simulation in your mind of something that doesn’t really need to be a fear at all? For me I had some valid concerns about school, the thought of a life with school produced more anxiety, than the thought of leaving school behind. Increased pressure to perform, incessant testing, grading, rewards systems, bullies, peer pressure the list goes on. I am more ok with having a late reader or a child who has no interest in art or music or doesn’t know all the continents, or perhaps doesn’t understand why he has to put his hand up to go to the bathroom. So keep in mind the reasons why you came to the decision to homeschool and be true to yourself. If you feel you need some more inspiration there are plenty of great resources out there, podcasts, blogs, books and so on, when you get time explore them. I have found them to be a fantastic addition to our homeschooling journey.
Childhood is precious, it is passing swiftly. Don’t rush your days stressing. Don’t miss those moments, one of the many reasons to choose home education is to create a long-lasting strong relationship with your kids. Stressing the small stuff isn’t worth it. Most of all the messages I have received from people who have been doing this far longer than I have. Talk about the moments, the connection, the joy, they don’t talk about making a schedule and making sure you meet certain deadlines. Find your own rhythm and beat your own little drum.
Be silly, find ways to explore your own passions alongside your children. Join them in their games, make learning interesting, visit museums, surround yourself with beautiful things, enjoy the simple things, take your time, watch movies, play board games, go to the beach, collect shells, play a hundred games of home base and tickle monster, have a pillow fight, make a slide out of mattresses. I know I know!!!! Where will you get the energy. There are times when you won’t, you will feel overtouched, noises will irritate you, you will need to just be on your own. But play will energize you. It really will. I have had many a moment where I have felt so lethargic and just wanting to curl up on the lounge with a book and then everyone needed me right at that moment. All four little faces. Mum can we play …. and I thought to myself, “are you kidding me?”” I have just sat down, I’m so tired, why oh why”. But then a couple of minutes in and I am laughing and energised and the kids are laughing and energised and we are ready for another round. Suddenly I don’t feel so tired. I am not saying ignore your needs, take time out when you can, breathe, get up early or go to bed late or whatever works for you. But don’t underestimate the power of play, it energizes it heals and it connects us. I think when we become parents we assume a role and all of a suddenly we get too serious and forget how to play. Playful parenting (Lawrence J. Cohen) is a good book for anyone feeling they need a little pep talk in this department. Its available as an audiobook so you can listen while your cooking or folding the laundry 🙂 I know sometimes I find it a struggle to go from mum mode to being fun. It’s so worth it though.
If you get in a funk just remember you are a human being, and its probably a good time to give yourself some self care.
Be kind, be human, be gentle, be joyful, be curious, be yourself.
Would love to hear some other tips for those starting out homeschooling. Leave your comments. Add your links to some of your favourite resources.
With love Liz