I have no idea when the idea to start homeschooling began to stir in Peter’s and my thinking. What I do remember is that at 4-5 months pregnant we drove into a new town and as I watched the vast and very unique countryside go by I imagined us homeschooling and creating a human resource center for homeschoolers. I was pregnant with our first child and really had no idea what that dream would really look like – but it was a dream.
So obviously we were thinking homeschool before our first child was born. No idea why!
Why we Started Homeschooling
The only exposure we had to homeschooling was via ACE and that was my thinking – that we would homeschool using that curriculum. I had gone to an ACE school, and my first job was back in that same school so I knew the system inside and out (you can read my ACE story here). But – by the time Joshua was three I started having doubts that this was the curriculum for us. It didn’t match my parenting style and I felt that homeschooling wasn’t going to happen and I was okay with that.
By this stage we had Joshua, Jessica and Nomi was a baby. Peter and I had listened to a parenting course and were challenged with the question – who is influencing your children. Though we knew we were the biggest influence in our pre-primary school children at this stage it was a challenge to think about how we were going to retain that influence and relationship in our kids as they grew older.
Then Nomi was diagnosed with a tumor on her kidney and we had to go to Perth for an operation – and ensuing chemo. We had some dear friends who looked after us during that time – and they were homeschooling! Jenny showed me a slather of homeschool resources that I just hadn’t even imagined was out there. The one that stole my heart – and made me seriously reconsider homeschooling was KONOS. (Ironically we never really used it though attempted it for one term with another family) It was character based, used literature, studied as a family and was very hands on. It suited our family and parenting style. (Read my Favourite Curriculum Choices)
So I was back to researching homeschooling and all the resources that were out there. By this stage we had the internet and the world was becoming smaller!
At the end of Nomi’s treatment we went on a holiday to visit family on the east coast. While with my mum and dad we talked nothing but the pros and cons of homeschooling. Pete and I took a few nights away, leaving the kids with the grandparents, so we could hash it out and make a decision.
Decision made: we would homeschool. It would be a way to continue to spend time with our kids, build strong relationships with them, and be an influencing factor as they grew up.
Why we kept homeschooling for 20 years
It didn’t take long for us to realise one of the biggest benefits with homeschooling, wasn’t just the relationship opportunities we had, but we had an opportunity to create an individualized learning plan for each of our children. Homeschooling gave us the opportunity to build on each child’s strengths and encourage their weaknesses to grow as well. Though it took some time to really be comfortable with this idea as we are so shaped by the idea that education is done in a classroom where everyone is learning the same but we also know the sad fact that so often the bright students are left bored and the struggling students are left further behind.
For the first 7 years or so we took homeschooling year by year – each year we would decide if we were going to continue. When Josh was in year 7 he asked us if he was going to be sent to boarding school for highschool like other boys in town were. We said ‘probably not’. When he asked us why we said, “you have had the freedom to study what you want, how you want, when you want; why would we put you in a system that told you what to study when and how?” His only comment was, “Fair enough” and that was the end of it – decision made: we were in this for the long term! We did discuss highschool/boarding school one other time very briefly but came to the same conclusion. (read Yes, You Can Homeschool Highschool)
We enjoyed the homeschooling lifestyle – especially since Peter worked a very full and busy seasonal job. We were able to take breaks in our studies when he was home or delay the start of the school year as we took family holidays. We were very involved in the community – taking up different volunteer opportunities, running a homeschool co-op, helping with the church community. One of the highlights was the local Agricultural Show where the kids would be major contributors because they had the time to create. Another highlight was being able to go camping, which we tried to do at least once if not twice a year.
Over 20 years how we homeschooled changed – it changed as I learnt and grew in confidence to be a parent first, a parent who homeschooled instead of a homeschooling parent (think about that difference – it is significant). I learnt to trust that our kids were growing in character, wisdom, and skills.
I would describe our homeschooling style as eclectic. My main guide was meeting my kid’s needs where they were at. I wanted to focus on their whole being: their spiritual, moral, emotional, social, physical and intellectual and made sure that our choices gave them the opportunity to grow in each of those areas. (read more about my discipleship scope and sequence) We were very literature based, we used unit study concepts, and enabled the kids to develop their own passions and interests in various projects. We prioritized studying the Bible and were able to integrate language arts lessons into every subject (once they were reading and writing) instead of isolating it as a stand alone subject. We were influenced by Sally Clarkson, Charlotte Mason, Ruth Beechick and Diana Waring. ( Best Books to Read as a New Homeschool Mum )
And now we come to the end of our homeschooling journey – we homeschooled four kids from pre-primary through to year 12. This is what my kids are doing (at the time of writing this post)
Joshua: He has studied a BA in Ancient History and Politics, took a 3 month Internship on public policy and leadership, and then studied a Masters of Education (for Highschool teaching). He did both his degrees studying externally, living at home so he could be involved in family and community and have a support base throughout his studies. He ran a young boys Bible study, and worked in a lawnmowing business and then as a private tutor. He has also been a teacher’s aide in TAFE with adult and indigenous education. In his last year of his Masters he volunteered on several committees (both church and sport based) and ran a non-competitive sporting club and participated in several sports himself.
Jessica: When she finished homeschooling she took a course in Professional Organising, and then became a homeschool tutor. During that time she began some external studies in business which were transferred to a traineeship with a local business and local education provider. After two years working in business with technology, customer service and project management (and completing her studies) she moved on to be a receptionist for a larger local not-for-profit organization. During this time she also ran a girls Bible study, played in the music team at church, volunteered for a local main event, and participated in sport and personal fitness challenges. She regularly helped me with projects and organization around the house. Last year her main priority was to save her pennies so she could spend 8 months travelling. She travelled to Europe and Canada and then relocated to Laos where she has spent 6 months volunteering teaching English and keyboard.
Naomi: In Nomi’s last year of school and her first year out of school she struggled with insomnia, Ross River Virus and Glandular Fever – this made her transition into adult learning and work life very hard. She had an opportunity to study art externally for two years so she did do that which meant travelling about 10 hours away for a week long intensive study block each year. She worked at a local jewelry store on the weekend and then moved to waitressing at a local resort. Nomi is now studying (externally) Graphic Design though she is always picking up extra art projects – some of which she has sold. She also travelled last year – to Canada and America; some of this trip was as a companion/nanny, some was solo and some was with a friend.
Daniel: Daniel has just finished his homeschooling – the year ahead of him is about consolidating. He has a Diploma in Digital Photography to complete, he has books he wants to read, projects he wants to build and stories he wants to write. At some stage he will look for a job and will probably increase the number of sports he gets involved with. He is just beginning to think about life as an adult.
As you can see – each of my children have unique interests and abilities which have directed their choices and commitments. It is exciting to see them step out into their world.
Homeschooling to us has been a tool we have used to help raise our children. We are first and foremost parents; and as all parents we have the responsibility to make sure our children grow to meet their potential. When we started homeschooling, we never knew what our kids would be like, or even what they would need. We dealt with what we could see at the time. Though I made plans for our studies at the beginning of the year, often they would change along the way because a need or opportunity arose.
Along the way I started to blog. Initially my blog was about documenting what our kids were doing and by doing so I started to see their learning was broader than what they did when we pulled out the books – learning happened as we lived life together. And it has been a great journey together – I wouldn’t change it for the world.
This post is the first in a series of reflections on our 20 years of homeschooling.
So you want to start Homeschooling? It will change your life: Advice I give my best friend if they’d ask about starting homeschool.
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