Last month, I had the joy of jumping on a Skype call with Rachelle Glendon from How to Live Slow to chat about homeschooling. Prior to the call, Rachelle had sent me some questions and I’d jotted down some notes but the podcast itself ended up being quite a bit more organic. The podcast will release in January so I’ll link that here when it’s ready.
Until then, I know there are a lot of families starting their homeschooling journey this coming year and thought that the below notes might be helpful… or not! If you’re starting out, the main thing I want to stress is that homeschooling is what YOU make it. Don’t read my notes and think that we’ve somehow hit a winner. If what you’re currently doing isn’t working, definitely switch things up. But the last thing I want is to overwhelm you when you’re starting out. Take what you love, leave what you don’t, be flexible and enjoy the journey.
Tell us about you and your homeschooling life – why you started, about your kids
I have 6 kids and we live on a 64 acre hobby farm in the Riverina region of NSW. My oldest is 15, youngest is 5 and we’ve been homeschooling the whole time, so we’re heading into our 11th year. We started homeschooling for a number of reasons. I was homeschooled myself from year 5 and really enjoyed it so I was keen to give that same opportunity to my children. From experience, I knew that homeschooling can help foster close family relationships and that was something we really wanted to support. My husband was in the Army and we felt that homeschooling would be more stable than changing schools every 2 years.
We really haven’t looked back. While we’re open to the idea of our kids receiving a conventional school-based education, we know that each child and each year is different and brings different challenges. I’m a firm believer that we shouldn’t fix what’s not broken and so far, homeschooling is working well for us.
What does homeschooling look like for you – I know there’s no such thing as a typical day but do you follow a style or rhythm?
We start bookwork at 8 am and are finished by midday. Our afternoons are for free play, music lessons, sport, friends, work. While 8 am might seem like an early start, it’s half an hour later than some of their friends catch the bus, so our mornings are actually quite slow and calm, which is one thing I really love about homeschooling. There’s no homework in the evenings so our evenings aren’t stressed or rushed.
In terms of curriculum, we don’t follow any particular program but rather, will mix and match each year from a variety of resources to create a learning experience that’s suited to each child’s needs and strengths.
From a practical point of view – is there a lot of paperwork and reporting needed?
Each state’s requirements are different, but if you’re registering to homeschool – and you don’t have to, at this point it’s still a choice – there is an expectation that some record keeping will happen. So you need to have a way of recording the kid’s progress, which might just be the books that they’re working through.
It’s helpful to have some kind of schedule to keep you on track as the year progresses. It’s also immensely helpful to have some level of detachment from this schedule and be willing to change it up if it’s not working. Similarly, what works for one child might not work for the next at the same age/year level, so we have to be flexible enough to recognise what is or isn’t working and do what is necessary to improve the learning environment or resources as we go.
How does it benefit your family? Are there any downsides or times you wonder what if?
There are of course downsides, as there are to everything in life, but they’re usually seasonal. For example, if one child is struggling to read, this can be stressful but it’s usually for a period of time and not something that spans years or even months on end. It helps when you get to the point of realising that each child learns at his/her own pace and our job as the facilitator is to give them the resources they need to figure out what they don’t know, not to try and keep to some arbitrary age by which they need to do a certain thing.
This is a great essay about this very topic if it’s something you’re curious about.
I really love the lifestyle that homeschooling affords and honestly can’t say I’ve ever questioned the decision. It just works for us.
When do you find time for you and your business work?
I have two businesses – I’ve own a cloth nappy company for over 15 years now, and I’m a brand ambassador for Young Living. I work on my businesses most afternoons. Over the years, I’ve also studied alongside the kids: journalism, aromatherapy and business studies.
I don’t have any babies or toddlers at the moment, so it’s easy enough to let the kids know I’m going into the office to work and they need to do their own thing for an hour or two. And because there are 6 of them, there’s always someone to play with.
What are some of the hesitations or resistance you come up against from others, both those wanting to start and those who don’t understand?
I think the key concern for most people is how they’ll socialise without a classroom environment, but the reality is that homeschooled kids socialise in ways that are perhaps more varied than at school. They’re hanging out with different ages and in different settings, rather than just within their class level.
We have a large homeschooling community in our area, so we have plenty of opportunities for them to hang out with their friends in both an informal setting and in controlled environments, such as co-op lessons. They learn music, play footy, go to church, see cousins regularly, have friends that go to local schools, have casual employment, volunteer and teach skills to younger kids.
What would you say to someone who wants to give it a go but who might be scared to do so?
You can always send them to school! Literally, you have nothing to lose. I know families who’ve taken their kids out of school for a year and then sent them back because it wasn’t working well at home and others who said we’ll just give it a term and 10 years later, they’re still homeschooling. We are lucky enough to live in a country where homeschooling is legal and many schools, particularly small country-town schools, are really flexible and are happy to work with families to do what’s best for each child.
The schools don’t own us or our children or our educational journey and if that journey changes over time, it’s really important to be able to break away from whatever it is we’re currently doing and try something new.