I hope you had a safe and happy Christmas and New Year’s celebration. Ours was low key, but delightful.

We stayed with Grandpa in Melbourne and really enjoyed exploring that city from a child’s perspective. My favourite day was the one we spent at Abbotsford Convent and the Collingwood Children’s Farm, and  Elisabeth was really taken by the restored antique carousel at the end of the pier at Eastern Beach in Geelong. We also had a lovely moment at a playground in Williamstown when a random dad, after chatting to us via our kids, said, “So you’re two mums?” His relaxed manner was such a testament to all the amazing work the Rainbow Families Council has done in Melbourne over the years. Everyone I’ve encountered in Brisbane has been absolutely fine, too, but he sounded so…blase.

I’m planning some changes around here, both in appearance and content.  I’d like to keep it going, and I need to make it sustainable for me to manage. So I’m going to cut back to two posts a week for a while (until I pull together a regular posse of contributors) – one article and one ‘Meet rainbow families’. Let me know if you’ve got any comments on how it is unfolding – like most bloggers, I love to get messages from the ether!

To kick off 2010, Mel from Rainbow Garden talks about home schooling her kids.

Home Education

by Mel

It’s a scary concept for some and a very liberating one for others. But what exactly is it?

Let me start by telling you what it isn’t.

Home Education is not locking your children away from society so they grow up social recluses who duck behind a bush every time they see a ‘stranger’.

Home Education is not depriving your children of valuable social opportunities – you know the sort of opportunities I mean – interacting with all members of society, from all walks of life, spanning all age groups.

Home Education is not indoctrinating your children with your belief system so they grow up mindless drones (I know, because I tried – it didn’t work.)

Home Education is not going to make your child grow up to be uneducated or unemployable.

Home Education is not something that can only be undertaken by trained professionals (I know this one too – because my kids are WAAYYY smarter than me!)

Home Education IS a rich, rewarding experience for both parent and child. It forms strong family bonds which they will need all their lives. It allows children to follow their own interests. It can be tailored to the needs of each individual child. Home Education can be delivered in so many different ways – from ‘school at home’ to complete ‘unschooling’ and everything in between. Home Education protects our kids from the more unsavoury aspects of school life. For instance, if bullying is such a good character building experience for kids, why are there programs (albeit failing ones) in place to try and combat it?

Home Education allows for plenty of social opportunities with peers and the wider community. Our own homeschool group has had sports carnivals, swimming carnivals, gymnastics classes, art classes, science days, nature days, history days, self defence classes, ice skating gatherings, numerous informal picnics and excursions. Not only that, as a natural part of having your kids with you 24 hours a day, they get to see how society works up front in a non-orchestrated way. They get to go to the bank, post office, doctors, hospitals, vets, shopping centres and so on; opportunities they may not get very often stuck in school  five days a week.

Parents home educate for a variety of different reasons. Some homeschool because of their religious convictions, others because their children were almost suicidal from the abuse they were receiving at school. Some  children are gifted and the school can’t keep up with the child’s needs; and there are those that homeschool because they just enjoy being with their kids and they see home education as a natural progression of their parenting life.

My reasons for home educating my children have evolved over the years. Initially it was because I was deeply concerned that children were growing up too fast because of peer and media influence, and I guess there is still an element of that there for me, but now it is just an inbuilt part of who we are and what we do – I can’t imagine sending my kids to school, it just isn’t an option for us.

I was asked to comment on whether there were any negatives to home education. It is a hard question to answer, because you will get a different response from everyone you ask. For me, the hardest thing is the 24/7 intensity of it all. Most people send their kids off to school when they turn five and have their days to do as they wish, be that at work or in the home. When you are homeschooling you just don’t have that freedom. But you do adapt, it just takes some creativity and the ability to realise that what you are doing is a good and worthwhile thing.

Home Education in Australia is LEGAL in most states and territories as far as I am aware, though each state has their own criteria. In NSW, for example, we have to follow all the Key Learning Areas (KLA’s) that the schools cover, but it is pretty much up to us how we do that. There are numerous curriculum suppliers or if you are really adventurous you can make up your own – it really isn’t that complicated!  Every two years, an Authorised Person (usually someone who was once a teacher) comes out and has a look at what you’ve been doing and what you plan to do with your kids. He makes sure that you are covering all the KLA’s, makes suggestions on where you could do a bit more work, makes sure that the location where the children work is suitable, and so on. If he is satisfied, he gives you two years registration. If he thinks you need to make some changes, you will most likely get a shorter registration period.

Education is not a sacred art that can only be imparted to others once you’ve spent four years in university. Education happens every day of your life and you can be taught things by a two year old or a 92 year old! You don’t have to have a high IQ or be an expert in any field. Let me tell you a little secret – kids learn in SPITE of us, not BECAUSE of us. We can provide fun activities and make sure we take our kids to all the homeschool meet-ups. We can provide them with the best and most expensive curriculum, but at the end of the day it is the kids that do all the work and learn what interests them and ignore what bores them.

Have you thought about schooling for your kids? what are you doing or planning to do?