This is us: Brad (middle), Anna (right) and Hayley (left).
We began home educating when Hayley was barely 4yo.
Some families say ‘we’ve been home educating since birth’ – well, we didn’t really think about ‘home education’ when Hayley was a baby.
When she was about two years old, we met a family from New Zealand who had been
home educating for years. Still, our only reaction was, ‘That’s interesting.’
We listened to other parents (in Sydney at the time) talking about which pre-schools their toddlers were enrolled in. We heard others talking about problems in both private and public facilities with their older children. We saw all manner of social posturing and one-up-man-ship that seemed rife no matter what sort of educational facility a child was destined for. And there wasn’t much about it that we liked, or wanted to pass on to our child.
So, we asked questions about home education. We actually bought a school-in-a-box style pre-school curriculum, which Hayley was so keen to get into, we started home education way before I was ready for it. That experience burnt us out, so we took the next year to read all we could and figure out just what it was we were getting ourselves involved in.
We heard all the horror stories – about socially inept kids, academically deprived kids, children who were isolated and maladjusted. But we met some wonderful, very normal people who were home educating some really great kids, and we decided that’s what we wanted.
Just as Hayley was turning six, we moved to Canberra. We settled in quickly and made some great friendships. Then, as 2003 was drawing to a close, there was a sudden outflow of people from our world – people moving away, interstate, overseas, to the coast – and suddenly Hayley’s extensive friendship base evaporated.
Toying with School
We found a delightful, small school where she attended Year 5, just one day a week, in 2004. In hindsight, that wasn’t entirely the wonderful experience it seemed to be at the time. The people were lovely, and Hayley made some great friendships there, but it wasn’t all great.
As 2005 began, I was stressed because I hadn’t been able to meet with Hayley’s Year 6 teacher to ascertain what she would be learning at school, and what I’d have to cover at home. For a week, I got up early each morning to work through my own process. Finally, I met with the teacher, and my worst fears were confirmed – there was just no easy way for Hayley to continue at school in a way that met all her needs. Full-time attendance wasn’t an option (we saw too many advantages to home education), and part-time attendance was shaping up as a nightmare. So, after much discussion, Hayley came home again full-time.
Full Steam Ahead
At that point, we joined both the local home education networks, and honestly, we’ve never looked back. We’ve become even firmer in our conviction that home education is right for Hayley, and our confidence has grown in leaps and bounds. We’ve relaxed a lot of our preconceived ideas over time, and these days we’re loving life and learning, and looking forward to the future.
Apparently it’s quite well known amongst long term home educators, that often the whole ‘school’ question isn’t really laid to rest until you’ve tried it. For us, it was the catalyst for all of us, parents and child, being reassured that yes, we can do just as well as a school – in fact, better, because it’s personal.
“You’ve got to do your own growing,
no matter how tall your grandfather was.”
~ Irish saying.