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Raised Together

This week, we have been sick. The entire family is sick. So we have been bingeing on watching David Attenbourgh and all the documentaries he has ever created. We recently just bought a blu-ray version of Blue Planet and Blue Planet II which has been amazing to see.

What strikes me the most is watching the mammals. All the apes, the cats, wolves and bears. When the mums have their babies, their babies are with them. When they grow up a little, they are still with their mum. When they are ‘teens’, they are still with their pack.

So why is it, that we are the most intelligent beings on this planet, and we are not raised together?

We are suppose to be this amazing being, that can achieve so much, yet we apparently have no clue on how to raise our children. We need to send them to specialists, everything needs to be checked by someone else, and we apparently do not have all the knowledge and skills to raise our children. We have to send them to others so that they can learn the basic skills to survive as a human being.

From the age of 3, children are sent to kindergartens. I sent my eldest to kindergarten, and there was many tears. He simply was not happy to go. He wanted to be by my side. But not trusting my parenting and not trusting my instincts, I believed what others said, and I walked away. (He’s now 7 and homeschooled… just so you know).

From the age of 5, children are sent to schools for 6-7 hours a day, 5 days a week where they are segregated into classes with children their age, which they must get along with. They must be able to listen, sit down, to get along, to express themselves, to read, to count, to be happy with all this.

But what happens when they don’t? If they don’t listen, if they don’t express themselves, if they won’t sit still, and what happens when they are simply not happy with all this? The teacher will tell the parent, that possibly, little Billy needs to see a specialist. Because he isn’t normal. He doesn’t fit.

And this goes on for the next 13 years of your child’s life. They are not with you, they are at school.

I personally use to think this way, that I didn’t have the knowledge or experience to raise my children. I needed to take them to all sorts of specialists to ensure that they fit into school and sometimes, I would see their spark dull a little… because they were just being kids.

But after a full year of homeschooling, stepping through life with them for an entire year together, I now know that all my children want, is me. And my goodness, how they shine when they are nurtured, when they are loved and raised together.

Our children have not only become confident in the way the speak to others, they have been able to discover what it is they love about life, what makes them tick. Incidentally, I know several adults who still don’t know what makes them tick. But the most beautiful thing about all this, is that there weren’t any specialists involved (except for our 3 year old who needed grommets put in his ears), all our social and mental issues were fixed because we homeschooled. The children felt safe, they felt loved, and they felt that they were listened to, honoured and respected.

Now, I understand their are children who truly do need specialists, and that ADHD, Autism and ODD are disorders that require attention. I understand this. But I also believe that their has been an epidemic of diagnosed cases with parents who worry about their children’s behaviour.

But it just does not agree with me or our family to send a young child off to someone else to teach and raise. And later in life, if my children choose to go to school, then so be it. But it will be their decision, and not based on what society says they should do, or who they should be.

The system cannot give them the cuddles they need when they just aren’t feeling all that together on any particular day. The school teaches them things, but it cannot show them what it is that makes them tick, and then allows them to delve into their interest for hours and hours on end.

I refuse to believe that we are the most intelligent beings created (or evolved, which ever you believe), yet we are also the being that does not trust its own ability to raise our own children. Animals have been raising their children naturally, and the little animals learn all that they need to survive in the world that they are given.

Why is it that we cannot do the same? Have we made the world so complicated that we can no longer parent our own children?

Well, I for one, am taking a stand. And saying that all my kids need to live a healthy, resilient and fruitful life, is love, togetherness and for them to know that the family is always on their side.

 

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Peer to Peer versus Family Influence

Today is such a great day. The Sun is finally out in dreary cloudy Melbourne, and my husband is home this week from work. We wanted to replicate ‘holiday mode’ even without the going away part, so have gone out for breakfast most days, gone out for dinner most days, and put housework aside to focus on family time. It is joyous… to say the least. Currently as I type this, I have a 3 year old who has chosen to take his nap on my lap.

These moments are important to me. They silently build something within me that actually makes me happy, content and complete. Recently I wrote a piece regarding mental illness in our children and society and the possible links to pressure from mainstream schools. I have just read a book that adds another idea to the mix of what might be missing from our lives.

Currently, I am reading an out of print book called, “The Collapse of Parenting” by Leonard Sax. It was published some 10 years ago, but in my humble opinion, should be essential reading to all parents in modern society. Sax speaks of the dangers of today not just being social media, junk food or medication/drugs, but very much to do with two factors:

  1. The parent no longer being the authoritative lead in the home, but the child;

and

  1. The shift from family influenced children, to peer to peer influenced children.

The first is something we can see very readily. Parents don’t feel the sense of control they once use to. There seems to be so many things that a child can be attracted to these days, that it does seem so much harder these days to raise children.

When I was a child, there were 5 channels, and you only had two channels in the morning showing cartoons you actually wanted to see, and that ended at 9am. Go outside. Do something else. Now, there are several channels, DVD options, some channels showing round the clock cartoons, iPads, youtube… kids can have what they want, when they want it… right now.

Sax speaks about the 1950s where you were given no choice as to what was given to you at dinner, you ate it or starved. There are no snacks in between, so you knew the times to eat, and it was your choice to not eat the meals given. Today, kids can’t go without a snack in a 40 minute car ride.

Toys are abundant. We are drowning in junk because we can’t find it in ourselves to say no, I mean, its only a $9 toy… just give it to him, he’s been good today. I remember waiting for birthdays and treasuring every toy because I would not get another. And I have to admit, I’m one of those parents who does give my kid that $5 toy once a week at the shops because I just need to get the grocery shopping done!

But even this is something we can control. If we put up rules in our home to ensure some sort of normality of control, we might pull it off. No snacks after 2pm as dinner is at 5:30pm. No sugary drinks at all. No toys unless its your birthday or Christmas (I’m going to try this one! Wish me luck!) This point is somewhat in our control.

I believe the second point is far less out of our control.

(Now typing with one hand as son has decided to move onto my side! Excuse the mess too, on the floors, I can’t move right now!)

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Sax speaks of times gone by, where the family would be the child’s main area of influence. The father would influence the sons to help with the family business. They would always look up to their father, even once they have mastered the trade, as the wise expert and holder of all knowledge. Grandfathers would have more knowledge and thus, the influence was kept within the family.

Sax also says that in the 1950s, a survey to teenage schools students at the time asked them this question, “There is a party that you want to attend, and your friends are attending, however, your parents disapprove of the friends going. Would you go?” A resounding 97% said no, that they would adhere to their parent’s wishes.

Sax personally performed a similar survey in 2006, asking the teenage school students this question, “There is a social media site that your friends are on, but your parents do not want you to go on it. Would you still go on it?” 86% (check this Belinda) said that they would, and for those that answered no, Sax believed that they were being sarcastic due to the amounts of laughter that followed the answer ‘no’.

Now, some of you reading might say, “But this is just where society has gone. Our kids need to learn to live in this society, in this world.” “This is socialisation, our kids need to know how to decide for themselves what is right in this world.”

The dangers of this type of influence, however, are this. When the family is the influencer of the child, they are being influenced with expert knowledge, with a life lived full of mistakes as well as a well-fed life, but most of all, the influence is mostly given out from unconditional love to the child. A child in this type of influence would know boundaries, would feel supported and would know that the knowledge given to them was essential for the betterment of the next generation.

Peer to peer is something different. When a child enters into peer to peer influence, the influence that child goes into the hands of another similar less mature mind. The child will seek approval from anyone who has influence over them, and when it comes to peers, sometimes, they will not align to your family values.

What makes a teenage girl scream and shout because her mother won’t let her go to a party? Why is it acceptable for that teenage girl to scream and shout at her mother? What makes someone so upset at being banned from a social media site that their friends are on? Why would it be acceptable to yell and scream at the people who are primarily taking care of you, and have been, your whole life?

When the influence shifts from parent/family, to peer, a child no longer regards their parents commands, feelings, advice or wishes for them as important. A child looks only to satisfy their peers, and this, as Sax points out, can be so utterly dangerous for our children.

I’m not just talking about the bad influences, drugs, smoking, drinking and sex. I’m talking about not wanting to excel in a subject you’re good at, for fear of being not as cool. I’m talking about not wanting to admit that you went to see a movie with your parents, and actually had a great time. I’m talking about suddenly not caring what your parents think of you, and caring immensely about what your friends, society and the outside world thinks of you.

Today, I see a broken world, full of nursing homes with beautiful parents who have no one to take care of them, because we have somehow gotten to a stage where it’s just too hard. When I look to my past, my grand mother was 97 when she passed away, spending only the last 3 months in a hospital and every moment from when she was 70, living with her eldest son and his family. I love that. Don’t get me wrong, there are other circumstances that lead to our elderly being in caring homes, please don’t read this the wrong way. My point is just the vast amount of nursing homes we seem to have and how society doesn’t seem to support multi generational living.

Today, it is somewhat expected that when a teenager turns 14, that they will separate from you and ‘turn’, so to speak. But history has shown us generations of children growing up, respecting their fathers, grandparents, mothers and so on, for all the hard work they do, and how much they loved their children.

If you home-school, you are keeping your family close. You will of course, have a wide circle of friends, but your child will sense that their family is the main influence in their lives. I have some some wonderful families keep their family’s influence over the children even with school. I absolutely commend these families and wish they would write a book. But as society values the young, as we push our children from one activity/school/after school activity to another, as we focus more on academics rather than family fun times and warmth with in the family… we will continue to lose these children.

If our children do not get the fun times, warm love and happy days from us, they will get it from their peers. And this is when the influence changes.

So thank you to all you wonderful people, homeschooling your children, and creating a better society as we bring the focus of our children’s influence back to love, acceptance and boundaries.

I have to stop typing now as my one hand and my neck are very sore!!!!!

Mental health, homeschool and happiness

Sometimes it’s difficult to write a post on how our days have been. And this isn’t because it’s difficult to write about. Simply, every time I write about how wonderful, amazing and fulfilling a day has been, I realise that it absolutely comes across as arrogant, conceited and to be honest, showing off. This is never the intention.

See, most days for me, ever since taking this journey of homeschooling with my three children, is wonderful, it is fulfilling and most days are amazing. Hard days are days when no one (including me) wants to do the work, and instead, we go to the local trampoline bouncing play centre and have 5 hours of jumping fun (pelvic floor training fun). Hard days where little kids throw tantrums and cannot regulate their emotions become our hug days, where we bake cupcakes together, hug it out on the couch whilst reading a funny book that has no pictures.

This was a far cry from the end of last year, where I was booking appointments for mental health experts for Mr. 6; paediatricians, child psychologists, having conversations with them over the phone about what is wrong with him, booking assessments.

Today, he is simply a very different child.

I asked Mr. 6 today five reasons why he likes being homeschooled. Here they are:

  1. After “work” time, I get to play and I get to play a lot.
  2. I love break times where we eat together.
  3. I love being with my brother and seeing him be silly.
  4. I like seeing friends and playing with them for the whole day.
  5. I like staying inside when it’s cold and not rushing in the morning.

Sometimes I feel the need to check with my children, to see if everything is okay, and they are happy. Is this working out, is homeschooling making you happy, are you happy with the way things are. And the reason is, is that the reason why I first started to homeschool, was simply because my children’s mental health is of the utmost important to me.

Now yes, every parent would probably say the same. Why would a parent say anything different?! But the little man I have this year, and the little man he was last year, are two completely different little men. Something has shifted, and an overall confidence has replaced a scared and shy little boy. School and kinder may not have directly done that to him, no, but it’s more what is HIS priority. Being away from family was the issue. And when you look at his responses to what makes him happy about homeschooling, you can see why he is finally being fed.

Mr. 6 is no longer chronically shy (he is still cautious but no longer shy), loves making friends and being around them, but more than anything, he is happy, secure and confident in what he does, how he talks and who he is… everyday.  I have had many people tell me just how different he is this year, and how he has changed. To me, it is nothing short of miraculous to see Mr. 6 sometimes steal the limelight from our very bold Miss 5.

Mental health is such a major issue in Australia. We are spending $8 billion each year to just treat mental health issues. It is stated that almost half of all Australians have had a mental health issue, and 1 in 7 children between 4 – 17 years old have a mental health issue currently being treated. My son was nearly this child.

In such an affluent country, why is the prevalence of mental health so high, and why is the expenditure on it so very high?

Health Direct’s website advise the following 8 tips for good mental health:

1. Build relationships
Having good relationships with other people is the most important factor contributing to a sense of wellbeing. This can include family, friends, workmates and others in the community. Investing time and energy in your relationships can lead to great benefits for all involved.
2. Exercise and stay healthy
Exercise has been shown to increase wellbeing as well as reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. Good physical health is related to better mental health so a healthy diet, avoiding excess alcohol or drugs, and regular checkups with the doctor can all help.
3. Develop gratitude
Count your blessings. Try keeping a gratitude journal and write down 3 positive things for each day. This can lead to increased wellbeing.
4. Identify and use your strengths
We all have different strengths and weaknesses but finding out what you are really good at and using those talents can increase wellbeing. A strengths questionnaire is available at Authentic Happiness. Using your strengths to help others or contribute to the community creates a sense of meaning and purpose.
5. Create flow
Flow is the state of being so highly involved in an enjoyable activity that you lose track of time. This usually happens when the level of challenge is about right for your level of skill. Flow can happen during work, hobbies, creative arts or sports.
6. Give to others
Making a contribution to the community, however small, increases social wellbeing. Many people feel a sense of contributing through meaningful work, but this could also mean volunteering, helping a neighbour or performing small acts of kindness. Take some time to do the things you really enjoy. Pleasant events can lead to positive emotions that can cancel out negative feelings.
7. Spirituality or religion
For some people, being involved in spiritual or religious practices can improve wellbeing, help in coping with stress and reduce symptoms of mental illness. This can include belonging to a faith community, meditation, prayer, mindfulness or practices such as yoga and Tai Chi.
8. Seek help
If you are struggling to feel happy, cope with everyday life, find meaning or feel connected to others, see your doctor or a mental health professional. 1 in 5 Australians will experience a mental disorder at some time in their life – depression, anxiety and substance abuse are the most common disorders.

 

Mental health problems are caused by so many issues. Now, I am not a mental health expert. But I cannot help join some dots in wanting to understand why it is such an issue. Why are people simply not happy? Is it because society’s expectations on our youth too demanding? Are we trying to put our kids through too much so they won’t miss out? Is it social media? Is it the iPad addiction? Is it the foods we feed our kids? What could it possibly be.

When we first have our kids, when we hold our child for the first time, we are just so happy they are here. We are so happy they are safe, and alive and our lives change because they are here. They are so precious to us, they could be covered in scales or have 3 eyes, we would still love them with all of our being.

But suddenly when they start life, we want them to be the best. Either we start to live through them, or we just want them to never be second. We want them to be the best ‘them’ they can be. And this expectation makes us see things in them, such as their strength, their musical ability or their intelligence. We sign them up for activities to enhance this, we sign them up for the best schools, we sign them up for things to make them the best. Surely, to be your best, you will be happy. We rank them, we judge them, we work so hard to spend money on all these opportunities… to make them happy.

But they aren’t. They simply, are not happy.

Here’s another idea.

This is the link to the Australian Curriculum. The first welcoming paragraph of this website reads this:

The Australian Curriculum sets the expectations for what all Australian students should be taught, regardless of where they live or their background. For F-10, it means that students now have access to the same content, and their achievement can be judged against consistent national standards. Schools and teachers are responsible for the organisation of learning and they will choose contexts for learning and plan learning in ways that best meet their students’ needs and interests.

What I see here are words such as ‘expectations’ and ‘achievement can be judged against’. When I read this for my Mr. 6 and my Miss 5, it makes my heart ache. Because I don’t see words like, helping children flourish in their “Natural Flow” (point 5 of the mental health recommendations), connect with families and community (point 1), identify and develop their individual strengths (point 4), giving to others and also spirituality (point 6 and 7, which incidentally, spirituality has been removed from most public school curriculums). At this time, the only expectation I have of my children, is that they are truly happy.

If you are not aware, homeschooling in Victoria is going to take a bit of a shift as of January 2018, due to new regulations that will require all new registered homeschoolers to summit a plan for the year, be ready for checks, and possibly, a requirement to stick to the Australian Curriculum for the children you are teaching.

I have read all the requirements for Foundation, Grade 1 and Grade 2 (all 600 pages thus far) to just simply get ready for this. I am currently changing my homeschool to ensure I am within the requirements.

But nothing here… tells me how my children are going to benefit. It simply tells me what is expected, what they should achieve and how this achievement will be measured. It does not teach my children perseverance through mistakes, it teaches them that there is only one answer to every question, and it will be marked and judged. And simply, if it doesn’t measure up because rather than getting his reading up to scratch, he would rather learn the periodic table’s list of elements, they are advising that possibly, homeschooling will not be an option for him.

My beautiful family is happy. My beautiful son is a happy, free and secure child. I do not aspire for him to get 99.95. I do not aspire for him to be a doctor, or the next olympic swimmer, or the next Thomas Edison (although, he was homeschooled).

I aspire him to be happy.  I aspire them to be happy, and to know how to be happy.

Just like what they are now.

And some of you may say, yes, but will they be happy in years to come, without school friends, without certain opportunities, without all those activities and lessons, school sporting opportunities on weekends etc.

My response to that is this. If they have the best childhood, that is filled with happiness, with slow days, with cups of Milo whilst you mull over sums and reading, with warm hugs in the Sun whilst reading the Iliad and Shakespeare, watching the rain whilst indoors inside a warm doona, whilst helping your brother spell ‘poo’ and ‘wee’ and laughing at each other when mum finds out, whilst learning with your family and celebrating achievement instantly when you finally get it, slow family days that connect connect connect…

… they will carry with them something worth more than anything could ever buy.

They will have the confidence to follow their dreams, to achieve their interests and goals, and to strive for that idea.

They will have had time to connect with their family, with their community and grown a strong relationship around people who are feeding them positive messages about themselves, and not more aligned with society’s ideals of who they should be.

They will have had so much time to play, run, jump, kick, somersault, climb, each and every day that it will be so normal for them, that sitting down all day will be absolutely abnormal.

They will discover and develop their strengths, their interests and what makes them tick. They will find that element that makes time flow so fast, they won’t know that they’re working, studying or achieving set goals. They will have found their passion in life.

They will discover what it is to give to others, to consider others and to be thankful for what you have. Because they are not rushing from life goal to life goal, from activity to activity, they are focused on other things… and are able to allow deep thoughts on certain matters through time and having the space to do so.

And of course, they will understand their own spirituality, and what it is to be human.

A parent is always happy when their child is happy. My days are full of happy days, and our lives are fulfilled and warm. Schooling takes part, yes, but our homeschooling provides so much more than one on one teaching for our children, it gives them happiness, security, comfort, warmth and connectivity, delivered in a slow paced family orientated setting. I cannot think of a better start to life for any child than this.

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Mother’s Guilt – The Homeschool Edition

As a homeschooler, this life consumes you sometimes. I find myself even when I am alone, unable to let go and constantly thinking to myself what else can I do to make this educational journey as fulfilling and bright as possible. Then there is the self-doubt of whether you are doing enough, are you doing something wrong, can you be better. I’m not sure about you, but homeschooling has somewhat elevated my mother guilt about 10 times over where it was this time last year.

Today, I was very hard on Mr. 6. And in hindsight, I did not want to be. He diligently wrote out a beautiful writing piece on Peter Rabbit.

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His writing for a 6 year old is actually pretty good. He is starting to read as we progress through the 100 Magic words.

But today, as we started to do our Maths, he sighed and said these words that meant more to my inner-judgemental spirit than it was really intended. He said, “Oh maths, not again.”

And to him, it simply meant this. “I don’t like math. Mum says I’m good at it, I just don’t like it.”

To me, I heard this. “My mummy doesn’t make maths fun. I don’t like it because mummy hasn’t made it fun for me.”

See, I can actually think quite clearly now about it, but at the time, I’m not quite sure what came over me.

I did not yell at him. I just implored him to try and see it from my point of view. I then uttered these words that made me think that a lot of this effort I have put into his education was mis-focused and all of a sudden, did not align to my mission statement that I had set in December.

“I’m doing my best. Can’t you see that? I’m sorry that you don’t like maths. I’ll do better.”

I immediately stopped myself when I uttered those words, because all of a sudden, I realised I had lost focus, and that this homeschooling route somehow veered off course and became about how much we could achieve.

The guilt became so much, I was exhausted and at 7pm, I went to sleep, only to wake at 12am… which is why I’m on my blog!

I lost the reason why I initially did all this.

The summarised mission is this:
For Mr. 6, Miss 4 and Mr. 2 to be free to discover themselves. To connect as a family. To have fun, build happy memories and to not be restricted to the standardising of kids based on what year they are born. For our kids to find learning fun, and always be engaged in what they are doing. Being engaged. 

Mr. 6 loves Science and History. This week we learnt about genetics and how he got some traits from mum and some from dad. We made playdoh and we did the baking soda/vinegar thing again; that never gets old.  We also continue our studies in history, and Mr. 6 loves greek mythology like it’s Avengers. (Pictured below reading Usborne’s Illustrated Greek Myths) He loves drawing and making books. He loves sumos and since he cannot be one (being as skinny as a rake), he’s settling for the next best thing… Kendo classes. Great thing is, is that he is doing these classes with dad, so both him and his father get to spend one on one time together every week, hitting each other with sticks.

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Ultimately, we need to stop being so hard on ourselves, and also on our homeschooled kids. They are amazing beings, all children are. And as parents, we make choices to better their lives. But the internal judgement has got to stop, to ensure that the parenting is actually about the betterment of them, and not to make ourselves feel better. 

Sometimes as homeschoolers, we lose focus. Sometimes as parents and people, we lose focus. For the sake of my kids, I will freely admit that I am not perfect, and do make mistakes. But for the sake of my kids, I will always be open to change to ensure that they can be happy, resilient and connected kids. 

When I speak to mums about homeschooling, no mum has ever said, “Oh I wouldn’t want to do that.” Every mum says, “Oh that’s wonderful. I just couldn’t do that.” We are our own harshest critics, even before we have thought about it or attempted it. But sometimes what I hear is, “Oh that’s wonderful. I just couldn’t handle the guilt. I don’t think I’m good enough.”

And to all you mums about to try something new, maybe it’s homeschooling, maybe it’s going back to work, or maybe it’s doing Kendo with your 6 year old… just remember… You are good enough for you beautiful children, whom God gave you and trusted you to take care of.  So take care of yourself, and your kids, and stop being so hard on yourself.

 

Prayer Hands – Craft Activity

This is an adaptation of the ‘Telling God’s Story’ Prayer Hands craft activity, specifically talking about persistent prayer from Luke 8:1-8.

Materials Needed:
1. Baking Paper
2. Wax Crayons
3. Laminator and Laminator sheets
4. Sequence
5. Clear Sticky Tape (Shiny, not matte)
6. String (twine, wool etc)
7. Curtain rod or long branch (long branch would look better but we couldn’t find one this week)
8. Hanging nails if you wish to hang it on a wall

Instructions:
Please note we did this over 3 days
Day 1
1. Get some baking paper and get your child (if they are old enough) to trace their hand on the paper.
2. Shave some crayon colours on the hand. Make sure they are on the traced hand’s inside.
3. Cover this with another sheet of baking paper.
4. Carefully relocate to an ironing board, place cloth over, and iron over for about 10 seconds. No water in the iron.
5. Cut the hands out.

Day 2
6. Laminate the hands.
7. Cut them out.
8. Have your child decorate the hands with sequence and shiny things.
9. Carefully sticky-tape these down.
10. Again, cut out the hands if the tape has overlapped.

Day 3
11. Hole punch the hands.
12. Tie up the hands.
13. Locate them on the rod.
14. Hang the rod up however you would like.

It is designed to be near a window so it had a stain glass effect, however, we didn’t have an appropriate place, so placed ours on a wall.

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My Draft Submission to the Premier of Victoria

Dear Premier,

In relation to the Regulations just released…

It is absolutely difficult for any one homeschool parent to write a submission to address these regulations. The reason for this is because every homeschool is extremely different. One homeschool’s motivations and vision can be completely different to another. The outcomes are different. However, I believe from what I have read from the Regulations, the outcomes you want for the children of Victoria are all the same.

You have stated that the reasons for the existence of these regulations are:

The Department considers the current regulatory approach for home schooling to be unable to adequately assure quality in the instruction or educational progress of home-schooled children. The Department has no workable mechanism to manage the risk of low-quality education for home schooling. For children missing out on a quality education during compulsory schooling years, efforts later in life to remedy this situation are likely to be costly, not as effective, and difficult.
Regulatory Impact Statement
Education and Training Reform Regulations 2017
Page 7

You have then stated that this ‘workable mechanism’ would be:

  • at the application stage, provide a learning plan that outlines how they will deliver instruction and what resources and materials they will use to cater for their child’s circumstances and learning needs
  • if selected, participate in a review that would involve providing evidence of their child’s learning progress, and possibly also undertake an interview with the regulator.

 

I have a few concerns.

PROBLEM 1: HAVING ONLY ONE PLAN AND STICKING TO IT. 

Please find attached the Plan I had a plan, you can see it here –> lee-academy-2017-curriculum-plan. I have worked on this plan for 2 years. I have done all the research possible to put this plan in place. All the curriculum and the way it will be delivered is in a previous blog of mine.

We began this curriculum about a week ago. It has been an off and on journey for us to see if homeschooling works.  And it most certainly does. And as much as you may think that the History element is too advanced, and the English element too much… it’s actually something else that my Mr. 6 doesn’t like…

Maths Worksheets.

See, what I have found with Mr. 6 is that he is not a fan of close ended question/answer type learning. He simply loses interest when a question is asked and there is only one answer. The shame put upon his face when he gets it wrong, the shutting down of any eagerness to try again and keep going… this kind of education for my son simply doesn’t work.

Now you may say that he has no choice, that in life, questions simply only have one answer, and he must learn to deal with this.

I want to expose you to another way to teach someone like my son.

He loves English, he loves History and he loves Science. Why? Because these subjects are taught through reading books together, then having a long conversation of what we have read, then allowing him to draw a picture of what he has just learnt.

See the reason why he loves this, is because I’ve been doing this with him, and my other two children, ever since they were very young. There is no wrong or right to your point of view. There is not wrong or right in having a conversation about a Historical fact, and asking probing questions.

Please see his work here. One of of the Greeks climbing the wall of Troy and failing badly (before that Horse), and another is of Theseus and the Minotaur in the Labyrinth (with a tornado… don’t you love creativity).

So we have changed the plan yet again. I am now coming up with a brand new Maths plan that is done around conversations. Conversations where I sit with him and have a talk about times tables, numbers.

See the problem with submitting a plan, and then having to stick to it, is because homeschooling for me, is changing the way you teach so that your child doesn’t lose interest because of the delivery. If you then require new homeschool families to stick to the plan before they have even tried it out, it makes not sense because homeschooling is all about adapting to the child. 

PROBLEM 2: OUR CURRENT SCHOOLING SYSTEM and A RANKING SYSTEM

A lot of us are homeschooling because we believe the standardised schooling in public schools only allows children to have a question they must answer correctly. This is evident with Naplan, as well as the current VCE ATAR rating scale.

The problem is that not all children are the same. In my view, the only children that do extremely well in this system are the top 5% who achieve the mark they need to enter the course they want. So what do the other 95% do?

I for one, do not want my children to feel that their only reason for living is to get a high mark in Year 12 doing 6 subjects, to then be able to get into a good course, to then possibly have a good career. If what you mean by a ‘formal education’ you need each child to sit down and listen to a teacher for 13 years, learn the answers before they come up with the questions themselves, then this isn’t the type of education I personally want for my child. I will not be rushing my children from activity to activity, wake them up and rush them out the door to allow them to get a ‘quality education’.

I have nothing against teachers. Teachers have the hardest job and they have to each 25 children all with different ways of learning.

But I know that there is no one else in this world except for me and husband, who will sacrifice their world for these three children. If a curriculum doesn’t work, if a delivery method doesn’t work or if something seems uninteresting, it will be me who researches how to deliver it differently, it will be me who spends the money on extra curriculum and it will be me who takes it to heart if this does not work. I understand teachers do this too, that is why their job is so difficult. But will all teachers do this for MY child if my child simply learns differently.

I recently did enrol my Mr. 6 into Prep for next year, and I expressed to the school on how he learns, and whether something can be changed for him. He does not react well to testing, yet this school starts Term 1 off with a test. Their response was understanding however, they could not change anything.

So please don’t think there is no quality education here in our homeschool. We have put everything on the line for our children, we will sacrifice our careers, our lives and ourselves for our children. We have done the research and we have spent the money and the time. But most of all, you need to trust us with our children. Because no one on earth knows our children better than us. 

If the child was ranked for dance, and Victoria rated each child on how well they could dance, because this was the most popular university degree available, some children, would not fit in. I don’t understand how our current system cannot simply see that every person has different interests, goals and a rating system based on subjects cannot promote personal satisfaction in a career. Could this be the reason why so many people are unhappy in their careers? Just a thought.

WHAT THE REGULATIONS DO NOT ADDRESS

The Regulations do not address these current issues we in the homeschool community would like answers to.

  1. Why is it that a third world country is doing better in the ‘ranked’ educational stakes than Australia?
  2. Have you seen the average homeschool student’s rating compared to public school ratings (again, focusing on rankings, as per your Regulations, Naplan, ATAR). There are several articles on this, here is one.
  3. Your Regulations do not address issues such as mental health, depression amongst teens, family dis-connectivity etc.
    Even though we do not necessarily believe that public schooling has caused these issues, we believe that an environment where a family stays together, where a child feels safe and supported constantly, and yes, where we ‘shelter’ our children from some of the issues of society’s expectations, is an environment that promotes family belonging and better mental health. Why would we not want to teach our children at home, where they are able to ask any questions they like, and not feel any pressure that they simply can’t just be themselves.
  4. The Regulations do not address whether a formal education can promote family togetherness. Of course, the education system of Victoria is not responsible for this, the family is. And there you have the reason why we homeschool. We want our family to be together, to be connected.

 

We will do all we can to educate our children well. Please never think that we won’t, or can’t, just because we don’t have a formal teacher’s degree. Each family knows how their child learns, how they develop and what is best for them. Please trust us and leave this to us.

And if you are still concerned, here are a few pictures of my homeschool….

We have the books my kids freely access and read, as well as the books I read to them. We have the books I read, so they can actually witness what reading looks like, we have the weekly worksheets for Mr. 6 and Miss. 4 all ready and laid out for the year. Formal? Quality?

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How about this photo?

This is Mr. 6 as he is being homeschooled… in the car… on the way to Bunnings… And sure, you say that every family can get this… yes, but he gets this kind of happiness…. EVERY. DAY. EVERY SINGLE DAY.

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No regulation could ever document the happiness this boy contains in his heart because he feels safe to express himself, especially when something doesn’t sit well with him, like Maths worksheets.

 

Thank you for reading,

Yours sincerely,

Belinda

 

A Beautiful Day

A wonderful thing about homeschooling is setting your own schedule. So in our homeschool, we decided to start the school year… today. 19 December 2016. We did this because we scheduled our holiday weeks around birthdays so we could go away or do something extra fun for those weeks.

Lets see how it goes.

So today was the first official day of homeschooling my beautiful family. After a few false starts in 2015 and 2016, and a lot of research (about 2-3 years worth) and a small fortune in books to excite the young mind, we started today.

And what a beautiful day… with a few hiccups.

We started the day with a little boy, Mr. 6, with a fever and feeling awful. So all the intentions of starting the day slowly with a song and prayer… turned into a very quick song and prayer and running out the door for the first available doctor’s visit. Mr. 2 did two poos in his nappies whilst we were out. (How is that even possible?)

When we got home, the classical music went on, and we started this thing called ‘homeschooling’. We stuck to the well planned out curriculum with English, Maths, Reading, History and of course, our God discussions. This all went so well, however, I understand that the first day of anything is always exciting, thus, enhancing concentration and kid’s willingness to learn.  We would have incorporated a physical element today, but Mr. 6 wanted to be home in PJs (don’t you just love homeschool then, you can change things).

But something unexpected came from today, which was so beautiful.

We finished all we had to do in 2 hours. I had scheduled it for 4.

We cuddled for about an hour, each child having about 20 mins each whilst I affirmed them with words of love (such a good discovery, must do this every single day).

We read books for hours! Fun books like Ruby Red Shoes, science books (Dorling Kindersley anyone?), Gillian Cross’ Homer, and Emma Thompson’s inspired Beatrix Potter). All the while, we were engaged with each other. We cuddled more.

We had a dance party with toys and acted out the Trolls movie we saw in the weekend.

And the whole time, there was no rushing. It was a day full of rest, full of taking our time with each other, learning with one another and just soaking in each other’s time and love for one another.

Eventually we put our bed mattresses out into the lounge room, and just lay there laughing and spent a great amount of meaningful time connecting.

Wow. What a beautiful day.

So we have new subjects for our homeschool.

  1. Cuddles and words of affirmation time
  2. Stillness and relaxation time
  3. Silliness and crazy time
  4. Quiet reflection and prayer time (by yourself)

I also discovered that we have about 10 Read/CD books and it would be useful to have a CD player and headphones so anyone could retreat and do this on their own, instead of the whole room listening to this story that goes ‘BLING’ every 2 mins.

Just to see my children so content, so full of life and connected with me… brought tears to my eyes just putting them to bed and loving every single minute with them… never once feeling that they were a burden or that things were too hard.

I just felt that I had all the time in the world to answer all their questions. Mr. 6 asked me a very smart question, basically asking if the ice age or meteor killed all the dinosaurs, how did God then create humans, or did we exist during the time of dinosaurs and somehow were smart enough to survive. What. A. Question.

And a beautiful moment when dad came home, and asked the kids how their day went, and they told him about the golden Denari (Ancient Roman coins) they made and how it was money used back in Jesus’ days…

I am still thinking about it all, and hopefully after a few months, I’ll be able to pen down why it is that I feel this way.. the satisfaction with being with them, and how today… I just couldn’t get enough of them… Surely it must have something to do with family connectedness and regaining back what hurry and rushing took away…

Such a beautiful day.

How about World Schooling

There are times when I am quite sick of the way children want more and more and more. I am slightly disgusted by the need for more, and the inability to be thankful for what you have, or be grateful for the services of others.

As much as I want my children to excel and educate themselves, by far the best reason to homeschool is to open up their world to be wider than the world they currently experience.

To go to a place where children do not visit shops every single week, do not know what a toy store is, and do not ask for more, because there is no ‘more’ to give.

To go to a place where children work hard to better the family, because going to school means that this family would be one income less, and would have less to eat.

To go to a place where families stick together because they work together to ensure that the family survives. To fight together, to stick together and to appreciate each other.

To go to a place where the lack of material things has allowed a spring of joyfulness and happiness to explode when even the littlest things are appreciated.

To go to a place where we are not surrounded by the betterment of just our child with weekly activities, lessons, sporting and dance activities, but with togetherness brought out by poverty and difficulty…

Open the eyes of our children to the world, so that maybe even if they cannot change the whole world, they can change their world… they can change their family’s… they can change their community’s… 

We recently have been talking to a wonderful doctor/midwife who works out of Africa, and the prospect of bringing our little family to Africa for an extended trip to help the children there… is like a seed that has just been planted in our little homeschool journey.

And if this seed grows into a plant, then a tree, then a forest… I know how special this journey will truly be.

The Curriculum and The Plan

It seems to be part of my personality to write lists. I think I was born with a post it note pad in hand, because I live off them, and I live off lists, lists and more lists.

So, in order to have 2017 ready, I’m writing down my thoughts, my plan and the curriculum so that I can share my journey. It may seem like a lot, but from what I have experienced, homeschooling has allowed this family to explore a world opened up by a learning style that knows no limits or bounds.

The aim of all this is to provide Mr. 6, Miss 4 and Mr. 2…

A nurturing, gentle and beautiful environment whereby they are able to have their eyes opened to the world, but also explore the world inside them.

God, family and the community will drive this homeschool. Self awareness, self acceptance and self discovery will be important factors in creating our daily rhythm. 

So, mainly for Mr. 6, here is the plan for 2017, which incidentally begins after Christmas so we can go on holidays in February… when most people are at school – Yay!

Daily Plan:
After Breakfast and a slow start…
1. Worship, Devotion and Prayer together as a family
2a. English – Writing, Reading, Grammar and Spelling (not all in one day, this is the section for it)
2b. Math – Saxon Math Grade 1 and Grade 2
Snack time and rest
3. History or Science (Today, Mr. 6 was interested in the Gunpowder Plot and we are still on Whales)
Lunch
4a. Reading Together – Fun Reading
4b. Active Listening – Lying down and listening to a novel story
4c. Active Listening – Classical Music Song for mindfulness and relaxation
Free Play for 2 hours
5. Park, Run, Sporting Activities
6. Cooking with mum
Dinner
Downtime
Read, Read, Read before Bed

Housework will be worked into this mix and performed together with the children. To aid them to learn about money, they will be paid 50 cents for each time they help.
House work tasks can include:
1. Emptying dishwasher
2. Hang up, gather and fold washing
3. Washing and wiping down benches, sink tops, windows
4. Vacuum and steam mop

Weekly Plan:
Monday – Homeschool Coop
Tuesday – Daily Plan Above
Wednesday – Daily Plan Above
Thursday – Daily Plan Above and 3DArts Class
Friday – Daily Plan Above and Family Night Out/Movie Night
Saturday – Sports/Dance Classes and points 1. and 2a/2b above, Catch up with friends
Sunday – Church and family day

Field Trip List:
1. Melbourne Zoo
2. Melbourne Museum
3. Sherbrooke Forest
4. Scienceworks and Planetarium
5. City Community Walk (homeless and soap vans) (4 times a year at least)
6. Nursing Homes (4 times a year at least)
7. Symphony Orchestra Children’s sessions
8. Sporting Events (Tennis, Football etc)
9. Immigration Museum
10. Healesville Sanctuary
11. Farms and Farm Stays
12. Interstate or Overseas Travel

Free Time List of To Do’s:
Usually Mr. 6 won’t need any assistance in this area, as he loves making things from our recycle box, but here’s a list of fun activities I have planned for, and also planned for Miss 4 and Mr. 2 as I try and educate Mr. 6 on topics that may not be interesting to them:
1. Play dough, Goopy Goop, Kinetic Sand
2. Sensory Play with rice, sand, pebbles and other pretty things
3. Paints, water colours, oil paints, pastels, pencils
4. Wooden Construction with real nails and tools
5. Free play in our garden with their own gardening patch
6. Supervised Water Play
7. Puppet Play
8. Basically, free time to do whatever they want!

The Curriculum
English
Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Reading
First Language Lessons 1
Writing with Ease 1
Spelling Workout A

Maths
Saxon Math 1 (nearly complete at November 2016)
Saxon Math 2

History
Kingfisher History Encyclopaedia
DK History
Story of the World – The Ancients
D’aulaire’s Book of Green Myths

Science
DK First Human Body
Green Thumbs
DK The Animal Book

Composers for Classical Active Listening
Beethoven
Mozart
Chopin
Bach
Anyone else that strikes our fancy

And get this. Mr. 6 wanted a uniform. I told him he could have anything he wanted! So we went to the local shops and bought him blue button shirts, grey trousers and a blazer!

I will admit to you now that this above scenario is the best case scenario. I am not delusional. I know that completing this week as is, will be miraculous. But I am excited by the possibilities of learning with my children, travelling this journey with them as they grow each year. And I know that every fibre of my being will be dedicating to loving them, nurturing them more than I know how.

And I pray that I will do right by them, but giving them everything I have.

 

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