Right now, millions of households across Australia and the world are homeschooling their children. This experience will be met with differing opinions based on the individual experience of each household and family dynamics. If you’re not used to having your children at home on a daily basis and/or they're of an age where it’s testing for you as a parent, this time could be an incredibly challenging season. I homeschooled my children and my journey began 18 years ago. This article is written from my perspective and experience. Take from it what is useful that works for you and your family.
Before I get into it, here’s a snippet of my experience of homeschooling. It lasted for a period of 10 years which began 18 years ago at a time that was pre-internet and pre-digital. Our reasons for homeschooling are our own and my children, who are now adults, have their own life journey and story. This is a story of a mother, so I’ll speak from my perspective.
Our children were given the option each year to school or homeschool and for the most part, chose to homeschool. My son decided at age 15 to go to high school. Due to his academic level and maturity, he was put into year 11. He completed VCE, went to university a few years later and has been employed with the same company for the past 8 years. My daughter experienced school for two terms in year 10 but found the classroom a frustrating learning environment. Her level of life experience made it challenging to have the types of conversations she was used to having. Interestingly, both of my kids have always had friends who were quite a bit older than themselves. She has since been self-employed in the arts industry. They are both socially well adjusted adults, kind hearted, self sufficient, have travelled overseas multiple times, have their drivers licence, have lived independently since the age of 22 and are employed - well, they were pre-Coronavirus!
The first question that was always asked of us when discovering we were a homeschooling family, was how our kids had social interaction. Their social lives were full of extracurricular activities such as gymnastics and music. They had a solid network of local friends as well as friends in their homeschool network. Our homeschool community of families would often arrange activities based on the parents individual skill sets such as acrobatics, cooking, art and so on. We also partnered with local universities where professors and teachers would host science workshops. We had regular family camps we would all attend, and the summer camps were the most memorable.
There were different methods of homeschooling that each family would adopt. We used part structured learning and part natural learning. Natural learning is learning through play or doing. These were activities the kids engaged in that weren’t part of a structured curriculum.
Children learn by what they do. In kids terms, it’s called playing. With young children, playing with jigsaw puzzles and board games can help with their Maths and English skills. Making up games they can play with their siblings creates co-operation and strategic skills. Creating something out of nothing ignites innovation.
With older children, have them research and construct solutions to a current world problem. Covid-19 is a perfect example. eg: What economic challenges will there be and what will the job prospects be like post Covid-19? Have them work on a project and come up with ideas and changes they would like to see in the future.
Getting involved in your business or work is a great opportunity for older children. My children were always involved in my business somehow. At the time we were homeschooling, I had a TV and video production company. Ironically, we also ran media workshops in over 300 primary schools across Australia. My kids would come on production sets, watch me work and eventually would get involved somehow. They learned how to be self-employed, grow a business, manage finances and deal with clients. They also learned productions skills, creativity and innovation.
Everyday household activities can teach them life skills. This is an ideal time to get your kids in the kitchen, paying bills online and learning about how business operates if you’re working from home.
Their curriculum will only require a short amount of time in their day. Give them something to do that feels like play-time and you’ll have them engaged and interested for the rest of the day.
Use this time to re-order the running of your house. Often, we can become remiss about delegating to our kids as it can sometimes be more of a hassle than it’s worth. If you’ve fallen into this trap, it's a good time to reset the expectations and get them to commit an hour a day to contribute around the house.
When our kids were young, we taught them about the cost of living using Monopoly money. We allocated money to each of the bills and showed them how much was left over. We used this activity to teach them the difference between money for needs and money for wants. What they needed they got and anything they wanted they had to work for. To this day, my children still don’t ask me for money.
Let go of the expectations that you have to get it right. Homeschooling really is no different to regular parenting. Before they go to school, we’ve already taught them a language, how to walk, play, go to the toilet and engage with people. If we can teach them that in the first five years, we can teach them well beyond.
The kids will pick up right where they left off when they go back to school. I know this for sure. Our kids walked straight into highschool and the only formal learning they did was Maths. The rest they learned through play, conversation, reading, exploring and projects they were interested in. Trust me. They’ll be fine.
I ran my own businesses for the entire time I homeschooled so I'm familiar with the challenges of managing both. Increase the level of mess you can normally handle and increase your level of flexibility. I can't state this enough. With more people in the house more of the time, there is bound to be more mess, more food consumed, and more accumulation of things around the house. Take some time at the end of the day where everyone runs around for a half hour and tidies up. Make it a game. We called it 'what's next'. I had my list and we'd see how fast we could get it done.
If you’re working from home, create an allocated work space (if you can) and teach your kids that when you're in your workspace, you're working. Just because they can see you, doesn’t mean they can engage with you. On the flip side, it's just as important to allocate time during the day when they know they can come to you. However, if they’re young, you’ll just have to work around that. Sorry. No magic pill on that one.
You have a massive advantage that we didn't have - access to technology. We were homeschooling pre-digital and pre-internet. Everything was done via books, libraries and hands on learning; the old school way. (No pun intended!)
You now have access to online classes, Google, Udemy, Skillshare and thankfully, online access to friends during social distancing.
Both of my kids have recently boomeranged back home so we’re all in lockdown together. It feels like it did way back then. It’s come full circle and it's been a beautiful time of collaboration, innovation, conversation, contribution and creation.
Our experience is as unique as it will be for every household. You'll need to make adjustments that work for your family. I'm happy to answer any questions. I hope you found this article helpful.