Home schooling, Highschool and what I have learnt.


I educated my daughter for four years, and considered it a privilege. She recently started  high school, and a myriad of emotions hit me. I hadn’t seen her in a school uniform for many years, and I must say, that seeing her beaming face as she tried it on, brought nothing but happiness. I have learnt much from our home school journey, and have made many lifelong friends.

Trust

I learned to trust myself as her mother. I guess every parent second-guesses themselves when it comes to their child. They worry if they are doing the right things and making the right decisions, and many sleepless nights are had. I certainly agonized over my decision to home school. Mothers know more than we give ourselves credit for, sensing the big picture before it becomes clear. If I knew then what I know now… I farewelled my daughter on her first day of high school and she bounded off,  confident and assured. It was beyond my wildest dreams, and I found it thrilling.

Joy

Home education gave both she and I the time and space to rediscover a love of learning. Shakespeare at nine years old, physics and chemistry whilst still in primary… She tried scores of classes, and ended up loving them. She debated and wrote essays, and was amazed at the ease in which she picked it all up, once taught. She was stretched beyond what she thought she could do, and learnt that she can achieve anything.

Friends

She has friends from playgroup, preschool, choir, dancing, drama, home schooling, and from her three years at school before starting home education. They are scattered all over the place, and even if they don’t see each other for ages, they pick up where they left off, and time and distance mean nought. I think it has taught her to be confident in her friendships, that they won’t diminish without daily contact, and can be depended upon as a touchstone to her life.

Self-Reliant

She would map out a plan for each week, and we would sit and discuss the classes and workshops she would attend. She would pack her bag, and any equipment she needed to take for the day ahead, then tend to any homework the teachers gave her that evening. She now unpacks her bag at night after high school, and organizes her own lunch in the morning. She is a kid who loves routines, and scrutinizes her white board to see what awaits the next day. Attending a local high school is like a holiday compared to the planning and time that went into our weeks prior!

Highschool

I know that she missed having the experience of a year 6 formal. There are some experiences that home school can’t replicate, in my experience. Little things that mean a great deal when looking back. Having an entry in the year 6 yearbook and the school camp, for example. The things we used to go to were scattered around Sydney, and I felt it important to attend so to give her a well-rounded education. This left both of us feeling exhausted at the end of the day. Now, she walks eight minutes to school! They have a farm with lots of animals, dancing, drama, hospitality classes, and everything else I had been sourcing from all over the place! She is making a lovely group of friends, and bounds out of here, looking forward to seeing them of a day. As we live outside of the city, trying to organize social outings and classes was pretty full-on. I found as she got older, I wasn’t able to give her everything that she needed. Needs change the older kids get, and what suits one won’t suit another. She needed the buzz of high school, and the camaraderie. If you had an anxious child, or several children schooling at home, their needs would probably be entirely different.

Nothing Lost and No Regrets

When she expressed a desire to go to high school, we attended an information session. I was impressed with the school, and one look at the unadulterated joy radiating from my child told me all I needed to know. I didn’t want her to look back and regret not at least having the experience. What is the worst that could happen? I knew that home schooling could work and work well, providing an alternate pathway to higher education. If need be, we would just pick up where we left off.

Experiences

She has seen and done some pretty amazing things. She knows about the arts, science and history. She has acted in Shakespearean plays and produced art. She is able to talk to a wide range of people, from babies to 100 years of age. Most importantly, she knows where she starts and other people leave off, crucial when it comes to boundaries. Home schooling laid the ground work for the years ahead. It has been a week today, since she started high school. Just as I had when we began home schooling, I am excited at what lays ahead.

I must say that I miss my little mate when she is at school. We divided our time into home days and outside classes throughout home schooling. I loved traveling with her; having lunch together in a new place, perhaps going for a swim afterward. I loved our adventures, and relished the sense that anything was possible. I am grateful to all the teachers, kids and parents who made our journey so special. Her wings have unfurled, and she is ready to fly. It is why we started home schooling in the first place, and I couldn’t be more proud, nor happier.

Time


I had such a cavalier attitude to time when I was younger, and it was little wonder. I stared up at the tiled ceiling from my spinal rotor bed, counting the dots on each square for months on end. I anxiously waited until I was old enough to make my own choices, and lead a life of my desire. Time seemed to stretch on forever, as it is want to do when pain, isolation and abuse feature. Always impatient, waiting for and recovering from surgery was agonizing, not to mention the years in physiotherapy. I had to learn to break everything down into tiny steps. Those little steps added up and became quite a hike! IVF came along, and each day stretched out. The two-week-wait to find out if I was pregnant seemed to defy time on earth. Pregnancy felt the same; endless, as I impatiently waited to meet this baby.

Since her birth, I have a new respect for time. It can be a hard taskmaster, both when you long for it to speed up, and when you yearn for it to slow down. Having a child has made me yearn for it to lean in and stretch out. If I could turn back the hand’s, I would. How can it be that I almost have a teenager, starting her last term of Year 6 after the holidays? I don’t even know how it is possible? You finally get a handle on differing ages and the milestones reached, and they are gone, replaced with the next expectation.

It is as though an editor has rushed through the movie reel, speeding it up in a race to the end. I have only fully appreciated each age by looking over videos and photographs after the events. It is true that you often don’t know you are enjoying a perfect moment in time whilst living it. As we waited to board a country train to where my daughter would be performing, I turned to her and said “we will look back on these adventures as being some of the most perfect moments in our lives.” She stopped and smiled, nodding her head, and we both ceased our hurriedness to the next destination, to fully appreciate what we had now. In silence, we looked around the small station, hearing the kookaburras and cockatoos in neighbouring gum trees, and admiring the cherry blossoms in bloom. We heard a solitary crow in the distance, and we knew that this moment was magic. Now is all we have.

I peered over at my daughter, and marvelled at how her journey is only just beginning. There is so much for her to look forward to. It won’t be as hard a trip into adulthood; I will make sure of that. I am trying to live in the moment after our sublime experience at the station. On Tuesday, we were waiting for another train, and were sitting near a young Canadian traveller. She was soon joined by a man forty years her senior, and as I heard their banter, I grew increasingly uncomfortable. He was asking her questions at a rapid-fire rate. No sooner had she answered, than he was asking her another. She did that thing where you smile and try to be friendly. So many of us have done, as we secretly hope that the stranger will leave us alone and not hurt us if we do. He asked her if he could show her around Sydney. She politely declined. He then insisted on taking her out to dinner. She stammered and tried to deflect his attention. By this stage I had heard enough, and went over. He was decidedly irritated at my intervention, whilst the traveller was grateful. Eventually he moved away, and left her in peace.

I talked to my daughter about what had transpired, and told her that she need never feel like she has to put up with a stranger being invasive. I told her that I had done it many times, frightened of angering a persistent stranger. So many times, passing women would come to my aid, some pretending to be friends who were meeting me in order to thwart advances. We talked for the whole hour into the city, and it was wondrous. My little girl is growing up and there is nothing to fear. She has this. She is growing up in a time where girls have a voice. She is growing up in a time where she doesn’t feel the pressure to conform nor accommodate everyone. She has got this.

I am planning the next term, and shall be scheduling more trips and adventures, as I know that this precious time won’t come around again; at least not in the same way. I have heard that once a child reaches high school, time seems to speed up. I pray for day trips and camps, walks and other adventures in which time stands still. Right now is perfect. This is all we are guaranteed, this moment in time. I plan to lean into it, and make a second last a day.

 

Mentors in my Daughter’s Life


My friend Megan uncovered that my daughter is interested in design and learning to sew. Megan took it upon herself to book in a time to take her to choose fabric and start on a project. She was beaming afterward, and can’t stop talking about it. My heart was full of both gratitude and love. Our kids need mentors  in their lives. We simply can’t be all things to them. Besides, I am rubbish at sewing! I cannot be taught, though many have tried!

My daughter is on the cusp of her teenage years, and both she and I are humbled by the women who are supporting her. The ladies who run the choir she is involved in, who teach with firmness and love. They educate her about honouring the past, and becoming a leader. There is the camp nurse and mum who tend to the kids. The homeschool community has a multitude of mums who love your child as their own. There are my friends who are involved in the theatre, film, literature and fashion, who spare time for my child. There are the adventurers who take her on wondrous journeys and those that have sat by her side when she was in hospital. There are the teachers who have gifted her resources and their expertise. We love you all. See how you can fulfil the role of mentor to a child in your life. I know my daughter will carry the knowledge she has been passed throughout her life.

Homeschooling in Australia


I have been homeschooling my daughter for just over two years now, and as the second term of 2017 comes to an end, I reflect back on our time. It has honestly been one of the best decisions I have ever made. I have seen my daughter’s self-esteem and happiness escalate, and she confidently looks people in the eye when talking. She has joined the RSL Commemorative Youth Choir, and sung at Government House and taken part in camps. She has acted in plays and film, taken part in many social groups, and knows what she wants to do, and how to get there. The parents and kids we have met whilst home schooling are friendly and welcoming. My daughter has re-discovered a love of learning. We try to balance workshops and trips into Sydney with days at home, hitting her workbooks and online resources. Things I have learnt are as follows:

  1. Parents need to trust their instincts when it comes to their child.
  2. I went overboard when we started, purchasing copious amounts of resources! I found I needed only a quarter of what I ordered. Streamlined educational resources are best, and my daughter certainly has her favourite online programes and workbooks.
  3. My daughter favours starting early, ploughing through, and finishing early.
  4. It helps to make a timetable each day. My girl loves to know what is coming up, and be able to tick off each task when its completed. She also loves to know the details of our outings; what time we are leaving home, who will be there, how long the classes are and what they entail.
  5. I add the details of what she has studied or where she has attended workshops to her year file each evening, whilst it’s fresh in my mind.
  6. Preparing food the evening before a big day is advisable, and saves a fortune when out and about!
  7. We follow the school holidays, and try to stay at home as much as possible. After a busy term, that to us is heaven! She loves catching up with her old school friends in the holidays.
  8. I like to go through the house after each term concludes, gathering up old resources, craft, art supplies and clothing she has grown out of. When you work in the same space in which you live, it helps to have it tidy, and keep track of what is needed in the term ahead.
  9. Holidays are great for slowing the pace. A sleep-in is decadent, as are lovely long walks. Home schoolers need to rest in the break.
  10. We chat about scheduling for the next term; what she wants to do, and where her interests are leading her. There are so many fantastic opportunities, that we have to narrow them down.
  11. I highly advise those who are new to home schooling in Australia to join the Home Education Association, and also if you are in Sydney, Shen.
  12. I make her a Vista Print school album each year, consisting of all the activities she has undertaken. It is a lovely way to commemorate her school year.
  13. We plan to go swimming, the movies and shopping when school is in, as it is less busy. We make up the time by rising early or spreading the work over a weekend.

This past term, she has taken part in the Australian Young People’s Theatre classes, been to several performances at the Opera House, taken professional dance classes, done lino printing, learnt about film-making, how the brain registers emotions and much more, on top of her lessons at home. There are sacrifices to be made, and it can be a costly affair. I know of parents who, after pulling their kids out of school, have had to sell their home or sacrifice a second income in order to educate their children. They do so happily, particularly after seeing the early results of their decision. I am learning as much as my daughter, and each day is a joy. I only wish we had started homeschooling sooner!

Newsies


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I didn’t quite know what to expect when I attended the preview of Newsies, a movie filmed on Broadway during a live performance. The sublime music and spectacular dancing entranced both my daughter and I, dropping us gently into New York circa 1899, and the beginning of an uprising. The whole audience cheered for the street-smart newsboys, and sneered when the villainous mogul slithered onto stage. It is heartwarming, especially knowing it is based on real events and real lads. It opened up a discussion with my daughter about trade unions, and how essential they have been in bringing workers decent conditions. I highly recommend taking the kids to see the movie this Sunday.

Here is an article from the illustrious Elissa Blake on Newsies.

Newsies is being screened for one day only, on Sunday 19th February at Event Cinemas. Book here.

 

 

The Travelling Life


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A homeschool mum made contact with me in the holidays, telling me that she was going to settle for a term in my hometown. She mentioned that she had a daughter,the same age as mine. We arranged to meet at a local park, and as soon as we met the pair, we were in love. Both presented with the broadest smiles and the girls went off to play, becoming instant friends. As I was offered a plum, the lady told me of their life.

A single mum, she had once had a mortgage and a life overseas, but when her daughter was born, realized that things needed to change. She sold everything, and they began their travelling life, living out of one suitcase each. Her daughter is so unattached to possessions, that at free craft days in libraries,she routinely gifts her creations to the teacher, so she doesn’t have to carry it! The experience of creation enthralled her more than the end result. The mum produces work on the internet, so can move anywhere in the world in a beat. They mind other people’s homes, cars and pets whilst they are away, thus cutting their costs.

When they arrived in my town, it was during a heat wave, and they sought refuge at the local club, sipping iced water and enjoying the free WiFi until the kitchen opened for a cheap meal. The daughter told stories of staying in an Italian village, and could recall the history of the cobblestone streets. They have been on discount cruises, and travelled the globe. The mum said that ditching her possessions was freeing, and I have no doubt it was. She expects things to work out, and they do! I recommended a dance school, and the mum contacted them, and next thing, her daughter was cast in a production! The next issue was locating cheap dancing shoes. A shoe shop was closing down, and everything was heavily discounted. She was able to buy a few pairs of shoes for $9 a pair (that were worth far more), the last of the ballet and jazz line. She said that this sort of luck occurs regularly, and they never stress about opportunities, money nor anything else.

Her daughter is resourceful and curious, open to new experiences. The girls are going to do a kick-boxing class together after my new friend found a cheap class in my town (which I knew nothing of)! They create wonder and community wherever they go. They are two of the funniest, life-inspiring folk I have ever come across. Things I have learned in the three weeks I have known them:

  • We talk ourselves out of travel and grand experiences the moment the delicious vision enters our minds. We don’t have enough money… We can’t do it…It would be too hard…
  • You can do anything you set your mind to, even with limited resources.
  • Decluttering is the go! Aim for experience over stuff.
  • Once something new comes in, an old piece of clothing etc, must leave.
  • Enjoy the thing whilst it is in your life, then gift it to someone else. We are doing up an old bike for the young girl to ride whilst she is here, and when she leaves, we shall gift it to someone else.
  • You are going to be alright, and everything will turn out okay. Trust yourself and the universe.
  • Have faith in your abilities and resourcefulness. You can cope with anything that life throws at you!
  • There are far more wondrous people in this world than bad. Take it from these travellers, who have stayed in scores of places throughout the world and met hundreds of strangers that have become friends.
  • Kids don’t need stuff in order to have a secure childhood; they just need you.

I feel stronger and braver since meeting this family, and am looking forward to shaking up my world. They seemed to blow in, like a leaf shaken from a faraway tree, brushing my shoulder and garnering my attention, admiration and love.

Sizzling in Sydney


It’s almost time to get back into the craziness of Term 1 of Homeschooling. We have had many days at home, decluttering and organizing, reading and resting. One of my daughter’s friends came to stay for a few days, and my heart nearly flipped out of my chest when I heard them talk as we went for a walk. They chatted about how they were both their mum’s last chance. How we were both down to one follicle. They talked about being miracles. I am glad they both understand that they truly are! Sydney has been hit with many days of searing temperatures, and we have sought comfort in the southerly winds offered by the coastline.

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Performers at Luna Park
Performers at Luna Park

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There have been a few visits to Luna Park. I purchased an annual pass for my daughter a few months back, and it has proven it’s worth. She can enjoy the rides and then swim next door in Nth Sydney pool to cool off afterward. If I go once a month, it works out to $8 a visit. At the back of Luna Park, you can walk to Lavender Bay, and visit Wendy Whiteley’s Secret Garden. On the way, you will uncover treasures such as these.

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We took some little fairies there to replace those that were pinched behind magical little doors. It seems they have gone again, but I will continue to replace them when I go there. It’s a bit like life; your gifts may be stolen or crushed, but you keep on getting up and giving it all that you have. You must.

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A friend was bitten by a bee at Luna Park the other day. I thought she was having a lend for a split second, as you don’t expect to find a bee by the water! She wanted me to pull out the stinger, but I thought I might make a hash of it, so we hurried to the First Aid room. The first aid lady was efficient and friendly, and as the stinger was taken out of her neck, I assured my friend that it was good luck to be stung and it meant she was incredibly sweet!

My daughter and I have met all kinds of characters on our city adventures. She complimented a fellow on his bright hand-painted shirt and it turned out he was an artist from the Southern Highlands. We waved at the lucky travellers on a cruise ship as our ferry went by, and met a lovely elderly man who comes down to Circular Quay most days to watch the boats and people. On Saturday, I dropped my daughter’s friend back into the city to meet her parents, and the girls noticed that a sky-writer had written TRUMP in large letters, spearing the blue film above us. This started a diatribe from the ten and eleven year old’s, unscripted and delighting everyone waiting to cross at the lights. Many were women on their way to march at Hyde Park. I am glad our young girls have a voice, and feel able to use it. I am glad that they can debate and know that their opinions shall be valued.

Our Home by the River
Our Home by the River

January has been a time of crushed ice, cold drinks, cold packs and swimmers. It has been a time of parades at Luna Park, park dates, pools and oceans. It has been a pilgrimage or two to the Secret Garden and dancing to buskers we meet. In Melbourne, it has been a time of mourning. Sydney stands with you in your grief over what occurred in the Bourke St Mall. I hope you can feel the solidarity. There but for grace and timing, go any of us day-trippers, who think nothing of walking along a boulevard or mall. Now more than ever, we have to hold onto one another. To donate to the appeal for victims of this travesty, click here.

Mocktail Parties and Kindness


 

My daughter’s friends invited us over to their place the other day. It was around 44 degrees inland, and they live near the water, so it was a fortuitous offer! We were invited into their flat and handed a menu!

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Hawaiian music softly played, and when I looked around at the decorations, I almost burst into tears. So much effort had gone into this afternoon; it was an affirmation filled with care and love. As for the menu; what to pick?! Everything looked delicious! We started off with the Rose Mint Tulip whilst we waited for the other guests.

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Many mocktails were consumed, before we headed over the road to the water. The kids swam in the bay, a southerly breeze tapping on our necks. I have often felt out-of-place in this world; not quite knowing where I fit in. Today I felt as though I had experienced a home-coming. To have a family welcome us into their home and elevate a routine day into something special, delighting each of the senses, was wondrous. The day finished with home-made pizzas and more mocktails. The kids had a wonderful afternoon, as did the adults. We talked beyond the superfluous, delving into deeper subjects. We came as we were, and were accepted. We didn’t need to dress a certain way, have a certain address, bank balance, credentials nor look. We came as we were and were handed mocktails, infused with love.

 

Ice Sculpture
Ice Sculpture

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Leading into Christmas…


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We attended an extraordinary home school Christmas party last week! There were craft tables, snow, disco lights, food and even Santa made an appearance! The kids wrapped up some hapless dads in Christmas paper and decorated them. We had to remind them to provide air holes so they could breathe!

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I met some dear friends at Luna Park, and we waited patiently in line at the gift shop. There were a bunch of school kids in the shop, and one asked to see the contents of a show bag. The friendly assistant held up each item separately, and gave the kid a blow-by-blow description of each piece. Five minutes passed, and he grabbed another showbag and did the same! We were in hysterics, my mind wandering to the infamous scene from Love Actually with Rowan Atkinson. Fifteen minutes later, we were served! It was kind of nice to be in a situation where the assistant had all the time in the world to help a kid make the best choice of showbag. You are meant to be on Island time during the holidays!

I coerced my friend into reclining on the moon seat, and then fell about laughing when the germ-a-phobe came across something unidentifiable and sticky with her hand!

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My daughter and I went to a friend’s house for a playdate. Now this friend is fighting a health battle, and yet had gone to so much trouble. There were red tablecloths, crackers and decorations on the tables. There was a feast prepared, and carols playing. Her gorgeous daughter had made all the kids a gift; a precious decoration for the tree. Another friend (who had endured a tough year), remarked that it really felt like Christmas now. How gracious and kind was this lady, to go to so much trouble. It is a day I will never forget.

I was having a gin with another friend, and when she excused herself to go to the bathroom, two older men-gigantic in stature came and sat down next to us. When she came back, she was alarmed to find one of the fellows had sat himself within an inch of her seat! We both shrugged and talked about how some people have no concept of space. She moved her seat around when they began to argue. Finally, the fellow who had taken over that side of the table apologized. “We are Glaswegian, and tryin’ to sort out an argument; excuse our bad language. We are very sorry.” We started giggling and couldn’t stop. Their tiff sorted, they left. I have missed this friend, and love that I’m now able to catch up with those I haven’t been able to see all year.

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This is a friend’s dog. Isn’t she beautiful?!

I have had to have a few days at home, after the spinal pain became unmanageable. Circumstances saw me having to postpone my visits to specialists and a pain clinic during 2016, something I will have to do during 2017.

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One more thought, posted by a glorious friend yesterday.

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What I learnt from Pottery Class


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This was meant to be a tray, but the side on the left broke off!

When our children went to home school classes run by Casula Powerhouse, we would gather at the coffee shop. Some of the parents would seize the opportunity to do their work on laptops. Some brought their textbooks along and studied. Some would sit and chat over coffee, and some would walk by the river. One of our group organized for anyone interested to go to pottery classes whilst our kids were in classes. Brilliant! Here is what I have learnt.

  1. It requires more focus than you first realize. You have to work the clay with your hands, deliberately and with intent.
  2. Ladies who gather around a mound of clay talk about a wild myriad of subjects, and it feels like sharing your soul with your tribe.
  3. Things go awry, and it’s okay. Legs wobble, bowls are misshapen, and dishes crack when fired.
  4. It is nerve-wracking to send your baby to it’s first firing. You also learn the fine art of surrendering when you relinquish your object to the kiln after glazing. You have no idea if it shall survive. Indeed, you have no idea what colours it shall be, nor the depth of those colours.
  5. The image of what you wish to create often differs from what is done!
  6. Scooping up your pieces of pottery-which cracked in the kiln-you are awestruck at their beauty, and imagine what you can create with them.

Pottery is a metaphor for life. We start off with an idea of what we can create, and do our level best to make it happen. Circumstances change, people have their turn shaping the clay and there is mess. We put the rearranged piece in the kiln and hope for the best, knowing we have done all we can. We read the colour on the bottle of glaze, and try to imagine how it shall look, before spreading it on in liberal strokes. Whatever we end up with, we take pride in having created it with our own hands, however wonky it may be. Life is pretty much like that. If we wanted cookie-cutter perfection, we would have to look to mass-production, and life shouldn’t be like that.

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