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.

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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!

Brain Week, University and Hope


We have had a dizzying week, filled with grace, learning and love. We had a mum and her son come to stay for a little while. They have been on the road for almost a year, and are finding it difficult to locate permanent housing. One day we shall look back with horror that a single mum and her children found it so tough to secure housing. I could think of nobody with such a vested interest in being the perfect tenant. They are travelling South, and I pray that they find what they are looking for. Everybody deserves a permanent home.

My daughter attended a robotics lecture and tour at Sydney University this week, and also went to a Brain Week Open Day at UNSW. She loved being on campus, and was fascinated by all she saw.

IMG_6521This is a picture of her exquisite and beautiful brain activity! I love the violet!

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Casula Powerhouse, Paul Trefry, 'Homeless Still Human.'
Casula Powerhouse,
Paul Trefry, ‘Homeless Still Human.’

My daughter felt emotional as she observed this sculpture, looking deep into his eyes. Everybody deserves permanent housing.

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I attended dinner for a dear friend’s birthday and was delighted that Hannah Erika Music were playing. It was a sublime night. I met a designer, who disclosed that she is dyslexic, and her dream is to empower young people who have dyslexia. I can’t wait to see the glorious clothing she produces after she sets up her business. It is important that dyslexic kids hear of such adults, and have the chance to tour universities, attend workshops and see all the opportunities that are available to them. By ten, most have had deflating experiences and had trials beyond what an adult could comfortably endure. My child loves science, art, music and drama among many other interests. I know she will succeed in whatever she chooses to do in life, not in spite of her dyslexia, but from it. She already thinks outside the box, is extraordinarily creative and curious. These qualities will hold her in good stead.

We also saw a beautiful performance at the Seymour Centre, of Huang Yi and Kuka My daughter asked if the performers had fun coming up with the choreography between themselves and the robot (Kuka). Huang Yi answered an emphatic yes, and went on to tell her that he believed in his dream, and found others who did too. He told her to never let go of her dreams. It was lovely advice to give a little girl with a bucketful of hope.

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Lastly, I had to share the recipe for these fruit balls that my friend made. They are amazing! Mix Coconut, Almond Meal, Honey, Vanilla Essence, Lime juice and peel and Chia seeds together and roll into balls.

 

We were Gifted.


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I received a text, informing me that a mutual friend had school resources for me. She is a teacher, and had bought these resources out of her own money. Miraculously, she lives around the corner from our new house, so my daughter and I set off on foot, unaware of how hot it was outside. This angel brought crates of workbooks in from her garage, and as I leafed through them, I realized that all of them were incredibly valuable to our schooling this year. I was held spellbound as she described her work, and the hard graft involved. Teachers such as her don’t leave at 3pm, that’s for sure! Each year, she buys extra resources for the kids in her class. She also spends her own money in making the classroom a conducive environment for learning.

I was astounded when she showed me her art pad, and the drawings she has done for her students to build stories upon. She downplayed her talent, through the evidence was there in vivid colours. She confessed that she has many adult colouring-in books, to simply admire; refusing to add her mark. “You would only add to their beauty,” I insisted, and I meant it. She wrote down a list of excellent online resources after my daughter told her that she wanted to put more educational apps onto the IPad. As if all this weren’t enough, she gifted my daughter a map of the world to colour in, and drove us and our three crates home!

She has had time off these school holidays, to relax and unwind, but there have also been several shopping trips to obtain things for the school; a trip to school to decorate her new classroom, online organizing, meetings and much more. Here’s to dedicated teachers like my friend. My daughter hasn’t stopped raving about our visit, and has already set to playing the IPad games you mentioned and is now colouring in the world. Educators such as yourself give kids the world. You literally did the other day. xxx

 

 

Summer didn’t want to let go.


These two became mums!
These two became mums!

After a particular mum (not mentioning any names), mistook boy guinea pigs for girls, two ladies became mums!  My daughter is an adoring aunt, whereas I am apparently a grandma! Nine little ones in all.
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Homeschooling is amazing! Munchkin is progressing extremely well, and has a passion for learning that is an honour to witness.
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We went to the library the other day, and she read a chapter of her book all by herself. She was excited, and I was overjoyed. This particular book is from her I Can Read program, and has codes at the top of each sentence, so she can easily decipher the words. Afterward, we went past a factory seconds store, and found a beautiful guitar. It is the right length for a child, and in her favourite colour! It was cheap, and the fellow said he could re-string it for my left-hander. I felt privileged to witness her excitement. She is learning guitar, and has often said that she didn’t mind not having her own. She rarely asks for anything, so this guitar shall be valued.

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Saturday night, went to The Sound of Music Sing-A-Long at the State Theatre in Sydney. It was particularly special as it is the 50th anniversary of the movie this year, and I got to dress up as a nun! We happened to bump into a teacher from my daughter’s former school. This lady has inspired my child in so many ways, instilling  a belief in herself and to think outside the box. For that, I shall love her forever. We became friends on the playground, and I am sure Mrs Z shall always be in our lives. You never forget the teacher that goes above and beyond. I find it quite moving, especially as Lizzie was never in her class.

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Sunday, I went to Catalina for a friend’s birthday. This lady doesn’t usually celebrate her birthday, so this was special. It was a lesson to me that you are worth celebrating, and that life is far too precious and short not to gather friends. 10985543_924478147586031_8814010349597699618_nIt was the first day of Autumn in Sydney, but the sun beat down mercilessly, pushing the temp up to the high 30’s. Summer stubbornly refused to release its grip. My daughter found these gorgeous floral displays abandoned around the side of the restaurant, and after gathering a few blooms for herself, we delighted in watching parents pick their children a flower or two.

IMG_6155As we left the city, the storm clouds gathered, and  a torrent of raindrops thumped to the ground.  The last grand summer storm before autumn colours  the landscape in crimson and rusty hues. There are challenges, for myself and my loved ones, but when isn’t there? All we can do is stick together, embrace and love, and eat good food and ride it out. Winter is coming, but then, so is spring.

Homeschooling and Dyslexia


The day the resources arrived. The little girl was so excited!
The day the resources arrived. The little girl was so excited!

The mother would never forget the moment she realized our education system had few resources for dyslexic kids. She was talking to the teacher, her daughter outside, swinging her little legs to and fro. “Did I do okay Mummy? Are you proud of me?” Her mother smiled and replied that she was very proud of her, and that she had done very well. She could see the big picture, as parents are privy to. She could see her daughter being broken and scarred by the labels already stuck onto her skin, like a crude tattoo. If a child with dyslexia isn’t given adequate assistance by the time they reach adolescence, their view of themselves can be tragically aligned to their ability to learn within a system that won’t cater to them.

The mother enlisted the private tutor, and along the way, found another remarkable mentor. Elizabeth was an art teacher within the education department for a very long time. She resigned, and went into private practice, using a variety of modalities. She asked the mother to observe where the daughter’s eyes travelled when asked a question. “To the left,” her mother replied. Elizabeth explained that the little girl began to process information from the upper left of her eyes. “Does she have difficulty copying notes off the board, and does she have messy handwriting?” “Yes,” the mother replied. “She is having trouble coordinating what her eyes are seeing with her body movements. Reading off a board or piece of paper in front of her is bound to fail.” She put a coloured piece of paper-a complex word written on it- to the left of the child’s vision, and the child sighted it. Elizabeth then turned it over and asked the child to say the word. Not only could she say it, but she spelt it backwards and forwards! How can you adequately thank people who are giving a child the gift of self-esteem, dignity and a passion for learning? Elizabeth gave the mother exercises to do with the child at home. Even crawling around the floor would help.

The mother knew what she had to do. She studied the curriculum and designated outcomes for her daughter’s year, and developed a lesson plan, using resources and tutors she had uncovered. A home schooling mum she was blessed to befriend helped her. The education department came out and interviewed both her and her daughter, and she was given the go-ahead. Her registration came through toward the end of last year, and then it became real. She was terrified. Frightened of failing her daughter, of the enormity of the task ahead. She had to do it. Local schools weren’t equipped to accommodate dyslexic students. The competition started early, being judged by their class on their ability to write out their own speeches, then recite them publicly. After a month of home-schooling, her mother can already see the benefits. The child speaks with ease amongst adults and children alike. Her self-esteem has been lifted, and she is eager to learn. She often gets to her workbooks before her mother in the mornings. When she is stuck on a sentence, her mother is right there, to read it out. Able to learn on her terms, and in her own time. She has a full social life, to the extent that a day at home with just her mother is factored in. Rather than witnessing the reducing of a child, her mother is watching her grow.

Once Upon a Time… A Dyslexic’s Tale


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Once upon a time, there lived a little girl. She created stories in her head, and regaled the class with her imagery and passion when relaying the tales. She found writing frustrating, and often wrote words backwards. She couldn’t spell. She fumbled along, until a private high school deemed her intolerably stupid; irretrievably incapable. She was broken by fourteen. She knew she was intelligent, not least because of all the dragons she outwitted, laying in wait along her path. At fifteen she resumed school via distance education. Able to learn in her own time, she excelled. She could look up words, and go over her writing until she felt it was right. She went on to write books, and edit other people’s essays. It made her angry, that people had labelled her and deemed her to be unteachable.

The years passed, and she went on to have a daughter. Determined to do all the right things, she ate well whilst pregnant, and offered her unborn a plethora of baby literature. By the time her daughter drew her first breath, her mother had a library of children’s books waiting for her. She read to her day and night, and her daughter loved the puppets and actions her mother performed to go along with the story. Her mother took her to the Opera House regularly, as well as the Sydney Theatre at Walsh Bay to see those books come to life. This child was so active, and so very curious, her mother felt assured that she would have no trouble when she started school.

 

It became clear early in kindergarten that this child was struggling. She wasn’t “getting” her phonic words, and was struggling to read whilst other children soared through the levels. Prescribed glasses were not to be the answer her mother had hoped. Alone and concerned, her mother sought the help of a private speech therapist. Dyslexia was suggested. Comprehensive testing occurred at the start of Year One, and it was confirmed. Her daughter’s language skills were above 95% of her peers, thus she had advanced language skills for her age. Her auditory memory was also excellent. The brain just had difficulty deciphering the information the eye was receiving. Her daughter’s self-esteem plummeted. She was offered a place on Reading Recovery, but it came to an end after a few weeks. School days were represented by frustration, and a weariness descended on her daughter. She had double the work of other children as she needed to complete set work from the speech pathologist as well. Headaches commonly came upon her. Her mother didn’t make her write out Christmas cards, as it proved too tiring. She would stand near her and whisper what a sign said when they were out together with other kids on outings and excursions.

Year Two began with the teacher remarking that they couldn’t help a dyslexic child. She said this child would always struggle at school, and would have a hard time with all sound words. She said she would get a job of some description later in life, as she had an agreeable personality. When the possibility of home schooling was mentioned, it was dismissed. The mother must keep her at school for the social aspect. The child had another assessment, and the results were marked dyslexia. The report insisted that the school and this centre must work together to support the child. The mother researched on her own, a lonely and frightening responsibility descending on her shoulders. She found an excellent program, her daughter eagerly rising each Saturday morning in anticipation. At her first assessment, the little girl cried, feeling exposed. The tutor was so very compassionate, having had over twenty years experience as a teacher. The mother and tutor had to start back at kindergarten level to teach her the basics. The child was so tired. Triple the workload of other kids. Sometimes she cried from the frustration. Sometimes her mother did as well. She worked so hard. The teacher approached the mother. She said the girl was doing extremely well with her reading and writing. She was beyond a basic level, but indicated that in her report she would mark her on the bottom rung so her third grade teacher would have no expectations of her. “No!” her mother screamed inside her head, “I want everyone to see who she is, without labels. This child was born to soar!” History repeating itself. This mother would be damned if she was going to let that happen…
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