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!

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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.

Parades and Time


I am behind on finishing my next book, behind on finishing scheduled articles and behind on my blog. I was anxious about all this, until I remembered that everything has a season. Term 4 has been jam-packed with activities, all of them joyous, though time-consuming. I wake at 5am, and get into the day. The Lyrica I take twice daily (as well as other meds for pain), see me crawl into bed by 8pm most nights. By the time the homeschooling activities are done, there is just enough time for dinner and preparing for the next day. My daughter is a bundle of energy, and when I put it to her that if we worked hard this term, we may be able to finish a little earlier, she readily agreed! Another two weeks, and we shall be done. We will have time to explore, to see friends and rest. Oh, and I shall have time to write regularly!

There have been trips to the theatre, parks and beaches. We went to Sculptures by the Sea, which was fantastic.

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We took part in a parade, my daughter as a Scottish warrior, resplendant with a sword, and I as some sort of wench! We had a ball, and as I watched my daughter and her friends brandish their swords, I felt pride.

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We made scores of felt angels and lavender balm for a home school market, have been to numerous workshops and traveled far and wide. The days have been busy, though good. Summer is almost here, and it is time for a break. My daughter will still be learning as she plays and writes scripts with her friends, summons up new songs to sing and performs science experiments at home. Every life has a season, and now is the time of writing.

Light it Red for Dyslexia


It’s that magical time of year again! This is what I wrote last year. The other day, my daughter read a whole lesson plan out by herself! It has taken eighteen months of frustration and tears to build her confidence, but she now believes that she can do it, in her own time and way. We have tools in which to help her, and her involvement in drama, the arts and singing have contributed greatly to her heightened self-esteem.

She joined the RSL Rural Commemorative Youth Choir, and it has given both her and I such joy. The choir had a camp at Cockatoo Island, and sang at Government House recently, Damien Leith and Mrs Hurley singing alongside them. My daughter was so buoyant after this experience, it was hard to recollect a time when her confidence was at rock-bottom.

When she has a dramatic performance, she learns her lines by singing them to a beat. When she learns songs, she tends to do so quickly. It has been fascinating, observing how she learns and also humbling. She walks with a skip in her step and her head held high, just as I dreamed she would.

For more information on Light it Red for Dyslexia, click here.

Term One


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A new school year has begun in Australia, and I am excited about what is ahead. I have tweaked and adapted our programme from last year. I was a newbie with home schooling and excitedly booked my daughter into a wide range of things, too much. This year, we are aiming for a decent mix of field trips, workshops and home days. They are equally important. I have seen this little girl grow in confidence, and it has been thrilling to witness. I won’t really demand that she calls me ‘Your Majesty’ during school hours. Being called ‘Mum‘ is just fine.

Home Schooling in Sydney


Picture by 12 year old homeschooler, James
Hummingbird picture by 12 year old home schooler, James Julian

To register for home schooling in New South Wales, you need to apply online. Bostes then get in touch, and arrange a visit. I frantically put together a program for the year, ensuring curriculum targets are achievable. I have just had my review and was given two years accreditation, of which I am thrilled! I journal what my daughter has studied each day so I can keep track. I have been flawed at the wonderful reactions I have received since I started this journey. Everybody has been so supportive, and it has certainly made the going easier. I was worried that I would receive negative comments, though thankfully they haven’t come. My daughter sees friends most days, and sometimes asks for home time, as there are so many excursions we can go on! We usually start around 8am, and do a solid four hours before lunch. My daughter goes to singing, drama, guitar and gymnastics lessons on top. I am thrilled with her progress and relieved that I made the right decision in home schooling. As a parent, you second-guess yourself (frequently), but the proof is that her confidence has returned and the pressure has eased. There is nobody to compete or compare with, and she can absorb information in her own time.

Sydney has a very active home schooling community, and we are blessed to have met many wonderful kids and parents. In three terms, she has acted in plays and attended performances at the Opera House and Casula Powerhouse. She has visited May Gibb’s home, been involved in a sports carnival, toured the Opera Centre, Sydney Observatory, Wildlife World and attended a science workshop as well as puppet-making. I have to be organized, to keep up with it all! I start my writing when her school day finishes, and often get up early to do so too. We have a comfortable routine. I love doing life with this kid, and I am definitely smarter as a result of absorbing information!

Here is a poem about home schooling from one of my daughter’s friends. I love the perspective of an 11-year-old!


Home Schoolers

Someone freaky,

Someone wild.

Someone cheeky,

So much a child.

 

Without the school uniform,

Without the Smiggle bag,

Someone who’s not the norm,

Without the shop’s latest tag.

 

Home schoolers, Home schoolers,

That’s who we are.

Friendly with people of every age,

Each of us a shining star.

Free, not in school’s restricting cage.

 

We’re all unique,

We’re all ourselves.

We’re all home schoolers,

That’s who we are!

 

Someone weird,

Someone new.

Not much revered,

Sounds like me, sounds like you.

 

But, whoever I want to be,

Home schooler?

Is there something cooler?

Well, I’ve decided: me.

-Jemma Julian, 4/09/2015

For many kids, it’s the perfect fit. To be able to devise a programme that caters to your child’s interests is a blessing. Wherever we go in Sydney, there are friends to visit and fun to be had.