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Letter to the editor: Why I homeschool my children
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Letter to the editor: Why I homeschool my children
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Letter to the editor: Why I homeschool my children
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Articles
1 October 2014

Letter to the editor: Why I homeschool my children

My children talk to their neighbours, the people in the shops we visit, the librarians and so on. They are not stuck in a cave. They are social and we socialise.

Written by Indrani Perera

Behind extraordinary ideas, there are extraordinary people. Dumbo Feather is a magazine about these people.

I have just sat down to read issue 40 of Dumbo Feather. I have been waiting until I had the house to myself. As always, a thought-provoking, inspiring and interesting read.

In the interview with Seth Godin, the interviewer Daniel Teitelbaum says “You’ve got to send your kids to school; it’s the law in Australia.” It is not the law in Australia.

If you choose to, you can home educate your children. Thousands of families in Victoria do so. The regulations differ from state to state but it is most definitely not illegal. I have been homeschooling my daughters for the last 18 months and we are part of a vibrant home education community.

In his response, Seth Godin implies that to home educate your child is to cut them off from society. He says that “going off the grid, never interacting with people, isn’t, I think, a sensible choice.”

This is most patently not true. Why is it assumed that it is natural for children to spend eight hours a day with a group of other children the same age as them? Why is this socialisation?

My children talk to their neighbours, the people in the shops we visit, the librarians and so on. They are not stuck in a cave. They are social and we socialise. They have done Spanish classes, woodwork and choir with other home-educated children. There are regular meet-ups and excursions. It is anything but isolated and unsocialised.

So how do we educate our children when the system designed to teach them is failing? Seth’s suggestion is to teach them to do the meaningful/important things in their spare time, after school.

It’s a disappointing response. Why do we have to leave what is important and meaningful to our wellbeing and sense of self for our spare time? Why can’t we devote our lives to doing what we feel is important and meaningful? We seem to forget that we only get one life. That our time here is finite. I know that I want to look back on my life and say, “I have done my best. I lived with passion, heart and soul.”

I guess what Seth says earlier in the interview about humans being herd animals holds true. We don’t want to be outside the pack, doing something different because that is where we are vulnerable to predators. However, it is also where the magic happens. On the edge.

Ironically, Seth Godin himself wrote this tribute to artists living on the edge:

You are brave. 

Such a generous soul, someone who doesn’t hesitate to leap when others shrink in fear. Your work means so much to you and to the people you share it with, we can’t help but be inspired at the way you make your magic.

You’re a warrior in the service of joy and you never seem to stop standing up and speaking up and doing your very best work.

 Sometimes, a particular audience doesn’t deserve you. But that doesn’t matter in the long run, because of your relentless generosity in sharing your gift. 

I can’t wait to see your next work, and the one after that.

Why I chose homeschooling

We started homeschooling when we went travelling around South America for three months. The girls learnt so much on our trip. How to speak basic Spanish as well as geography, history, art and culture. When we came home it made sense to keep homeschooling.

Before we went travelling my oldest daughter started her first year of school along with thousands of other kids. I watched her change from a bright, friendly, happy and creative kid into a moody, angry and unhappy little girl. As we travelled, she slowly returned back to her self. Her nightmares stopped as well. She regained her confidence and creativity. Life was much better for all of us.

The more we homeschool, the more I like it. I like that the girls can spend extended periods of time doing what they are passionate about. I like that they have a wide circle of friends from different age groups and backgrounds. I like that they have lots of unscheduled time to be a kid. To play and dream. I like that they love learning. My oldest daughter is now eight and asks to do maths. And we can. Whenever she wants to.

I have found passionate dance, Spanish, woodwork and piano teachers who they respect and adore. From them they are learning to work with others, be polite and respectful, follow instructions, pay attention and be punctual.

The homeschooling community is diverse with families coming from all walks of life. The reasons for homeschooling seem as diverse as the families. Some of the reasons I have heard are: philosophical, to be involved in their children’s education, advanced or special needs children and bullying at school.

To homeschool, we are sacrificing an income, a fancy car and owning our own home. But these are choices we have made willingly. Anyone in Australia can homeschool their children if they want to badly enough.

No matter how you chose to parent, each approach brings its own set of frustrations, rewards and challenges. There are days when I want to throw in the towel and run off and join the circus. I think every parent can relate to this wish!

But for the majority of the time, I am happy to be right here, loving, learning and teaching my girls for as long as they need me. One day they will want to spread their wings and fly from the nest. For now, I’m right here with them.

I believe that education is important. That to function in a society like Australia we need to be literate and numerate. However, after reading the interview with Bunker Roy in the same issue of Dumbo Feather, I question if literacy and numeracy are as important as we are led to believe. His Barefoot College in India uses sign language to teach illiterate, rural women to become solar engineers. Food for thought.

More reading

Comprehensive information on home education in Australia, especially Victoria

Curriculum Resources 

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