Saturday, May 7, 2011

homeschooling: an article

Some of my writing went into a magazine the other day. Yes, a real magazine, with real words and photos in it! How amazing and how fun.

I wrote about homeschooling. It's an unabashedly Pro-Homeschooling article—totally biased. They probably should have put in a picture of me madly flag-waving with a big "I heart Homeschooling t-shirt" on, to cap the whole thing off (and wouldn't it be awesome if I had a picture like that?).

Here's a link to the article in Early Years Magazine, but I've posted it here too, on my blog. This post has all my original words in it, whereas the article had some edits. Which is fine and all, but I prefer my original words (don't we all?).

Do look at the magazine; it's lovely. It was created for families in my region, and is the brain-child of a friend—she is also a mother, day-care provider, and a writer. I don't know how she does it all!

Anyway, here it is—my article. All my love for our journey, and our life, shining out.

(And it's kind of long, so you might want to make a cup of tea, coffee, chai, hot chocolate, margarita, or my new favourite: Turkish Apple Tea, before you settle in :) ).

Homeschooling: a journey into Wonderful

I fell into homeschooling two years ago. It wasn't something I planned, but something that, simply, happened.
My daughter, who had just begun Year 1, developed a profound and deeply-debilitating anxiety over going to school. We went to psychologists, had multiple school meetings. Nothing helped. My girl's anxiety deepened and her health began to suffer. So I looked into homeschooling. The more I looked into it, the more it seemed the right path for us.

When I took my girl out of school at the end of Term 1, the relief we all felt was massive. My girl spent the first couple of weeks just "de-stressing." Finding peace. Sleeping and eating again. Relishing a space where she could simply "Be," and not be afraid.
As we eased into our new world, I found schoolwork my girl was interested in; we were warmly welcomed into the homeschool community, and my girl began, slowly, to feel joy again. By the time we finished the term, we were having so much fun it was infectious. My son, who was in Year 4, asked to join us! Of course I said yes.
Suddenly, there I was: mother of not one, but two, homeschool kids. Not what I expected when the year began! But two years later, I've found this path to be the perfect one for us: the path we were always meant to be on. Everything has "clicked" and fallen into place. We are fulfilled, excited to learn, and so happy.
I fell into homeschooling without planning, but I fell somewhere extraordinary. I fell into Wonderful.
What is homeschooling, anyway?
Homeschooling is the taking on, by a parent or guardian, the responsibility of their child's educational development, outside a public or private school environment. But it is so much more than that! It's a lifestyle and an attitude, a philosophy and an eye-opening journey into alternative education. It is a way for parents to learn too. I know I've learned so much since we began.
How do you start homeschooling?
In NSW, after you have made the decision to homeschool, you apply for registration with the NSW Board of Studies. An Authorised Person visits your home, to ensure you understand and will cover the required "Key Learning Areas," and that you have the plans, access to resources and adequate space to homeschool. He or she gives you up to 2 years approval, and then you are off!
How does homeschooling happen?
There are many ways you can choose to homeschool. It can look quite like school, or look completely unlike school. It can be highly structured, or free-range! Your homeschool is literally what you and your child create.
You don't need to be a trained teacher to homeschool. There are thousands of resources and support systems out there to help you. You don't have to know everything, or do it all alone.
You can buy a set curriculum that covers your whole school year, or you can mix and match from the various curricula available. There are countless resources available, such as workbooks, literature, teaching materials, unit studies, lesson plans, and on-line learning programs. Sometimes the hardest thing about homeschooling is choosing which resources to use!
Many families also use a child-led, interest-driven approach to homeschooling, where the subjects studied are initiated by their child. Tons of learning can happen this way. For example, "I want to learn about Space!" can launch your child into studying science, maths, art, history, english, geography, and even music. This is how we homeschool for the most part, and we love it.
There are many methods of homeschooling, and many homeschool philosophies. In fact, people say that if you asked one hundred homeschoolers how they did it, you'd get a hundred different answers! Nonetheless, you are expected to meet the standards set by the NSW Board of Studies. As long as you meet those standards, the way you go about homeschooling is up to you.
What about Socialisation?
Now, I've heard this question a lot since I began homeschooling. Seeing as I'm now a two year Veteran, I think I can answer it!
The simple answer is this: Socialisation is a non-issue for us. There is a thriving, supportive homeschool community in the Illawarra. It is a growing community. Homeschool groups meet weekly and fortnightly throughout the area; there are many excursions, get togethers, and organised workshops.

Homeschool kids meet other kids (both home-schooled and regular-schooled kids) all the time. They take classes, such as music, science, dance, writing, drama, art, horse riding, and sports. They play on soccer and cricket teams, and take tennis workshops. They are in bands, in plays and on Lego League teams. They are busy.
My kids, for example, take part in activities every day with other kids and adults. We have friends from Homeschool Land and School Land and see them often. We are filled to the brim with Socialisation. In fact, some days we have to push our Socialising plates away and say, "Not another bite! We're full!"
Homeschoolers are also out in the world constantly, interacting with people in the community. They go to libraries and art galleries, to the bank and the post office. They see the world working, in real time. There are no walls to their learning. Learning (and socialising) happens everywhere.
What are homeschoolers like?
Well, homeschooled kids are a glorious combination of Everything Under the Sun. You'll find quirky kids and confident kids. Sensitive and sociable. Outspoken kids, and quiet, shy ones. Just the same as you'd find on a school playground.
But something I've noticed about homeschooled kids is this: they are some of the most well-spoken, self-confident and friendly people I've ever met. They treat adults as potential friends. They talk to you. They relate, to adults and kids of all ages. They are comfortable in their own skin. It is beautiful to see.
There are also many types of homeschooling parents, all homeschooling differently and parenting differently. Everyone has their own, personal reasons for homeschooling. Some have homeschooled from the beginning; others have taken their kids out of school, and some have kids in school and out. But we all have something in common: an abiding desire to help our children learn.
I haven't met a single homeschool parent who isn't deeply committed to their child's education. And with the resources today (the internet alone is extraordinary) and the support available, any parent can do it. Anyone can homeschool their child.
Is homeschooling easy?
It is and it isn't. It is easy to be with my kids because they are so happy so much of the time. We aren't tied to a schedule, and I don't have to pack a lunchbox every school morning! But it can be challenging, too.
It can be hard sometimes, to find educational solutions that fit my children and their learning styles. Financially it can be a struggle, so you have to make adjustments, re-prioritise areas of your life. It can be difficult to be different, to live outside the Norm. Plus, you give up much of your personal time and space to make homeschooling happen.
And some days are just plain harder than others! Days where everyone's cranky, nothing's working; I call them the "hit the wall" days. Even the happiest homeschooler has them. Everyone has them.
So why do you homeschool?
The things I don't have, and the things that are difficult, are outweighed by what I (and my family) have gained.
Time with my kids. Real time and real connection. Connection with adults who are passionate about education and finding educational alternatives. An opening up of ideas and new discoveries.
Freedom to choose where to be, and when to be there. Choosing, if you want, to spend the entire day in your pyjamas, doing work on the couch! Taking the day off to go to the beach.
Freedom for my kids, to choose how they want to learn and who they want to be. The incredible joy that comes from seeing kids make a leap in learning.
A new understanding of my children and of myself. Time to explore who I am as a mother, a writer, and an educator.
Time. Freedom. Passion. Discovery. All good things! All found on my homeschool path. All found on my journey to Wonderful.

I'm linking this with Stephanie's Saturday's Artist
Normally I add something my kids have done, 
but this time I thought I'd share something special of my own. :)


  1. Great article! I love it!! Everything does just fall into place, doesn't it? I am so glad that I found you. I feel like our stories are similar.

    I love how you start this saying they should have you waving a pro-homeschool flag! lol. I actually did laugh out loud! ha!

  2. Awesome article. You wrote it beautifully! Did I ever tell you that I think you are awesome?
    Well, I do.
    Also my husband is from Turkey, and yeah apple tea is the best. We call it Elma Chai. ( Elma is apple in Turkey, and Chai is how they pronounce tea, although it is spelled Cay). Good stuff!

  3. How lovely for you to have an article published! And what a great well-written

  4. Super article, accurate, beautiful, full of love and honesty. I may have to link up to it, hope you don't mind. Where else would a Vermonter get to hear words like - fortnightly and cricket. Very cool.

    I think I will go read it again!

  5. Awesome, Helena! We started 2 years ago, too with 1 child (year 4) who wasn't thriving in school so we pulled him out. 1 months later, it was our first grader who was asking to be homeschooled, too. It's like we're the SAME PERSON. Only I'm sure you have an awesome, Aussie accent.

  6. Wonderful article! Thanks for the encouraging notes you left on my blog today. :)

  7. Yay you! You have a wonderful way with words, and it's fantastic you have another avenue with which to share them. Well done (from another flag-waving Aussie homeschooler!).

  8. Wonderful! How exciting to be published! Your writing is full of joy. Your love for your children and for homeschooling really shine through.

  9. This surprises me. I honestly thought you had HSed since the beginning. You just 'sound' like a Mom who always knew she was going to homeschool. I am so sorry your girl had a hard time, seeing pictures of her smile shining out, what a perfectly wonderful thing this is for her.

    So awesome about the Magazine article but not very surprising..have I mentioned how much I LOVE your writing? :)

    And I heart homeschooling too!! HEART HEART HEART it!

  10. I love this story, Helena - and congrats on getting it published. I love, love reading peoples homeschooling/unschooling stories, they are always full of so much inspiration...and thanks for stopping by at my blog and your wonderful comments - i'm interesting to hear your son likes the Life of Fred books - i heard lots of good things about those lately..might have to try them for K when he's a bit older :)

  11. Dear Helena, Love your website ! Something you may be interested in! Stephanie Messenger who is the founder of not for profit charity 'get rid of Sids Project'is conducting an information session on vaccination and Sids, Feb 28th in Wollongong.Stephanie who has been researching vaccination for 30 years and Sids for over ten years will answer questions such as 'Are vaccinations safe and effective?' 'Do you know what is in a vaccine? Is herd immunity a myth ? 'What can i do to protect my baby from Sids?' for more inforamation phone 42853333 or email me see Steph's story on

  12. Hi Helena, I am Faguni I am in year 7 and I am age 11. I really want to do homeschooling but I am scared to tell my parents. Do you mind emailing to these emails to tell my parents how important homeschooling is and how to start it??
    My email is:
    Please reply to the email! Thank yuo soo much!!


I love hearing from you! Thank you for your heartfelt, thoughtful responses—they lift me, and give me light.