Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Stand up and Be

It was Census Night last night. A Very! Important! Night! where we all got counted

little beans

and put into our slots.

We, the population, played our part in history—

all umpteen million of us sat at computers or scritched away at tables, diligently filling in our forms—

so that People could then look back and say,
Australia in 2011


 X-amount of grown-ups, X-amount of kids, X-amount of Buddhists, X-amount of brick layers, X-amount of people needing help to pee, and X-amount of millionaires.

But they won't ever know how many homeschoolers there were,


there wasn't a box for us.

Nothing and nowhere for us to write:


No spot to slot into and be noted.

No rock to scratch our initials in,
nothing to say:

We Were Here!

The question on the form asked if

you were studying at an educational institution.

Either you were, or you were not.

That was it.

If you said yes you studied full-time or part-time, it asked, Where?

You answers could be:

pre-school, primary school, high-school, university, technical college or Other Educational Institution.

No open-ended Other with a simple box you could write "Homeschool."


You just couldn't dodge that word.


Now, the last I heard or read or knew, homeschoolers specifically and absolutely do NOT study in an institution.

I checked, and the definition of

institution |ˌinstiˈt(y)oō sh ən| is:

nouna society or organization founded for a religious, educationalsocial, or similar purpose


There may be four of us, plus two chickens, two cats, lots of goldfish and a dog living here, but I'm pretty sure we're not a society or an organisation.

As for being Founded: I'm not and never have been. I just got born, grew up, had adventures, chose with my kids' permission and to their delight, to have them learn outside of school.

So it seemed kind of clear:

our education—all the delicious leaping and learning we do— happens in nothing like an Institution. But just in case my dictionary was wrong, I checked around. says an Institution is

a. An established organization or foundation, especially one dedicated to education, public service, or culture.
b. The building or buildings housing such an organization.
c. A place for the care of persons who are destitute, disabled, or mentally ill.

Well, nup, to a, b or c.

Wikipedia says it's

any structure or mechanism of social order and cooperation governing the behavior of a set of individuals within a given human community. Institutions are identified with a social purpose and permanence, transcending individual human lives and intentions, and with the making and enforcing of rules governing cooperative human behavior.[1]

Huh? And
we don't fit any of that either.

So what to do?

Now, the Census form did generously add that the definition of
"study in an educational institution"

included study by correspondence.

That was awfully kind of them, but that's not how we homeschool.

(I s'pose if my kids just did their work and posted it to me under the door to my room where I lay inside eating bon bons and reading steamy novellas, that might count. Unfortunately though, that's not quite how we roll)

Which left me with no spot to say

what kind of Education we actually get.

It left me, being the stickler for the Truth that I am,

saying, in answer to "Do you study at an educational institution?"

for Every Single One of us:


Which looks to the naked eye like

we aren't any one of us being Educated right now.

him, her, him, or me.

Which is so silly,

because you and I know

we are.

Every day, in countless, joyful, and delighted ways,

we are!

No-one looking back at the Census of 2011,

years from now, or even just tomorrow,

will know

just how lucky we and thousands other Australians are.

And it is so ironic, don't you think?

That we unboxed and unbound learners

had no box to fill.

Maybe that's exactly how it should be?

But in this thing,
this small hands-up, stand-up communal exercise,

I actually kinda would have liked to be counted.

Silly, silly census.


  1. The little parts of our day often make for the best blog posts! I love this. I remember filling out the census here in 2010 but I don't remember being in a quandary about educational choices. I wonder if ours has the same type of classification? I guess it is true that homeschoolers think out of the box!

  2. I put a comment in the feedback that there needed to be a Homeschool option.
    The question about volunteers was curious- I have no idea how that will be useful as they didn't want to know what type of volunteering or where it was done.
    Getting back to home ed, perhaps if the numbers on the census didn't match the number of registered homeschoolers, it could lead to closer some ways it may be better to fly under their radar and continue with minimal interference. What do you think?

  3. Not having boxes to put people into is like having kids run around naked in public. You don't know what to do with them, except chase after them and beg them to put clothes on like everyone else. I understand the need for government to put people in categories as if to try to know us better. Yet would they even really know us better if they did? Kind of like that box for ethnicity. I never know what to check. I am half Asian and half white, but there is no box for that. I think I prefer "other" anyway :).

  4. Interesting! I'm sure you can write a letter to petition the census to include a box for homeschoolers on the next one.
    You're forging your own path in life, I guess this makes it official! :)

  5. Hi there - i was surprised too at the glaring omission of Homeschool as an educational option. It did seem strange when there are several govt departments set up just to register and keep tabs on us all. Not having a box to tick will make the education data compromised - some will tick 'none' as you did - others like me will feel forced to choose 'educational institution' and still others might just choose the age of their child ie primary school age. For such an incredible expense, it is annoying to see errors on the census form.
    Love your post as always!!! :-)

  6. Great post. I love the idea of Homeschoolers NOT fitting into any box but it is a little ridiculous there is no proper 'classification'. Especially since they have to approve your 'studies'.

    This reminds me of the Whos in Whoville screaming at Horton, "WE ARE HERE, WE ARE HERE, WE ARE HERE!!!"

  7. Oh, I so love these comments! I love your wonderful humour and opinions—they make me think and laugh and think some more.

    Jess—it would be interesting to compare census-speak. I wish we could pull out the forms and see them side by side. Yes, we do think out of the box—we have to!

    Joanne—it's interesting, your point. I WAS wondering if I'd have Government Officials rappelling through my windows the minute they realised I had two children being Completely Uneducated within my four walls! I would hope the info is never used to judge and punish. I'm such a dreamer—I have this image of people getting to stand up (registered or unregistered) and say "YES. We are homeschoolers. We count, our way of being is valid and fine and good. And there's lots and lots of us. LOOK."

    MJ—you made me laugh! What a glorious mental picture, especially the image of people begging kids to just Please be the Same as the rest. Yeah, it's a love/hate relationship I have with boxes. I want to be counted but I don't want to be limited. I like "Other", too. There you can say and be exactly who you are (well, at least if there's a big enough box to write in!).

    Kim—I think you're right! We are now officially off the charts and forging away. Like lots of us, I think, guided mostly and beautifully by the stars only we can see.

    Kerran—thanks for commenting—it's lovely to see your name here! Yes, it did compromise the data. It irked me, but mostly in that—Oh, you missed a grand opportunity Census 2011, you silly things. Maybe next time…

    Karen—I love the Whos quote!!! YES! We ARE here. Unboxable, indefinable, but HERE, nonetheless!

  8. HEA did try to get this fixed but budget cuts at the Census office meant it was put on the back burner. It's frustrating.

  9. Isn't it kind of wonderful not to have to live in a box ;)
    Actually w've just gone through a major census here in the UK too. Again, no boxes for us homeschoolers. They're just not catching on are they :)

  10. Gregory the UnlearnedAugust 12, 2011 at 8:44 AM

    I hereby decree: The Royal Institute of Helena - a place to learn, laugh and practice the ancient art of skipping in the sand.

  11. It is silly. And you see, here people would fight tooth and nail to be sure homeschool was NOT included on any form EVER so they couldn't be tracked. :D SIlly.

  12. Yes! I was miffed too :( I spent about five mintutes ranting about it until I was told to shut up!! lol.


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