Curiosity without Judgement: The Mums who Homeschool

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By Rachael Mogan McIntosh

Have you ever contemplated homeschooling? In the early morning, for instance, while searching for readers and shoes and hairbands, and trying to launch a stealth washcloth attack on the children, have you ever wondered what it might be like to opt out of the daily grind? How different would your life look if you kept the kids at home and took a whole different approach to their education? How would it all work?

Today, four MamaBakers gave us a glimpse into their homeschooling worlds. It’s fascinating!

First, Lauren from Tasmania, mother of three and blogger at Owlet.

Lauren: Homeschooling mama to three glorious girls

Lauren: Homeschooling mama to three glorious girls

Do you follow a curriculum, or the practice of ‘unschooling’?

We are probably best defined as Unschoolers*. We understand that learning happens all the time, everywhere, and we make the most of it, providing lots of opportunities for learning. Most days it just feels like living.

What’s a typical day home-schooling look like at your place?

The desk

The desk

There are no typical days! Some days we go out to the shops or the beach, to gym or drama or our home school co-op or whatever activity we have planned. Some days we stay at home and there might be cooking, playing, drawing, maths workbooks (just for fun!), gardening, Minecraft, reading, watching movies or documentaries. We tend to follow a train of thought or a discussion and roll with it, finding fun and creative ways to explore it along the way.

What are your academic and education dreams for your kids?

I’d hope that they will find what they are passionate about and follow their own dreams, and I’m happy to support their choices.

Do you feel that the ‘socialising’ of the classroom is something that you need to work into your homeschooling system?  How do you manage it?

The way we see it, normal social environments can involve people of all different ages working or playing together, so socialising can happen when we visit the shops or chat to the neighbours… Having said that, there are so many opportunities for us to spend time with our friends during the week that we have to set aside occasional home days or it all gets a bit much!

When the kids are always at home, do you ever feel like you need a break? How do you get down-time?

Like any family, there are times when you feel like you need a little space. I’m super lucky to have supportive family and friends who will help me with down-time if I need it. My husband has a supportive, family friendly workplace and he manages to be flexible enough to spend time with us when it is needed. I’m finding that as they get older, I’m able to find more space in my days where they are happy to do their own thing while I take a little time out for myself or my work.

Do you think your kids will ever spend time in a traditional school environment, or do you plan to continue home-schooling through high school?

We plan to keep providing a nurturing, nourishing environment for them to explore their passions. That involves finding them mentors and spaces to encourage what they need to do. If that involves an educational institution at any stage, then we fully support them attending.

*Unschooling: “Unschooling is an educational method and philosophy that rejects compulsory school as a primary means for learning. Unschoolers learn through their natural life experiences including play, household responsibilities, personal interests and curiosity, internships and work experience, travel, books, elective classes, family, mentors, and social interaction.” Source: Wikipedia

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Next, meet Renee from South Australia, Mum to two boys, ages 5 and 8. Her 8 year old has been diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome.

Do you follow a curriculum, or the practice of ‘unschooling’?

We actually do a bit of both – generally “eclectic homeschooling” as a label.  I do my own curriculum though.

What’s a typical day home-schooling look like at your place?

Renee's homeschooling space

My kids wake up first and generally occupy themselves with TV until I wake up and have coffee. They’ll sometimes do crafts, or Lego, as well.  Depending on the day we either have an outing, or, if it’s a holiday somewhere, we do something for that. I also have downloaded some themed fun worksheets for math and literacy to fill in the day.  They’ll mostly direct themselves for the other parts of the day – my 8 year old is writing a book (along the same lines as Andy Griffith’s Treehouse books) and my 5 year old is teaching himself to read. 🙂

What are your academic and education dreams for your kids?

I want them to keep the joy of learning, like their dad and I do. We’re all about information, and love to learn about things in as much detail as we can stand, and then we find something else fascinating. We often watch documentaries all together at night. Bit of a geek thing in this house. 😉

Do you feel that the ‘socialising’ of the classroom is something that you need to work into your homeschooling system?  How do you manage it?

Sometimes it is hard as I’m an introvert by nature, and it’s easy to get stuck into a rut, because I’m comfortable at home. That said, we have a lot of the same things kids in school have, we just do it with other homeschoolers, and in more manageable groups. As well as Scouts, and other activities, we have a strong Autism community connection with a Lego social skills group, a siblings group, as well as a Dance and Drama group we’re checking out next week.  There’s socialisation across ages, social status and gender and my kids can hold their own in public, which is what socialising is all about, in my opinion.

When the kids are always at home, do you ever feel like you need a break? How do you get down-time?

Oh yes I do. My husband is here too, ALL the time (which actually makes it a bit easier to take time.) I have workshops and a support group I attend quite often with our Autism support community, and I try to go and have coffee with local friends as well. So even though they’re all with me, it’s not always being stuck at home with them.

Do you think your kids will ever spend time in a traditional school environment, or do you plan to continue home-schooling through high school?

My youngest might – he has never been, but has no interest. If a time comes that he does, I have no problem with it. It just suits us as a family right now to keep him home though. My oldest will likely stay home, as he’s already so advanced in some ways, they wouldn’t’ be able to cater to him in the future.  I plan on looking into Open Access at that point, as I believe there are allowances made for gifted and ASD kids.

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Next, meet Terri from New Zealand . She has four children ages 6, 4, 2 and 9 months. (And a husband, she adds!)

Terri and her thriving tribe

Terri and her thriving tribe

Do you follow a curriculum, or the practice of ‘unschooling’?

I prefer the term ‘interest-led learning’. I don’t buy curriculum as it’s too restrictive and a bit boring for us.

What’s a typical day home-schooling look like at your place?

homeschooling

Terri’s homeschooling space

I like a tidy house, so there are things I have to do before I’m 100% free to sit down with the kids. Some days they spend all day doing worksheets, reading, workbooks, and on others they play outside all day. Every day has a hands-on activity: sewing, cooking, science experiments, etc. The amazing thing is what the younger siblings are picking up. My 2.5 yr old can count, knows her colours, simple maths, how to bake etc.. All through second hand learning!

What are your academic and education dreams for your kids?

I hope that they never lose their passion for learning and that they are able to earn a living doing what they love. That’s it.
Do you feel that the ‘socialising’ of the classroom is something that you need to work into your homeschooling system?  How do you manage it?

I feel that socialisation of the classroom is one of the things I wanted to keep my children away from. However, interaction with other people is very important. Socialisation happens every day when they are at their activities, at the supermarket or the library, but I’ve had to work really hard to find friends for my kids, however, as we have only lived in Nelson for two years.

When the kids are always at home, do you ever feel like you need a break? How do you get down-time?

I sometimes get overwhelmed with the enormity of my responsibilities and exhausted from the lack of quiet, and when this happens I tell my husband I’m having the next Saturday morning off and I go op shopping. And this time is really about me being able to be alone with my thoughts and not have to talk to anyone. Or if a day has really turned to shit I safety proof the living room, shut everyone in there and have a 10 minute shower and that’s enough to stop me having a meltdown.

Do you think your kids will ever spend time in a traditional school environment, or do you plan to continue home-schooling through high school?

My children may spend some time in a traditional school. This will happen if they wish it (after all this is their education, not mine) or if they wish to pursue a specific topic that we can’t assist with – graphic design for example. But I would first seek out tutors or courses to try to avoid High School.

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Finally, meet Lusi, who has been homeschooling for six years. Her five kids are aged 12, 11, 9, 5 and 3, and one has Autism.

homeschooling

Do you follow a curriculum, or the practice of ‘unschooling’?

We have an eclectic style. We have a mix of structure and rhythm along with a Charlotte Mason approach in some subjects with a real hand-on-learning-through-every-day-life aspect too!

What’s a typical day home-schooling look like at your place?

We have breakfast then all the kids have chores to help Team Austin function well. When the kids are ready to sit down at the learning room table, they take turns to choose a scripture to read, and then it’s on to maths, spelling and handwriting. We use a variety of approaches to these to meet the Board of Studies requirements.

We take a morning tea break usually outside then take a turn each day to learn interesting things about world history, geography, Australian history, science, food tech, art and pdhpe. I try to make the learning as informative and interesting as possible. We use a lot of oral narration. Our kids love hands on learning too. Recently we learnt about the artist Jackson Pollock and we’d also been learning about medieval weaponry at the same time! So we combined the two to make a catapult to throw paint, Pollock style, at a sheet we’d set up outside. It was loads of messy fun!

Often I’ll read to the kids over our lunch break or sometimes they’ll sit and chat together on the porch. After lunch we tackle things like touch typing, LOTE (our 12 year old is teaching herself French at the moment), and perhaps some work we haven’t gotten through. In the afternoon the kids play in their lego room, outside with our neighbours or go to activities outside our home.

What are your academic and education dreams for your kids?

Our dreams and hopes for our kids are the same I’m sure as everyone else! We hope to instill a real love of learning in our kids. We want our children to be healthy, satisfied individuals who contribute to their community and work to the best of their abilities in all areas of their lives. We hope they are people of wonderful character and integrity.

Do you feel that the ‘socialising’ of the classroom is something that you need to work into your homeschooling system? How do you manage it?

Ah the dreaded ‘S’ word! Socialisation is all about how a child or adult for that matter, relates to other people of ALL ages and stages in life! Our kids are present with us in everyday situations, learning a range of social skills. As well as each other, our children play sports, have play dates, and get together with the local homeschool community every week.

When the kids are always at home, do you ever feel like you need a break? How do you get down-time?

My hubby and I are very supportive of our own needs to refresh ourselves. We each play sports, go out for a weekend brekky on our own or go and hang out with friends while the other holds down the fort. Once a year, my mother’s group go away for the weekend (sans kids or partners !) to regroup. It’s invaluable. I also run a small online business (Finds on Fitzroy) selling retro and vintage goods so that’s also a nice change of pace compared to homeschooling.

Do you think your kids will ever spend time in a traditional school environment, or do you plan to continue home-schooling through high school?

We often ask our children if they’d like to go to school again but they are all still choosing to stay and really love it. We are not anti-school at all. It may end up being a path we walk down again in the future. Right now though we have peace that this is the right decision for our family in this season.

Thanks so much to Lauren, Renee, Terri and Lusi for giving us a glimpse into your homeschooling worlds. Curiosity without Judgement is our motto here at Mamabake HQ, where we really believe that there is more that unites us as parents than divides us, despite the many different ways we choose to manage family life. Happy schooling makes for happy kids, wherever that classroom might be.

Read our other long form interviews from the Curiosity Without Judgement Series.

Australian Homeschool Communities:

Australian Homeschool Network
Aussie Homeschool
Homeschool Australia

About Rachael Mogan McIntosh

Rachael Mogantosh

Rachael Mogan McIntosh has three children under seven and just the one husband, with whom she lives on the Australian south coast. The chaos sometimes makes her eyes leak salty water, and her laundry rarely has the freshness of Scandinavia, but the people in her little house bring her enormous joy.

She finds motherhood very pleasing and endlessly comedic. It’s not easy. But neither is making a really nice croqembouche, and in her experience they both come with great rewards, although only one has custard.

Read more of her, here.

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