Monday, February 10, 2014

Go On, Give Unschooling a Go...

by Beverley Paine

Unschooling my kids unschooled me, the process of deschooling myself is ongoing.

We have nothing to lose by giving unschooling a go. If we don't like we can homeschool. If that doesn't work out for us or our children they can go to school.

We place a lot of emphasis on children not missing out on learning if they don't go to school for every year of their lives. Yet no one will argue with you that a year travelling around India, Asia or Europe with their family will harm a child's education. Okay, so that's an extreme example, but how about taking a year off school and doing an in-depth hands-on full time exploration of your local community, your region or state, or Australia? Dive right in and unschool your way from day to day, doing exactly what you would if you were touring around the world - getting to know and experience fully the places and people, not overseas, but right here. Imagine how much of the school curriculum you'd naturally cover.

It's a no brainer really. Living life fully in our communities not in little boxes behind school fences simply makes more sense.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Bits and Pieces, Autumn 2012

Some days it feels like I live online... The amount of information and support for home educators is awe inspiring. I hope you enjoy these ‘bits & pieces’ I’ve collected over the past couple of months.
The KookaGumJoeys are three home schooled girls (Madeleine & Charlotte McKee-Wright and Jaye Heimlich) who won the FIRST LEGO League National tournament in December last year. They will now represent Australia at the Open European Championship in Germany, in June. They are trying to raise approximately $30,000 through donations and sponsorship to get them to Germany. They would be incredibly grateful to anyone who could offer them support of any kind. They are currently running a raffle with some amazing prizes (1st prize is a LEGO Mindstorms NXT Set worth $500). If you would like to purchase tickets or find out more please check out their website:
Life Media Channel: Wendy Priesnitz, publisher of Life Learning Magazine and Natural Child now has a YouTube channel. For over thirty years Wendy has worked to bring awareness into our lives about living and parenting softly, gently and sanely on the planet. Subscribe for updates.
Famous homeschoolers! If you know of any to add to our list, please email them to me.
Actress Mayin Bialik, regularly seen as Amy Farrah Fowler in TVs Big Bang Theory, is also a scientist and homeschooling mother. Source:
Earthwise Harmony is another great initiative by a home educating family with a focus on learning from the past, living a resilient present and creating an abundant future:
Education Unlimited: for inspiring and thought-provoking discussion of educational innovation, sharing resources and networking with those interested in alternative education.
Eleven year old homeschool kid exposes Monsanto:
Homeschool Ryan Gosling: I was somewhat amused by this collection of images that a couple of mums put together, paying homage to the ever-popular Ryan Gosling meme and homeschooling.
John Holt on How Children Learn is a talk John Holt presented to Swedish Teachers in Gothenberg, Sweden on March 22, 1982.
HEN Vic have DVDs of a a lecture John Holt gave during his visit to Melbourne in 1981. John speaks on a range of topics such as Schools vs Home Education, Socialisation and Time Management.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Summary of Feedback from members of the home educating community regarding the 2013 revised NSW OBoS Home Education Information Pack

compiled by Beverley Paine, on behalf of the HEA committee

Two thirds of the emails HEA received in feedback placed the ability to continue to create learning plans that matched their children's individual needs as their most important concern; in particular being able to extend their children's learning based on the individual child's ability, interests and motivation. The new requirement to seek approval when working above the approved year level , together with the need to teach the syllabus within the year level on the child's registration certificate , is seen as a major restriction on how families home educate. It was also mentioned by several home educators that they believe this contravenes the Education Act. Home educating children don't learn within prescribed year levels: “children could conceivably change their attainment level several times a year across each subject area”. This change was considered unworkable for families whose children had learning differences: gifted, special needs, ASD, etc.

Home educators want their children to be able to learn at their own pace, not prescribed by year level or syllabus outcomes.

Almost a fifth of parents raised the issue that this requirement, together with the need to refer to outcomes when recording, also makes it difficult for group learning – different age children learning the same topic at the same time but on different levels. Siblings working and learning together and helping each other is a strong positive aspect of home education practice.

Over half of the feedback emails claimed that the new requirements would make it difficult to incorporate individual learning needs, styles, interest, pace, talents and abilities of their children into their learning plans – a long standing hallmark of home education practice and the reason many choose home education over school.

Almost two thirds said that the revised guidelines demonstrated the Board of Studies' failure to understand the unique nature of home education and how it is essentially different from school: “home education is more than a mere change in the person delivering content.” There was a belief that the revised requirements, with a new and pronounced emphasis on regulation and schooling rather than education and quality, with its focus on written assessment , will act to stifle innovative and individualised pedagogy. It was suggested that the guidelines need to be simplified and streamlined to enable greater participation in the registration process. Ten percent felt that it would be impossible to satisfy the new requirements and that because their children refused to go back to school, they would be forced to home educate without registration and cope with whatever consequences this entailed.

Almost one third of emails received by the HEA called either for the Association to request immediate withdrawal of the revised Information Pack by OBoS , or for the HEA to push for legislative change .

A fifth of emails received sought clarification for the reasons behind, and justification for, the very many changes which obviously go beyond the need to accommodate the incorporation of the Australian Curriculum into the NSW Board of Studies Syllabus.

Almost half of concerned parents protested about the lack of consultation with peak stakeholders, as well as the removal of mention of support groups other than the Home Education Association. Many related stressful and confusing experiences with Approved Persons implementing the changes prior to the publication of the revised Information Pack. A fifth expressed that the actions of the Board of Studies demonstrated disrespect for the educational motives, aims and efforts of home educating parents.

A third of parents were dismayed at the changed attitude and tone expressed by the revised document, stating that home educators need to be given time to develop and evaluate home education plans, and that they prefer advice about pedagogy and resources rather be forced “to simply have to churn out paperwork”. They felt the role of the Home Education Unit within OBoS should be “enabling and supporting parents to home educate, not to restrict them”. Despite being a form of private education, home educators are not funded, resourced or supported in any way: under these conditions they “cannot be expected to act like teachers.”

It was also pointed out several times that Program Builder via Scootle was only available to registered home educators, thus proving completely useless to new applicants who need the most help in planning learning programs for their children.

The revised Information Pack contained a new focus on the time spent teaching and learning . Several emails (15%) pointed out that home education is more efficient than school, that children don't only learn between the hours of nine and three and that there should be scope for varying the time spent on activities based on the individual learning needs of children. A weekly timetable may work in schools but is not appropriate in most home education environments.

The removal of a spectrum of home education approaches was met with considerable dismay: more than half of the parents said that the new requirements would force a restrictive one-size-fits-all ‘school-at-home' approach to home education on their families, making any other method “prohibitively difficult” if not “impossible” and will have the effect of restricting the range of resources home educators currently enjoy using.

Two thirds of the feedback respondents protested against what they saw as unnecessary work and stress which will be caused by the new requirement to reference specific NSW BOS Syllabus Outcomes when planning and recording, saying it would take time away from teaching and helping their children learn. This amount of detail – linking learning activities to syllabus outcomes – is unnecessary in the home learning environment. It was considered “pedantic”, “onerous”, “restrictive”, “unnecessarily limiting”, “time consuming”, “cumbersome” and a “massive hindrance to fostering a love of learning”. Parents are aware of the content and direction of the NSW Syllabus and naturally seek to guide their children to learn what is appropriate and necessary to ensure their educational development. There was general concern that this requirement removes flexibility in how home educators can meet educational objectives. Several mentioned that a portfolio approach to recording was more suited the home educating environment.

Almost half of the feedback focused on multiple visits per year by APs ; the removal of renewal by documentation, and shorter periods of registration (even for experienced home educators). Several issues arose: having to seek approval for changes in learning plans; registration for individual children necessitating many interviews; new ‘spot visits' without notification; and inflexibility of OBoS with regard to appointment times and appropriate time allowed for interviews. The justification for the imposition of ‘spot visits' was questioned: “distance education students do not have their homes checked”; and, “The monitoring of compliance with the requirements for registration is addressed in the re-registration process itself – any further monitoring could be considered harassment under the law.'

One third of feedback emails expressed confusion on the new emphasis on the home as the place of learning – that only learning delivered in the home will now being counted as towards registration. Several cited examples of how this was already being implemented and enforced by APs in recent months. It was felt that this new requirement would restrict learning opportunities and be socially isolating. Parents who incorporate regular travel into their home educating lifestyle or for income related activities felt this was particularly discriminating and limiting.

There was a general feeling that the OBoS mistrusted home educators, the feeling was mutual. A few mentioned the need to know what criteria they were being assessed against. A few said they weren't going to register because they were afraid they'd be refused.

Conscientious objectors on the grounds of religion strenuously protested the change in definition saying that they felt they were being forced to teach content contrary to their religious beliefs.

Other issues: children present during interviews was seen as intrusive, especially by parents of children with special needs (discussing issues about development and education in front of them); request for all previous academic records may prove difficult to manage; no provision for senior high school certificate, approved course of study, especially discriminating with respect for Centrelink purposes; a general vagueness about period of registration; a need for conscientious objection grounds to using the NSW Syllabus other than religion; and the removal of privacy statement.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Push for Legislative Change for Home Education in NSW

Home educating in NSW? This may interest you.

The Office of Board of Studies uploaded their revised Information Pack outlining the changes to the registration requirements for home educating families. Many of the changes have been gradually implemented over the last 18 months or more without notification or consultation. This has caused considerable confusion and distress, particularly when inquiries were made of the OBoS and families were told the 2011 Information Pack was still current and should be used as a guide when preparing applications and renewal reports.

Earlier this year a group of concerned home educators formed a group called the Homeschoolers Regulation Reform Alliance of NSW.  They have put together a survey to gather information from NSW home educators regarding support for legislative change. Your participation is completely anonymous. Please complete the survey before Wednesday 11th September:

The quest for legislative change will be a measured and ongoing response to a continuing problem many home educators experience in NSW. For many years it has been accepted that it is harder to register as a home educating family in NSW than elsewhere - now the requirements are even more onerous and out of step with the nature of home education, and include an unnecessary and unexplained imposition of increased scrutiny of home education practice.

Please take the time to support HRRAN by completing the survey. And share it with your home educating friends and support groups. Thank you.

Beverley Paine

Thursday, July 18, 2013

What I am Reading: Winter 2012

Number of homeschoolers growing “Researchers are expecting a surge in the number of students educated at home by their parents over the next ten years as more families spurn public schools. “In the USA Since 1999, the number of children who are being homeschooled has increased by 75%.” 

We educate our children naturally from the time they are born. Homeschooling doesn't have to be hard or difficult or onerous... Another encouraging article: Home is Already a Homeschooling Supply Warehouse, by Linda Dobson.
Kids have no voice.” Documentary about the state of schooling in the USA. I don't need convincing about home education, and documentaries like this only make me sad.

“All education is self-education.  Period.  It doesn’t matter if you’re sitting in a college classroom or a coffee shop.  We don’t learn anything we don’t want to learn.” 12 Dozen Places to Educate Yourself for Free

Linda Dobson is currently publishing a collection of these stories by parents of grown home educated children (USA). Maybe one day we'll get a collection of similar stories from Aussie parents!

The rise of informal channels of education are examined in Are We All Deschoolers Now? “Illich advocated for the dismantling of educational institutions and, in their stead, the establishment of informal alternatives, like lending libraries for prohibitively expensive equipment and an educational match-making clearinghouse.” 

Slaman Khan, named one of Times 100 most influential people in the world. “The aspiration of is to give every kid a chance at a free, world-class education.”,28804,2111975_2111976_2111942,00.html
In an article examining the role of schedules in our homeschooling lives, Linda Dobson argues for time for ‘nothingness’ in our children’s lives:

Another one from Linda which I agree with, although my approach tends towards treading softly and convincing people that everything in the school curriculum is already embedded in a busy, constructive and productive life: schools simply fragment it and dish it up in indigestible chunks.
It’s Time, Ditch Curriculum

I love this: "unschooling is not unparenting". Wendy nails the life learning lifestyle! The Art of Inspiration, the role of parents in unschooling:

Another brilliant magazine for natural learners! Flourish!

Interview with Dale Stephens, home ed grad and co-founder of the UnCollege) a macro-level social movement challenging the notion that going to college is the only path to success) in USA:

One of my favourite websites Natural Child receives a makeover! 
Yet another great parenting magazine:

On my list of books to buy soon! “Putting an end to coercive education and family life would be a big step toward creating a society that chooses action over consumption, that favours communication over weapons development, and that encourages conservation over production. And, for me, that is one of the goals of a well-educated society. I look forward to the day when school (at least in its compulsory form as we know it) doesn’t exist; meanwhile, I offer you these thoughts as encouragement for living as if it doesn’t exist.” from the foreword to Beyond School: Living As If School Doesn't Exist

Freedom to Learn—the Challenges of Unschooling, the report from a survey of 232 “unschooling” families who have children older than 5 years.  
Wendy Priesnitz writes on the benefits of boredom: If you are interested in exploring this topic further, also see:
Food for thought... Open Schooling is the Open Source Way:

The Unteachables: A generation that cannot learn  is another opinion piece exploring the dangers of giving good grades with the aim of protecting fragile self-esteems. It also highlights a growing problem within the education system that also results from a ‘teach the test’ approach to education. Education is more than jumping through curriculum hoops to ‘pass’.

Is this the end of NAPLAN? Caught my eye but it turned out to be an opinion piece rather than factual reporting (which I wish it was!)

And don’t forget to subscribe to Bob Collier’s excellent newsletter. Parental Intelligence. Bob has since finished publishing but you can read back issues on the website.   

Subscribe to Homeschool-Unschool-Australia!, a quarterly collection of my writing on my various websites, support groups, blog and personal reflections. 
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