Friday, October 31, 2008

Green and Loving It!

Some days I find it hard to get anything done. One of this afternoon's activities was to measure up for a hot tub we're planning on building. I'm desperate for a hot tub having spent many hours soaking in hot springs on our recent holiday in New Zealand. In fact, you could say we hopped from one hot spring to another down both islands!

Trouble is, while we were measuring up in the pergola where we’re going to put it I noticed a blue wren and his lady ducking in and out of a nearby bush. They have a nest in there and are feeding young. A rather anxious blackbird was hovering around too – his lady is sitting on a nest in my elk-horn fern hanging in the pergola. We were only feet away from her measuring up and she was looking a tad worried. So the whole ‘build the hot tub’ project is off until the baby birds have flown the nest. Not sure how long that will be!

Gotta love nature. We are totally rapt with our place. Yesterday Robin picked up ‘Bluey’. He swears it is the same blue tongue lizard (not the shingleback variety) that we see every year but it is probably one of about five. Won’t be long before we see our first brown snake of the season, but that’s not a problem, unless it is a very close encounter!
Our place buzzes with wildlife. Early this morning Robin disturbed two kangaroos, one of them very small – probably a preteen - on the driveway by the lawn. Living here is a delight!

We are very blessed to live in such a wildlife haven. It wasn't always like this. Our property was once a sheep paddock infested with feral olive trees and wild rose bushes. The hundreds of plants we've planted we grew from seed or cuttings and nurtured into the complex eco-system we enjoy today, buzzing with life at every level.

Watching the box last night we were disturbed by an article about the demise of the Great Barrier Reef. The frustrated scientist has been telling Australians since 1994 about the effect of climate change on the reef. No one was listening, not for the first ten years... We were. We were planting trees and understorey and creating habitat for frogs and lizards and bees and ants and so much more than simply humans...

Before the last federal election I joined Get Up because I felt that the previous government had their collective heads in the sand. Today, Get Up sent me an email asking to sign a petition. Signing petitions just about sums up my involvement with Get Up. The team at Get Up make it really easy to have a say... And it only takes a few seconds.

The following blurb is from their website: www.getup.org.au
Actually from this page(chances by the time you are reading this the page will be long gone): http://www.getup.org.au/campaign/ClimateActionNow/8

"The past twelve months have seen the Rudd government ratify the Kyoto Protocol, countries come together to move forward United Nations climate negotiations and groups like GetUp wage a national campaign here in Australia for strong carbon pollution reduction targets. The Government commissioned the Garnaut report on climate change, which found that the economic cost of not acting on climate change is far greater than the cost of taking early action to reduce emissions. But Kevin Rudd is yet to decide on his target to reduce Australia’s carbon pollution by 2020. GetUp is running a campaign – with this petition at the centre – in these last crucial weeks."

I want my grandkids to snorkel on the Great Barrier Reef. I want them to go outside and catch lizards and frogs and watch the joeys feed on our lawn. Help me realise this dream and do something, anything, to give nature a chance. Even if you think global warming is a lot of hooha, please think about the other critters we have to share the planet with... It's easy living with nature and it's absolutely wonderful!

Why We Started Homeschooling

As a teenager I became very interested in the problems in society – not much different back then as they are today! I wondered why, with such brilliant schooling as we had in Australia, did young people fall through the cracks – teenage pregnancy, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, delinquency.

I could see that parents played a large part in how their children behaved and the attitudes these young people were developing. I began to wonder if schools alone couldn’t fix the problem – perhaps we needed schools for parents, before they had children of their own! For most of my adult life I’ve rejected and fought against this idea, but it does show that as a young teen I was desperate to come up with solutions that would give all children a better chance at happiness, health and prosperity.

My ultimate aim, even back then, was ‘world peace’. Somehow I knew that only when we have solved the problems at the level of the family could we enjoy more harmonious relationships between nations.

This interest in why schools weren’t doing the job of educating people intensified once I had children of my own. Something unexpected happened though: when our eldest child turned five we realized that we didn’t want to hand her over to strangers to play with and help her learn all day. We were enjoying that job immensely and didn’t want things to change.

Three weeks before her sixth birthday we gave birth to our youngest: we were worried that sending her off to school would look like ‘replacing’ her. We’d been teaching her since birth. Luckily for us we had found out about home education at an alternative lifestyle conference in Victoria and had made contact with home educators in that state.

Very few families home educated their children in South Australia openly at that time – over twenty years ago now! It was hard finding like-minded people and, encouraged by a friend who lived 8 hours away, I started the SA Home Based Learners Newsletter. This began my homeschool writing career. I subscribed to Growing Without School (a USA magazine started by John Holt) and Otherways (produced by a Victorian homeschool cooperative). And I borrowed and bought whatever books I could on the subject! These kept my confidence strong whenever I felt unsure about what we were doing with our family.

Our eldest had a hybrid education, with some part time and full time schooling as well as homeschooling. Our youngest was completely unschooled. What I have learned is that it doesn’t matter how your child is educated, though homeschool is by far way more efficient than school: it is the love and devotion and interest we show in our children that makes the difference to their education as young people.


© Beverley Paine 2008

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Schools Foster 'Mob Mentality'

The latest article published on www.homeschoolaustralia.com is a thought provoking criticism by Christina KG of the way schools foster a 'mob mentality'. This article was prompted by the recent much publicized behavior of Year 12 events at a Melbourne private school have given rise to interesting comments from school principals regarding the prevalence of a ‘mob-mentality' found in many schools.

Christina writes, "Discussions about home-schooling and schooling provide the very food and sustenance we parents need for the support and further development of our individual home-schooling practices. As a young grandmother to be and a Master's Student, I cannot afford to skirt between the veils of naivety where and when there are children being victimised. As a past volunteer and employee at my daughter's ex - school I have experienced first-hand the stripping down of individuality for the sake of 'fitting in' to the mob. I have also seen emotional and physical bullying of young children (pre-entry) by School Services Officers and sadly some (only some) teachers employed by the education department..."

More than a mere criticism, Christina presents a couple of workable alternative pathways Australian schools can emulate which she found when overseas.

Read the whole article at:
http://homeschoolaustralia.com/articles/schoolsmobmentality.htm

Sunday, October 26, 2008

What I Think is Wrong with Schools...

I became interested in education when in my teens. As a home educator I was even more determined to work out why schools don't deliver what they promise. Some children make it through - I was (still am) a good student. It's easy for people with my style of learning and interests to do well in school. However I failed Year 12 and that only made me look harder at what was going wrong with the way schools work.

We toyed with schooling throughout our homeschooling adventure. Getting involved in our local school at all levels was very educational. It was interesting to hear what the teachers, staff and educational bureaucrats were thinking about school education. Most of them agreed in part with the comments by the principles in the article you posted, but all of them were convinced schooling was still the way to go. Only a couple of the teachers I met thought that homeschooling was an okay option (and then only for some parents).

I came to see that it is the fact that we put children in an institution that is at fault. How can we expect social growth and socialisation to occur when schools can never deliver the ideal conditions for it? Children need access to the real world, real people doing real jobs, and a variety of social situations to develop socially.

I finally realised that the purpose of schools is to educate in one direction only - to deliver a compliable society that will perform as dutiful, consumers, able to be manipulated to serve the goals of the state. In my most paranoid moments I suspect that the state serves the captains of industry first, citizens second. The 'economy' is top dog and are educational system is designed to serve it. I can't see much that is educational - in a liberal sense which is how our society idealises education - in that.

Coaching a mob mentality is good if you want to control people's behaviour. It can be easily done by appealing to the emotions. Advertising operates on this principle. Educated people know and understand themselves and think critically and make informed choices rather than react based on immediate emotional response. It's ironic because emotions are essential for learning but our society and schools have dumbed that down by teaching children that learning must always be fun, or rewarded in some way - never valued intrinsically.

Of course schools encourage mob mentality. If the intelligence of children wasn't actively chipped away from an early age by the time they hit their teens they'd be rebelling en masse and recreating schools to suit a more humane model of education. Us oldies would hate that! We'd be on the scrap heap, no longer needed. Especially anyone in the education industry...

I see home education as a small light of hope for the future - a 'back to the future' approach to rehumanising society, moving it away from the obsession of 'economy'. Our children are socialised in the best sense of the word. And education happens naturally in an environment that puts children back where they belong - among adults, families, workers and in the community.

© Beverley Paine 2008

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Friday, October 24, 2008

Taking the Worry out of Making Decisions

© Beverley Paine 2008

I used to think that we only get one chance at getting things right and that the decisions we make today are set hard, as though in concrete, and would take a jackhammer to change, with resulting chaos and mess. But life has taught me otherwise. At the age of 50 I can easily see that most of my decisions - both big and small, insignificant and important - are nowhere near as critical as I think they are at the time of making them.

Life generally dictates what needs to be done, as well as how it is going to be done. It is best summed up in Reinhold Niebuhr's 'Serenity Prayer' (original version sourced from answers.yahoo.com):

God, give us grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.

Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.

For most of my life I've been working hard to accept that each and every moment of my life - the things that I encounter and the situations in which I find myself - are there to teach me valuable lessons about life and how I need to live so that I can be a better person, both for myself and to and for others.

I sincerely trust that mistakes are simply learning experiences - in fact, they are positive learning experiences. By learning to see the very important lessons that can be learned and taken forward from each 'mistake' I feel that I am acknowledging that I am on the right path, that each step and decision I make will ultimately lead me where I need to be... It's a self-correcting process.

This also means that I don't fall into the trap of blaming myself for screwing my life up. Sometimes I slip and lose confidence and start blaming myself, but it is mostly for things that are clearly way beyond my control - both back in the past when I made decisions and right now when I feel the urge to 'fix' things. Often it's only my perception that says they are broken or not right in the first place - they aren't really!

This practice of accepting the fallibility of my decisions from the outset, of being open to quickly adapting to better ideas - of being able to take advantage of changing circumstances and not making decisions rock hard - has meant that I have yielded to a higher wisdom than my ego. I've learned to let go of my need to be in control all the time. I can now see that I am not responsible for how everything turns out - there are lots of factors at work over which I have no control and don't even know about in the first place!

It is definitely like this with the future - even the near future. I also like the saying by Alexander Graham Bell that goes:

"When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us."

With our own homeschooling I have found this to be the case many times. For sure, I would have done things differently if I had the hindsight I had now but would the outcome have been that much different? It is too hard to tell. Often I think how my children have turned out is due to something I did or didn't do, when in fact it is a product of who they are, and that, amazingly enough, is largely genetic. We give them the tools to make the most of life - they decide how best to use them.