Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Frustration that Regulatory Authorities STILL Don't Understand the Nature of Home Education

by Beverley Paine

Today a mother posted on one of the online support groups that her home educating son is required to do "four hours of math and English and Languages other than English (LOTE) a day, plus science, history and geography, etc mixed into each week".

It irks me that moderators and APs and Home Ed Officers (whatever they call themselves in each state and territory!) STILL have little understanding of the nature of home education and how it fundamentally differs from school education despite decades of interaction by the regulatory authorities with home educating families!

There is no need to spend large blocks of time on any subjects when home educating because we're on task helping our children learn *across the curriculum* from the minute they wake up to when they fall asleep at night. Our children's education is fully integrated, making it incredibly efficient. They're learning from life and a home educated life is varied, interesting, resourceful, very hands-on, naturally challenging, social and much more!

The ability to tap into the learning moment and be there, helping our children solve problems and answer questions when their interest is piqued and motivation high, short cuts the education process. And it has the added bonus that our children retain and remember the information or insights gleaned forever, not just until the next test... Learning is meaningful and in context and meets our children's needs, not the bureaucratic scheduling of the classroom or school or other children's needs.

Our ability to select resources, activities and materials that suit our children's individual learning styles, preferences and needs naturally make it a lot easier to help our children cover the curriculum in a more efficient manner than school teachers can manage. We don't have the same restrictions governing how our time is used: time wasted getting children's attention, giving instructions, revising, etc is spent doing, being and playing with our children, sharing their interests and hobbies, helping them grow and learn.

Why should we limit ourselves to the bureaucrats' view of education? The world is our classroom! We can define education to suit our children's needs. We can write our own learning programs that also cover the broad requirements of the state/territory/national curricula but are primarily responsive to our children's educational needs.

As home educators we can be assertive and promote better understanding of the nature of home education. I've written hundreds of articles over the years to help parents develop confidence as home educators - click on the article index on my Homeschool Australia site to access them.  

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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Should Homeschooling Parents Pay Others to Keep Records for Registration Purposes?

This morning I read a post on a USA homeschool support forum from a parent who pays $50 a year to someone who maintains an 'attendance record', kept her children's 'report cards' and issued a 'diploma' at the age her unschooled children would have graduated if they'd been at school. She had a 'loose plan' she followed for unschooling her children.

I met another parent recently whom, when living in the USA, also paid someone to maintain home education records for her children. This mainly involved an interview with her children once a year from which the person compiled a report and application for renewal of home education registration for the authorities.

At first I was dubious of the merit of paying someone else to keep track of my children's educational progress: it's something I want and feel I need to do myself as I think it enhances my understanding of their learning needs and helps me get to know my children. The process of conscious and analytical reflection I derived from keeping home educating records often brought to light aspects of their development in different areas I had not previously gleaned. My understanding of my children's needs, and of the learning process itself, deepened and this deepened my confidence as an educator. 

However, there are many areas of our lives we delegate to others, especially the ones we find tedious or feel less competent to handle. Why shouldn't recording our children's educational progress be one of them? Many online learning programs record 'scores' and chart progress and families can print out 'certificates' of achievement. Perhaps one of the main attractions of signing up to learning programs offered by online educational providers is being unburdened by the need to keep home education records.

I was a 'do-it-yourself' home educating parent but that's my nature, it's who I am, part of our family culture. My writing (books and website) encourages others to follow this path because it's been immensely satisfying and a lot less difficult than I initially thought it would be. I aim to demystify the process and help parents feel empowered to find the confidence within them and gradually build a sense of competence as educators, learning alongside their children. I talk about my personal experience because that's what I know and understand best. My collection of home education records continues to illuminate my understanding of how children learn.

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Monday, October 29, 2012

Parenting became easier when I stopped pandering to my children's wants and started identifying their needs

by Beverley Paine

I find my life goes more smoothly if I concentrate on identifying my needs rather than on my wants: in this way I can be sure I'm looking after myself the way I deserve to be looked after!

For too long I confused wants with needs and vice versa. I think this started early in life with my parents asking me (a hundred times a day!) "What do you want?".

As a parent myself I'm sure I did the same thing with my children. I desperately wanted my children to be happy, healthy, safe... I saw it as my responsibility as a parent to make sure that my children didn't want for anything.

I'm not sure when the light went on in my head, probably around about the same time I started learning about permaculture. Permaculture gave me a framework for assembling my thoughts about learning and helped me understand how we learn naturally.

Parenting stubborn and independent young children was exhausting and I needed all the tools I could find to help me get through each day. I found giving my children what they wanted escalated problems and issues rather than solving them. And it taught them that instant gratification is the best/only game in town! We found ourselves doing anything and everything to keep our children 'happy'. And they weren't happy: they were irritable with each other, demanding and uncooperative. They were pushing our buttons and boundaries, stretching the limits in an uncomfortable way for all of us.

It's not easy identifying need. You have to really get to know the person and see past their cravings, addictions, idealistic and romantic notions (the things we, society and the media teach them are what will make them happy) and oftentimes their confusion. You have to work with who they are, their strengths and limits and be accepting of both. You need to respect them as people. You need to hone your empathy. You need to be attentive and listen and observe carefully. The more we tune into who they are and what they are doing and how they are doing it and what they think and value the easier it gets to identify their needs.

And meeting those needs in a timely manner is a lot easier than we think. Mainly because our children needs are a lot simpler than we think they are. I discovered that my children need what I need. I discovered that the things I desire most in life are the things I need most in life: love, health, to feel a valued member of a social group, to be able to give and to help others, a comfortable place, nutritious food, clean and safe environment and great company!


If you are on Facebook or Yahoo and haven’t already done so, you are most welcome to join either of my online support groups:

Friday, October 12, 2012

Addiction to TV and Computer Games

by Beverley Paine

It is hard for me to comment on computer game addiction for younger children because my children weren't exposed to television during the day and had extremely limited access to the computer due to our very small power generating capacity - we were living in a converted garage off the grid from when our eldest turned 7 to 12. It was a few more years before we could let them use the computer for an hour each every day!

Basically I played with my children and they helped us build our house, grow plants and create our garden, plant trees, build sheds and fences, look after the animals, helped us with the chores and cooking, etc. We were as involved in their lives as they were in ours.

I learned to play Diablo when the youngest was about 14. When we finally had enough solar photovoltaic panels and a computer each networked together 4 or 5 of us would enjoy playing in the same game... Robin and I got our first taste of computer addiction! But we're TV addicts from long ago. What I like is the way our children, even as adults, help us turn the TV off at night still!!

When the children were little (under six) we had a tiny television but because of our addiction I felt that I had little control over it so would frequently banish it to the shed or on top of the wardrobe (depending on how insecure I felt). Back then I remember making it an issue about the kids and exposure, but really it was my inability to deal with my problem with the television.

I also remember moaning and groaning about the time my youngest spent on the computer in his teens. However I could also recognise that he was learning from what he was doing. I saw it as my job, not his, to translate that activity into eduspeak (because I valued educational learning back then still and didn't fully recognise that ALL activity brings/creates learning - we draw to us what we need to help us learn the lessons that we, as individuals, need). I had to translate what he was doing into something *I* valued. It wasn't my role to inhibit his choices because of my insecurities. And yes, that was really hard, especially as I watched his physical health suffer from endless days on the computer. And I countered that with physical days, days where we needed his help to do things that would help build his muscles and get him outside, which is where we spent a lot of time.

Before our eldest turned six we watched Sesame Street and Play School, but very few cartoons and the television wasn't turned on in the morning. I'm not sure what effect not watching morning cartoons had or didn't have. I'm still wary of making generalisations about TV, computer games and phone apps. I'm cautious about the element of addiction and the potential for lack of opportunity for holistic development, but I'm also aware that children learn differently to how I learned decades ago as a child and that technology plays a role. People have always been visual learners. Problems arise because we don't get the opportunity to exercise other learning modalities as much as distance ancestors did. We changing - is that for the better of humanity (and the planet)? I'm not sure.

Getting involved in our children's lives and inviting them to be involved in ours is what family life is all about. We can get on and do our separate things all day but what does that teach our children? Humans are social beings, we need each other to grow and learn and build strong lasting cooperative relationships that support each other and promote survival. We learn from each other. I have learned more from my children and from reflecting on my life and journey as a parent than any other time or area of my life: and I feel blessed to have had all those extra days, weeks and months that home education allowed me to be with those wonderful people.


If you are on Facebook or Yahoo and haven’t already done so, you are most welcome to join either of my online support groups:

Natural Learning Happens ALL the Time!

by Beverley Paine

I need to say something about the nature of natural learning.

We sleep, we wake, we breathe, we learn. Learning isn't anything different from those mundane everyday things we can't help but do. So, no matter WHAT a child IS DOING, that child is actually learning something.

Identifying what our children are learning is hard. Translating that into eduspeak is harder (and only necessary to collect a few bits of 'evidence' to report to the authorities so they stay off our back, or build our confidence in unschooling).

Valuing our children's activities (no matter what they are) can be very challenging.

But no matter what, they are learning. Heck, we learn while we're asleep! And if we reflect on our dreams by writing them in a dream journal when we wake up we can use them to help us make important decisions, understand relationships, sort out worries, problem solve, etc.

Long ago I learned that everything I encounter in life is a lesson for me. Sometimes lessons cycle in a spiral - they revisit me because I need to learn something new about that particular lesson, on a different level. I learn from people, places, experiences, things. I'm learning all the time. That's my attitude. It's infectious - my children think like that too. They aren't as passionate about it as I am, but it's awesome just how much they learn from thinking about what is going on in their lives regardless of what they are doing in each moment.

There is no real down time for learning. It's like breathing. Even if we're not consciously aware of what we're learning we're still learning. Our bodies and brains are processing, sorting, cataloging, deleting stuff we learn all the time. That's what we do, because we are alive.

That's why I totally trust that we are learning all the time and that's why I call it natural learning and that's why I differentiate it from unschooling. Natural learning is simply happening.

Now not everything that our children are learning are things we want them to learn! That's our problem, but it's one we can make choices about and act on those choices in ways that meet both our needs and our children's needs. It requires us to take a hard and perhaps long look about our goals, ambitions, expectations, standards, wants and finally and hopefully identify what our true needs are, what is most important to us right now and perhaps into the future (if we're fixated on that or need to think about it for any particular purpose). 


If you are on Facebook or Yahoo and haven’t already done so, you are most welcome to join either of my online support groups: