Monday, December 24, 2012

Reassurance and Trust: unschooling tools for confidence building

by Beverley Paine


That's the one thing we want our children to not have to search for outside of themselves when they are adults... Which is why we're doing things so differently to how our parents did things.

The antidote to needing reassurance is simple (to say, hard to do!): Trust.

Deep breath, TRUST.

I used to ask myself: "What's the worse thing that can happen?" when my children were doing things that worried me on some level (and I'd know I was worrying because I'd be seeking reassurance!)

What I'd usually find is that my children weren't in any danger, real or imagined. There might be long term effects and consequences they hadn't thought about that might be real and might actually eventuate, but not necessarily. I'd have to look again at who they were (affirm them as individuals and not little replicas of myself or anyone else). I'd have to examine the origin of my fears - was I parroting something I'd be taught or conditioned to believe, did they have a basis in reality, etc). Examining and 'owning' my fears was particularly empowering. Sometimes just that alone would make the 'problem' go away.

I always need to take a deep breath before I TRUST. It feels like a brave thing to do, something that needs considerable energy to do!

Trust means finding answers within myself, accepting that even if I don't find them, they are there, supporting me. When I need reassurance it is actually easier and less complicated to take a deep breath and trust than to seek reassurance. Wish I did it more often! 

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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Help! Kids Leaving a Mess...

by Beverley Paine

Tidying! A mum's life, especially in the early years, seems to be one long continuous picking up session after her children. Eager little explorers happily open and pull things from cupboards, strew toys across the floor and keep moving on to the next box, draw or cupboard on their missions of discovery!

Frustration and tiredness can quickly overwhelm, especially home educating parents. For toddlers and babies we know this is essential developmental behaviour and we don't want to stop it. For older children there is the additional frustration of dealing with non-cooperative behaviour, adding to our frustration and fueling anger and resentment.  

This 'mess' need to be nipped in the bud early, but if a messy habit has developed in your home you can recover, but it will take time and patience and commitment.

It's not easy but diligence and consistency is the key: keep picking up and asking for help (but not insisting) as the stuff is pulled out. Only allow things that are played with for a length of time to remain. You might ask (even a non-verbal crawling baby), "Are you going to play with this? No? Well, let's put it away together." Model a tidy house, but not an obsessively tidy house, just an organised one! Children appreciate organisation as it helps them find what they need and makes exploring and discovery more interesting - and this is how children learn!

This time in our children's lives is short. If we have many children we can enlist the help of older children. There are a million things that beg our attention each day and it is up to us to work out which ones take priority. Our choice as home educators is to spend time with our children. This means we won't live like other families do or enjoy some of the activities that other mums and dads do. It's hard for us to find time to chat on the phone or internet, we are careful with social commitments scheduling and outings, and we embed chores emphasising cooperation and helping each other into our homeschool curriculum understanding that all of life is learning. We arrange our days so that our children and we have adequate 'quiet' times for rest and relaxation and to catch our collective breaths.

My friend had a list of rules posted on her fridge and the one on top said, "If you got it out, put it away."

Sensible rules like this don't have to restrict us or imply dire consequences if we breaks them. They just make sense. Point out why they make sense and why your children (and you!) need to follow them. Most make our lives easier, help clear the clutter so that we can think more easily which helps us to identify our true needs, wants and dreams. And allow us to get more done each day! The time we spend worrying, hassling, and complaining in frustration is time we could be spending doing a wonderful creative or relaxing activity that feeds our souls and hearts.

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Saturday, December 15, 2012

Homeschool Planners for 2013

by Beverley Paine

It’s that time of year again – next year is looming fast and we’re itching to get organised before the holiday season starts in earnest. We’re addicted to home educating our children! Or perhaps it’s easier to relax knowing we have made some plans or taken some simple steps to make the transition from holiday to homeschool easier next year.

On my Homeschool Australia Facebook group people have been asking for links to homeschool planners, journals and calendars. There are some excellent ones available, some even as free downloads.

Years ago I thought carefully about creating a planner for home educating families. I created my own and found they changed from year to year –or even more frequently! I found that what we did and how we did it morphed too often to stick to any one particular format. In my book Getting Started with Homeschooling Practical Considerations I've included examples of how we recorded and planned our home educating journey, and my daughter April also sells copies of my Learning Naturally and Weekly Homeschooling Diaries, as well as my Home Education Report Folders. At present they are only available in printed versions from Always Learning Books.

A lot of the planners available are way to school for me! I ordered one in the early nineties and was promptly daunted by all the recording options and started to feel very insecure about home educating my children. Do my own, starting simple by creating checklists using contents and chapter headings from student workbooks and text books, plus creating daily and weekly ‘contracts’ suited our learning centre styled approach to home education in those early years. I found that if there were too many pages to complete I felt overwhelmed. Since then I’ve recognised the value of having an attendance sheet or roll book, but I like the idea a friend said to me a few years ago – simply initial the wall calendar, the same calendar on which you record all the excursions and outings and appointments.

Keep it simple, keep it tailored to your needs. Make recording a breeze by thinking carefully about what you need and want to remember and why.

If you are looking to buy or download a planner, have a look at these ones created by very experienced home educating mothers!

First the Aussie creators of homeschool planners!

Michelle from Homeschool Downunder is a personal friend – we’ve met many times and I love how she keeps putting it out there, like me, helping other families build confidence teaching their children from home. She produces many resources, not only homeschool planners. Check out her article How to Make Your Own Homeschool Planner, or purchase her downloadable planner:

Design –Your-Homeschool is another great Aussie site with lots of information to help you get started. They are running a ‘give away’ of their planner in exchange for filling out a survey:

Not quite Australian, but almost... I met Stephanie in Auckland when we visited that lovely country a few years ago. She hosted an information evening about home education with myself as main speaker and Robin and I stayed with her lovely family. Like me, Stephanie has older children and is now officially ‘retired’ –about as retired as passionate people like us can be! Stephanie’s Homeschool Family Life website is awesome. She is a huge fan of the approach Charlotte Mason took to education and her CM resources and courses are well worth considering. I particularly like her Homeschool Planner and am setting it up so April can sell them through Always Learning Books, but don't wait, but it from Stephanie! Here is the link to the homeschool planner.

Heading overseas, mainly to the USA, we have a plethora of planners from which to choose:
Money Saving Mom is offering a free customizable homeschool planner too. It looks a little generic to me – pretty basic stuff but great for saving time because you don’t have to create something yourself. And it is a useful starting point for modifying something that will suit your needs better:

The Home Educating Family Association has a selection of planners for 2013 that look quite attractive: available from

Donna Young has been producing downloads for home educators for over a decade, maybe longer! If you are looking at planners then there are some great ones on her site: It’s an USA site so some pages might not be relevant, but I’m sure there will be plenty there to not only use but give you ideas as to how you can set up your own to suit your particular homeschooling needs. Donna includes helpful articles on her site too.

Notebooking Nook  offers a large download file with lots of Homeschool Planning Pages

Olly Homeschool produces the Organised Life and Learning Yearbook. This looks rather interesting… The blurb on their page makes this look like THE comprehensive recording regime for home educating families. And in an online format! If you decide to purchase this one, I’d love to know what you think of it and how effective and appropriate it was in meeting your needs.

There are other planners out there – just Google ‘homeschool planners’ and scroll through the pages. There is plenty of choice. Many look very similar, some look outstanding. I guess as with most things you get what you pay for, but even if money isn’t tight, definitely take a look at the free downloadable planners.

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Finding a Place that Feels Like Home

by Beverley Paine

Dana asked: "How do you figure out where you want to live? What do you think are the "building blocks" in your life that bring you contentment?"

As a child, growing up on the edge of the suburbs, I wanted to live in the country, preferably near a running creek, on small acres, with small animals. I think the goals and dreams we build in childhood, especially between 6 & 9 years of age say a lot about who we are as people.

Our first home was on half an acre with a winter creek. We discovered home education and permaculture and wanted more land, plus access to a more 'alternative' thinking crowd of people. We moved about 120km away, close to the beach, on four and a half acres. The area we used to live in became 'alternative', but we're glad we moved - being close to the beach is awesome.

While living on our half acre we'd go for drives and kept wistfully looking at property with distant views. Our house was in the bottom of a valley. Our new house has panoramic views with lots of windows - this says a lot about who we are as people!

So I guess, getting to know who you are as a person, what you love, what you need to feel okay and content, is a start. It's not about romantic ideals, just tuning into to what makes your heart sing in the little moments that pass each day. And noticing that...

We also moved because our seven year old daughter wanted greater  access to children and I felt insecure as a home educating parent. I wanted to tap into things like dance and drama, sports and other group children's activities without driving half an hour or more to get to them. We were unhappy in our little conservative town for other reasons too (health, unfriendly council and church, family issues). Had we remained there we would have been debt free within three years, our garden would have reached a sustainable production level and I'm sure I would have grown up enough to have had the confidence to build a homeschool network around us. I'd already started the SA Home Based Learners Newsletter.

Life is a journey. I prefer not to have regrets. Trying to live the 'best' life possible leads me astray. I had both eyes on the future for too long, trying to second guess what was needed to fulfill potentials, be the best I could be, give the kids the best chance, etc. To do that I really needed to be more attentive in each moment, putting my all into those - that is all that is really needed, especially when it comes to the kids. After all, if we put everything we can into now, what is possibly left to make life better or best?

So I do my utmost to stop using comparative language like 'better' and 'best'. It's not easy but little by little I am finding my feet because I'm not looking over my shoulder to judge how I'm doing or wondering how I'm going compared to the 'norm' or standards I've adopted that might not be serving my immediate needs...

Every decision and every action and the consequences create my awesome reality. Some bits suck some days, but that's just me being moody. A little attitude adjustment and my positive optimism springs back into focus!

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