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: www.kookagumjoeys.com
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:
http://www.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/07/15/mayim.bialik.big.bang.theory/index.html
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. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UqEhGaiXgdY
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. http://www.home-ed.vic.edu.au/products-page/other-publications/john-holt-dvd/

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

http://www.boardofstudies.nsw.edu.au/parents/pdf_doc/home-edu-info-pack-13.pdf

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: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/HRRAN.

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 khanacademy.org is to give every kid a chance at a free, world-class education.” http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,2111975_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: http://www.parentatthehelm.com/9130/homeschooling-children-need-activity-and-nothingness-for-their-own-sake/

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: http://www.nurtureparentingmagazine.com.au/

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: http://www.wendypriesnitz.com/articles/boredom.html. If you are interested in exploring this topic further, also see:
 
Food for thought... Open Schooling is the Open Source Way:
http://opensource.com/education/12/3/unschooling-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. 
 
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:













What I'm Reading: Winter 2013


by Beverley Paine

Bring on the learning revolution! is another video from Sir Ken Robinson, a poignant, funny follow-up to his fabled 2006 talk in which he makes the case for a radical shift from standardized schools to personalized learning and for creating conditions in which children’s natural talents can flourish.

http://www.ted.com/talks/sir_ken_robinson_bring_on_the_revolution.html
Laura Grace Weldon Politeness Recovery in Progress http://lauragraceweldon.com/2013/05/23/politeness-recovery-in-progress/: I'm struggling with the concept of an “authentically lived life”. Sometimes it feels like I have multiple versions of myself and they all feel like me. It can be confusing, even for me. Working to meet the (assumed) comfort zone needs of others keeps me in my ‘polite authentic’ zone.
One of the significant things I discovered home educating my children was the effect of personality on outcome: one of the arguments against home education is that children closeted away from multitudes of same-age peers and in close and constant contact with family members will produce unquestioning adults with the same values and attitudes as their parents. It is simply not true. Home education allows children greater opportunity to grow into who they are; it supports their individual development in a way that school educators can only dream about.
7 Reasons why you must read aloud to children: http://www.babble.com/babble-voices/something-fierce-katherine-stone/2013/05/16/7-reasons-why-you-should-be-obsessed-with-reading-to-your-kids/ ... If you need convincing! Not sure about the ‘must’ in the title although I definitely think reading aloud with children is a great idea.
Are you playing the role of ‘mother’ is an awesome article by Pam Laricchia about being a parent where she encourages us to “move beyond playing at being a mother and ‘be’ it”, learning to value our work of being a mother, being fully present in that role, instead of “buying into the conventional idea that parenting is second-class work”: http://livingjoyfully.ca/blog/2013/05/are-you-playing-the-role-of-mother/.
Another great article by homeschooling veteran Linda Dobson: 10 Questions to Help Gauge the Quality of your Child’s Education, useful if your child is learning at school or at home: http://www.parentatthehelm.com/11444/10-questions-to-help-gauge-the-quality-of-your-childs-education-2/.
Four recordings from the Alternatives to Compulsory Education conference, held on April 27, 2013, at Harvard University, are now available for public viewing. http://www.johnholtgws.com/pat-farengas-blog/2013/5/16/alternatives-to-compulsory-education-videos. Featuring: Cevin Soling: Why We Need Alternatives; Pat Farenga: Homeschooling and Unschooling; Peter Gray on The Importance of Play and his new book, Free To Learn; and Peter Bergson, Open Connections: One Approach to Partnership Education.  
And yet another video by Sir Ken Robinson! How to Escape Education’s Death Valley http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wX78iKhInsc outlines three principles crucial for the human mind to flourish, and how current education culture works against them.
My friend Wendy Priesnitz, editor of the excellent magazines Life Learning and Natural Child, has started a new blog called Ununschooling. This is a reaction to the growing number of unschoolers who feel alienated from online unschooling support groups because they don’t align or ‘get’ with the philosophy of those groups. I talk to many, many families transitioning from school to school-at-home to homeschooling and unschooling. Learning to feel comfortable with learning naturally is a journey most often referred to as de-schooling. Some excellent articles have been penned recently discussing this issue:


“Never assume that because you can buy a product for a baby, that it is considered safe to use.
Never assume that because someone's advice is published, that they're writing is accurate. Never assume that your instincts must be wrong because a professional is telling you differently. Trust your instincts.
Question authority. Read with an open and questioning mind. Peace.” April Jermey


The above was first published in the Winter issue of my magazine -- Homeschool-Unschool-Australia!, a quarterly collection of my writing on my various websites, support groups, blog and personal reflections. 
 
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:

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Home Educating with Depression

People with depression aren't necessarily down in the dumps and gloomy every minute of the day. We have up moments, sane, normal and yes, even happy and joyful moments. It's too easy to judge me as being 'okay' because you catch me in one of those moments. Most of the time I'll do my best to look and act cheerful, hoping the pretense will distract me and boost my flagging spirits. People prefer happy, cheerful people: I know I do. It is hard to maintain a cheery disposition so many of us work alone or hide in our homes. We don't want to disappoint or upset our friends and those we love. I also know how difficult it is to help someone with depression, how hard it is to offer comfort and reassurance, especially when it is continually rejected by them. But most of all I know how difficult it is to feel empathy and sympathy for someone with depression. Depression is a lonely affliction. My online communities make it easy for me to function socially, to feel connected, to feel useful and offer a way I can help others feel okay about what they are doing in their lives. I feel blessed to have what I have - love, friendship, support, encouragement, comfort - but most days I feel broken and weary, and lack the energy and drive to help myself. I do what I can, hang in there, hope that in the next moment something will shift in my body and mind and the fog will lift, just a little bit - I can do the lifting from there. So catch me during one of those moments and celebrate life with me, but understand how rare they are right now for me. Send me love, think of me kindly, and remember my depression is not me.

Depression doesn't mean we're not capable of parenting or educating our children. It's not easy, but then parenting is never as easy as people assume it will be. Home education my children gave me the gift of time so that my children captured my quality moments as a parent. I had no way of predicting when those moments would occur. Had my children been schooled chances are they would have only met and known one side of me - which facet I can't know. I only know that my children endured and survived my depression and without their unconditional love and acceptance of me as I am, not who I should be, helped me endure and survive this debilitating illness. We are richer and closer as a family because we all worked so hard to not let this illness destroy us.

Home education allows for considerable flexibility. It's adaptable to the needs of each individual in the family. It can be anything you want or need it to be. Education doesn't have to fit into a set timetable - it can and does occur throughout the day. Unschooling and making the most of natural learning was the approach that worked best with our family.

In my early years of home educating few people voiced their difficulties and this was very isolating: I felt I needed to be super-mum to home educate my children well. Little by little people like me began to chat about our problems as well as our successes. I found that the majority of parents home educating had health problems and were struggling to find balance between all the competing needs within each day. The more we opened up and shared our problems the more heartened we were that problems can be solved, if not immediately, then eventually. But most of all we discovered that our children weren't being damaged by the experience: our experience of family life was in fact becoming enriched, relationships were growing more respectful, cooperative, and mutually beneficial. And what made this possible is the gift of time home education bestows - we have oodles of time to fit in the educational development of our children.

Quantity allowed for quality. Without this I am convinced my children would have a different perception and experience of me as a parent and person and our relationship today would not be as full of love and support as it is. Those quality moments I share with the world are precious to me, like lifelines I cling to and try to focus on and remember when the fog descends. My family, who understand and accept me, thanks largely to the fact that we lived so closely together throughout those home educating years, know that the fog will and does lift, and they wait patiently, with love. Nothing beats that kind of support. 

Monday, June 24, 2013

It's Okay Not to Push Kids to Learn

Why do children have to 'learn' to do things they don't want to do (or really have to do) so young? We worry that we're not setting an example of consistent behaviour, or that skipping school (or lessons, or not finishing activities, etc) will mean they won't ever be able to commit to anything in the future, or that we're encouraging laziness... It really is too easy to judge our children's behaviour and extrapolate the consequences far into the future, giving them prominence it probably doesn't deserve.

Why can't adults accept and front up to the fact that they too balk at doing many things they have to and indeed completely avoid doing lots of things that are in their best interests. We play games with ourselves, telling ourselves stories about why it's okay for us to avoid doing this 'must do' or 'should do' or things we sprout as important - this kind of hypocrisy is way more potent as setting an example or pattern of behaviour in our kids than skipping a few days of school each week. Yet, unlike our children's behaviour, we push it to the back of our minds, do our best to ignore or forget the inconsistencies or possible consequences. 

For example, I tell my kids that this or that food is not good for us and then buy it is and eat it, avoiding buying the quality food my body needs and making time to create tasty meals. I tell them that regular exercise is essential and then don't do it. I tell them that pollution is bad and then in a suburb surrounded by busy roads and transport corridors, convincing myself I 'can't' move. I tell them that global warming is a reality then on hot days instead of finding a cool tree to sit under I turn the air conditioning on and watch Happy Feet on the box. I tell them it's wrong to exploit poor people in developing countries who earn a $1 a day and then buy cheap clothes from Big W instead of taking care of the longer lasting quality clothes I should have bought in the first place or buying from the local Op Shop.

We spend a lot of time worrying about our children not learning to conform to what society accepts as normal and okay. When my kids were young I also spent a lot of time questioning what society accepts as normal and okay. I still do. It's important to be critical and to work towards becoming the person I want to be: authentic, consistent, committed, responsible, caring, considerate and so on. But I know I have the rest of my life to complete this journey. Why do we insist that children have to reach it before the age of eight, thirteen or twenty-one?

It's a tough moment in life (or a series of never-ending tough moments) when we realise that there are many things in life we have to do because for some reason we need to do them but we don't want to do them right now, or tomorrow or anytime soon! It helps if those reasons make sense and are explained to us in a sympathetic tone and manner, mindful of where we are at in our development.   

We're really lucky living in this country to be blessed with the opportunity of so much choice. As parents we have the ability to chose what we place emphasis on: what I love about home education is that it offers a great deal more time for families to be together and work out what is important for them, as individuals within a family nestled and operating within the local and wider community in ways that are responsive to and work to meet now and future needs. It's amazingly adaptable and flexible and isn't exclusive of other forms of education. Home education gives us the gift of time to nurture children and ourselves. We're not in a hurry, we don't have to make children do things because it is the 'done' or 'normal' thing.

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