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1999 Ramblings

by Beverley Paine

For a few years I was a member of a 'families sharing newsletter' group. Each of us wrote about our year, sharing our thoughts and events and experiences in our home educating lives. I've changed names, to respect privacy.

Hello to all once again. We have had a good year, nothing like the one we planned or had expected! The young people who live here keeping growing, up and into their adulthood. Thank goodness our youngest is only twelve! I love my young people dearly for the opportunities they have given me to personal grow, to work through unfinished 'childhood' stuff, especially those 'teenage' years... Home educating has really been a fantastic vehicle for my own growth and learning - much more of a vehicle, I believe, than if I had simply parented schooled children. What it has given the children only time will tell.

I have to thank Amber, with her touching story about her daughter, for reminding me how fortunate we are, for we all have our health and very few problems in life. It would be wonderful if, at some stage Amber and her family could share their experiences, say perhaps in Grace's magazine Stepping Stones For Home Educators. I know others have said the same thing. Sharing our homeschooling experience seems to touch on so much more than education. Learning is like that though. I am using the word learning more and education less when describing what we do at home.

Amber mentioned that many of the families on the sharing newsletter network live in the country - I don't know if this is actually so, but as a group we do seem to value open spaces, bushland, gardening and the kind of lifestyle that comes from immersing ourselves in these environments. And I think that something wonderful occurs when people touch nature in such a direct way. Perhaps it changes them - grounds them in a different set of values to those of our many of our suburban neighbours - no matter where we live!

I am learning to fall back, stop, slow down, retreat from the urge to mould my environment. This is hard, and I seem to be undoing some of my permaculture learning. Or perhaps I am moving onto another level of permaculture understanding....? Whereas I used to seek the most energy efficient way of doing something, applying my rational and logical thought process, guided by my ego and the cultural context I was reared in, I am now learning to step back and let nature have her way. I was really challenged this last summer, as I watched trees and shrubs that we had painstaking planted to create a pleasing environment not only for us but also the critters we share this place with, suffer stress from lack of rain, and almost die. But nature rewarded my patience and trust with an early break to the season - having learned my lesson that it did not matter if the plants had died. What was important was that they had lived, had graced us with their presence, had fulfilled their function, and would be recycled in due time.

It is interesting that I find it reasonably easy to apply this wisdom to homeschooling.... but hard in other areas of life!

One of the things that goes through my mind these days is how 'education' is really like 'interference' -when I set out to 'teach' my young people a 'lesson', be it in any area of growth and development, I find it difficult to justify my actions. I find myself questioning my motives, and how valid they are. What right have I to run such interference in their learning paths? The things that just flow, and come naturally, seem to need no ulterior motive, no drive, no planned or premeditated activities. I am finding spontaneous learning, derived from responding to immediate needs, wants and circumstances, fill our day with all the 'lessons' we each seem to need!

That isn't to say I don't put activities on their paths from time to time - like a couple of days ago I waylaid everyone's plans, after some consultation and persuasion, to fulfil my own goal of making a garden complete with new pond! Five hours later we all went off and resumed our separate tasks - but no one minded the activity, and everyone learned so much from the joint experience. Sometimes I go further afield, like organising homeschooling sessions for ice skating - we get a discounted rate for our family by going as a group, but also get to share a new skill with dear friends - so much more learning in that! If we lived five minutes from the rink my boys would organise themselves, and then do some fundraising to pay for their sessions. But we live nearly an hour and a half away... too much to ask, even of teenagers!

Sometimes I recognise that my motives in preparing learning activities are really valid. I am responsible, legally and morally, for the development of these young people. I know the kind of people I want them to be - people I would admire, respect and want to be friends with. In the process of helping them develop their individual characters I need to guide them toward my goal - constantly adjusting my perceptions of what my goal is to meet their individual temperaments and personalities. It is give and take. Like most of life.

Honesty is really important to me, and when I demand it I expect it. But if I don't deserve it, if I don't earn respect by my own behaviour then I can't demand it. I work hard to eliminate hypocrisy in our lives. Tolerance is another pet subject, so my children are constantly exposed to my challenging of any thing and everything in our environment to test our levels of tolerance or intolerance - not to judge, but to accept where we stand and to understand why. And maybe change. I will run interference, otherwise known as 'education' when I see the need, but I don't tell my kids that there is only one way to be, or to live, or to learn. Mostly I let them find their own preferred way, and step back, get out of the way, and stop interfering in the process! This is hard when our values clash, as has happened on occasion with our daughter who has spent some of her adolescence at highschool.

On living in the city versus living in the country - this past year has seen me yearn for the cultural diversity of city/suburban life, and the ease of access to a myriad of ready made experiences, not only for our teenagers, but also for me! Access to tertiary education would be a boon right now.... life in the country seems somewhat jaded. I see the busy lives of city kids, the dozens of activities, usually tagged 'extra-curricula' - music, sport, dance, theatre, hobbies, etc - not to mention the readily available access to many, many more homeschooling friends.... and feel envious. Something seems to be missing in our lives. I am not offering my young people enough opportunities to grow and develop their talents, skills, lives - we are stagnant, boring..... Oh, how I lament!

But then we come across a trail of one thousand caterpillars head to tail, sometimes five caterpillars wide, winding their way around our house.... or sit on our verandah and gaze across the valley while having a 'picnic' lunch, and enjoy the company of our 'three-day-a-week-working dad' (a low income lifestyle made possible because we built our own home with our own hands). Our young people access the world via the computer, then go outside and hang from trees or build underground cubbies. They don't appear to that interested in spreading their wings and flying to new vistas. They prefer here to living closer to the ice skating rink! Except nearly nineteen year old daughter, who is ready to head into the city for university and the busy social life that promises.

I still worry about whether I am offering enough opportunities for social growth though. That's par for the course - I am a mother. I am allowed to worry!

Robin, my partner, has given me the greatest challenge over the past year - he is devoting more time to playing! I have long championed the role of play in education - not by calling play 'child's work' as some have done, as I disagree with the context this is usually quoted in. Children are not 'working' when they play, they are playing.... and more people would be satisfied with their lives if they played with their work, took a playful approach to life and work.

All of his life Robin has fulfilled the expectations of others - as a student, a son, a worker, a father.... never really giving much thought to what he wanted from life, what he wanted from himself. Here I was, working hard at parenting, working hard to give my children the opportunity to fulfil themselves (not others), and offering myself the same opportunities, and yet Robin was so far away from even knowing the first step to take in doing just that!

We found the most important part of the process was 'permission giving'. I am forever saying 'yes' to my children, giving permission, and telling them that in many instances they don't even need to ask! We found that we needed to help Robin give himself permission to 'work' on the things he finds most passionate in his life - which at the moment is computers. He is a tinkerer by nature, and would have gone from town to town, chatting and mending, inventing, and having a great time, in days gone past... nowadays the opportunities are limited! He has always been a practical man, but like my writing passion, has always channelled his passion into 'acceptable' forms.

So we now let him 'play' computer. Sometimes he makes money, but that isn't the point yet. I can see that he needs at least two to three years of this playful apprenticeship before he will feel he has reached a level of mastery, where we may consider turning his tinkering into a business, into a living. That is how we think around our young people, so why should it be different at any other age?

However, it is hard for me - very, very challenging. I find it the most difficult thing to cope with - having a man about the house, 'playing'. Sometimes I have to call it 'training' or 'learning'. My anti-play values of my childhood conditioning are so hard to shake off!

Many of the newsletters focus on education and how it is happening in their homes. I tend to read only newsletters, written by homeschoolers, and rarely pick up books written by homeschooling experts - they usually aggravate me. Too many assumptions, too many barrows to push. I need to be careful, as I am now being considered an 'expert' myself by many, and have self published two homeschooling books and have begun a practical homeschooling series. I like reading the newsletters though, especially this one. It is so down to earth, so practical, so open and honest.

One book I have read this year is John Peacock's thesis, The How and Why of Australian Home Education. It is a heavy tome, quite literally - not bedside reading! I found it very reassuring - it has offered me the peace of mind I was seeking. It doesn't talk about teachers and students, or emphasises the importance of the role of parents in homeschooling, like Alan Thomas and others do - it talks about families, families learning in a community of practice and support. I like the way he elevates children on to the same level as adults - all are family members, all deserve equal respect, time and consideration. This is an important piece of literature for homeschoolers, educators and the community at large. Read it if you can - buy a copy from HEN and support John's tireless effort over many years!

Harriet mentioned the U3 university - University of the Third Age. I often look at their programs and think - what a good idea! Wouldn't it be nice if homeschoolers organised something like that - not just for the kids (running interference again!) but for us parents. We could let the young people attend if they wanted to. I guess the U3 probably would welcome input from anyone in the community - why don't we invade their territory and try them out? Perhaps we could call it University for the Ageless! But time is always at a premium for me and I don't know when I would be able to fit anything else in. I lead a busy life, and I am not really homeschooling, as the kids just do what they want to all day as I type and plan and organise my own life. Perhaps when I am older, and my life is less busy...

Seriously though, I am looking forward to my 'senior' years - so much territory to explore - so much I want to offer the community, things I am too busy to do now. This is, I recognise, a sad attitude, and one that is full of holes.... but I can't do everything right now, at this moment, and so I find I have to prioritise things in my life, and try so very hard to finish one thing before I start another! If I manage to succeed a little then I hope my children will learn from my example!

Several families mentioned that they can't separate education from living anymore. I think the longer you are at this homeschooling game the harder it does become. You could become fairly radical like me, and chuck the word 'education' out of the window. I only use it in my business practice now - it has very little relevance in how my children grow and develop. I see the word as synonymous with institutionalised learning - really just a pale shadow of what learning is all about! Learning is so exciting, so rounded, so holistic, something we do on all levels all at once and use our whole bodies for - we don't focus on our eyes, or our ears - with learn with whole body attentiveness, all the time. If we aren't learning something we aren't breathing!

By comparison 'education' is such a dull word! A dead concept, perhaps?...

I am finding I am growing away from anything political in homeschooling. Perhaps this is a reaction to the negativity that usually accompanies such discussions. Or maybe it is because I have been homeschooling for over a decade, and these things cycle endlessly, often without any noticeable change! I coped with the endless requests by new homeschoolers to talk about school books, tests, standards, assessment, grades, which work books, etc, by writing a manual on homeschooling. I deliberately focussed on home schooling as opposed to the natural learning/unschooling we practice now, because I saw that it answered many of the needs of the people who seek me out for advice. But politics - bah! There is never any easy way to deal with different people's opinions, ideas or need for reassurance. And some people are just so stubborn, so single minded.... I can be accused of the same!

There may be another reason I am shying away from politics - in WA the situation looks grim, although this may change [April 99], in NSW there seems to be unpleasant rumblings, and in SA we are heading into a year or two of legislative review, proposal papers and all sorts of probable battles. Do we band together, find some sort of consensus, and deal with the coming troubles as a representative body? Or do we just make individual representations? What is right and what is wrong? What will help the general cause, and what is best for me, for my family, for the families of my children in the future?

Part of me desperately wants to bury my head in the sand and say 'I'm all right, mate!' Because I am, having illegally homeschooled my youngest for seven years, in the open, advertising myself to the authorities as a homeschooling contact person, without any hassles. I don't want to join an association or a formal group with others - I can't handle being part of an institution - for me they are the cause of many of the ills in society our own homeschooling practice seeks to eliminate.

I am a great believer in grass roots action, in supporting any attempt at change, be it quiet, gentle and slow change that is generational, or chaining oneself to a tree, or lying down in front of bulldozers [metaphorically speaking]. I like protests, and think they are necessary. I just don't go about life that way myself. I like representative bodies, and think they are necessary and okay for a lot of other people - they better not claim to represent me, that's all!

I look ahead to an uncertain future for homeschooling, for our society and for our planet. And I become fearful, and thus find myself at the edge of the precipice that is reaction.... I need to steer clear of reacting from a fear base, and I find that by grounding myself in the present this helps me though this perplexing political questions. What do I need now, what is best for me and mine now? Today, and tomorrow.

I look at the situation in Yugoslavia, and now in East Timor, and think that 'tomorrow' those refuges may be us.... the responsibilities we take on as home educators and parents go well beyond simple questions of what text book to use, or whether to introduce structured lessons at any age or stage of child development. Or which law to support, or what regulation to fight against, especially when individual freedoms or rights are at stake. I find such considerations so much dust in the wind when looking at the images on my television or in the paper of families and communities torn apart.

Marcy touched on the big picture in her newsletter too. Most of us just tell each other of our lives, how they have unfolded over the year, a wonderful warm, insightful account of our journeys - how our children have grown, touching on our educational concerns, but mostly just sharing our stories. I like that, but I like the bigger picture too. It is something I find homeschoolers tend to forget, and as a group we tend to get narrowly focussed on homeschooling.... almost creating an insular, separate community. I am guilty of this myself, and sometimes see it demonstrated clearly by the actions of my children. Not our daughter, for she is a school girl and has been for quite a few years now. That is a different kind of separateness!

I don't like what I see happening - homeschooling children 'putting down' schooled children, and vice versa. Usually it is only a reaction to the that small percentage of school kids that 'rag' homeschooled kids, or play up in public places with bullying and teasing... but just as one bad apple spoils the barrel I see homeschooled kids labelling school kids as horrible and to be avoided at all costs as undesirable. This is a hard problem to solve. I try to point out that there are 'nice' school kids [don't you hate that word - 'nice'?], and that there are some real nasty homeschool kids.... people are people the world over, and it takes all sorts to make up a population! My young people patiently listen, adjust their tolerance levels, and then avoid contact with all people they don't know! Hmmmmmm!

I like Marcy's quote 'we'll take free range over battery fed, thank you!' and 'our children are educated - they are just not schooled.' I empathise with that entirely! Even although our daughter has chosen to go to high school.

I was talking to John Peacock in Perth [ta to all the Perth people for shouting me an excellent holiday!] about how I now see that my daughter is still very much a natural learning homeschooler, it is just that she has chosen 'school' as a curriculum! She uses school much like we would use a different resource - to learn the lessons in life she needs to learn. The establishment and teachers may think they are teaching her a different set of content and skills... ha, the joke's ultimately on them! In persisting in fighting against my wishes for her to learn at home, as I was terrified of the damage I could see being done on a daily and accumulative basis, she was asserting her right to learn in whatever way suited her best. I am grateful we were able to encourage the development of such a solid character in her by homeschooling her through her childhood years. As I am grateful to her for that very valuable lesson about education - or should I say interference!

Learning to respect her schooling as just another example of natural learning unfolding has been one of my major insights over the last twelve months.

Marcy also wrote: 'Quite simply, we want our children to be happy, to find what they love to do and follow that path......'. This is yet another challenge for me - my children, even as late teenagers, don't know what that path is.... and are they happy? What is happiness? It is surely just a fleeting thought, an emotion.... present only in the moment of now. I find that, yes, I want my children to be happy, but am I prepared to accept their view of what happiness is, or do I need to push my idea of happiness, and what causes it, onto them? More deep questions.... more alternate views, more confusion! The answer - less interference, more respect!

Something Leigh wrote touched me - she wondered if her reluctance to do any formal work is slackness on her part. I deal with this feeling (actually guilt) daily and have done for about seven years! I have called it laziness too, because sometimes I seem to need to beat myself up with a big stick! A good friend of mine, has joined me in expressing this concern and we have had some good in depth conversations about it. We've decided that our children have been 'saved' by our slackness - otherwise we would be over-zealous teachers, parents, co-learners, just about taking over our young people's learning processes in our enthusiasm for learning and the fun it entails.

Over the years I have found many homeschooling parents are actually secret 'would've been teachers'! People who yearn for the structure and control classroom living offers - the clinical dissection of life into endlessly dissectible and controllable boxes of activity! But life is messier than that, as any classroom teacher can tell you. I used to have great plans when I used to play teacher at home - but these were most often waylaid by living, excited children, ready to face the day on their terms as well as mine. It was all give and take, but if I'd ruled the roost, and had control of their lives more, by organising more of their activities, then I would have failed them!

I would have failed to let them experiment on their own, work out for themselves who they are, find what suited them best, untainted by my meddling. It is enough they carry my genes! My interference would have furthered coloured their perceptions. I may have 'talked down' to them from my position of two and a half decades of additional life experience even more than I have done. Worse still I would have burst the bubbles of self discovery....

Being lazy, or selfish, was like a guardian angel protecting my young people from an inexperienced meddler... and so I celebrate my laziness, slackness or whatever you may call it. Without it our young people would have less time to be themselves, by themselves, discovering themselves for themselves!

And I truly believe this to be ever so important, though I still beat myself over the head, and find the days of supposed 'inactivity' so hard to bear... So instead of focussing on their 'inactivity' I busy myself, knowing that my busy-ness is a shining example of a woman passionately engaged in activity of her own choice - what more can a person want? I guess Marcy called it 'happiness' - for me, at this stage in life I find passion equates with happiness.

Leigh asked the question: 'how will they improve their reading and writing if they don't put in some time practising?'. It is hard when the children are young, but time seems to have a way of consolidating these skills without the practise. Three Paine young people have demonstrated this to me, beyond a doubt. Elsewhere I have written an article about the myth of 'practice makes perfect'. I don't ask my children to practice now, not in any area. I trust that they will excel at whatever it is they want to do, and will work hard to become proficient at those things that are valued and necessary aspects of adult life, if we, as parents, value and demonstrate those skills and abilities on a daily basis. And it is happening - non readers are learning to read at eleven and twelve [finally, and mostly self taught!], our sixteen year old is improving his spelling, not by learning how to spell but just by writing and spelling, not by practicing writing, but by writing occasionally, rarely even. And you should see them making intuitive leaps in concept understandings and skills around pulling apart and rebuilding computers!

It was interesting that Kay chose to tell us all about her involvement in the establishment of a school. I was particularly interested in what Kay had to say as we, too, have had extensive involvement in a non traditional school, both full time and part time. Her comments ran true to my own feelings - the compromise was too great, and the time and energy commitment too high a price to pay. Perhaps Kay's newsletter and the legislative review of education in this state prompted me to write my Perth Living Learning Conference speech on 'the bigger picture - looking for the perfect school'. I ended my speech by describing my life long dream of what such a school would look like - a place where all people could access 'masters', people who feel passionately about something and want to pass skills or knowledge on to others, for whatever fee individuals could arrive at by bargaining, bartering, paying, whatever, where everyone was welcome, no matter what age... a place full of respect and dignity, a coming together, a community of support and practice.... but alas, the only place I have come consistently close to finding this has been at home...

However, I am optimistic, and know that despite the current trends there is enough common sense out there in the world for such a system to evolve, maybe in a few decades, maybe sooner, and that as homeschoolers, our lives and work is pioneering the way ahead!

One of the common themes I detect in the families sharing newsletter is how lots of families read the newsletter aloud and discuss the contents. I must confess I don't. I keep it all to myself! In the last couple of years I have owned up to an aversion to reading aloud - reading is my private activity and I am annoyed if I have to read aloud, unless I want to, which is rarely. I have suffered some feelings of guilt over this, especially as I read volumes about homeschooling families near and far reading, reading, reading and praising the value of reading aloud....

Has our youngest son's tardiness in learning to read been an unfortunate result of my neglect in this seemingly ever so important aspect of his education? I think not - as I have watched him struggle with decoding I can see that learning to read is much more than simply learning to love fiction, which he does, or learning to obtain meaning from print... it is a set of specific brain processes as well. And readiness in those areas came late for our youngest. Of course, reading aloud a variety of types of texts to him regularly would have expanded his knowledge base... but our family is not structured around obtaining information from books - we tend to talk and do more, again in keeping with the learning modes of the males in the family. We listen and observe. And we are discerning and critical.

Regardless of how I justify our lack of reading aloud, or emphasis on reading fiction or it even happening [only our daughter reads fiction in our house!] I still feel pangs of guilt every time I read the families sharing newsletters!

From the very beginning, from our very first forays into networking with other homeschooling families, my family has not had the slightest bit of interest in my efforts to communicate or make friends with other homeschoolers! We are, I have to admit, a very self sufficient and self reliant bunch of people. I was always the one pushing for social opportunities with others - perhaps to sate my own need? I think so - but also as I saw the need for friends for my young people to bounce their identities off, to help with things like speech and social development... I can see now that my production of two newsletters and creation of two networks, my participating in this newsletter - all this effort has been solely for me. No one else has any interest in networking at all, and it is just an aspect of me they have to put up with! Sometimes grudgingly as it interrupts the ebb and flow of their own lives!

Networking for me has been a personal crusade to let the world know that homeschooling exists, is a successful and viable alternative for school, and is acceptable! I promote the cause to the Education Department by being open and approachable, sending promotional leaflets they can send on. The newsletters I've edited have always been stacked with 'what's on' columns, great stories about the wonderful activities and socialising homeschoolers do - shining examples of how successful homeschooling is. Part of me wanted to reassure the educational authorities that we are an okay bunch of people and not a threat to anything at all. But I can see now that the work I have done has not been for the cause of homeschooling at all, but simply my own pathway on my natural learning journey...all for me! I know it has had very little to do with my family. In this I feel very different from other homeschooling families.

I thoroughly enjoyed the South Park flavour of one of the newsletters early in the year. This program is a firm favourite of ours, though I can't honestly say why! Perhaps it is its audacity, the way it confront and rebels, saying and doing all those things we generally hide or find uncomfortable. I discourage humour of that kind coming from any of us, yet we all laugh at the silly antics of these cartoon people. Perhaps because it is a cartoon....

Marion is new friend of mine and it was lovely to get a families sharing newsletter from her. Her newly published K.I.T. [Keeping In Touch] - another blossoming metropolitan newsletter in S.A. - brings a fresh approach in networking, offering lots of resources, ideas and activities. It reminds me of the newsletters Susan did when editor of Home Based Learning SA. This kind of activity based, educational and family focussed resource is needed in the Australian home education movement, so I wish Marita the best of luck. I totally agree with her comment "children make sense of your life, and narrow it down to what is truly important." Though now that my young people are older I am finding that there is life after kids - and I am having lots of fun exploring the me that isn't preoccupied so much with hands on parenting.

Writing is becoming increasingly important in my life and I want to balance writing for home education with writing fiction. Last week (early June) I sent away my first manuscript for consideration by a publisher. I am working on the second and third novels in that trilogy concurrently, having lots of fun weaving exercises from my on-line writing group into passages in the novels. As always my fiction writing serves to reveal my inner self to me, a bit like doing dream or journal analysis, but far more imaginative and exciting!

Mention was made of how much homeschooling costs, materialistically and financially, especially compared to schooling. Too often when considering money we don't take into account the total costs involved. It is a bit like insuring your house - you think you have it covered until after you've lost all, and you realise the hundreds of little things not accounted for. We spend just about nothing on education - it all goes on living. Learning is such an essential part of living how can we separate it out? A friend said to me last week that she thought she spent $100 a week, but that includes petrol [the cost of country living?] Once I kept a weekly budget and our expenses for home education came to around that figure too.

Sounds shocking doesn't it? But if the children had been in school we would have still spent that amount of money. It went on excursions, yearly subscriptions to magazines, journals, museums, art, craft and science materials, educational needs such as books, games and specialist learning aids, petrol, entrance fees, parking costs, entertainment [which usually became educational in nature and so could be included], computer games and equipment and so on. Just keeping up with sticky tape, balsa wood, seedlings and so on wore a hole in the wallet. These things still do! Luckily 'extracurricularactivities' such as music lessons, horse riding, and Tai Chi only cost about $25.

This phase of homeschooling didn't last forever, and I think we spend about $50 a week on all that now. Some weeks it would be much more, other weeks much less. A lot depends on what we are doing. But I don't think the money matters at all. It is the other elements of home education, rather than monetary costs or savings, that offer the greatest reward for educating our children at home. Even if we were paid to send our boys to school, they wouldn't go. This feeling was seriously challenged when our eldest lad turned sixteen and we lost the family allowance for him and he didn't qualify for youth allowance (discrimination!) Youth allowance becomes a real incentive for many students to stay at school, all for the wrong reasons. Luckily for our daughter she saw it less as an incentive to stay in school, but rather a bonus she could pay us to keep the house afloat during rather lean times.

Gerald mentioned a large growth in homeschooling in the last twelve months in New South Wales and I think it is mirrored all over the country. It is an exciting time for us all. I knew this would happen, thirteen years ago, and remember lamenting to all who would listen that the type of learning environment I wanted for my children would arrive in time for my grandchildren! Soon we will have neighbourhoods of homeschoolers....

Thanks Debbie for that rave review about our place - it is a little like heaven here. We had some Jehovah Witnesses call by one day, with a booklet on 'Paradise' - even they had to concede we seemed to have found our own little piece of paradise, here on earth, right now! And please do come to visit if you are in this neck of the woods. We have a small cabin people are welcome to use for a short stay.

Debbie's story about breastfeeding difficulties reminded me so much of the stigma that is now attached to bottle feeding. What a turn around in just a few decades! I think the same thing happens with homeschooling. A person is never right or wrong, good or bad just because of decisions they make, sometimes due to situations beyond their control. We shouldn't judge ourselves or others so harshly! We all need to accept ourselves and our situations more and to be tolerant and accepting of difference. From every personal disappoint opportunity is offered to grow in a different direction. I like jumping on the new and exploring those enticing avenues of change... no matter how painful or stressful. Of course, sometimes I go kicking and screaming ....

I think Patrick was right when he said how much we need to glimpse the lives of others to give ourselves the reassurance and confirmation we need in our own endeavours. I enjoy this newsletter so much for the feedback it gives me. It astounds me how it seems to attract very like minded families - there are so many different kinds of families out there homeschooling, don't you think?

He mentioned Coleman's book 'Emotional Intelligence'. I remember reading this book enthusiastically when it first hit the library shelf, but putting it down in disgust at some stage. I can't remember why - it must have been patronising in places, or elevated some aspect of institutionalised educational practice... so often many of the books I read on accelerated learning focus on how to get ahead in school or college rather than on the real purpose of learning. I must borrow the book again and see why it offended.

Does anyone else think that if something comes into their life, by way of a mention in a newsletter, a sentence in a conversation, a book, an event.... anything at all... then it is a signpost on the path of life - an opportunity to change direction and explore an issue? One that usually follows a spiralling path over many levels of understanding and skill? Nothing seems to happen by chance in my life, but I couldn't really say it happens by design yet. I create my life with each breath, with each new moment, and there seems to be these definite learning curves pushing through my universe, wonderful paths to explore...

Until next time, then!

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Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.

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