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Homeschooling Makes Sense

by Beverley Paine, Nov 2020
speech given at Brisbane Home Education Conference 2004

Homeschool works because learning and life aren't divorced. The things we want our children most to learn are learned naturally at home and in the community as we go about everyday life.

That's not to say that everything else children learn at school isn't important. We just don't waste our children's time by teaching them in a contrived and convoluted manner. They learn those things naturally.

Along the way they learn the basics - the three Rs - reading, writing and arithmetic to a basic level, also naturally and effortless. Not at the same rate or time as schooled children, but by the time they have learned them they can use them well.

How do children learn the basics at home? This isn't a talk on natural learning so I won't dwell on this, you are welcome to talk to me later or join my online yahoo learning naturally group.

Children want and need to make sense of the world. We help them by doing what humans have done forever: model what we want them to learn, how we want them to behave, encourage them to help us do the chores, talk to them and talk with them.

Home education is a cinch for those parents who talk with their children. The day becomes an endless conversation about anything and everything. We learn as much as they do because their questions show us the gaps in our knowledge and understanding and we too want to make sense of the world.

You can talk about anything and everything. You don't have to be an expert on any subject. You are a learner too.

Our children don't want us to be children though. They want us to be adults, parents. We need to help them build strong safe boundaries, help them understand who they are, how to relate to others, how to find their own individual place in the world that is right for them. They need us to protect them until they can protect themselves.

And they need us to gently challenge them to grow, and to provide safety nets until they no longer need them.

When we learn beside our children we learn as adults, they learn as children. It's not a hierarchy. It's just different. Accepting that all people learn and think in different ways is probably the most important thing I've learned from homeschooling my children.

Children are like sponges - they will soak up anything that is there to learn. They can't help it. Our role is to make sure that what we want them to learn is in their path.

In a classroom I volunteered at I met kids whose behavior was destructive. Rather than blame the kids I noticed that there wasn't anything constructive to do. Plenty of lessons sitting at desks, reading and writing, but very little time to use their bodies and their hands. these kids wanted to build and make things, use their imaginations in colourful, big, bold ways.

Children need to be active to grow. Children who are active can't help learning across the curriculum.

Write a list of all the things humans need to know by adulthood. It won't include knowing the names of famous artists or prime ministers or how to turn oil into petrol and plastics.

We want our children to know how to survive, how to eat properly, stay healthy, manage their finances, get along with others, cultivate good friendships, keep on the right side of the law, take care of their belongings, and so on. Pretty basic stuff.

You need to know how to read, write and do arithmetic to achieve all these things in our society.

We teach our children how to use a toothbrush to clean their teeth. We teach them how to do up buttons and zippers. Buttons and zippers and toothbrushes are tools. Without them life isn't easy, it can even get painful. Tools make our life easy.

When we tell our children that maths, spelling, grammar, reading and writing are tools that make our life easy - by using them in everyday contexts - we give them power to use these tools to make their lives easy.

We use these tools properly in front of our children - we demonstrate their use. We go out of our way to do this, in the same way that we don't expect children will use the toothbrush if they never see us using it or aren't shown how to use it. We don't show our children how to use the toothbrush when their teeth are clean and don't need to use it.

Which is why learning is best done when the need to learn is greatest. Homeschooling allows us to strike while the iron is hot, when children are most interest or have the greatest need or desire to learn.

We can put learning in context for our children. We can help them make sense of the world. Helping them learning how to use tools well is one of the ways we help them do this.

So think of all the tools you use as an adult.

Brainstorm all the different areas and places in your life you use tools.

Kitchen - knife and fork, pots and pans, rules about how to use the stove safely. Rules are tools.

Think of tools in the broadest sense. A car is a tool we use to get to work. The internet is a tool we use to share our knowledge. A prayer is a tool we use to communicate with God.

We use tools in every area of our life. Helping our children learn how to use tools covers every area of the curriculum.

 

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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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We began educating our children in 1985, when our eldest was five. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn since they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. We hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was! Beverley Paine

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