At teachers college in the late 1970s I was given the topic of “unschooling” for a class talk. As research I read Ivan Illich’s “Deschooling Society” books by John Holt and other education specialists. I had never questioned the way we educated before. My first teaching appointment was to a small central school near Bourke NSW and it was here that I saw firsthand alternative ways to educate children.
In Brewarrina, some parents chose to teach their children at home through School of the Air and in nearby towns small Christian community schools were starting up. When I returned to Sydney I taught in public high schools and small private schools. I loved teaching and really cared about my students but I became disillusioned. Some children loved school but many were left behind and others were bored. I just kept thinking there had to be a better way.
When I had my first child in 1985 we signed him up at birth in the small local Christian school– we thought this would give our children a small family-like Christian community environment. The school began a building programme and tripled its size and by the time he had turned three, and it no longer fit our ideology. By this time we had done much research, attended conferences and seminars on home education and decided to keep our children home.
This was a huge decision, as I was constantly questioned by family, friends and strangers. Most assumed it was illegal. We knew that the bible gave parents the role of mentoring their children and even the law stated that children are firstly the parent’s responsibility. We found it was legal and possible. I had moments of doubt but I knew that this was my calling and I needed to lean into God. There were many challenges in those twenty-seven years and there were even periods where a couple of them attended school for various reasons, but the home education journey was so worthwhile. A few of the joys we have experienced through learning at home:
1. The friendships my children had with each other and still have as adults today.
2. The opportunity to learn from specialists and participate and mix with different ages in the wider community during the day for example- electronics, ice skating lessons, choir, carpentry, computer, sewing and art classes.
3. My children know what Mothers do and participated in shopping, cleaning and in my part-time work.
4. The wider home education community had many activities and excursions we could attend but we could be very selective and choose what was most beneficial to our needs.
5. I could spend quality time with them and help them in areas where they struggled but also was very aware of their personalities, gifts and talents and their love languages and able to try different approaches matched to each child’s uniqueness.
Home education is not for the faint-hearted. The main educator, usually the mum, needs a strong support network and a determined outlook, but if God calls you the benefits are eternal.
Author: Roz Hancock, Qualified Teacher and Experienced Home Educator