Recently, I submitted my first homeschooling reports for my children to the Home Education Unit in Queensland. This is my legal requirement in order to homeschool. It is legal in Australia to educate at home, but you must prove that you are able to provide a high-quality education. Each year homeschoolers submit a report on the year before with six samples (two for English, two for Maths and two for another subject of your choice) as well as a plan for the coming year. It's a time-consuming process, but a really rewarding one as well.
I wanted to share some of my report for Emerson here, aged 6, who cried every single morning of Prep (first year of compulsory school in Queensland) and some of her journey since leaving school. For those that are curious and for those that need inspiration, I can honestly advocate for homeschooling and unschooling in particular.
I also wanted to thank all those home educators that came before me and fought for the rights of parents to find the best ways for their children to learn. And to those from the homeschooling community who have offered me advice and support and those online who spend their time sharing their experiences with others. xx
In sitting down to write this report I first looked back over the albums I created to document our homeschooling journey and it made my heart sing. I read back through my Natural Learning Journal and I was reminded of so many rich conversations and lightbulbs moments experienced by both Emerson and myself this past twelve months. What a wonderful year of growth, connection and learning it has been. Our move to homeschooling has not only benefited Emerson, but our entire family. We are more connected, our parenting is gentler, our children have more autonomy, more time, and the love and support to experience so many new things and follow those that take their interest.
My goal to have Emerson reading independently by the end of the first year was rather lofty, or so I realised in hindsight. I hadn’t considered that she may shut out anything educational in the months after leaving school and refuse to engage. Any notions that I had about schooling at home in a traditional sense needed to be reconsidered in the wake of her refusal to read or write. Instead, I read widely and deeply on all aspects of homeschooling, education styles and curriculums. I listened to podcasts with educators discussing the way the brain works, and different styles of learning. I embraced the idea of ‘deschooling’ and took away the expectation and structure I had implemented from my own schooling experience and worked hard to find the right path for Emerson. It took a lot of time and trust, but in the end, Emerson decided that the goal to read was her goal, not mine. With this intrinsic motivation, we have been able to work together to help her move closer to achieving this goal.
I wrote the plan based on a natural learning style and took a child lead approach to Emerson’s learning because I felt this was what she needed. This was difficult for me, as it would have been much easier to have her sit at a table for set times of the week and ‘learn’ what I presented her with, but this method just led to tears for both of us.
At times, when fear overcame me that perhaps I wasn’t doing the right thing and she wasn’t learning I tried introducing more structured elements. This always had the opposite effect than I was hoping for. After a lot of reading, talking, and podcast listening I embraced an unschooling philosophy to meet Emerson’s needs. There were many small steps in letting go which allowed me to recognise how much Emerson was learning by being free to follow her own interests.
Where to begin with the many highlights?! For Emerson it would probably be the pet quails and puppy we adopted this year, her chicken egg business, her horse riding lessons, the many new friends she has made in the homeschooling groups we frequent. It would be the many excursions we are able to take during the week to art galleries, museums, historical villages, nature walks, farm tours, zoos and library sessions. No doubt the many holidays and camping trips we have taken this year as well too, as a family and with other homeschoolers, to places like Gympie, Yamba, Sydney, Canberra, and Dubbo.
For me, it has been seeing the anxiety slowly melt away from Emerson. Seeing the silences, anger and tears being replaced by a curious, courageous and kind six year old. It is stress-free mornings and bedtime reading rituals where all three children hop in the big bed for stories. It’s surprising them with new craft supplies, books, puzzles, board games and experiments. It’s seeing Emerson’s face light up when she learns something new. It is being there to answer each question and seeing the connections between each rabbit hole she dives into. And it’s the trust, overcoming my fears and trusting in her innate curiosity and knowing that she has the tools and support to learn anything she wants, now and in the future.
Despite not being able to read independently, as I had written in our plan, I still feel Emerson achieved the most success in English this year. In the related areas of reading and writing, she has grown from a child that refused to participate in either activity to one who uses writing daily, enjoys her new reading abilities and is actively engaged in increasing her skill level.