Promoting Home Education
© Beverley Paine, 2005
I like to think that we are all promoting home education as a viable alternative to school-based education by simply DOING it with our children. A friend of mine once said that it is our children, now and when they are grown, that convince others of the effectiveness of home education, and he's right. Our enthusiasm to learn and adapt to our children's changing educational needs, our willingness to research alternative methods, and find different resources that may suit our children better - these are the hallmarks of professional educators. We're doing a great job, albeit quietly and without much fuss or comment.
Some of us find the time, usually prompted by immediate need, to go beyond simply homeschooling our children, and advertise what we're doing to others in the community. I did this because I needed to find other homeschoolers so we didn't feel so lonely: we wanted to belong to a group of like-minded people who could offer support and reassurance. An ad in the paper, a newsletter, a website... picnics, activities, workshops, seminars, camps... Along the way, as I strove to meet the immediate homeschooling needs of our family we publicised homeschooling quite a bit. But it wasn't my main aim.
I reckon we're all doing a fabulous job of promoting homeschooling. We can always do better, or more, that's for sure, but when I look back on twenty years of involvement in home education and see how far we've come - homeschooling is now an accepted - if not yet embraced - idea in society. That's cool. That's something to celebrate.
The Prime Minister, John Howard, on the radio this morning (AM 891), was pushing the opinion that extreme viewpoints should not be allowed to exist in this country, and that such radical minorities need to be assimilated into the majority viewpoint. His views are echoed across the country - I hear them everyday when I turn on the radio, or the tv, or go to the local pub or supermarket. As homeschoolers we, too, represent a radical, what could be seen as extremist point of view. We are a minority that disagrees with the majority... Our views on education undermine the state-sanctioned method of education for children. We could easily be targetted in a vicious, no-holds barred campaign to muddy the waters in favour of school-based education.
Some fear that a concerted and enthusiastic campaign to draw attention to the wonderful - and successful - world of home education could draw undesirable attention and result in increased and quite possibly draconian regulation. It's my experience that the 'majority' fear first and think second. I've watched and learned how effective a slow, grass roots movement can change the opinions and actions of the majority. Our individual successes - our homeschooled graduates - mount an incredibly effective and persuasive case for home education. They wipe out the fear factor, because they aren't weirdos or no-hopers - they're more often than not ordinary, well-educated, articulate young men and women. And they are increasing in number rapidly! If people feel really strongly about publicising home education than I reckon the best approach is to start a local homeschooling support group or activity group and publicise that. Have regular meetings in community spaces - a book club that meets at the community library, sports days at the local park, host art classes for everyone during the school holidays...
To promote home education through the media - via advertising - takes a bucket load of money. If the HEA, for example, had that kind of cash and embarked on a campaign then they'd be shut down fast - by the government, by outraged parents and friends societies (who'd feel really threatened), by schools who fear a mass exodus, by teachers unions and by teachers. The individuals who work on a voluntary basis in the HEA would be torn apart in the media frenzy that would result. Their lives would be examined - and paraded in full public view. You'd need to be a saint to survive a prolonged - and hostile - expose on Today Tonight. I've seen tv interviews where the interviewer seeks to destroy the character of the parents because they dared to use a learning program not accepted by mainstream education. Home ed, as a movement, is not ready for that kind of promotion.
Education Choices is our first national commercial attempt at getting a regular magazine into newsagents across Australia. Otherways and Learning Matters are two quality magazines produced by homeschooling organisations. These magazines need support and encouragement and the only way to do that is to subscribe - to all three if you can. Then lend your magazines or give them away. Or donate a subscription to your local library. Leave them in laundromats and bus shelters. Whatever. Ask for HEA to send you some leaflets. Photocopy them and leave them in appropriate places. There is a great deal that can be done to promote homeschooling without needing to spend a lot of money.
Be interviewed by a local newspaper. Papers in the Adelaide metro area runs at least one homeschooling story each year. A mother contacted me 12 months after she had read an article about our homeschooling adventures... This kind of low key promotion really does work, and what's better, it saves kids who are having a rough time at school.
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Beverley Paine with her children, and their home educated children, relaxing at home.
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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