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Reflecting on Home Education

by Beverley Paine, Nov 2004

As my eldest quickly approaches adulthood I am finding I am reflecting more on the process of home education as it has meant for us as a family, and on our unusual journey of parenting. Finding 'myself' has been an important part of this journey, and has been the gift my children have unconsciously and unselfishly given to me.

So many years of family life have focussed around home education. I've worked my way through several bouts of 'burn-out'; stress filled periods lacking in direction and confidence. In retrospect it is easy to see that home education had little to do with the burn-out, although at the time was seen to be a contributing factor. Health problems, building two homes, lack of financial security and difficulty in finding friendly support for our radical lifestyle choices all took their toll. However, throughout some very harrowing periods my children were always there, and provided constant support. They witnessed and experienced first hand the empowering journey I made from chronic depression to mental health. Home education was like a solid foundation, something to build a positive life around.

My enthusiasm for home education has been part of my own journey in recapturing my lost childhood years, trying to make the world right for me - to give my children what I wanted and needed back then. From the beginning I wanted my children to learn and accept self-responsibility, a concept denied me, both by my parents, teachers, society and myself. It has been difficult, because children learn from example first, and becoming responsible ('growing up' is my favoured term) has been a long and difficult process for me.

I watch others struggle with their personal journeys, especially with their need to home educate, and wonder what role it plays in their own development. Some need to fight the system, and focus their energies on the 'enemy' - the education authorities. For me this represents a reflection, perhaps, of the rebellious inner child in all of us. Other people, unable to fight an impossible battle to change the world, need to withdraw and do things their own way, quietly hidden from critical eyes. This may be another facet of rebellion, only less assertive perhaps.

But most are also like me, yearning for a lost childhood, another way of parenting, a better model of nurturing. An evolution of self from the centre, nestled first in the security of family. A second chance, a time to get it right. The rebellion is contained within, and is focussed on the right of the child to exist, to develop as naturally as possible. My children become different facets of my own inner child as she seeks to find her rightful place in my life.

Over the years I have blended structure and non-structure in learning programs as I have felt and seen the need to interfere in my children's development. After twelve years I firmly believe interference is the right word to use, not education. Given a loving, supportive environment children learn all they need to without their parents setting educational agendas and activities. My interference has always reflected the trust I have felt in their ability to develop, and has been heavily judgmental based on my own social contexts and background. Marion Pears once wrote that parents should undergo therapy before parenting - I suggest parenting is therapy, perhaps the best kind! With open hearts and open minds we learn much from our children, about ourselves.

Home education gives us the opportunity to 'grow up' again, to learn about true responsibility, about the world and our place in it. Without my children's free will, without offering them true choice, I thrust home education, a radical social experiment, upon them at a young age. This was not for their benefit but to fulfil a need of my own. This need was not recognised until the experiment was well under way, years later. I know I wouldn't change a thing, and I know they are happy with my decision after twelve years of home education mixed with a little school experience. I have immersed my life in their development and education so that I may grow.

Because I have always recognised this process as one of my own growth, instead of my children becoming 'my life', as people around have feared and suggested, I am more able to let my children grow up in their own way, to trust in their own development and abilities, as I find faith in my own. I know that they will always be teaching me new ways of perceiving my own view of reality.

At this stage in my life I feel finally ready to seriously indulge in a longed-for career, a career I knew I was destined for as a child, but lost the drive for somewhere in my teens. The choice to do this has been a difficult one, fraught it with misgivings and lack of confidence. The fear of failure has held me back long enough. The voices of misguided 'elders' echoing down through my life are being phased out by my inner hearing - it is time to set aside all the excuses and take the plunge. By fully acknowledging my skills and talents, and giving them room to be exercised more fully in my life, I know I am demonstrating the importance of 'life work' to my children.

As they grow and become adults I feel a tremendous responsibility to find my path beyond parenting. In essence though, this is simply yet another stage of the parenting journey! Choosing to home educate my children has given me far more than I could ever have envisaged at the beginning!

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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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