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A Day at Home with the Paines

by Beverley Paine

I never keep records any more - after eleven years, who would? I do think records are useful and have their place, especially in the early years of home education. I am just not disciplined enough to compile them regularly. As a result this 'typical' day is a composite from my memory, and hopefully resembles something like the truth.

Everyone gets up when they are rested enough, except April who has school to go to. The rest of us are home-bodies. We all get our own breakfast, anytime from 7am to 10am. Sometimes the boys get busy before they eat, and get around to it later rather than earlier! Our home honours everyone's differing biological needs as much as possible. Things have a way of working out if everyone has to be responsible for themselves - it seems to breed co-operative behaviours.

Robin is the busy one. He holds the home together in a practical sense. I hold it together in a relationship sense. We are the typical stereotypes when it comes to gender. Robin will make the coffee, have breakfast, do last night's dishes, put the laundry on, (doesn't sound stereotypical, does it?) and then disappear outside to do whatever exciting or mundane work he does out there. Generally it involves injuring his back, like finishing building our house or landscaping our four and a half acres, all of it on a fairly steep slope. Sometimes he fiddles with the car or maintains tools, or the alternative power system. I love him dearly because he does all that, and more!

April showers (sorry!) and eats a little, and makes her lunch. In a disgusted tone she relates how most of her school friends get their mums to make their lunches. She'd never give up the right to choose her own food for the day! She then feeds the animals. Dozens of guinea pigs, and an assortment of chickens and a couple of ducks make up our 'farmyard'. April has grown up caring for her small furry friends. She spends a little over an hour daily looking after them, which is pretty good going and a fair commitment for a girl her age.

I forgot to mention that before she gets out of bed she tries to get some reading in. She is an avid reader, and still manages to spend quite a lot of time reading in the evenings. Like many ex-home-educated high school students she is ahead in her class and has time for leisure. Unlike many of her classmates. At 8.30am she disappears down the hill to school a few hundred metres away. Yes, we live that close.

Roger showers (it doesn't have the same ring does it?) also in the morning, usually after April. The children seem to have worked out a strict order for use of the bathroom. Thomas, who spends the first moments of his day sleepily climbing down his ladder, and jumping into bed with me for a cuddle. I rarely get up until we have finished this little ritual. He then waits for Roger before having breakfast. Roger often sleeps in, and Thomas uses this time to talk to us about all sorts of things, or to watch us from our bed as we go about our morning chores. I forgot to mention - since Roger declared he wanted his own room, our bed has been located in the living room, a large open plan living/kitchen/dining-and now, bed-room. An owner builder's design problem!

Sometimes, not often, I get the boys to do some 'book work' for an hour. Thomas has learned to read this year, and to help this process along, because I was starting to get worried (I am only human after all), I prepared an exercise book of reading and writing exercises. It keeps my nagging critic at bay, and doesn't do a lot of damage if Thomas is compliant. Roger does some maths from a text book, just to show me he can. Sometimes he learns something new. I never make them do this work - it isn't worth the hassle. If they are happy to do it, we work together. Sometimes Robin will sit with Roger and they will work on Roger's correspondence course in Personal Computer repairs. I am really impressed with the way in which Roger applies himself maturely to his studies. A year ago he would not even think of working in this way. Transition from child to adolescent to adult?

I have found over the years the children will usually happily do whatever we ask, provided we stay nearby to give them guidance and to take an active interest. I wonder how the 'self-instructional textbook' homeschooling crowd would react to that? Learning in this way, as we do, seems to occupy very little of our time, giving us the rest of the day to pursue our own interests. Not a lot of burn out here.

For the boys, this means playing outside if the weather is inviting. Climbing trees, falling out of trees (a favourite 'game'), playing on the rope swing, building cubbies, pushing their growing bodies to the limit, stretching their imaginations with games, investigating the natural world - they keep themselves busy. I often take their observational and physical skills for granted, until they have friends come to visit, and I see them acting as natural leaders, mentors and tutors.

Inside, they are dedicated to their Lego. Thousands of dollars worth of Lego lie strewn across two bedroom floors, stored on shelves or neatly in April's camphor wood chest. A collection spanning at least fifteen years. If ever I had doubt of the value of play in education it has been dispelled by this plastic 'toy'. I could rave lyrical about its mathematical, technological, scientific, blah, blah, blah - but it is true. Lego has not restricted the boys' imaginations re the world of natural objects and play - it has even enhanced and encouraged their ability. Roger taught himself to read on Lego catalogues, and both boys have mastered budgeting, saving pocket money for Lego! Everyone is very impressed with Roger's ability to look at any real object and reproduce it out of Lego, and he is not restricted by instructions, and has even produced artistic murals from his favourite art medium!

Thomas is Roger's admiring apprentice, if somewhat frustrated by his lack of ability. I often have to reassure him, telling him Roger has had four years more of Lego practice and play. It is hard being the youngest sometimes.

The boys are allowed 45 minutes of computer time. We have a time restriction because of our alternative power set up. It has good and bad points. We don't have game junkies, but they can't have the opportunity to explore a favourite tool to the best of its abilities. And I would like them too. They seem to have a natural ability.

That is their day. They dry the dishes if we ask them. They do some chores on Saturday morning. We rotate a list of jobs between all of us - this lets us all have a go at cleaning the composting toilet! They get involved in our gardening work, including planting hundreds of trees. Most of the time they do their own thing.

But what about me? I love to write, and spend a lot of time on my computer. If I am not writing for the local homeschooling group, I am working on my first novel, or a permaculture correspondence course, or homeschooling booklets. I have only just started writing seriously this year, after trying to give myself permission for twenty years! For some reason I didn't see it as legitimate work.

Sometimes I get motivated to do some cooking, or gardening. I love to do these when I want to. We all go to work, usually gardening together. We live on a very low income, and would like it to get lower (reduce our consumerist wasteful ways). I like to balance outside activity with my word processing. I love growing trees for the Free Tree Scheme and for our property. I enjoy practicing and learning more about permaculture. I love planning and designing and organising. I am finding some paid work giving home education workshops. Life is busy and full.

In the evenings, since I banned myself from regular TV viewing due to ill health, I read. I sometimes wonder if there is anyone out there allergic to TV? I suffer from chronic allergies, which dull the everyday enjoyment of life, and I am finding nine hours sleep not quite enough anymore. I am slowly working my way through books I bought 15 years ago! Robin often does computer 'housekeeping', which Roger watches attentively and offers advice and information. April turns on the Simpsons (the TV is in her room) and the boys watch that. Sometimes they watch more, sometimes she does alone. We were never big TV watchers. We love videos though, and can easily spend $5 a week hiring them! Sometimes we will all play a board game, but they turn into bored games if played too often, too frequently!

Generally we all do our own things, coming together for preparing the evening meal, and good conversation and having a good time. We share a lot, sharing our experiences, talking openly and honestly. Life changes its focus regularly, and is often dependant on season (beach in summer for example, tree planting in autumn, gardening in spring).

It is a good life, and we wouldn't trade it for any other. We are masters of our own universe at present, and we love it.

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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 support of national, state, regional and local home education groups.

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