As a poor migrant child from a restrictive communist eastern European country Csilla's early education in Australia was not without problems. Plagued by misguided prejudice, Csilla made the best of school, seeking out and enjoying different experiences where she could before meeting and marrying the man of her dreams and starting a planned family of four children. Home educating their children was her husband's idea: the idea was alien and unworkable to her and she worried that her children would experience the difference she had felt keenly as a child. Like most of us, she also lacked the confidence and did not see herself as a teacher.
Csilla dived into the deep end, homeschooling one of her stepsons, who, at the time was 11 years old and considered himself an average student. Back then, the Queensland home education registration process was onerous and aimed at putting families off from choosing this option. Distance education through the state system but charged at private schooling rates was offered by the Department of Education, or families needed their homeschooling programs overseen by a qualified teacher.
Self-doubt plagued Csilla's early homeschooling life with her children, as it does most of us! She relates how having children "triggers the huge process of knowing self more deeply.. [and] that homeschooling takes this process from being a trickle to a waterfall"! Not convinced it would work, and without the internet to reassure and guide her, and unable to find the support she needed from other homeschoolers nearby, she availed herself of support provided by a pioneering Australian homeschooling family who were providing curriculum resources. Csilla had to accept herself in order to see the potential within her to successfully homeschool her children: she consciously worked to develop the confidence she needed. I loved her statement in Chapter 2: "But I wouldn't be as brave as to even hint at absolutes because the variables are endless." This is so true and an excellent piece of advice to anyone just starting out on the home educating journey. She also alerts the reader that this is what makes home education both scary and challenging, the fact that there are no boundaries or limits to what you and your children can learn from home!
There is considerable research amassed on the reasons and characteristics of home educators, including quality research by Australian academics. In her own way, Csilla gives a potted introduction to why families find themselves home educating their children. Her examination of the practical aspects derived from different homeschooling situations draws on her acute observations, experiences as a parent and support person to other homeschooling parents.
Throughout Csilla's book there is a continuing theme: that home education builds a sense of community, first within the family, that broadens and builds better relationships between people in general. This is a theme I've often written about myself, a totally unexpected bonus from home educating my children, but which, upon examination should have been expected because it simply makes sense. Of course children who are given the time and attention needed to thrive will respond in a similar fashion, extending that courtesy and respect to others. Her chapter on socialisation, although included later in the book, is excellent and adequately addresses these concerns.
And her practical approach to home education continues. Her advice to "do less, but cover it more thoroughly" regarding curriculum is spot on! She urges readers to "keep each child's individual learning style and interest front and centre and finally try hard to stop yourself obsessing about getting measured outcomes - timing is vital." Csilla favours a back to basics concentrated maths and English focused curriculum with personal and family interests, life skills and experiences filling in the complexity of learning across subjects covered by state and national curricula.
Csilla's book is a wonderful description of how homeschooling unfolded for her family and was successful. It pin points the differences between learning at home and learning at school and she offers these as compelling reasons for the success of home education in her situation. What I take most from Csilla is her ability to bring it back to reality, what works on a practical level for busy families: how learning really happens at home. It will defuse the traditional 'school-at-home' ideas parents new to the concept have and which get in the way of building early home education confidence. This 'nuts and bolts' of how learning occurs at home is reassuring and human: homeschooling parents arent super-parents with extraordinary abilities and don't need to be.
Readers will enjoy the addition of comments from each of Csilla's and Tim's home educated children, and wonderfully welcome, honest and frank account from the perspective of Tim the dad, a voice often missing in books on home education!
Available from www.lovelearnlive.com.au
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We began educating our three children in 1985, when our eldest was aged five years. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn as they grew and explored and discovered this amazing world since the moment 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. I hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was!
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