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The Importance of Creating Homeschool Support Networks

© Grace Chapman

Feedback on Winter Issue 24 indicates that it was the best one yet! (Actually that's what seems to be said after each issue.) People are taking advantage of the subscription renewal form that they receive when it's time to renew to jot a few friendly words. I love the way people find polite, humorous  and gentle ways to speak their truths.  I haven't replied to each note but I am grateful for the personal touch you add to your subscription notices.

Recently I had the pleasure of a long conversation with a friend (Rose) whom I haven't seen in years. Her children range in age from 18 to 5 and she was sharing with me the difficulties they had with the eldest daughter when she was in her final year at high school. (All of their children have a 'school' history.) Rose's family was known as the 'stick- in -the- muds', the ones who were strict and different from the rest because they did things together, as a family. In her final year of high school, Rose's eldest daughter, Kate wanted to be 'like the rest'. She wanted to go to the parties she hadn't been allowed to go to. Even though it was well known that the young people at the parties were bent on using alcohol and drugs and sex for entertainment.

Eventually the parents compromised their own values and allowed Kate to attend a couple of selected parties, with a certain degree of supervision. Events and consequences were far from pleasant for her and for her parents. All the things they feared would happen, did, leading the parents and daughter to much confusion and heartache, and in different directions.

The focus of our conversation turned to what could be done about the whole social scene for teenagers in the community. Why does the graduation ceremony have to be followed by a party in which up to a thousand dollars worth of alcohol is consumed and the girls bent on 'losing their virginity' if they haven't already done so? There are many questions we couldn't answer but we decided that one thing we could do, was to eyeball as many young people when in town, taking an interest in them.

Rose also pointed out that we have playgroups and nursing mothers and tons of other support groups for early childhood but once parenting reaches adolescence, the support network is largely lacking. People don't talk about the issues rising sexuality nor the questioning of authority. These, it seems, you don't talk about in public! When she was openly discussing the problems her family was facing, people were surprised that she spoke in such detail. Why? When this is all yet another stage of growth for humans. The reason the parents compromised their values is because they felt isolated and began questioning their own values, replacing them with something less than they were comfortable with.

Some time ago a teenager told me she wished more people would talk about being a teenager and parenting teenagers in Stepping Stones. She wanted to know what other people are thinking and doing. My response at the time was a shy one, something like, "Oh, people don't like to talk about those sorts of things. It's awkward. We'd better not go there." But after talking with Rose, I wonder why not ? Why are we more shy to discuss challenges we have with parenting teenagers? When a two year old has tantrums, we talk about it. When a young teenager has tantrums, do we talk about it? Perhaps we are afraid of being judged as failures? We are in the process of turning our society from a judging one to a feeling one.

In case you wonder whether or not what you share with others in relation to home based learning is valuable to someone, wonder no longer. You've seen what variety has been published in the past-personal accounts, practical tips, resource lists, reviews, insights, etc -they've all counted for something in someone's life. Here's how Janet describes Stepping Stones. (This is a great summary of the kind of feedback I receive regularly. It's what fuels my enthusiasm  and it's why I appreciate you sending in something for publication. Your contribution directly affects the quality of  Stepping Stones. Thank you with all my heart.)

 " Stepping Stones is so informative. It makes me think about issues I may not even have thought of and challenges ideas that I do have. Every issue someone touches my soul  and says exactly what I am thinking!! It makes me think outside the square-especially in relation to the education I really want my children to have. Thank you for such a wonderful resource."

Here's to networking! Networking doesn't mean you lose your individuality. I believe it strengthens it.

Grace is a home educating mother of three in far north Queensland. Until recently, Grace was the editor and producer of Stepping Stones For Home Educators. Her articles have appeared in magazines such as Byronchild Magazine and Education Choices .

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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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