Growing Up in My Family
by April Paine
A lot of mothers with young children that I speak to relish the thought of the 'time out' they'll get once their kids start school. It's a day to look forward to, apparently.
My parents made an amazing choice before I reached school age. They chose to keep their kids at home, and gave us the best start to life that they could, home educating us. It was both a selfless and self gratifying decision. They should feel proud of what they have accomplished, and know that I am grateful for what they did for us.
My mum always encouraged us to play together. It didn't matter that we are a girl and two boys, or that there is 6 years between eldest and youngest. It wasn't a case of dolls for the girl, and cars for the boys. We all played with the same toys, and we all had our own toys that could be played with co-operatively. Together was a concept that our family 'got', and not a lot of families pull that off successfully. I believe it was a combination of home educating, and my Mum's approach to co-operative play, that made us this loving family unit.
School divides children into categories based on age. School then labels children with 'gifted' or 'special needs'. School then heaps praise on 'gifted' (but doesn't do much else for them, after all, they don't need any help) and then school puts 'special needs' into special attention programs, so that other children can identify which children need to be picked on.
My mum sat us together at the dining table (or the floor, or lawn, wherever!), and worked with us at each of the required subjects at whatever level we each were at. Regardless of age, she worked with our differences and encouraged us to succeed in the areas we excelled at. She helped us through the subjects that were hardest in different ways to make them easier to understand. My dad did a series of science 'lessons' with us and our friends, which were more in the nature of experimental excitement, coupled with verbal theory. The nature of the subjects and their presentation made for memorable learning material. We were also always 'helping' dad with building projects around the property, or vehicle maintenance, giving us extremely valuable productive life skills.
My brothers were not naturally competent readers; Mum nurtured their needs, and encouraged them to read with their interests (car magazines, forums, lego catalogues and computer related material). At 22 my youngest brother is now more literate than most adults I know. His use of the English language, grammar, and spelling is A grade material. He accomplished all of what a school teacher would label 'potential' with the love and support of our mum.
My family was involved with Trees for Life for a number of years, nurturing our love of nature, and the environment in which we live in. The four and a half acres on which we grew up was a diverse space combining older growth vegetation with new, sheds, animal enclosures, and the budding orchard. Our idea of a great afternoon was to nick off with one of Dad's hammers, some nails, a plank, and build a 'cubby' in one of the gum trees - hours of imaginative entertainment from a mere plank nailed into a tree fork.
Now, we live 'conventional' lives, but are not unaware of the impact our lives have on our
planet, and make an effort to minimise this impact where we can.
We always had a lot of pets. Pets are a very important part of childhood, they teach children
responsibility, how to care for something that is completely dependent for its survival on the carer. It wasn't always fun cuddles with the guinea pigs. The pets required twice daily feeding, regular mucking out of their enclosures, and dealing with death on a fairly regular basis (stillborn babies, old age, spider and snake bites). We weren't always as good pet owners as we could have been, and sometimes our parents had to help out, along with a stern talking to about our responsibilities. The skills that we learned from having pets included valuable life lessons.
We were a class of three, and we had two excellent life teachers. Our parents shaped us into the people we are today, and of that I am glad. I value the lessons they helped me to learn, and I love and appreciate my parents and my brothers for the role they played, and continue to play in my life.
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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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