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An Idea to Literally 'Build' Your Own Homeschooling Community and Cooperative!

by Beverley Paine

One of the members from Homeschool Australia Frequently Asked Questions Yahoo Group posted an ad for the rental property over the road, keen to entice some homeschoolers into the neighbourhood to keep her company. This reminded me of an idea that lingers wistfully at the back of my mind and won't seem to go away, even though I'm very happy setting up our own intentional community with family members on our property here in Yankalilla. But the idea is worth putting out and sharing with others in the hope that maybe it will inspire and encourage families to give it some consideration - because I think it's brilliant!

In our early years of home education I often mused about a group of homeschooling families deciding to buy building blocks backing onto each other, building their homes but not putting up fences between them. Imagine a whole suburb of homeschooling families growing this way! From little things (and ideas) big things grow!!

Back then my parents were friends with an extended family from Laos who bought several adjoining properties in Canberra. They pulled down the fences and built a small Buddhist temple in the middle and grew their own food. That's when I started thinking about the idea for like-minded homeschooling families. It could form the basis for a housing cooperative too, especially if a couple of the families had enough money to invest in the other properties and rent them to homeschooling families who couldn't afford a sizable mortgage. I think we're beginning to reach the kind of numbers to be able to consider options like this now that there are a lot more families home educating their children.

So many of us yearn for community living but visualize wide-open spaces and acres: intentional communities in Australia have tended to be on rural allotments, but overseas there are many examples of suburban intentional communities. And we live half an hour away from an arts-focused eco-village - so why not one designed around home education as the focus?

I think a lot of these kinds of dreams falter in the planning stage because we aim for our ideal instead of something more realistic and achievable both in the short and long term. The problem with families collectively owning and managing a large property with individual title to smaller acreages is that unless you have primary producing in your blood and are passionate about life on the land, it is a lot of work, most of which takes considerable brawn as well as excellent planning skills. And often, as our children move through their teenage years we find that we need the services and resources located in more populated areas, with the potential for our children to need to move to the city for tertiary education as
commuting long distances isn't safe or economically viable.

That's why I like the suburban option... Plus, it allows for several families to buy adjoining properties with individually owned titles. This would probably also avoid local planning restrictions and issues and complicated agreements. You only need to come up with an agreement to collectively use a shared strip of ground with a couple of driveways and paths for common use. This agreement can include a contract to pay a maintenance fee similar to what people do in retirement villages: so much per week that pays for infrastructure such as common garaging, chook and pet pens, pool, playground, games room and gardening costs. Houses can look inward instead of towards the street and the outer gardens can be bush gardens that screen the development from the road and offer incredibly privacy as well as a sense of being in the bush!

Most people are happy to consider a mortgage for a house - pick a street on the outside of an outer suburb (cheaper blocks) and you get that country feeling. I grew up on such a street - it was the best of both worlds - access to town and country life.

If you like this idea, nurture it. Discuss it with your family and friends. Share it. Chances are there are plenty of other like-minded home educating families ready to upgrade to the community / cooperative housing lifestyle too.

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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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