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How do you know it's time to homeschool?
By Beverley Paine
The system has changed since we were at school. Society has changed. Technology has made sure of that, as has our ever-shrinking world. Communication moves at the speed of light and the ability to process information is far more important than the ability to memorise it. Issues and problem solving fill the curriculum – even maths is geared towards solving the world’s problems, rather than developing technical mathematical skills.
Class sizes may be the same size but our teachers have less ‘contact’ time with students. They can’t show affection. Discipline is limited to ‘conflict resolution strategies’. Previously substance abuse wasn’t rife; teachers weren’t paid much but their work was defined and laid out, the same year to year; the job was a lot less demanding and far more rewarding.
We all want the best for our children. We want to give them the best start in life, but as the level of functional literacy and numeracy in school leavers continues to plummet we fear that our children may slip through the cracks and get left behind.
I remember a time when parents had very little choice: it was either state or private school. Private meant an expensive Christian, Montessori or Steiner school. We found out about homeschooling by reading an American book called ‘Teach Your Own’ by John Holt. By accident we came across some homeschoolers while on holiday and never looked back. Families are lucky now: not only is there oodles of information about home education on the Internet and published in books, but we have wonderful support groups and organisations ready to help.
How do you know it is time to homeschool?
You know something is wrong. Your child isn’t happy at school. He isn’t progressing. His teacher says he’s not paying attention, isn’t motivated, just isn’t trying. Or he’s trying hard enough, it’s just that the lessons are “too boring” or “too hard” or that there are too many distractions… The school says it has tried everything and asks if there are any problems at home… On the good days, everyone feels inclined to give it another go, but the bad days are growing in number and something has to give soon…
If your child says she hates school, listen to her. Talk to her about her day, what bits she liked, what bits weren’t so good. Don’t ask why – it can feel like an interrogation, and often children don’t know why. Get the facts and draw your own conclusions. Then, run them past her in a casual way. She’ll let you know if you are spot on or way off the mark. Once you identify the problem, you can brainstorm some solutions.
Children are natural learners – you can’t stop them from learning. If they aren’t learning they get bored, and bored children are unhappy. Some even tend toward destructive behaviours, just to stop the mind-numbing boredom. Children need to learn. It’s what childhood is all about! A sure sign to tell that your children aren’t learning anything constructive or interesting at school is when you ask: What did you do at school today? And they reply: Nothing.
Maybe your child has lost his confidence talking with different ages and types of people. Does he think he’s outgrown or ‘outclassed’ his siblings? Is he ignoring you or other adults, calling you ‘dumb’ or ‘out of touch’? Is he succumbing to peer-addiction? Or induced by peer group pressure to shun anyone not deemed one of his ‘friends’?
Is your schooled child driven to extremes by her obsession with current fads and fashions, fixations on trendy toys, clothes or food? Does she get obnoxious when you say “no” to her insistence that you spend the weekly budget on ‘keeping up’ with the kids at school? The deeply embedded competitiveness in the school curriculum could be training your child to be a shallow, uncritical consumer… She is probably learning to rely on extrinsic motivators, comparison, acceptance and approval of her peers, rather than developing the morals and values you expected the school to instil.
Is your child coming home from school tired and cranky? Picking fights with you and her siblings? Too tired to do her chores, to help others? Maybe processing all her social interactions is draining her emotional energy. Some children develop chronic and often debilitating illnesses from not having their daily emotional needs met. Children need time, lots of it, to simply ‘be’, or to play, to work things out and make sense of what they experience.
Are you sick and tired of listening to endless whining about the injustices your son or daughter experiences or witnesses in the classroom or school yard? When they, or you, follow up with a complaint are you met with stonewalling, closing ranks, inadequate communication or one-sided conflict resolution processes?
You may have noticed your child has lost interest in her hobbies or passions. She’s stopped drawing, singing, dancing, or running energetically around the house and garden. Her playing is restricted to repeating the scripts of television shows, rather than creating imaginative stories of her own… Has your son stopped building models because he has too much homework, which he hates doing and grumbles about, and never finishes anyway? Are you sadly watching your son’s school life extinguish his natural talents and abilities?
Remember the day your daughter learned to read? The way she devoured books and talked non-stop about the characters and plots? Has it stopped and been replaced with a reluctance to pick up a book, with her preferring to watch a show on the box instead? Do you miss those times cuddling up, reading her a story, or listening to her read?
Or maybe you’ve been told your child has something ‘wrong’ with him: He’s got ADHD, have you considered Ritalin? Or one of the dozens of new labels for learners that has popped up in the last three decades… It’s not his fault. It’s not your fault. It’s not even the school’s fault. While you all bang you heads against the wall your child suffers and learns to hate school – and learning – even more!
If any of the above sounds familiar, then perhaps it is time to look into homeschooling as an alternative learning journey for your child. You won’t be alone – there are thousands of Australian families who homeschooled their children from birth to adulthood. There is an amazing collection of resources and experiences waiting to be tapped. The Educating Parent Series of Resource Directories have been produced to help you begin your journey – or to continue it, if you’ve been homeschooling for a while. Homeschooling is legal in every state of Australia. You don’t have to adopt any particular approach and you can tailor the curriculum to suit your individual children. It’s even possible to teach each child a different way!
It is possible to do something about your unhappy student. Homeschooling allows you to take direct responsibility for your child’s education. In practice, the problems encountered are problems that are solved in a timely and effective manner. It’s not always easy, but it isn’t as hard as dealing with the problems above, day after day, week after week, year after year!
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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.
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
The information on this website is of a general nature only and is not intended as personal or professional advice. This site merges and incorporates 'Homeschool Australia' and 'Unschool Australia'.
The Educating Parent acknowledges the Traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Owners, the Custodians of Australia, and pay our respects to Elders past and present and extend that respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people viewing this website.
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Beverley Paine, The Educating Parent
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