I am a life learning Mama and this page is where I like to share things that resonate with me in some way along this wonderful life journey we are on ♥

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Unschooling could leave Australian children without numeracy or literacy skills!


People see things from their own perspectives whatever the story and however positive a picture you paint for them. I always found it interesting that when my family appeared on The Project about unschooling it didn't matter that they interviewed my son (who had been unschooled) and was interviewed by them at the University where he is studying a software engineering degree (having gained entry at 16) and he answered their questions politely and articulately. They also came to our house and met my then 6 year old who again showed no signs of neglect whatsoever and lives her life with a happy inquiring free spirit with a broad range of interests. Our house showed that both my children had access to many interesting "educational" resources should they so wish to access them as well as an abundance of social opportunities (for those worrying about socialisation! :P) and I like to think that I came across as a well rounded supportive parent but still the presenters of that program ridiculed us and said how ridiculous unschooling was and we were also subjected to comments from the public such as "well we all know who will be pushing trolley's at Coles in 10 years time" with regards to my daughter (not that there is anything wrong with pushing trolley's in Coles if that is what she wants to do - but they were not writing that comment with a positive tone!). It just showed me that people will see what they want to see and anything that goes against the "norm" is met with fear and distrust and many people are unable to see beyond that. It changes nothing for me though with regards to my total belief in unschooling other than pointing to the fact that more and more people who turn to it will try and fly under the radar - and who can blame them when after a full inquiry they read findings like this that really are still quite unsupportive of those doing things differently (and they are usually doing things differently because what has gone before just has not worked for them!)  We came to unschooling through trial and error (or perhaps it found us when we desperately needed it), but however we came to it it has worked for my family beautifully (and we have tried school at home, project based, distance school etc) but letting my son do what he wanted and allowing him (with full support) to follow his passions was a lifeline to us and I am sure it will continue to be for many more whatever the bureaucrats deem from all of this....

Sunday, 23 November 2014


This week I have been reflecting on my sweet girl. She composed this beautiful piece herself morphing 'Skinny Love' with her own song that she wrote about her dog 'Lily Dog'. I think for a child who is not yet 8 her music is wonderful! Recently she has been diagnosed with Dyslexia and Irlens - she struggles with reading, writing and spelling. The fact that she is homeschooled means we can focus on the things she loves (like her music). If she wants to play around on her piano all day she can. There are no time limits in our house. I just love to see her passion for learning the things that interest her. They may not interest others but that is ok because what is important is they interest her! What makes me sad though is the thought of others like her in the school system who won't have these opportunities. Instead they will be focusing on what they can't do! Maybe my little girl would not feel so happy in that system where her musical ability would rarely be seen but yet her inability to read would! I think I already know the answer and I feel blessed once more that she is home doing what she loves....

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Love these girls...

High School Years

After my post yesterday about worrying.  A few people have messaged me asking about my son and high school and university entrance.  Samuel was unschooling when he went to the University of the Sunshine Coast Open Day and checked out the ICT Department as his interest has always been in computing and most particularly programming.  They were really lovely there, although a little unused to homeschooling and particularly the fact that Samuel was not enrolled with any type of school and nor was he registered with HEU.  They spoke to him about the Headstart program that is available to Year 11 and 12 students but said that he needed to be enrolled with a school.  http://www.usc.edu.au/study/courses-and-programs/headstart-program-year-11-and-12-students The Headstart program gives teens a chance to try out a couple of Uni papers and go to lectures with the full time students and get a real feel for University and whether it might be something for them later.  If you pass the papers you are guaranteed a place on the full time degree whether you get OPs or complete Year 11 and 12 or not.  Since Samuel did the course they have changed the rules and now you just need to be registered with HEU - so no school enrolment is necessary.  He loved his time there and after having such a bad experience of school it gave him back his confidence and he was able to hang out with others who were as interested in programming as he was!

Unfortunately the degree that Samuel wanted to do was being discontinued so he looked to Brisbane and found a course that really excited him at the University of Queensland.  He decided to stay with Brisbane School of Distance Ed and complete his year 11 and 12 (but you really don't need to do that).  He was enjoying his time with them though and it was his choice completely what he wanted to do.  He had made some friends (which previously he had never had) so for him it was a great experience and although some say that BSDE are inflexible, we managed to muddle along in a way that suited Samuel - he really did kind of just do it his way - but then he always does!  He did not do the full quota of OP's and nor did he get the pre-requisite OP in English that it stipulated for his course but we just put his case forward about his learning difficulty in written English (having been diagnosed with Dysgraphia) but also showing that he had not only a great ability in programming but also a huge passion for the subject - sometimes you just have to speak up for what you want in life and if it has never happened before be the pioneer that makes sure it does!  His results from the Headstart course were a big help on his University application.  He was also able to show other things too that he had done such as gaining first aid certificates when he was in the surf life saving club etc.  You can gain points from things like this and they all go towards what is known as a 'ranking'.  So basically Samuel was offered a place at Uni going in on a ranking rather than an OP score.

There is also another option for those who wish to continue staying out of the system for as long as possible and that is to complete a TPP (Tertiary Preparation Pathway) course http://www.usc.edu.au/study/courses-and-programs/tertiary-preparation-pathway-tpp which if you pass will enable you direct entry onto a degree at the University of Sunshine Coast (and I am sure at other Universities across the country).  There really are so many options that I feel the best thing to do is just let your child follow their interests and see where it lead's them.   Well that has been our experience so far and it seems to have worked.  

For a child who was suspended from every school he went to (except his little primary school in the UK) and was seen as a big problem by many (having been diagnosed with ADHD/ASD/Gifted but with a learning difficulty - Dysgraphia - yep lots of labels that in no way define him!) - he has excelled at home, has kept his self esteem in tact and I have been privileged to spend the years that I have with him on a day to day basis before he flew the nest to go to University.  I am sure others will have different stories but this is a snippet of ours through the high school years - hope it helps lovely people who wanted to know! :D

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

A passion for knitting...

My 7 year old daughter's latest passion is knitting  She has been knitting all day (it was funny to watch her walking along with her friends today whilst knitting!) and is still knitting whilst in bed (even when I kissed her goodnight and switched of the light at 8pm - when I went past later the light was on and as I peeked in sure enough she was knitting!) It highlighted for me yet again the motivation to keep going a child can have when it is something they want to learn rather than what we want them to learn  (incidentally she tried to teach me and I was not interested at all and so just could not pick it up - lesson learned again - what is of interest to one may not be to another and that is ok!

To worry or not?...

I just wanted to share this with those who worry and I often see a lot of worry online in the homeschool forums... worry that they are not doing enough... worry that they are not using the right curriculum... worry that what they are doing is not the same as their friends... worrying about being registered, un-registered, just worrying about lots (I know I do at times!!).. There really is no right or wrong way to homeschool.. just what is right for you at any given time and things change (all the time!) and that is ok.

I have been homeschooling for 10 years now and have been registered, unregistered, used Distance Ed, done project based learning, unschooling (where I really did just let my son do whatever he wanted and that actually worked best for us) and hey he is 19 now and in his final year of Uni, holding down a part time job and living his life being true to himself and is happy. He got where he is having done a lot of playing over the years (often it seemed to others that he was mostly playing  ) and teaching himself what he wanted when he needed it and he learned it much quicker that way than when I tried to teach him when he wasn't ready or interested..

Anyway, I just wanted to share this with those other fellow worriers and just know that things do work out for so many who have chosen to homeschool (or unschool or whatever you personally like to call it) and I bet we have all got wherever we wanted to be using a different path to many others - so if you are a worrier try to hold onto this knowledge - it will all work out just fine and you are able and capable of doing this whichever way you choose <3

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Homeschool Support Groups

When people first come to me for advice about homeschooling I always tell them to join a support group.  When my son was little I was very hesitant to join support groups as I am quite an introvert and going along to meet other people that I did not know was somewhat daunting and at times depressing.  I remember going to one group about ADHD and I just sat there listening to everyone’s rather sad stories.  They did not seem to relate to me or my situation and I was too shy to really intercept any conversation so I just sat, listened and waited and then when the time was up I just picked up my coat and walked out that door not having made one friend, not feeling supported or understood and certainly not uplifted.  It felt nothing like how I had envisioned a support group!  However in the past 15 years things have changed rapidly with the meteoric rise of the internet.  Now you no longer even have to leave your house if you have access to a computer, smart phone or some other form of technology that will enable you to access the web.  There are so many online support groups now it can feel a little overwhelming but don’t give up.  There are local, national and international – the choice is yours.  I think it is a good idea to choose a few and just get a feel for them and see whether they resonate with you.  I find most of my support groups on mediums such as Facebook where there are a heap of closed groups that give you privacy to be able to speak your mind.  When the group is closed it means that only the members in it can see what you have written and nobody else will have access to it on your news feed.  This gives benefits to those who seek privacy and don’t wish for everything they write to be shown to all on their friends list.  If a group is run properly then when people ask to join they will be screened.  It they are not a friend or a friend of a friend then an admin person should be clarifying with them why they wish to join the group.  This protects other members as it can be an avenue for opportunists who just want to get into the group and sell their wares or pedal a business.  It will never by 100% full proof but on the whole the groups can be kept safe and if any rogue person does gain access the admin can delete them and block them so that they cannot gain access again.  This really is only a problem for some of the larger groups.  SunnyHomeschool Support Hub that I started on the Sunshine Coast was intended to support local people who were new to homeschooling and wanted help with paperwork or other advice on the practicalities of homeschooling and how you become registered or join a distance education provider.  It has however grown into far more than that and we now have nearly 400 members covering a substantial distance.  It has meant a bigger workload and we have needed to take on more administrators to share the load but it has been wonderful connecting with other homeschoolers across Queensland, Australia and some from overseas.  We have so much to learn from each other.  The majority of the activity does however come from locals who interact and arrange meet-ups, excursions, courses, field trips or whatever else our wonderful online community can come up with.  There are also many smaller regional groups popping up all the time and it is a great place to shout out and find if there are other homeschoolers in your local area.  It has also been a place to cry, laugh and share troubles in a non-judgemental arena and nobody has to leave their house to do so (unless they don’t have the technology to access this kind of support).  If you don’t have it at home there are always internet cafes and libraries that can assist you.  For me the online support groups have been a lifeline where you can share ideas, success stories, group gatherings, resources, information of all kinds and offload any concerns that you may be harbouring and it does not bring the social worries that actually face to face meetings can bring about for many of us and especially for those on the spectrum.  Even for my son who was very much unschooled and just did his own thing alone at home (never wanting to go and meet other homeschoolers), when he decided to access Brisbane School of Distance Education when he was doing Year 11 and 12, the online community became such a gift to him where previously he had struggled with friendships in real life because of some of his differences, online he was accepted.  He could be himself and chat with others with a lot less judgments being made than when he was at school.  He could access forums whereby discussion would take place on subjects he was studying and students could support each other in a far less threatening way than actual physical meet-ups.  A real joy for us was that when he eventually went to University some of those online friends that he made went with him and they are still friends today 4 years down the track.  That is a real blessing for a boy who grew up with very few (if any) real friends.
Many of these online groups make times where they meet up in real life so then if that is important to you it is available.  Not everyone just enjoys online relationships.  Often we use that time as a park play for our children and the parents will chat and put the world to rights amongst themselves whilst their children go off and have fun and make connections or the parents might listen to a speaker on a relevant topic that may be of interest.  It is such an important part of homeschooling for me and I have found the benefits to be enormous.  Whereby previously when my son was young and I had no access to support groups I found the journey a lot more worrying and stressful when all I had was my own head to try and sort out my worries and nobody else to give advice, suggestions or just a hug or pat on the back so that I felt I was not alone and was doing ok.  As the saying goes a worry shared is a worry halved and it has certainly been the case for me.  Although I like lots of my own time, meeting up with others occasionally to give and receive support has become an important part of my homeschool journey.
Support groups do not come without their downsides as I have learned along the way.  A whole group of people coming from differing walks of life, with different life experiences, expectations and needs is always a place where sometimes conflict can occur and especially within our ASD community where sometimes quirky behaviour is on display.  I try to be very accepting of others and although I agree that we don’t all have to share the same ideals, educational philosophies or parenting styles I do feel for the harmony of the group we have to agree to differ on some points and be respectful of each other when that does occur and accept that all of us come to where we are with our own stories and that is ok.  There is no right or wrong way to homeschool, parent nor live, just the right way for you and your family and none of us have the right to pass judgement.  I feel that we more than others need to be aware of difference and be inclusive and accepting.  Many of the families that I meet have left school after experiencing harrowing times and they have been friendless and often rejected as we once were.  It is important to me that any group that I facilitate is inclusive and shows kindness and compassion to each other.  We often have enough to fight with when our children have issues that need treatment, therapy and a lot of our time and energy.  We do not then need to then find conflict within our support groups.  That is no support at all.  I know it is sometimes hard but it is an ideal that I try to adhere to as much as I can.  Life is too short to invite conflict into our lives.
I think we also need to be mindful of the information that we are given within some of the support groups we go to and take everything in with an open mind.  Some people will swear by a resource that has been the best thing for their child or a system that has worked for them.  It may not be the best for you and you don’t want to be taking on that advice and spending lots of money to set up your homeschool environment when that is not actually the way that will work for you.  I think we can all start panicking when listening to other people who seem to have the best way of doing things and all seems rosy and bright in their world and it can actually make us feel worse rather than better!  When I feel like that I walk away from those interactions.  I don’t need competition nor to start doubting myself.  I find the best support group for me in those times is the beach!  Take what you need from a group but disband with what you don’t.  I have learned that along the way too.  Also we don’t need to be friends with everyone.  That is not possible but at least make all the interactions you do have kind ones and don’t exclude people.  You never know how much of a difference your support one day can make to a person in need even if in your heart you really don’t feel a connection with that person we can all be kind.
Some other support groups offer practical help such as learning co-ops where resources are shared as well as parental skills.  These can be great if your child wants to learn a particular skill and you are not able to teach them yourself or pay for someone else to do so.  Pooling resources and skills is a wonderful way to connect with other homeschoolers and learn along the way.  Even giving each other some time away from the children can be of support to many especially if you have a high need child or children.  A reciprocal child-minding circle if your child is open to that and they don’t mind spending some time away from you can be great.  There are so many different ways to give and receive support.  Everyone needs a helping hand at some point in their life and we can all offer each other so much if we just reach out.  Happy homeschooling everyone J
Some good homeschooling support groups to start with are:-
Homeschool Australia at www.homeschoolaustralia.com
Unschool Australia at www.unschoolaustralia.com
SunnyHomeschool Support Hub at