The stigma around homeschooling is decreasing and the number of parents around Australia choosing to educate their children from home is on the rise. With nearly 15 000 students registered nationally, and an even more estimated to be unregistered, parents are opting for home based education for a variety of reasons including lifestyle, special needs, disability, religion and bullying.
Among them is Kirstee Raki, mum of two and blogger at This Whole Home. A combination of family reasons and her son’s unique learning needs lead her to start homeschooling in 2015. Passionate about providing her children with a quality holistic education, Kirstee is a wealth of knowledge on all things homeschooling, so we asked her to give us the low down.
What is the difference between homeschooling and unschooling?
There are lots of different ways to homeschool. Some people are traditional, preferring the textbooks and worksheets we know from our own time at school. On the opposite end of the scale, some families prefer unschooling. This is a completely child-led form of education where the parent is more of a partner or facilitator in the child’s learning, rather than the leader. The kids get to decide what, when and how they learn. It’s just one type of educational philosophy. There are many other educational philosophies and each of these gives parents a guideline for what and how to teach. In my home we are a Waldorf-inspired family, like an at-home version of Steiner school education. I love that it offers a holistic model for living and learning, not just a focus on academics.
What do you think the biggest benefit of homeschooling is for your children?
Where do I start? I feel like every aspect of our life as a family, and my children’s lives in particular, has changed for the better since we made the move to home education. Our days aren’t rushed any more, so no tired and cranky kids and frazzled mum now. That’s a huge bonus! I think the biggest benefit for them is that they have the opportunity to learn in a relaxed environment, and that they have their lessons tailor-made to them.
Is it a lot of hard work on your part?
Yes and no. I spend a lot of time planning and researching to make sure I am providing the best education I can. But the day to day is pretty easy now that we have a rhythm going and I’ve become comfortable and confident with this new role. The kids know what to expect, so we get in, get it done and then have a lot of free time to do what we want. Homeschooling doesn’t take up anywhere near as much time as conventional schooling. And without lunches, uniforms, homework and all the rest that comes with school life, I actually think homeschooling is the easier option for me personally.
A lot of people see homeschooling as isolating for kids. Do you think your children miss out socially?
Honestly, this was a concern for me before we started too. Especially because my eldest and I are both naturally introverted. So I was a bit shocked when it dawned on me that the biggest issue we were having in our homeschool is that we were over-scheduled with social activities! Home education is a popular choice in our area and there are several different activities on every single day of the week. The hard part is narrowing it down so we have enough time to get our book work done too.
Some of my kid’s favourite activities from over the last year include a weekly farm school, our hiking and nature studies group, science classes, drama classes, and there have been countless park plays and beach days with our homeschool group too. We also have several homeschool group camps coming up soon that we are really looking forward to.
What other misconceptions do you come across being a homeschooler?
I think a couple of the biggest misconceptions, outside of the socialisation issue, centre around the reasons people homeschool and what it is that we do all day. There seems to be this idea in the wider community that most home educating families are fundamentalist Christians who are trying to shelter their children. This may have been more common in the past, but most families I know choose homeschooling either because of the freedom it affords their families, or because the school system wasn’t working out for their kids. Issues like ASD, anxiety or bullying are common reasons for parents to choose home education. As for what we do all day, people either seem to think that our kids spend all day doing nothing, or the exact opposite, that they spend 6 hours around the kitchen table with text books. Most families I know balance books with hands on learning and real life experiences. It’s really a vibrant way to live and learn.
Where can someone interested in homeschooling find out more?
Home education is legal in all Australian states and territories, but each has its own rules. The best place to start is by looking up the governing body for your state. That way you will know you are getting the right information for where you live. I also recommend getting in touch with homeschooling families in your local area. Facebook is wonderful for this. While you’re at it, check out ‘The Educating Parents Homeschooling and Unschooling’ group on Facebook. It’s been set up for newcomers to ask advice from more experienced parents.
Here are some relevant government websites to get you started: