I thought it would be interesting to invite my eldest to have a little interview about looking back on her years being a homeschooled child.
Me: What do you want to chat about?
Stassi: I don't know it's your blog. Wow this is going well so far. Leave that in hahaha.
Me: Ok, so tell us a bit about who you are and where you're at right now please.
Stassi: My name is Stassi and I am 18 years old and the eldest of 5 homeschooled children. I'm currently studying a Bachelor of Arts in Librarianship and Corporate Information Management. I went to traditional school for Kindergarten and Year One (until the last term) and then I was homeschooled from then.
Me: So you were homeschooled for many years. What are some of the things you liked about being homeschooled?
Stassi: I really loved being able to set my own pace for learning things. I'm a self-motivated learner so I loved being able to get my weekly tasks done and then I'd have lots of spare time to read. This has set me up well for my current studies because they are done via correspondence and I've learned to work without someone looking over my shoulder and giving me time constraints.
Homeschooling allowed me time to pursue my interests. For example, a few years ago I was really interested in the life and history of American President JFK. I started reading excessive amounts of books on anything Kennedy-related and Mum and Dad used this interest to meet the requirements for my learning program. I wrote several essays on JFK, I went to see an official JFK touring photographic exhibition, I went to Canberra to watch the Chappaquiddick film and spent many hours discussing JFK's life and death with my Aunt who had been to the Book Depository and the Grassy Knoll and had really sparked my interest in it all after returning from a trip to the US. I guess this is just one example of how homeschooling allowed me the chance to pursue my interests and satisfy my curiosity in learning about things that piqued my interest.
Although I'm a book-learner, I appreciated breaking that up with chunks of hands-on-learning.
Science experiments (especially if it was edible science!), cooking, textiles work, learning through songs, making things, art and history appreciation, nature walks, learning through video platforms....these were all things that helped cement learning outside of a traditional 'classroom' setting.
Imaginative play was also a big part of my homeschool experience.
Me: What about challenges? Were there things you found really hard about homeschooling?
Stassi: We have a neurodiverse family which means that we have multiple people with differing needs and diagnoses. At times, this has been really challenging because as a neurotypical person I see things differently to how many of my siblings see things. This isn't a bad thing but it is about recognising and honouring the different needs we all have. As an introvert, I feel the need to withdraw and recharge my batteries in quiet spaces. This is a challenge because the rest of my siblings aren't really introverts and are generally speaking quite loud and boisterous. This has changed now that I'm a bit older and have more of an outlet and the freedom of going places like work and youth council etc but when I wasn't able to drive or just get out of the space of the house, this was really challenging especially when kids were having meltdowns. Even though there were challenges being a part of a neurodiverse family, it helped build empathy and compassion in me and I'd really like to specifically help dyslexic kids in libraries at some point.
Another challenge that I've faced is people constantly asking me about socialisation. The regular questions and the stigma around homeschooling kids not having friends is pretty exhausting. What they don't see are the close relationships within my own family as well as connections and friendships made within my community (with kids and adults) through activities over the years like sports clubs, youth council, homeschool groups, home church, workshops I've attended and run and everyday interactions. My number one top tip is please don't assume homeschoolers don't have friends!
Me: How do you feel homeschooling looked out for your mental, physical, spiritual, emotional health?
Stassi: Mental health wise, if I ever felt overwhelmed or burdened by the amount of 'school' work I had, I could always take a break from it. Usually it was ten minutes to an hour but sometimes it was a week if that's what was needed. I'm a big believer that you NEVER stop learning and unconventional methods (what we call 'every day life learning') is still learning! While I was reading, I was learning. While I was cooking, I was still learning. When I was doing chores or writing out a shopping list, I was still learning. Life skills are never wasted.
When I was diagnosed with a rare chronic blood disease (ITP) that required hospitalisation and intense medical interventions, I had no pressure to 'keep up' with school work and compete against others. I was able to be in a hospital bed and just focus on getting well. (This photo is of me with a blanket I'd crocheted and took with me to hospital when I was sick).
Spiritually, my faith is a big part of my life. I was able to weave my interest in Biblical studies into my learning journey. Prayer helped a lot when i was sick and when I was struggling mentally with things, having time to bring that to God was helpful.
Emotionally, I would say I am a very emotional human being. I feel things deeply so being able to connect with great ideas, hypothesise and theorise about the world and my place in it has helped to fill my cup up. This probably ties into mental health as well but being homeschooled removed peer-pressure and confidence issues that I potentially would have had at school. Homeschooling allowed me to express my individuality without fear of judgement from others.
Me: So you finished high school studies at home. How did getting into UNI and finishing year 10 work out for you?
Stassi: I got to the point when I was about 15 that I wanted more challenging work and so Mum and Dad helped me enroll in some (what were then called) Prep Units through Open University Australia (OUA). I completed a couple of these and then decided to take a humanities pathway to begin the BA Librarianship degree. I got my Certificate of Completion for year 10 (this involved a NESA officer coming to our home to check on the work I had done for year 10 to make sure it complied with their standard for completion) and was studying part-time at UNI to ease myself in whilst working casually and helping out on our local youth council. Now I'm a full-time UNI student, have completed one of my pracs and have one to go. I should finish my degree early 2021.
Me: Best stand out homeschooling memories, experiences or visits?
Stassi: Going to see Les Miserables, the State Library and the Art Gallery of NSW one weekend when I was 13 - that was awesome and it was just one weekend hahaha! Just in general, going to art galleries, cafes, museums, going on field trips to Questacon, getting to do heaps of edible science experiments, read alouds as a family, watching a heap of crash course episodes and as I've gotten older, listening to audiobooks and podcasts too.
Me: Is there anything else you'd like to add about your journey as a homeschooler Stass?
Stassi: Homeschooling is not for everyone but it definitely worked for me. I'm grateful I had the chance to experience both traditional schooling and homeschooling and for the many memories, life skills and experiences I've had because of homeschooling.
Mum: The end hahaha. That was great. Thanks Stass love you kiddo.
Stass: Thanks Mum. Love you too.