Updated: Jan 29
(Make a cuppa - this one might take a while! Tips and freebie printable below!)
This morning my 17 year old son set his alarm for 5:30am so he could drive his dad to work. Willingly.
I offered to do it but he wanted to. Honestly, I was grateful for the extra half hour to lie in bed, my body aching from an SLE Lupus flare that I'm currently in.
When he got back, Liji began his morning getting himself ready for work (having taken a detour via Maccas), doing his daily chores and made me a coffee. We sat together in the early morning light on our back deck reading the second last chapter aloud of a beautiful book we've been working through (NATHAN CLARKSON'S 'GOOD MAN'). He patted the dogs that had nestled in at his feet and I read aloud as cockatoos and wattle birds sang loudly as they flew over our heads.
Our 16 year old son was up and getting himself breakfast too, also readying himself for work. He'd made sure he had a clean uniform and remembered to grab and fill out some paper work he'd been asked to return to the office.
Both boys came to kiss me goodbye and give me a cuddle. I blessed them both before they left, praying aloud that God would be with them in their day, giving them strength and energy to get through. I thanked Him for them both and for the young men they are. Each one snuggled in for a hug into the crook of my neck - one on the left and one on the right hand side.
I walked with them out the front as they got into Liji's car and sang out their goodbyes to me. I watched them leave and felt the emotions washing over me. I felt proud of them and happy. I felt wistful that the younger years have somehow slipped away into this next season of growth and independence but equally, so grateful that I've been able to watch them grow and change and learn and become.
But this morning, I waved them off and wondered: how did we get here?
Obviously, by God's grace first and foremost. I still don't feel like I know enough about parenting or homeschooling or just life in general for that matter and yet here we are. His grace and wisdom with a mix of trial and error and a lot of forgiving ourselves and each other has been our starting point. And our returning-to point.
And don't get me wrong, I am a big believer in that you can do all the 'right' things and still have a teen who doesn't want a bar of you. That is their journey and one that I know is not an easy one to walk. So please know that I'm not wanting to sound arrogant or as if our lives are all perfect. But I do want to share some of our experiences with you.
When we first started homeschooling, even before we'd officially begun, people told me that we'd be doing our kids a disservice to homeschool them because we would be denying them the opportunity to experience 'real life'.
I was told they'd be socially stunted, they'd not be able to relate to people.
Even WE worried about them not being able to get into uni or tertiary education if they wished and wondered if they'd be able to get jobs or if we would have ruined their chances.
As the journey started, friends and family could see that the kids were learning lots of interesting things, were certainly not anti-social, were actually enjoying what they were learning and were becoming great communicators (mostly lol).
But time and time again, people asked us if we were going to keep homeschooling through the high school years.
Actually many people phrased it more like this, "homeschooling through primary school is lovely but they'd need a proper education for high school wouldn't they?'
'Proper education' as opposed to what we'd been providing them already?!
I once too held that view.
But I can tell you now, having homeschooled three teens through high school that they DEFINITELY received a 'proper' education through these years and have gone on to successfully graduate year 10, hold down jobs, have all enrolled in further education and more importantly, have become healthy, happy, contributing members of our family and community.
Back to the question: how did we get here?
Other than grace and wisdom not our own, trial and error and lots of apologies, tears and hugs, we got here by continuing on the path that we had already been on.
We got here by sticking to our vision. Even when we had crappy days. Even when we had hard seasons. Even through all our frustrations. Even with all our anxieties and illnesses and fatigue and fights and ups and downs. Even when we had to be reminded by our family and friends who held us accountable to our plan.
We stuck to the bigger picture. Vision or the bigger picture doesn't have to be some pie in the sky idea. It's a goal. It's what you'd ideally like to see happen and it has acted for us as an anchor.
HAVE YOU GOT A VISION FOR YOUR FAMILY?
FOR YOUR HOMESCHOOL?
Let me be clear. Whilst these ideas were sparked by our homeschooling journey, they are not limited to homeschooling families. Any family can have a vision for what they want their journey to look it.
Ours looked/looks like this:
We always wanted our kids to become who they were made to be.
We wanted to give them time and space to work out what made them tick and what they struggled with.
We wanted to facilitate their learning and let them explore lots of different concepts, exposing them to great ideas, artists, creators, authors and have time in nature too.
We always wanted to give them a love of learning and for them to 'learn HOW to learn'. We knew that if they could do this, they'd basically be able to learn anything (well nearly anything!)
We wanted them to know God and to have a firm foundation of faith, self, community and family.
We wanted them to know that their voice mattered, their life mattered!
We wanted them to know we were here for them always.
Each day we had the chance to live this out (yep even through the not-so-good days). Check out the free printable below on which you can write your own vision!
We tried to observe them and see what their natural passions were. We then used that as a springboard for learning. We paired their passions with the Key Learning Area (KLA) outcomes.
One of our kiddos loved reading the classics. Another was completely passionate about Lego (and STILL is!). Another was a sports lover with a growing interest in IT. A fourth showed great entrepreneurial skills and another loves drawing cartoons and reading graphic novels. Instead of just insisting on them doing activities that frustrated them, were unrelatable and seemed boring to them, I tried to make readings and activities as relevant to them as much as I could.
For example, one child had read in the news about the White Island Volcano disaster and after some research, decided to build the process of eruption out of Lego in a four-sided model. It demonstrated his learning, cementing the ideas he'd read about independently but it also meant that he was spending time using his hands doing something that he enjoyed. He wrote about it too and when I asked him at dinner to share a few points with us, he was able to orally narrate back some of the key points that he had written down earlier in the day.
We gave choice and facilitated the learning as best we could, outsourcing where necessary in order to best help meet their needs.
The 11 year old child who showed entrepreneurial spirit was given the opportunity to sew some headbands and scrunchies as a project. Her nan helped her refine her skills. Eventually our daughter was able to put these items for sale in a local shop. Last year she branched out into mask making and made a lovely little profit for herself. Along the way she was able to troubleshoot issues she had, interacted with people in the local fabric store, worked through issues with sizing, hand wrote notes for orders, went to the post office and paid for postage and recorded her sales on an Excel spreadsheet she made, among other things. All of these fit into the KLA outcomes or stage statements, are amazing learning experiences but most importantly, use her natural bent toward entrepreneurialism to ENGAGE her and keep her learning! This is just one little example of being able to identify a child's interest and build on it.
We tried to make learning FUN (and where possible) EDIBLE!
Yep. For my kids, this was a hugely important MUST! They STILL talk about the fun we had explaining tectonic plate activity out of Oreo cookies or the edible double helix DNA strand we made out of snakes and marshmallows. They loved the edible plant cells we made using different candies for the organelles and baking the continents of the earth out of sugar cookies. We made gravity towers from marshmallows and dry spaghetti, phases of the moon by decorating cupcakes and pizzas as we learned about Italy. We had movie-watching parties after reading through a book together and finding the movie (discussing differences and similarities to the book as we went). We made recipes from books we'd read too like the spiced apple pie Ma made in Farmer Boy and the kids wrote them out in their own recipe books. We even did lots of gross things like dissecting a sheep's brain or a pig's eye that I got from the local butcher/abattoir. The kids were engaged in their learning (even when grossed out!) which made it memorable and an experience that we could then build on.
Maybe food isn't your kids (or your) thing!
But I guarantee you there is SOMETHING that is.
It might be gaming. It might be nature study or travel-school. It might be building or music or musical theatre or woodworking or mechanical work. It's really just about paying close enough attentio