6 April 2020

Tips from the experienced home-schoolers as the COVID crisis rolls on

| Alex Rea
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Group of home school students sitting on forest floor.

Homeschoolers meet up for a day at Monga National Park near Braidwood before the COVID-19 crisis. Photo: Judy Knowles.

School closures due to COVID-19 were met with mixed responses by parents who are now responsible for homeschooling their kids.

While the shock of that shift might be hard for many parents, others have rich experience to share, garnered from years of homeschooling.

According to the NSW Education Standards Authority, in 2018 there were 5429 students homeschooling in NSW, (an increase of more than 15 per cent on the previous year), of which 83 were 17-years-olds in their final year.

Braidwood homeschooling mother Judy Knowles says, “I’m hugely relieved that schools have been shut down and I know this will be difficult for many people, but this is the safest option in my opinion.”

With four kids aged 8, 13, 16 and 19, Judy adds, “I’ve been homeschooling for 11 years since my oldest was eight. It’s both challenging and rewarding.

“There are days I feel like the luckiest mum on the planet, and [other] times I think I’m crazy to be doing it this way. It is ultimately a lifestyle choice. We don’t have two incomes and have to live pretty simply.

“As far as what people are going to be dealing with now that schools are closed will depend on how each school approaches it. For most people, it will look more like distance ed, with schoolwork being sent home and online linkups with teachers.

Young child River Parsons planting seeds in pot.

Student River Parsons planting seedlings as part of homeschooling. Photo: Judy Knowles.

“The reality of homeschooling is you are on your own to set lesson plans and decide how, when and what will happen. You need to chase up all your own activities and resources, and many families belong to a local, state or national support group to help them with these aspects. Belonging to these groups also means you get discounts for many online education subscriptions.

“I guess my main advice for families at this time would be to look at this as an opportunity to spend time just hanging out as a family,” she adds.

“Many parents may feel pressured to make sure their children get through a certain amount of workload similar to what they would if they were at school. Under the circumstances, so many of us are under stress, including children. I would take a gentle approach and allow a least a couple of days of adjustment and processing for everyone.

“This is actually a great time for life lessons and for children to learn how we have to be adaptable and to understand that being adaptable is key to survival for any species on the planet.

“Learning happens all the time and in so many different and subtle ways. Be observant, be present and be honest about what you will achieve as the temporary teacher. Don’t be unrealistic and don’t add any more stress on yourself as a parent by expecting to suddenly fill the role of schoolteacher.”

Former homeschoolers Billie Dean and Andrew Einspruch also live outside Braidwood and enjoyed the experience with their daughter, Tamsin.

Tamsin Dean Einspruch, left, and Andrew Einspruch, right, smiling at camera.

Tamsin Dean Einspruch and Andrew Einspruch on their family animal sanctuary near Braidwood. Photo: Tamsin Dean Einspruch.

“We homeschooled right through and loved every minute of it,” says Billie. “It gives a family a chance to bond deeply and it can be a rich and rewarding experience. We’re currently in a time of crisis and it’s important that children feel heard, so instead of thinking it’s school as normal, let them be involved in everyday activities and problem-solving.

“Sometimes they can come up with a unique perspective and it gives them a sense of self-esteem to be heard. You may be pleasantly surprised! Every child is different in the way they learn. For example, some need movement, some need stories. Discovering what your children are really passionate about right now and helping them explore that gives a really strong foundation to the homeschooling experience.

“The other big thing for parents is to take the stress off themselves. Children are like sponges; they learn so much more than we think they do just by absorbing daily activities and following passions. You won’t fail them. Remember, humans have been on the planet for a very long time, but formal education in schools for only about 130 years.”

Billie’s closing advice for parents is simple.

“Make it fun and make this time about family bonding, memorable experiences, following passions and inviting them to help come up with creative and inventive ways through this current challenge. Enjoy!”

The NSW Department of Education also has online advice for parents and carers about learning from home.

NSW Department of Education remote learning guidelines list.

The NSW Department of Education remote learning guide for students and parents. Courtesy: NSW Department of Education.

There are plenty of online homeschooling groups. Try Facebook page School@Home due to Virus & School Closures In Australia.

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Peter Coggan7:30 pm 13 Apr 20

Do homeschoolers have to register & provide curriculum documents that comply with NSW Department of Education standards ? Attendance at school is compulsory (ref. Peter Board 1888 Education Act ) & unless parents apply to be homeschoolers & are approved they are committing a criminal offence one would think? Truancy is as far as I am aware also illegal & parents of children who do not attend school are liable with charges/penalties likely to be enforced ? Responsibilities & accountability go hand in hand with homeschooling ; it’s not just “all fun & skittles “! Schools are more than child minding centres & teachers are professionals trained to teach . All parents are not trained teachers nor are
they qualified to be teachers or homeschoolers . There are far reaching ramifications for mass
homeschooling paradigms. More to this than meets the 👁! pc

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