It Takes a Community
Twenty five years ago my mother began home educating my younger siblings, this was a pivotal time to be home educating in NSW, Australia. Home education was little known and illegal, my mum fought for rights that her children and in turn her grandchildren have enjoyed. A couple of years after mum made this brave decision, the political climate in NSW changed and we won the right to home educate. Our freedom to home educate is not something I ever take for granted having been right there on the front of the trenches, seeing ‘the good fight fought.’
Shortly after these changes the home education movement saw a boom and obviously my mum was a huge supporter of new home educators, helping them in submitting paperwork and empowering families in a ‘brave new world.’ At a grass roots level I saw the difference that support made and the importance of a network not only for parents but for children whose common tie in those days was to be different to mainstream society.
As a teenager I was privileged to participate with this dynamic home education support group, it had a synergy that I haven’t felt since, perhaps it was the newness of the home education movement, perhaps it was the location of the group. The Far North Coast was certainly a unique area to live and our group reflected this with a wonderfully diverse group of families from all walks of life; alternative lifestylers(hippies), secular, staunch Protestants, more relaxed Christians and a couple of Catholic families, it was a real melting pot and an exciting time.
When PC and I married we ‘set up house’ in a country town, after giving birth to our first and already committed to home education we set out to find families who were also committed to home education. Thus began our journey of, ‘if there isn’t a group, form one’, we began with a couple of other families, all with newborns and toddlers. This was a special time, to share our parenting journey with little ones and our theories. Oh we had lots of theories and ideals, in time life was to test many theories;)
A couple of years later we moved to our current rural ‘city’ (pop. 20,000) and in the early years became involved in a couple of different support groups. At this stage we had two/three little ones all still under offical school age. The first group we joined was comprised of unschoolers who also lived in alternative lifestyles and we found this to be a group with dynamic energies and exciting ideas, to participate in this group we had to travel distances but it was the highlight of our fortnight. As our children grew older a few other families in our town expressed interest in home education and thus began the nucleus for the current group to which we belong. Later on, for a short period we also traveled South to meet up with a group from the next city.
Our whole family has benefited greatly over the years from participating in home education support groups, not only have our children made friends but so too have we as parents and we have found invaluable support in a journey that is counter culture. We have all had opportunities to develop and hone social skills, a necessity that is all important. Group numbers have also allowed us to participate in opportunities that would not otherwise have been available; excursions, sporting events, concerts and educational to name a few. Most importantly though, participating in a home education support group has given us a sense of identity, to realise we are ‘not the only ones’ to live a lifestyle that is still quite different in rural Australia, it has given us a community.
This post is part of the Homeschool Help Series, I am honoured to be joining a team of awesome writers, feel free to click on the links below to see whether other families choose to participate in Home Education Support Groups or Not? Next week we will be chatting about Science.
Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses – Homeschool Support
I will always be a member of a homeschool group.
Lucinda @ Navigating By Joy – Why I’m Glad We Joined Our Local Homeschool Group (Even Though We No Longer Go)
Hi, Erin! I enjoyed this post very much. Your mother was a brave pioneer, wasn't she?
We only homeschooled one of our sons (the youngest) and only for five years (from 4th through 8th grade)–but it was wonderful! Before that, we had always been happy with the experience our four older boys had had at our local Catholic grade school, but changes in the school drove our decision to homeschool our baby. If I'd known way back how great it would be, I might have decided to homeschool the whole bunch.
Our state was very homeschooling-friendly by the time my husband and I did it, but I know years ago homeschoolers here faced lots of challenges–some were even jailed. Thank God for those brave people, like your mom, who were willing to fight for parents' rights to educate their own children the way they saw fit!
Way to go mum for helping to get homeschooling made legal and to you for starting a group.
I always find it fascinating to read about the "homeschooling pioneers". Kudos to them for braving it when it was even less common today–and without internet!!
Lula B @ NavigatingByJoy.com
How fascinating! I love hearing about the history and geography of home education. Like Theresa, I have so much respect for those homeschool pioneers. I can't imagine what things must have been like for them!
Yes I'm rather proud of my mum, and so in awe of our brave pioneers. It was tough, very tough, I haven't forgotten those years at all.