Homeschooling With The "Murphy Town Movers"!

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Homeschooling With The Murphy Town Movers


Homeschooling With The "Murphy Town Movers"!

By   and Mandy

Today, there are many families choosing the option of being responsible for their children's education themselves, and taking a homeschooling path.  That's real localisation!  And an opportunity for families to learn together, in real life, as it happens.  

The reasons people decide to homeschool are as varied as the families themselves, as are the ways in which they structure their learning.  For most, the positive changes they see in their children, and the enthusiasm displayed for learning and discovery, are well worth the time and effort put into it.

Mandy, a home educating mum of 2 boys, shares with us her thoughts and experiences of their homeschooling journey.  

Tell us Mandy, how long have you been home schooling?

Only for 3 years.  Since my eldest was 5 1/2 yrs.  It does feel like a lifetime, because it is our way of life.

How did you first hear about homeschooling?

I'm really not too sure.  What I do remember is ringing up the Education Department to find out what I have to do, because we had decided to homeschool and then contacting some other homeschooling families from the list provided by the Department and from there being pointed to the SA Yahoo home ed groups.  It all just seemed to fall into place.

What made you decide to homeschool?

Even before my eldest went to kindy I was talking with hubby about schooling him ourselves.  I didn't like the idea of complete strangers teaching my child and being with them more hours of the day than I was.  I was concerned about influences that may not be positive and also about my child's safety.

My eldest did go to kindy (where I went when I was kindy age) and had 3 half days a week there.  4 half days or 2 full days were encouraged but I didn't like that idea.  We were the last to get to kindy in the mornings and the first to pick up at lunch time so he was only there a total of 2 hours instead of the 3.  I was lucky that the teachers liked parent participation because I did stay quite a few times.  The teachers were nice and he seemed to be enjoying it so we went with the flow to a year in Reception.

He was put into a Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 class and I got to know the teacher very well.  She had the same family values and morals as us so that was a bonus.  I spent quite a bit of time at the school getting to know every teacher that my son had and to see how they were with the children.  Some I weren't overly happy with but I'm sure they weren't happy with me being there either.  I must have been the parent from hell.  Most of the parents would just drop their children off and run but I would always linger until I was almost pushed out.  Also having a young toddler who liked to sleep in in the mornings we were always late as I wasn't going to wake him up.  As with kindy we were always last there and first to pick up.  At pick up time I would talk to the teacher about my son's day so that I knew what they did.  If the temperature was 35 degrees or over my eldest didn't go to school.  Also if it was one of our birthdays he didn't go to school either because we always went out bush for our birthdays.

I noticed a change in my son's personality.  He was picking up behaviour that he had never displayed before (and I had an idea what children were influencing him) and he turned very serious.  He was always quite precise about his work and liked to take his time to complete things properly but was never able to complete most of the activities at school.  I would always bring them home and we would do them there taking them to school the next day for show and tell.  He was always exhausted when he came home from school and there was very little time for us to all do fun stuff together.  Plus his brother and I missed him throughout the day as he missed us.

After the 3rd term I thought I could do this better than what he was getting at school and after seeing one of the older boys being physical with the reception children that was it.  I talked with hubby who said go for it and we talked with our sons.  Both were excited about the idea and so while I was organising myself, the paperwork, etc my eldest finished the last term off in Reception and we really didn't bother too much about how many days he had off that term or how late we were.  I spoke to his main teacher who encouraged me and the other teachers thought I was plain weird.  The principal was very supportive and understanding.  My son would excitedly tell everyone that he was not coming back to school.  His friends at school were confused and couldn't understand that they wouldn't be seeing him next term.  I did talk to my son about the friends he had made and his attitude was I'll see them around and make new friends.  How right he was!  We have never looked back!

What kind of homeschooling approach/es do you follow?

Well, the first 3 months was unit studies where we sort of replicated school but at home with a curriculum and worksheets I had put together from free internet sites, books etc.  This didn't go down too well, with constant battles to do worksheets and 'learn'.  Then I watched how my children played and worked out that they are more hands-on learners.  So as soon as I eased up on the worksheets and we started attending excursions, our own outings and group activities, my boys learnt in leaps and bounds.  We do a large amount of 'oral' learning through discussion and questions, loads of excursions and socialisation and some worksheets thrown in to clear up some storage space.  (I had put together enough worksheets to cover their first 4 years of schooling, that's how organised and sure of what homeschooling method I was going to use!)  So I suppose you would call us mainly natural learning, we do take advantage of every opportunity.

Tell us about what you might do in a typical week.

A typical week would include:

Monday - attend to animals (we are wildlife carers), get any babies ready to take out with us, attending the Northern Adelaide Home Learners Group, our family delivering my eldest son's catalogue round of 700 houses! Aaaggh.

Tuesday - attend to animals, either Waratah Adventurers outing or visit to the block, eldest son's swimming lesson, finish delivering his catalogues.

Wednesday - still at the block (home late at night) or local farmers market.

Thursday - attend to animals, catching up with shopping, meeting up with 3 other families to help out at one of our houses (cleaning, gardening, baby sitting), or out in the field with our business.

Friday - attend to animals, library and my youngest son's swimming lesson, sometimes one of Nina's (another homeschooler) Friday excursions.

Saturday - attend to animals, out in the field with our business.

Sunday - attend to animals, boys day of rest.
Of course not all these activities take all day so there is some time for 'learning', playing with the animals, pursuing interests and hobbies (for the boys) and general chill out time.

What clubs, groups, outside lessons etc do your kids go to?

The boys have swimming lessons once a week.

We attend regularly the Northern Adelaide Home Learners group on Monday and the Waratah Adventurers group on alternate Tuesdays.

We have been going to Auslan lessons in Stepney which is a 4 week course.

We are also members of the Friends of Para Wirra and Fauna Rescue.

My boys did belly dance for 1 term, my eldest did Zumbatomic (which he may be going back to) for 1 term and Fitness for Kids for 2 terms.  They are allowed to pick an extra activity to go with their swimming each term if they want to.

My eldest wants to learn how to spin on my spinning wheel so we will be doing lessons together.
The benefits of homeschooling is that whatever my boys show an interest in, we can learn it, regardless if it is in the curriculum or not.

I believe your boys help with your business. Tell us a little bit about that, and what you feel they gain from this experience.

We run our own Environmental Business full time and it is nice to have the freedom with no time restraints as to when we can work out in the field.  It is very nice having the boys come out with us to experience what we do and why we do it.  The boys get to see parts of the bush that most people don't even know exists.  They come along when we do quotes and are getting extremely good at identifying certain weeds that we are targeting.  Not just that, they are also remembering the names of other weeds and native flora.  

When they are unable to help or not interested in helping, they play their outside games, explore or read.  I pack snacks and picnic lunches for those times we are out for the whole day.  They also earn pocket money when they help us with planting, tree-guarding and/or removal and looking for the targeted weed.  We also prepare Management Plans, and do weed control using minimal disturbance techniques such as cutting and swabbing, drilling and filling, hand pulling and careful spot spraying.  We do not perform any broad scale spraying, but specialise in smaller contracts amongst native bushland where more sensitive work is required.  Our boys have such a fantastic understanding of ecosystems, weeds and pests, native flora and fauna, disturbances and impacts and on top of that have a lot of fresh air and exercise.  We are very lucky to be able to share all of this with our sons and get paid doing it.

How does home education fit in with your environmental values and goals, and how does it help your kids develop in those ways?

We have the freedom to go exploring in the bush, care for wildlife, work out at our block without any time restraints and negative influences from others.  The environment plays an extremely large part in our lives and if our children attended school, their respect and love of the bush may diminish due to other ideas and demands being placed on their time.  We do not believe in following any trends, which would be almost impossible to continue were they in a school situation.  We are very down to earth (daggy we have been called), environmentally conscious people who are striving to be self sufficient (as much as you can be) and going to a back to basics lifestyle.  None of this would be achievable if we didn't homeschool.

How do you see your boys blossoming with homeschooling and what advantages does it seem to have for your family?

Homeschooling has given my boys the confidence to try new things, regardless if you can do them or not, and in communicating with all ages.  They are given the freedom to pursue interests which increases their interest in learning and time to work things out for themselves in a safe, loving environment.  There are so many advantages.  Not having specific bedtimes because of getting up early for school the next day is a definite bonus.  We can deliver catalogues until late (especially with summer and day light savings) and enjoy the quietness of the night.  We can get home at 11.30 at night from the block.  We just take things a bit slower the next day.  The boys can play with Lego all day.  We can play with friends all day.  My eldest can read in bed for half the morning, it really doesn't matter.  Our time is really our own.

Has homeschooling lived up to your hopes/ expectations?  Has it been different to what you expected?

I did think that homeschooling would be a lot harder than it is.  Especially the way I had designed the curriculum and paper work.  But after relaxing for the past 2 1/2 years I have found it to be very rewarding and enjoyable.  Occasionally there are panic times where I'm questioning what they are actually learning and if they are learning enough for their age level, but these are definitely declining as I become more confident.  I didn't expect to enjoy learning so much myself, but as a homeschooling parent you really do learn with your children.  Unfortunately it just shows me what a slow learner I am when my boys pick things up so quickly.

Anything else you wish to say?

If you are thinking about homeschooling, try it!  The registration process can seem very difficult and daunting but really it isn't.  The Department are not the enemy and the review officers have either homeschooled their children or are pro homeschooling.  If for whatever reason homeschooling doesn't work out for you or your child/ren then school is still available.  Give homeschooling a chance for 12 months as this is the teething period where we all have our doubts and question what we are doing.  It is worth it though.

Thanks so much Mandy for your insight, and for giving us a glimpse into your homeschooling life.  It sounds very rich and your boys must certainly benefit from their experiences, and develop a love and respect for nature from so much time soaking it up!


Home Education Association Info If you think a homeschooling journey might be the right direction for your family, there are homeschooling groups throughout Australia... and the world! 
The Home Education Association is a good place to start for information and to locate local contacts.

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