Being homeschooled is a large part of my identity and eventually brought me to where I am now. Even so, I feel like I need to put a disclaimer on this post that I was not one of those homeschoolers. Y’know the ones, the ones that wear identical clothes made out of curtains(actually, we did do that once), and whose only friends are their own siblings.
I don’t think there was much doubt in my parents mind when it came to schooling, they were going to homeschool me(or home educate or unschool or whatever).
Everyone around them homeschooled and the church they attended at the time strongly promoted home education. As the first born, homeschooling was just a natural progression after teaching me to walk at 1, talk at 1 1/2 and read at 3.
In the small town I grew up in, the homeschoolers outnumbered public school students, and as such we had sports days and events together.
It was a very enjoyable homeschool environment. My cousins were homeschooled and lived next door, we had ski/snowboard camps, and generally just hung out with each other. I have many great memories of this time.
While ACE was the preferred program for most of my friends, I am thankful that I had the freedom to choose what worked for me and what didn’t. ACE came with the benefit of recognized accreditation, but personally I found it too formal and rigid. However, watching my (very Kiwi) friends attend the (very American) conventions every year bordered upon comical.
When someone asks me whether or not I enjoyed being homeschooled, I usually reply that I loved it until I was 13.
When I was 13 my dad got a new job and my parents decided to move. We moved from a rural town of 200 people in the South Island to a city of 1.4 million in the North Island. We left our friends, all our family and our support network. I hated not having my friends so close, I hated not having any extended family around and I hated being homeschooled. When we did seek out other homeschoolers, they were kinda weird and I felt excluded.
Moving meant I was forced to make friends and meet people who weren’t like me. The area we moved to has a large Maori/Pacific population, which was a very unusual environment but one I enjoyed being part of.
When I was 16, I lost all desire to do anymore schoolwork and my mum made me get a job. University was never a big priority, but if I had wanted to go, my parents would’ve supported me. At that time I had no idea what I wanted to do, so I worked. My first actual experience of studying outside of home was when I did a certificate in Christian Ministry at 18, which I loved.
A few years later, I was a nanny for two kids who went to school, leaving my days free. During this time, I volunteered to homeschool my brother. Teaching my brother proved to be quite the challenge. He needed constant, one-on-one supervision and would respond to some techniques one day and wouldn’t the next. He often needed things done in a particular way and liked each subject to be structured and timed. I found educating to be incredibly rewarding and watching him finally ‘get something’ was a great feeling. I found a welcome challenge in doing things differently to get the point across, and finding what worked and what didn’t. When we discovered that he has mild Asperger’s everything made sense.
I still had no idea what I wanted to do, so I saved up, quit my job and went travelling.
After my great experience overseas I realized how much much I love alternative education and working with kids, and enrolled in a TESOL course and a Teacher Aide course. I discovered an exciting world full of information about how we learn, different ways of understanding numeracy and the way grammar works.
I started working in a classroom alongside my course. It’s strange going to ‘school’ for the first time when you’re 23.
In October I landed a temporary job in Special Education, which I loved, because it was all about personal, one-on-one education.
The school has asked me to come back this year and I have decided to do a Diploma of Education Support.
I see the irony in being homeschooled and working in public schools, but because I was homeschooled I see the value in alternative education.