Thursday, September 27, 2012

Why Mainstream School Isn't Always The Right Fit - My Story

mainstream school and homeschooling

I went to a lovely private school from prep through to year 12. I loved high school but primary school was a different story.  I'm strong-willed and independent and a little feisty. I think a lot and question things. I also get bored if I'm not challenged and I like to daydream. My personality and temperament did not mesh well with the small conservative Christian school I attended.

Just recently, I had the opportunity to meet with my old primary school principal.

Did he remember me? Oh yes. How could he forget?

As we chatted he said, "I always knew you would be successful. You were just too big for such a conservative school. It wasn't a good fit for you." Another person encouraged me by saying "Isn't amazing how all those weaknesses we saw in you turned out to be strengths?". Beautiful words. But how I wished someone had said that to me at the time.

All I remember from primary school was being labelled a troublemaker, difficult, mischievous, defiant and outspoken. I spent most of those early school years feeling like something was wrong with me. It turned out I was intellectually gifted but who knew? Certainly not me who had been told by more than one teacher that I wasn't as smart as other children, was too much of a daydreamer and was never working to my potential.

 " wasn't a  good fit for you"....

Mainstream schools cater for the 'average' child. I wasn't average.

The stories I hear from parents whose children struggle in school are not average. They either have learning difficulties, are gifted or just don't enjoy the structure, rigidity or negative social pressures of the school environment. These kids muck around, are disruptive and difficult but it's not that they don't want to learn - it's just that mainstream school doesn't provide them with the right kind of learning environment. It doesn't suit them. Mainstream school works for some but not for all. It's like trying to shove a triangle into a square hole - sometimes it's just not the right fit.

These 'not-so-average' kids end up like me, believing there is something wrong with them as they see themselves as a source of frustration for teachers and disappointment for their parents purely because they don't fit in the neat little box that we call 'average'.

But..there is nothing wrong with these kids. There was (is) nothing wrong with me. Kids like me need to be encouraged and accepted. They need to be told that they have unique strengths, gifts, abilities and that it's okay to be different - because it is. 

 "Your weaknesses turned out to be strengths!"

My parents were constantly telling me I was smart, funny, talented and creative but their words were drowned out by the teachers that influenced me six hours a day, 5 days a week for 12 years.

In the book "raising your spirited child" by Mary Sheedy-Kurcinka it says we have to change our frame of reference as weaknesses can easily be turned into strengths. Often the qualities we despise in children are ones we admire and respect in adults.

Weird = Unique

Defiant = Strong and assertive

Daydreamer = Deep thinker

Outspoken = Confident communicator

When I look at my own children I see children who are far from average. I know school isn't the right fit for them and that's okay. Homeschooling works for us. It enables my kids to be set free from comparisons, competition and pressures to conform to the 'average'.

Homeschooling has been the option that has worked for us when school just 'wasnt the right fit'.

Friday, September 21, 2012

First Day Of Homeschool For DS5

Yesterday was DS5's first official day of homeschooling after he graduated from kindy on Thursday and turned 5 in August.

It was a day that once again confirmed to me and the kids that homeschooling offers us a lifestyle that is just, well, fun!

The morning began with a circkidz workshop. This was organised by the homeschool network. About 25 children met together to engage in different activities like trampolining, trapeze and tightrope. The staff worked beautifully to both encourage and challenge the kids to take risks and develop their physical skills.

DS5 was one of the younger kids but has such a positive attitude. How I wish I could be more like him! He just persists and keeps trying even though he was one of the younger, smaller kids there and some of the tasks were quite challenging.

We went home for lunch then it was back out for some homeschool swimming lessons. This was DS5's very first swimming lesson and once again I was just so proud of him as despite being a little fearful he gave it a go. He followed every instruction and attempted every task offered him even putting his head under water which I know would have been scary for him.

I love that as a homeschooling parent I get to see his character develop.

I don't want to miss a thing!


I'm excited and a little nervous about homeschooling 2 boys at once. This will no doubt produce new challenges and new adventures for all of us which I will continue to share.

Welcome to homeschool DS5!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Teaching Compassion

I don't really know how you teach compassion. I believe some children in their little personalities and temperaments are more compassionate than others. Toddlers who are highly sensitive seem to grow into more compassionate children and adults. However, it is such an important character trait that it can't be something we just leave us to 'nature' to build (or not) in our children.

Children learn from us

The other day I found out that one of my friends had cancer. I heard the news and in complete devastation burst in to tears. The kids were in the room. My eldest became concerned and asked me why I was crying. I told him that I felt sad that my friend was sick because it would mean life would be really hard for her for a while. He looked at me and said "It's nice you're crying for your friend". I love my kids! 

Similarly, my boys have seen me stop to help someone or talk to someone who might be perceived as a bit um, weird. One of my son's asked me "Why do you always talk to people you don't know?" after I had stopped and had a conversation with an elderly lady at the supermarket. I saw that as my opportunity to tell him that sometimes people might be lonely or sad and it can make them feel better if we take the time to chat with them and show kindness to them. I know that I learnt from my mother who was (and still is) amazing in how she always takes time to chat with anyone and everyone.

I try to be mindful that my kids are watching us! My husband is in the Philippines at the moment so it has been a great lesson for the kids in so many ways. But one of those is in compassion. Why has daddy gone to the Philippines? What's he doing there? Yes,  he's helping kids who don't always get to have food. That is only part of it but hopefully something that my young children can understand.

Children learn from each other

My 5yo is a completely different personality to my eldest. My eldest is naturally sensitive and compassionate and most of the time, considerate of others. DS2 is the opposite. I have had to tell him. "If you hurt someone, even if it's an accident, the right thing to do is ask if they are okay!". I taught him to be compassionate (even if it doesn't come naturally). He now does this regularly if he sees someone hurt or sad. I've watched my youngest observe this and start to do it also by asking his big brothers if they are okay if he sees them upset. 

Children learn from each other. 

Compassion is something that comes naturally to me and I find it difficult and a bit confronting when others don't share my view. I want to make sure my children are raised knowing that caring for others, even so deeply that it sometimes hurts, is better than being cold and indifferent. 

Compassion is a character trait that I want to instill in my children!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

A Simple Activity To Keep Toddlers Happy - Matching Bingo


One thing I've found challenging with homeschooling is keeping my just turned 3 year old occupied. He is well aware that he is not doing the same thing as his siblings and will throw a tantrum once he realises. He needs his own work to do and that means I need to be more prepared and organised to make sure that he isn't missing out or feeling a bit neglected.

When I'm disorganised DS2 ends up watching more TV than I'm happy with or pottering around the house getting into mischief. Just last week he indulged in a chocolate milk with the entire can of drinking chocolate while I was busy doing maths with the other boys. There are so many benefits to homeschooling but idle toddlers is most certainly not one of them.

So here is an example of a simple matching game. It's actually teddy bear bingo that I picked up at an op shop a few years ago for about $1. Hooray for op shop bargains!


There are so many ways you can use this game either as a family or as an independent activity.

It comes with a spinner with the 4 different colours. Each player takes turns putting the matching colour teddy bear (or counter) on the matching colour on the mat. The idea is to be the one that completes 4 in a row. BINGO!

As pictured. He figured this out on his own. I just left him with the counters and mats and this was his creation.

The counters (in 4 different colours) can be used for making 2, 3, 4 colour patterns which can then be extended by asking (slightly older children) to then separate them into equal groups or to show patterns counting in 2's, 3's, 4's.....

Ask your little one to sort them according to colour such as a pile of yellow or line of green. To extend this activity you can ask them to count the number of teddy bears (or counters) in each group and even try some simple addition and subtraction.

I'm sure there is so much more you can do with this activity but this is how I've been using it and it all began with trying to come up with activities that my 3 year old could do independently while I worked with the others.

I will continue to share more about how I keep my toddler happy....once I figure out how!

Car-schooling with Jonathon Park Audio Adventures

  I once asked a seasoned homeschooler how she managed to fit so many activities and events around 'schoolwork'. She told ...