Homeschooling offers different angle to education 0
Musician Bethany Houghton, left, gives a violin lesson to five-year-old Violet Humphries, right, and her mom Joleen Thomas on Sept. 10, 2013. Humphries is homeschooled and learns different subjects with different methods. ANGELICA BLENICH/HALIBURTON COUNTY ECHO/QMI AGENCY
Joleen Thomas always knew she wanted to home-school her children.
A 37-year-old mother of three, Thomas believed teaching her children at home was the best thing for her family.
“When I was in University in Guelph taking science I would spend my money on early education books,” said Thomas.
The decision to home school was made even easier for Thomas and her husband Stuart Humphries because their daughter Olivia has severe food allergies.
“At that point it becomes a lifestyle choice, because how do you keep one home and send the others?” said Thomas.
For her daughters Olivia, 7, and Violet, 5, home-schooling is the only way of learning they are familiar with.
“Violet just said to me, mom, you’re a terrible teacher,” laughed Thomas. “I asked her why she would say that and she said, because you haven’t taught me anything in so long. I told her that’s because it’s summer break and she said, what’s that?”
A former education assistant, Thomas follows the Waldorf style of education, which is play-based and includes a lot of outdoor learning. Most lessons begin with a story and go from there, said Thomas. Unlike public school there are no textbooks.
Many days are spent going on field trips, socializing with other children and doing activities.
“We’re always learning, there is no bell that rings,” said Thomas.
For Thomas home schooling is not only about teaching your kids, but about being with your kids while they are growing up.
“We wanted to be the ones spending time with our kids,” she said.
When Annabelle Craig’s parents first told her she was going to be home schooled she didn’t know what that meant.
Up until that point the 10-year-old student had only been in the public education system, first in Montessori school and then at Stuart Baker Elementary School.
A series of events eventually led Annabelle’s parents to pull her out of school altogether.
While her mother Jennifer Wanless-Craig and her husband Terry have busy travel schedules due to the nature of their work, that is not the reason they decided to home-school Annabelle.
“We weren’t happy, she wasn’t happy, it wasn’t working,” said Wanless-Craig.
Instances of bullying and a change in Annabelle’s behaviour led her parents to make a significant change.
“When you’re not being treated nicely nothing is getting into your head anyways,” said Wanless-Craig.
Now in Grade 5, Annabelle has been home-schooled for close to two years and finds it “much more awesome.”
“I always thought we were going to home-school but I thought you couldn’t do it with one kid,” said Wanless-Craig. “Now I’m like the envy of other parents because it’s so much easier with one kid.”
Learning comes in all kinds of ways for Wanless-Craig and her daughter, who learns about everything from owls to Mount Everest at home.
With home schooling comes challenges on a daily basis, such as the children not wanting to learn, disciplining and distinguishing between parent and teacher.
Both Thomas and Wanless-Craig don’t have a television, which helps with the distraction factor. If the kids don’t want to their schoolwork then field trips and activities that cost money are taken away.
“Sometimes we have to tell them just because you’re at home you have to get this done,” said Wanless-Craig. “We get up in the morning and get dressed and have schedules.”
The parents get together with other local families who home school for field trips and playtime. They also depend on each other for support and help.
With high school and post-secondary school still years away, Thomas and Wanless-Craig are taking their home-schooling approach one day at a time.
“It’s funny, people ask about that all the time,” said Wanless-Craig. “Home-school is working for us this year … right now it’s working and it’s working very well.”
Issues of socialization are not concerns for the parents, with the kids having many real-life experiences such as going to the bank, grocery store and interacting with adults on a daily basis.
One thing both Thomas and Wanless-Craig believe strongly is that anyone has the ability to home school, regardless of their level of education, experience or profession.
“A lot of women I notice will say, I’m not smart enough,” said Wanless-Craig. “First of all you should never say that. Most people just know their one thing.”
An advantage to the alternative type of schooling is that parents are learning alongside their children. And when they get something wrong they are not afraid to admit it.
“If you can admit you’ve made a mistake to your kids that’s OK,” said Wanless-Craig.
Both Wanless-Craig and Thomas know that not every parent can home school, especially if they are dependent on two incomes. It’s just a matter of finding the right solution for you.
“This is the hardest job I’ve ever had,” said Thomas. “This is four years of home schooling and we’re still figuring it out.”
“People think we’re lucky, but anybody can make the lifestyle choice,” said Wanless-Craig.
And for now, both Thomas and Wanless-Craig feel like they have made the right choice.
“I feel like I’m the luckiest person in the world,” said Thomas.