Australian Learning Communities

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Australia’s own home-based learning community has created a rich tapestry of grassroots networks of folks simply getting on with the job of facilitating learning experiences for their children. Many of these communities have been growing together for years and often form small subgroups to maintain close contact, especially for mutual interest educational activities. The majority of meetings occur in each other’s homes and hired local halls, or in public places like parks, museums and theatres, or through regular activities like ice skating, drama, and gymnastics. From musical performances and mini-Olympics days in Perth, to the bush gatherings in rural Queensland, to the Home Education Networks’ (HENs) camping trips in Victoria, each local community quite spontaneously develops its own culture and approach to how they go about extending their children’s learning in a family oriented way.

Many groups publish their own newsletters with a full listing of upcoming group activities; HEN in Victoria even publish their own magazine, Otherways. The national Home Education Association (HEA) lists local support groups, their newsletters, yahoo chat groups, and local contacts who are happy to help people with inquiries about homeschooling.

Some home-based learners collectively hire tutors to explore specific interests, ranging from musical instruments, to applied mathematics, to circus training! Quite often parents themselves take turns giving classes in exchange for money, barter, or no payment at all, and afterwards everyone enjoys the opportunity for the mothers and children alike to socialise and enjoy the interactions with peers of different ages.

Home-based learners are a creative, resourceful bunch in developing educational projects that inspire imagination and collaboration. One example is the Families Sharing Newsletter ; each family on the chain is given a particular month to publish their own newsletter and send it to the other families on the chain. Some of the newsletters are just a couple of pages; others include articles from different members of the family with photos and diagrams; it is entirely up to each family to decide what to publish. Then there are those who are creating networks on the internet, like the online SA Network Library for people to exchange homeschooling books with one another, working in conjunction with the email discussion list. We are just beginning to see ways that innovative homeschoolers are making use of internet technology — and mostly it’s the children themselves! (see E-mags listings below).

Other families get together and pool resources to go on camping trips and extended educational holidays together, such as visiting science expos or to join in interstate Lego competitions. Some homeschooling families literally use the world as their classrooms on the road (not being restricted by school holidays for adventure!) and are learning as they travel around Australia, while other families welcome travelling homeschoolers to visit them on their journeys.

Every year, camps are organised by State groups like HEN in Victoria or HEA nationally. The Nelson Camp is to be held in November; this is a popular gathering amongst homeschooling families who travel from all over Australia every year to share learning while adventuring. See www.hea.asn.au for further info on the Nelson Camps, or for camps organised by HEN in Victoria. Recently ‘camp with wings’ has been initiated in Australia, based on the Teenage Liberation model by Grace Llewellyn, giving home-based teenagers the opportunity, in Grace’s words ‘to come together to change ourselves and the world, teach each other great things, and sleep under the moon..’ Contact Janine.

Child-centred opportunities at school

In almost every State of Australia there are progressive alternative schools like Steiner, Montessori, and Independent Schools. Co-operative Community schools like Malvern in Melbourne are largely child centred and often allow free time for children to explore their own interests. In Queensland ‘Booroobin’ is a democratic school modelled on the Sudbury Valley School, and there are also natural learning-type schools, like Brisbane Independent School, Pine Community School and Blackall Ranges. In South Australia, places like the R-7 Yankalilla Area School Annexe, offers part-time education to homeschooled students in a family-based atmosphere.

Some regular schools allow home educators to use their resources or come to certain classes upon request, but it depends on the school, and specifically, the inclinations of the headmaster and teachers involved.

Of course, there are no restrictions for homeschoolers to enter tertiary study institutions such as TAFE (Technical and Further Education) and University. There are ways of bypassing TEE scores (Tertiary Entrance Examination) such as Open Learning Australia, or OTEN (Open Training & Education Network) courses, the TAFE equivalent which are by correspondence (www.tafensw.edu.au/oten actually better to list www.oten.edu.au/oten/), or by presenting an experience-based learning portfolio during an interview (62% of university entrances are gained by interview or mature age entry!)

Home-based learning resources

  • Home Education Association Inc., www.hea.asn.au National organisation supporting and encouraging ‘home ed’ by providing services, resources and networks, also legal guidelines for each state.
  • Homeschool Australia! www.beverleypaine.com — All you need to know to get started, great articles, resources and books available by home-based learning author Beverley Paine.
  • Australian Home Education www.eleanor.sparks.to — contains many resources and contacts, especially for Queensland. For homeschooling inquiries email Eleanor Sparks.
  • Stepping Stones for Home Education www.australia.edu/steppingstones — Australia’s own national home education magazine.
  • Homeschool Australia e-Newsletter — A monthly Australia-wide E-newsletter offering a free subscription with a blank email to: Homeschool Australia Newsletter.
  • Unschool-Kidz! A free E-zine publishing children’s stories, poems, art, reviews, puzzles, riddles, games and more, with printed version by post for $5.
  • Teen Tangent E-Mag— for gifted teens ages 11-19.

Materials and support

Home Grown Kids, Kingsley Educational (KEPL) www.kepl.com.au/
Golden Beetle Books www.users.bigpond.com/goldenbeetlebooks Steiner homeschooling material
Always Learning Books www.beverleypaine.com/ — practical guides for natural learning approaches
Aussie Homeschool Resources Messageboard, — an online messageboard to sell, swap or buy mostly used resources, also there are educational books at www.ebay.com.au and through online support groups.
Australian Homeschool support list: http://www.groups.yahoo.com/group/australianhomeschool or email australianhomeschool-subscribe@yahoogroups.com with the word subscribe in the body of the message
There are Yahoo homeschooling support groups for Christians, unschoolers, eclectics, Charlotte Mason followers, Waldorf homeschoolers, gifted, autistics, Muslims, Chinese, and more! Just type name on homepage www.groups.yahoo.com search command
The Home Educating pen pal network is organised by Belinda Moore and her homeschooling daughter Brittany email.


For more information about any of these, contacts contact Anna Jahns.

Published in byronchild/Kindred, Issue 11, September 2004

Categories: Child development,Conscious Parenting,Education,Social Justice

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