Welcome to our second instalment in the Real Australian Homeschools series! I hope you were as encouraged as I was to read Carol’s lovely story last week. If you missed it, you can find it here.
Today, I am so excited to introduce you to Anthony Coafield. Anthony is quickly making a name for himself across the globe with his wonderful business Living Book Press which is putting hard to find living books back into print, right here in Australia. My bookshelves are certainly thankful for his work.
However, Anthony is more than just a publisher, he is a homeschooling dad, and so I was incredibly excited when he agreed to share with us about how homeschooling looks in his family.
We also have a wonderful *GIVEAWAY* for one lucky reader so make sure you read all the way to the end to find out more. (GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED)
Could you tell us a little about your family?
My wife and I have three boys, aged 7, 5 and 4. We live on 32 acres (16 if we’ve had a lot of rain) in NSW. We farm organic garlic, ginger and turmeric, and this spring we’ll be starting to sell CSA boxes where people buy a box of fresh produce straight from the farm each week. We ran a musical instrument shop for many years, but wanted to spend more time with the boys so sold it three years ago. Now we all work and learn together, and we love it!
Lying in bed experimenting with the abacus.
How did you begin homeschooling?
There’s no one answer to why we started homeschooling, more an intersection of several different things all coming together. I was leader of the youth at church and would recommend books to the teens. I read one called Do Hard Things by some homeschooled boys and I think that planted the seed. My mum was a missionary’s kid in PNG and did correspondence and I always begged for the same as a kid, school was boring and I had to waste so much time, so that was there too. Not long after we saw a Ken Robinson TED talk about education and how knowing how to learn is so important today, with jobs changing so quickly. Many of our kid’s jobs aren’t even around yet. Some of our youth were also doing teaching at university. It made us ask some hard questions about the people who would be educating our children. They were good people, but didn’t know how to think outside the box or how to question things, so they couldn’t foster many of the qualities we wanted to raise in our children.
We live in an age where anyone can learn anything if they want to. In ten minutes you can know what you need to do to start learning something if you search, but so many people weren’t bothering. We noticed people answered with what was expected rather than thinking properly about it. Home educating seemed to be the natural solution for us to raise our boys to be the people God made them to be.
How would you describe your homeschooling style?
I did a stack of online ‘what’s your homeschooling style’ quizzes when I was first looking into everything, as well as reading up as much as I could. There isn’t a big HS culture in Australia so I didn’t know anything. What I read on Homeschooling Downunder appealed to me, and when all the quizzes came out mentioning that I was a Charlotte Mason homeschooler I knew I had to look more into her. Reading about living books sold me. I have always been a reader. I had to drop out of school due to a head injury. I still have a lot of troubles forming long term memories. It helps if I make an emotional attachment to the information. Books really helps do this, so if it helps someone with troubles, how much better must it be for those without them! So we do CM style homeschooling using Jeanne’s AO Australian adaptation. Having people share the hard work they’ve done has made it possible for me. It would have been far too daunting in the beginning to start fresh. By using great stuff already I’ve been able to get a feel for the type of books to look for, and am now getting the confidence to do my own thing for some parts, but there’s no way I could have made it this far without those who have come before.
The old typewriter is a big hit with getting them wanting to write. They copy the words from kids’ books, then try to illustrate them themselves.
What does a typical day look like in your house?
A typical day in our house depends on the season and what else is happening. We school through summer and winter, and often on Sundays also, but we take breaks when we need them, if things need planting or harvesting etc, or if it’s just a beautiful day! When we’re on a roll we start at 8am and do the readings for the day along with a couple of the ‘riches’ and are pretty much done by 10. The rest of the day is for outdoors, games, making things etc.
In good weather we do a lot of our schooling outside.
What is unique about your homeschool?
The most unique thing about our school would be that the dad does a lot of the reading etc, and that both my wife and I are home all day every day, so we can both share everything when we need to. I don’t really think about what makes us different or the same too often, we’re just us and try to do what works for us.
What is one resource/curriculum that you have loved?
The resource I have loved most is Ambleside Online combined with Jeanne’s work to adapt it for us Aussies. Even books I’ve been sceptical of we have enjoyed. It’s been a real hit for us. It can be intimidating, but it’s so scalable to your situation. We’ve had a lot of hospital time last year, but we could work around it, adding or subtracting as we need to. There is an ideal, but that requires all life to be ideal, which it rarely is. Once you let go of perfection and do what is best for your family in your circumstances it’s great. The scalability of AO really makes that easy.
What is your favourite family read-aloud?
My favourite read-aloud is usually whatever we’re reading at the time. Our 5yo isn’t really ready for ‘big’ books yet apart from Roald Dahl. He’s usually colouring in and vaguely listening, but the 7yo devours stories. We take turns picking books, and he’ll often pick a free read from AO’s list, but if he doesn’t I make sure I do. We’re about to finish Farmer Boy, which is great. Brighty was wonderful, I think Blinky Bill is the only one I’ve really struggled to complete. I love that you can experience life 150 years ago as a kid growing up on a farm in NY through a book. So many experiences that are totally different to our normal life, that can give you a perspective so different to your own. As long as we’re taken into that world we’re likely to love it. The AO choices do that really well.
What has been a particularly enjoyable learning moment for your family?
I can’t really think of any specific moments, more just the joy of making learning a lifestyle. Lying in bed with the 5yo when he can’t sleep and having him so excited as he works out all letter sounds and says what letter different words start with, or when you’re helping find Lego pieces and hand him 3, and quick as a flash he says you need 5 more. Seeing them do maths so naturally and quickly. Ask what 8-3 is and he has no idea, but in real applications he can do it instantly. It’s beautiful. Also seeing the connections being made, even when they’re not quite right. I love as we read, or listen to something having Mr 7 so excited that he gets the reference, or when you’re reading a book and he start extrapolating on the thought and going off thinking deeper about it and the consequences of actions the characters take. It’s the little moments I like best just seeing my boys love learning.
Using the Scrollsaw to make a name jigsaw where each letter slots together.
What do you struggle with the most?
All my biggest struggles have to do with health. We build our life very carefully around my head injury so that I can get by, but sometimes I get thrown and then I can’t really do much at all. Doing life with 3 young boys keeps things unpredictable, and accepting that as part of the flow of life can be hard. Trusting that even when we’re operating on ‘get by’ mode and that the boys are still learning can be tricky, but we see more evidence of it all the time, which is reassuring.
Where do you go, or who do you look to, for inspiration and encouragement?
When I need encouragement or inspiration I just look at my wife and my boys. Their love of life and the way they see the goodness and beauty in everyone keeps me going. I’ll also often get a lovely note out of the blue from someone that really lifts me when I need it, even though I don’t usually realise that it was needed until afterwards. I find if I look around for inspiration too much I can start to get overloaded, so I’ll have a quick look for something specific when I’m working out how to approach it, but then I’ll leave it be. I find that the search for inspiration is a great method of procrastination!
Could you tell us about your new business, Living Book Press?
Living Book Press was born out of my desire to help other families in their journey. In the Australian CM community two books that people really had trouble finding in the first couple of years were Nuri Mass’ Magic Australia, and C.K. Thompsons Old Bob’s Birds, with Mass’ Little Grammar People the other big unicorn. We have a rather small income and there was no way I could justify spending that money on the books. We try to raise our boys not to complain, but rather to look for a solution, and the only one I could think of was to try and republish the books. I can’t pay back all the help I have received, but by making the books available again I could pay forward that help. Letting all the rights holders know that I realised the venture wasn’t financially viable, but that I didn’t mind was one of the hardest parts!
I had no idea how to do any of it, but over 12 months I learned a lot about wills, and searching for peoples estates, about copyright and making books. The internet is a marvellous thing. By keeping lots of notes about where everything was up to and what I had to do next I didn’t get too confused by it all. I found the rights holders, got the rights, and made the books. I did most of the work before contracts were signed, because if I couldn’t do the work I didn’t want the stress of having a contact signed already.
Halliburton’s Books of Marvels were the other books people were really looking for so I got copies of those and worked on them. I reformatted each book four times trying to get it right, realising that some programs wouldn’t cut it, and just generally learning the ropes.
I’ve expanded the goal of Living Book Press now to also provide quality public domain books. We have a lot smaller book choice here in Australia, and I needed a lot of the AO2 books, so decided to make them myself. People are always asking on the forums what version is a good one to get, hopefully soon the answer will be Living Book Press. I sell them on Amazon for the minimum list price allowable, and on my website I work the margin to be less than a bookshop would expect, even though I’m store, publisher etc. I just want to support homeschooling families, and this is the only way I know how! If I see a book regularly asked for I start investigating it. They don’t always come through, and sometimes they take a while, but hopefully as the range grows I’ll get more credibility with rights holders and it’ll be easier to supply even more books that people have trouble tracking down.
I love the hunt for books. I love scouring second-hand shops and book fairs, or finding that affordable hardcover on abebooks. I don’t want to deprive people of that incredible rush of finding the book in an unexpected place, but if I can take the stress away of not finding that book, if I can be the safety net where people know they can get a quality version at an affordable price should the search be fruitless then that’s my goal.
Where can people find you online?
I’m on Facebook with Living Book Press, I’ll do Instagram next week once I work it out. I’ll hopefully have my blog- dadschooling.com up and running one day!