Real Australian Homeschools: Rachel (The Unschooler)

Welcome to another instalment of Real Australian Homeschools. I am having so much fun putting this series together and have been meeting some wonderful homeschool families in the process.

If you missed last week’s interview with Anthony Coafield, a homeschooling Dad who runs Living Book Press, make sure you check it out and enter the GIVEAWAY.

Today I am pleased to introduce you to Rachel. Rachel is one of my dear friends and a local homeschooling Mum. She is a few years further into her homeschooling journey and I often look to her for wisdom and encouragement.

Rachel is an unschooler, and I have loved watching how this works for her family. Her son is delightful, passionate and incredibly loving. I was thrilled when she agreed to be interviewed for the series.

Could you tell us a little about your family.

It’s just me, my husband Don and our son Heath. I’m lucky enough to be able to stay at home, while Don is a train driver.

How did you get started homeschooling?

In 2013 Don and I had started discussing which school we wanted to send Heath to, then I was advised my job would be made redundant. Homeschooling had always been something I would have loved to do, but it wasn’t something we could afford to do. Being made redundant gave me the opportunity to try it out. Don wasn’t too keen on the idea to start with, he thought it was a bit too “hippie.” He finally relented and agreed to trial Heath’s kindergarten year. At the end of the year, he could see how much progress Heath had made and agreed that homeschooling was a good fit for our family.

How would you describe your homeschooling style?

We are unschoolers. Heath directs the learning while I provide him with opportunities to learn, he is under no obligation to try the things I offer, but they are offered nonetheless. When he latches on to a subject or idea, we learn about it either until the subject is exhausted, or until Heath tires of it, perhaps to come back and revisit later, other times not.

What does a typical day look like in your house?

We don’t really have a typical day. Some days we stay at home and read in the hammock, some days we do errands and put away the groceries. What is typical is that whenever a learning opportunity arises, we explore it. We might be in the supermarket weighing tomatoes and Heath will ask how a scale works, so we learn about scales. This will incorporate math and physics and many other learning areas. We might be walking along and find a rock covered in moss and lichen. We might visit a local waterfall and discuss running and stagnant water, or go to the beach and talk about erosion, or visit the police station because he wants to know why policemen carry guns if they are the good guys.

When visiting the botanical gardens and Heath sees a water spider, we discuss surface tension and how this relates to the science experiment we did where we floated a paper clip on the top of the water.

Heath was in the garden one day and he wanted to know what was inside the gumnuts on our tree, my answer of seeds was not good enough for him, he wanted to know more, so we took some off the tree and cut them open (who knew such beauty lived inside?)

We generally end the day with reading aloud at bedtime, though Heath has been known to draw out bedtime by wanting to “do school” which I indulge, because I don’t have to get him up in the morning to catch the school bus.

What is unique about your homeschool?

The learning process that Heath is undertaking is unique to him, it cannot be replicated. And because he is interested in what he is learning the information sticks with him much more, for example we had been talking about surfactants (I have no idea how the topic came up), several weeks later we attended a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) fair and a scientist was showing him how to extract DNA from a strawberry and one of the steps is to use dishwashing liquid, which was to take away the fatty acid from the cells (I think??) Heath then told the scientist that was because it was a surfactant. The scientist was a little lost for words that a 7 year old knew that word and could insert it so effortlessly into a conversation.

There is no learning to a curriculum, though so far he covers all of what is required through natural learning.

It’s also great that we can always go on holidays at the same time that Don is allotted holidays, and when Don has a day off in the middle of the week, he can spend time with Heath, this wouldn’t happen if Heath were attending a bricks and mortar school.

What is one resource/curriculum that you have loved?

My favourite resource is Google. Any question that Heath may have, I can find an answer for him. I salute all those who went before me and had to trawl through library card catalogues to find answers to the obscure questions of their child.

My other favourite resource is our Opal cards (for public transport). Our city has so much to offer in the way of learning experiences. So many incredible places to visit and learn from/about.

What is your favourite family read aloud?

I don’t think there is a clear favourite at the moment, Heath enjoys a wide variety of books. So far we have read most of Roald Dahl’s books, some of the Harry Potter series, lots of Enid Blyton and many (too many for my liking) Pokémon books. We are currently reading Eragon.

What has been a particularly enjoyable learning moment for your family?

I enjoy the little moments, things that would pass by without being noticed. I love that Heath wanted to learn to sew because he saw that I loved sewing. I love that when he was 5, he decided he wanted to learn algebra (how do you teach algebra to someone who doesn’t even know their times tables? Dragon Box is a fabulous app for that by the way) I love that at 7 he finally picked up a book of his own volition and began to read because he wasn’t pushed, because he “should have been reading by now.” I love that he has learned to cook several types of meals because he wants to. I love that we get to spend of lot of time fostering relationships and him become the fabulous man he will be one day.

What do you struggle with the most

At first I struggled with the fact that I had to teach him, rather than provide him the opportunity to learn. Now that I trust that he has got this, that he will learn the things he needs to learn, I feel much more relaxed about it.

My current struggle, as an introvert, is that I have next to no time by myself. Luckily one of the things Heath is also learning is that he can play by himself and give me some time to myself.

Where do you go, or who do you look to for inspiration and encouragement?

I find a lot of my inspiration and encouragement online. There is an amazing Facebook group called Homeschool Australia that I first joined when Heath was 4 and I was just beginning to learn what homeschool was and all the different styles. If you have a question, there are people there who have an answer. It is a fabulous online community, supporting each other through our obstacles and celebrating our achievements.

Homeschool Australia (for those currently homeschooling in Australia)

The Educating Parent Homeschooling and Unschooling (for those interested in or actively homeschooling in Australia)

Like Wisdom and Wonder on Facebook to keep up to date with our series on Real Australian Homeschools.



2 thoughts on “Real Australian Homeschools: Rachel (The Unschooler)

  1. Although this is a different style to ours, we do this kind of learning too. Can cover some amazing subjects when the mind “wants to know”!!!
    Really enjoying this series!


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