Please let me introduce Tanya, another Australian homeschooling mum. I have loved hearing her story, it has some wonderful highs and some very challenging lows. As you read it though, you can hear her thankfulness for homeschooling and the way it has allowed her family to truly thrive in these situations. I have called her the dance mum, but she truly is so much more. I hope you are encouraged by her story.
To read more interviews from our Real Australian Homeschools Series, click here.
Could you tell us a little about your family?
We’re a small family of Dad, Mum and Daughter. For the past 5 years we’ve lived a semi-nomadic life roaming the country but we’re originally from the Caldera region near Byron Bay. We love to tell people that we are just a simple, boring little family but for those that scratch the surface, I guess we’ve got some really interesting stories to share. We run a Tipper and Digger in our Earth Moving business, I have a Food Blog and have recently become a Scentsy Independent Consultant as well in an effort to fund my Bachelor’s Degree to be a Sports Dietician specialising in Elite Ballet Performance then there’s Tasca who has been training in ballet since she was 3 years old… more on that further down.
How did you begin homeschooling?
We just always knew we would. It felt right. Tasca was born 2 months prematurely at just 32 weeks gestation with an extremely rough start to life. We’re very lucky she survived at all! Nobody will ever know how long her brain was starved of oxygen before they managed to perform a successful emergency c-section and resuscitation. Because of this, we were informed from the beginning that she will suffer from learning difficulties which the severity of will only become apparent as she grows. This is when we discovered that Homeschooling is a legal option which we immediately embraced as the best lifestyle for our family. Among numerous physical conditions resulting from her birth trauma, Tasca was diagnosed at age 2 with Dyspraxia. It has been an extraordinary journey to teach Tasca even the simple things that we all take for granted. For instance, the speech therapist began to teach her sign language as it was seriously doubtful that she’d ever have the ability to talk. There was also suggestion that low muscle tone may result in requiring a wheelchair. We relocated and got aggressive on therapy! Now she never stops talking and runs about like a mad thing. Homeschooling allows us to work at her pace so she gets a solid foundation of knowledge in her own time rather than being left behind.
I have loved hearing about your little ballerina. What is her dream? How is she going with it?
Tasca began Ballet training at age 3 as a form of physical therapy to improve her low muscle tone. It was obvious from the moment she first set foot in the studio and touched a ballet barre that this was who she is. She is completely obsessed with Ballet. It was around her 5th birthday that a couple of artists from The Australian Ballet saw Tasca for the first time in the studio. They took Andy and I aside for a chat to impress upon us that “All little girls want to be a ballerina, but not all little girls have it. She has IT!” They made us promise to keep Tasca in ballet classes and to take ballet seriously as her career. We have kept that promise and embraced Ballet as an extremely important part of our family lifestyle. Tasca plans to be a Professional Ballerina with The Australian Ballet before opening her own Ballet School after an illustrious career. Last month, we took her to audition for Joy and Nicole Ransley (aka Ballet Royalty) on the Gold Coast. They were extremely impressed with her “incredible talent” declaring her to be “a true artist” and are looking forward to welcoming her to Ransley Ballet to begin their specialised training program in 2018 to accelerate her towards her Professional Career.
How has her dream/plan shaped your homeschool?
Homeschooling is what has allowed Tasca to achieve such remarkable success at such a young age. We dedicate a great portion of our learning day to Ballet training. As long as I can relate all her subjects somehow to Ballet, then she excels in absorbing the information. If she doesn’t see the point, she’s just not interested. This is leading me to get even more creative in how I teach her. Thank goodness for our beautiful homeschool community who are always there to share inspiring ideas with me. Teaching Tasca has become a true village effort.
What challenges has this posed for you or your family?
With her Dyspraxia, Tasca is extremely easy to distract. So to keep her attention for any length of time is a serious challenge in itself. Of course, not everything can revolve around Ballet. When it comes to lessons that I simply can not figure out how to relate to Ballet for her then there’s always bribery of a Ballet reward once she gets the job done! I’ve had to become stronger than I ever imagined as she is so extraordinarily dedicated and totally fierce about it.
How would you describe your homeschooling style?
We are eclectic homeschoolers. Back in the beginning I tried to DIY everything from Internet resources, workbooks, discovery experiences etc but then I had people commenting in our Pre-School year that I was teaching her Grade 5 work which she was more than capable of. My lack of being a ‘teacher’ was exposed and exploited by some. Then I discovered Complete Education Australia which is a hands on learning program which meets all The Australian Curriculum requirements for homeschooling. I’ve been purchasing this program for over a year now and use it as my ‘teacher guide’ to keep me on track with what I am supposed to be showing Tasca. We both love the hands on activities which she responds to far better than mainstream classroom styles. The benefit of using this particular curriculum for us is that I get the ‘what’ to teach and then work out ‘how’ to Tasca-fy the lesson.
What does a typical day look like in your house?
I love to let Tasca wake up naturally to each day. She watches some cartoons (usually Go-Jetters which contains fabulous Geography information) whilst she eats breakfast. Then we launch into our Ballet Training which lasts through until lunch time. After lunch we have Literacy, Numeracy and a rotation of the other subjects until afternoon tea time. We then go the studio for her Ballet lesson a few times each week.
What is one resource/curriculum that you have loved?
What we love most is creating memories! Experience Based Learning is something we are extremely passionate about. Yesterday, we took Tasca to a Pioneer Museum where she was able to fully immerse in the early days of settlement. Tasca has also travelled to many remarkable places around the nation which has provided her with a uniquely rich life fabric to draw upon. She has scrambled over the ancient rocks of Katherine Gorge, gazed upon the vast wilderness of The Kimberleys, played on the world’s whitest sand in Jervis Bay among a plethora of other wonderfully enriching experiences. She is currently working upon her entry into a Choreography Competition where she is required to select appropriate music, choose which classical ballet moves she wishes to showcase, make a plan to link those moves into a cohesive dance, recall her choreography every time and perform on stage to a live audience. This is just one example of how we use Experience Based Learning in our homeschool.
Your family has recently had some very scary health issues, how did this impact your homeschool life?
This is another reason why homeschooling is perfect for us. Tasca had endured more than her fair share of serious medical issues which has resulted in us constantly haunting the hospital halls. But Andy has also suffered over the past few years with several surgeries and ill health culminating in him having a heart attack a month ago. The CT scan of that has revealed a large tumour in his chest which we must now deal with. Rather than miss an epic amount of school days in the mainstream education system due to medical treatment, we’ve had the flexibility to educate on-the-go with technological equipment and also to pause her learning for catch up when necessary as well.
Learning in the Hospital
What advice do you have for other mothers going through difficult times?
Every single time I become overwhelmed by it all I start singing “Just Keep Swimming, Just Keep Swimming” by Dory the fish in Finding Nemo. It brings a smile to my dial and lifts the load off my shoulders. Then I am able to BELIEVE in myself and WHY we are doing this. Not only have I had to endure all the typical homeschooling resistance, but also the criticism of indulging in a little girl’s fantasy. With Tasca’s admittance to Ransley Ballet, I feel totally vindicated in my tenacity to keep our promise which we made to take her Ballet Career seriously. You know what is true and right for your family. Stick to it. Be authentic and Celebrate your Uniqueness. There’s nothing wrong with living in a gloriously beautiful bubble. Reach out to homeschool support groups and realise you are not alone.
Where can people find you online?