'Best three months of our lives': family decides to homeschool permanently after isolation experience

The Hales household is busy while remote learning.
The Hales household is busy while remote learning.  Photo: Supplied

Tori Hales' household may be busy while her children are remote learning, but the family has enjoyed the experience so much they are considering homeschooling full-time.

"It has been the best three months of our life. It was amazing," Ms Hale, 27, from Newcastle in NSW, said.

"We had a couple of hiccups until we got another computer.  The school started sending work on paper and then we would just rotate the computer.  The longer we did it the easier it has gotten."

Ms Hales and her youngest child. Photo: Supplied
Ms Hales and her youngest child. Photo: Supplied 

Although classes resume at NSW schools this week,  Ms Hales, who has eight children aged 12, 11,10, eight, five, four, two and ten months, said her family would remain at home. 

"We are enjoying it so much we may never go back to school. I am going to see how winter pans out," she explained.

"It just feels right.  I know it's not for everyone.  I have friends who have just about turned alcoholics. 

"People say, 'I don't know how you do it'.  I am actually more happy and calm now, than I was before. I feel like they are safe, and we are getting things done. 

"I used to crave that time they went to school and I'd have that time to myself.  Now I am dreading the time of sending them back."

Ms Hales, like many other parents, has also discovered she had no idea of her children's educational weaknesses and this time has allowed her to work with each child to improve their knowledge.

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"Before, it was go to school, come home cook tea, go to bed.  As a parent you should know where your child is at," she said.

Ms Hales said her children's maths had improved, her ten-year-old's panic attacks have stopped and her five-year-old is doing nine levels of reading eggs in one day.

"I am studying myself with eight kids and pregnant.  It is not that hard and if I am willing to do it and my kids are willing to do it we should be allowed to," she said.

President of Home Education Australia, Karen Chegwidden, said the organisation has had been overwhelmed with enquiries since the crisis with hundreds of families wanting to continue to homeschool.

"It has really spiked quite noticeably since NSW announced a return," she said.

Ms Chegwidden explained that school at home is quite different to true homeschooling.

"When you are homeschooling you tailor the education to your child's needs and families are creative about this," she said.  "We don't spend all day sitting at a computer and a lot of activities can be done at home as a whole family."  

"You might read a novel together and the kids will go off and do something related to their level.  There is an integration of learning and life. 

"Lots of families do a child-led model following the child's interests."  

Adjunct Associate Professor Karleen Gribble form Western Sydney University said homeschooling takes many different forms - everything from school at home to unschooling. 

"A lot of new families haven't worked out what path they will take yet.  They generally start out quite structured and get less structured as they go," she said.

"Many have worked out that there is nothing magic in what the schools are doing, and kids learn well just because they are interested in things.

"When schools are delivering programs, they have to deliver them to a broad range of kids but when the learning is around your individual child it is focused on their interests and their level.

"Many families found their children were behind in subjects, and at home were able to work at the level they were at, and by fixing those earlier skills meant they could see their child progressing."

Professor Gribble is concerned that in NSW the registration system won't cope with the thousands of parents wanting to register their children for homeschooling.  She said they were only just processing applications submitted before COVID-19 in February.

She also reminded families that whatever decision they made, it didn't need to be set in stone unless the child was in Year 11 or 12, where it became more critical.