When the first lockdown came in Victoria, it provided a circuit breaker for Rachel and her children April, 12, and Kai, 14.
April had always struggled with severe separation anxiety which led to school refusal, a school change and an eventual autism diagnosis.
The family had considered home education in the past, so this was their chance to see how it would work.
One of the first noticeable changes was that April fell in love with reading, which she had previously hated. Within six months, April had worked her way through the whole Harry Potter series.
When school was due to return, the family experienced a week of meltdowns, and decided to register for home education instead.
“When April was going to school, she had constant stomach aches, and would cry at bedtime because she was so anxious about attending school the next day. She still needs support to attend in-person activities, but she’s so much happier now,” Rachel says.
Kai (who is autistic and has ADHD as well as being hyperlexic and intellectually gifted) chose to return to school to finish Grade six with friends, then transferred to a specialist school for twice- exceptional children. Unfortunately, frequent teacher changes, removal of the therapy dog, and a lack of academic enrichment meant that this experience was stressful and led to high anxiety.
The family chose to bring Kai home, which gave them the freedom to deschool and take time to prioritise improving Kai’s mental health. Now that things have settled, Kai enjoys a mix of classes and online learning which provide the academic enrichment he needs, and he has formed good friendships within the home ed community.
“If I had my time again, I’d homeschool from the start, but I’d want the hindsight I have now,” Rachel says. “I sometimes call what we do home managed education, as my children take responsibility for their own learning,
with me as a guide”
Read more on homeschooling here.