I was surprised to find that it has been four years since we last homeschooled the boys. There is no denying that sending them off to school brought us a number of advantages. I was able to fairly quickly shore up a career which had plateaued and for the last few years have had the pleasure of enjoying my work again. My wife has had the opportunity to study outside of work. Life has been busy, but reasonably straight forward. Also, I have to be honest, it is just easy when the boys leave the house in the morning and bring themselves home in the afternoon and I dont have to think about them during that time.
For all the advantages, it has been a situation which has been in a slow decline for quite a while. The boys spent three years at a Steiner school, six months at a private school and six months at a public school. At no stage did I ever have more than the vaguest idea of what they were actually doing with their days.
Steiner school was interesting. It got off to a good start and my eldest boy especially just adored his teacher. We were able to find a community of like minded kids at last. The boys still have friends from there who we often catch up with.
The school management changed shortly after we arrived, and the character of the place changed with it. It gradually became an increasingly disconnected place which was frequently dominated by weird and fairly hysterical internal politics. A large number of staff resigned.
Toward the end, we were forced to put in a formal complaint against one of the parents who was sexually harrassing women at the school as well as grooming the children. We were told to withdraw it so as not to damage anyones reputation. It all got pretty ugly. When my oldest boys teacher resigned due to constant conflicts with the school management, there were no Steiner trained teachers left. Since she was the only reason we had stayed as long as we had, we left then as well.
We next enrolled the boys in a local private school, which is where a lot of the Steiner kids end up going for high school. It was highly structured, expensive and characterless. I was pretty shocked at some of the fundamental knowledge gaps which became apparent in the boys education. Neither of the boys liked it or fitted in, and after a while we left.
In terms of academic outcomes and opportunities the local public school delivered the same as the private school, except it was logistically much easier to get to, and was less than a tenth of the cost. Again, neither of them made any friends there, and neither of them liked it. It had its pros and cons, I guess. I wouldnt call it a bad school. It just typified the education system.
So that was school. We were resigned to being stuck with it until my wife managed to book the kids into Alithia learning for several days a week. This was the key we were looking for which allowed us the time and space to start home schooling again.
Alithia is super cute. They dont cover much on what I would call pure academics, but they are absolutely outstanding with group dynamics. They do lots of planning and working together as a group, doing exciting hands on type activities. Communication and respect between everyone is dealt with extremely well. Given the change in attitudes which had crept over the boys during their time in the two regular schools especially, this has become very important. They seem to spend nearly the whole day outside making practical explorations of the things they find. Both boys are suddenly happy, excited about learning, and keen to go out for the day. I havent seen that in ages.
The process of registering the boys for homeschooling has not been entirely smooth. Our dealings with the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) has been something of a circus. We worked with them previously and had no problems at all, but something has obviously changed while we were absent.
Still, it will all sort itself out soon enough, I am sure. Certainly, I dont see either of the boys going back to regular school again.