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'After our son was severely bullied, I quit my job to homeschool the kids. I'll never go back.'

As parents around Australia nervously consider a return to homeschooling following the resurgence in cases of COVID-19 in Victoria, Fiona Dixon understands their concern.

“I have been homeschooling my youngest three children aged fourteen, nine and seven for almost two years, and what I saw when the lockdown started wasn’t homeschooling - it was crisis schooling,” Fiona says.

“The official Australian homeschooling community felt sorry for the parents thrown into it so suddenly without support.

Watch: The horoscopes homeschooling their kids. Post continues below.


Video via Mamamia

“We had so many enquiries to join our homeschooling Facebook group that we ended up setting up a new page to provide advice to parents stressed out by the enforced lockdown homeschool.” 

While Fiona and husband Adrian, who live on the NSW Central Coast, decided to homeschool by choice, it was not always this way. Their eldest son Mason went to a mainstream school from kindergarten through to year 12.

“He did not enjoy the process of studying for his HSC but I didn’t really think anything of it. It was only after my 9-year-old son Aston was severely bullied that we started to question the school system,” Fiona says.

Aston had been a happy, contented and energetic boy who enjoyed school until halfway into year two when he began acting out.

“The school were initially supportive but then rather than dealing with the bullying, they moved Aston into a different classroom. We took him to see our GP then a psychologist, but he would explode with anger when he got home from school.

“After putting up with the stress of managing the bullying and trying to protect his friends from the bully, it was as if he was suffering from PTSD.

“Even now he gets upset when we drive past his old school. As parents we couldn’t let it continue. I quit my job as a marketing manager and stayed home. 

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“It made us both feel very disenchanted with the system. We were repeatedly told that coping with the bullying would make him more resilient, but Aston was suffering and we didn’t want him to become a statistic."

Once Fiona and Adrian decided to remove Aston completely from school, they asked the other two children Airlie (14) and Jonty (7) what they wanted to do. 

They both asked to be taught from home.

Image: Supplied. 

Initially daunted with the task, Fiona soon realised that they were not alone and that there was guidance available and support from many other families in her local area and beyond.

“In the old days we would raise our children in a village with elders and learning would happen in the community,” she says.

“It feels a little like that with the homeschooling community. When we meet up there is no segregation between the older and younger kids. They all play and socialise together."

Homeschooled children must meet learning outcomes for their stage, but rather than looking at the same prescribed topics, Fiona enjoys teaching her kids as individuals.

“My daughter loves horses and horse riding so we cover maths, science and English by looking at things like the anatomy of a horse, how much grain a horse needs to eat and by reading stories about horses,” Fiona says.

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“My youngest son loves the film Ice Age and we used that to educate ourselves about the supercontinent of Pangea and how tectonic plates moves. He was fascinated.”

Aside from the individualised curriculum that includes activities like photography, going to the theatre, coding and volunteering at a local animal shelter, Fiona says her kids have flourished, becoming critical thinkers. 

“I noticed that after a few months of homeschooling all three of them began asking more questions. They became inquisitive about certain topics as we watched the documentaries and read the books they were truly interested in.

“I think this is why so many parents hated the lockdown homeschooling – kids and parents need time to adjust to this style of learning.”

A common misconception about homeschooling is that it is all done at home with a parent, which as Fiona explains, is not true.

“I might be managing their homeschooling but I am not an expert on everything - mathematics was a big fear of mine because I was made to feel stupid as a child and I was never really given the opportunity to learn in my own time. Fortunately, this won’t be the case for my kids.

“My daughter has an English tutor she sees via Zoom every week. We also do plenty of sporting activities like Ninja classes and we catch up with other homeschooling families to visit the library or go on excursions to the beach to learn about marine life.

“They help me in the kitchen with cooking and we look after our worm farm and bee hives which are great long-term life skills. 

“Every day is different and we have the flexibility to do what we want, when we want which is great.”

Fiona admits it's not always easy, but the most important thing is that her kids are well adjusted.

“My children are safe and happy and confident. Aston still has some ongoing issues with his emotions but we are dealing with it. 

“I know him so much better and understand his needs as I'm with him so much more. I never imagined I would be a homeschool parent but here I am and honestly, I have never looked back”

For more information on the Australian Homeschooling community, visit the Facebook page.  

Feature image: Supplied.


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