Talitha Morris knows a thing or two about homeschooling.
The Echuca piano teacher and editor at Radiant Media was homeschooled from prep to Year 12, along with her nine siblings, including one foster sister.
Talitha’s mother was the main teacher, however her father taught them other important life lessons on the family’s cropping and beef-cattle farm where they lived just outside Bunnaloo (about three hours drive north of Melbourne just over the NSW border).
Her four older siblings attended regular school early on, but all started homeschooling the year Talitha was born.
“Mum and Dad chose to homeschool because they felt they weren't getting to spend much quality time with all their children,” she said.
“The bus ride into town (my older siblings were traveling into Echuca to River City Christian College at the time) took up three hours of the day as well as the six-ish hours at school, so my parents felt as though homeschooling would help build more connection as well as give them a bit more say over what and how we were learning.”
Talitha loved being homeschooled and found it really easy because she was a self-disciplined, independent child.
While she powered through her studies quickly, not all her siblings worked in the same way.
Some were much more hands-on, or not as academically-focused and needed a lot more one-on-one time with their mum - or sometimes with older siblings who had done the work before!
Talitha said she loved the freedom and flexibility that homeschooling brought to their lives.
“We would set out goals for the day on a card that sat on our desk and if we completed everything early then we were done for the day! I loved the freedom of that and knowing that if I just concentrate enough now, then I have endless time after lunch to play, read, write, imagine, invent etc (with a few chores thrown in here and there).
“The actual school work we did was pretty normal, I guess, but the part about homeschooling that was the best as a child were the games and inventions once that work was done.
“I remember playing many games and acting out all sorts of things with my siblings. We played Indians (building t-pees, cooking over a fire etc), scientists (I saved up to buy a lab-kit from the toy store with things like a telescope, microscope, etc… and studied bugs and stars or made new ‘medicines’), built awesome cubbies and villages, created plays of home-made movies, and, my favourite as it usually involved all the kids, the ‘Jasper Olympics’ anytime the Olympics were on.”
Like all homeschool parents, Talitha’s mum had love and hate moments of teaching her children from home, but overall she really enjoyed it.
She liked having her kids at home and seeing them learn and interact with one another.
“I think mum and dad both enjoyed not having to always stick to the school schedule – so if they wanted to do an impromptu lesson on gardening or cows and crops, we could all just pause what we were doing in the schoolroom and go learn about it.
“There were definitely moments of frustration and tears when things just weren’t working out how they would hope, but the good experiences and memories definitely out-shadow the bad.”
Talitha admitted homeschool life wasn’t always rosy, and they did experience some challenges through being a bit ‘different’ from other kids when they went to extra-curricular activities including tennis, gymnastics, choir and musicals.
“Kids were often curious about how homeschooling worked and it made it harder to connect quickly in some cases, but definitely not impossible,” she said.
“As far as schooling at home, challenges were things like not having a lab to do science experiments in and having to watch them on dvd instead, or not always getting to try other subjects (dance, graphic design, computer coding, etc..) as mum wasn’t a pro in everything!
“I think mum and dad had plenty of challenges too, though I don’t always know what they were. Before having kids mum was a high school teacher, so she was well set up in that regard. But, being at home, it’s tough to balance ‘parent’ and ‘teacher’ roles and sometimes you get it wrong.
“I remember crying over math times tables a few times or mum and I both getting frustrated and upset because I just couldn’t ‘get’ something.”
Talitha said taking regular breaks outdoors in nature was vital to bringing balance to every day learning.
And growing up on a farm made that easy for them because there were always animals to feed, gardens to maintain and jobs to help out with.
“The outdoors are fantastic for imagination and play,” she said.
“Also just having a break and getting some fresh air and sunshine does wonders for fixing concentration, attitude, happiness and so much more.
“Mum would often tell us at recess that we had to go outside and eat a piece of fruit. I loved being outside anyway, so I didn’t need much encouragement most of the time!”
Talitha's Top 5 Tips...
to assist families with homeschooling during this time of pandemic are:
#1 Quality over Quantity
It doesn't matter if your children didn't get all their work done, just make sure that when they are learning, they are enjoying and understanding it.
#2 Breaks (outside if possible!)
Take a break if they just aren't getting something or have been sitting still for too long. It will do everyone good.
Obviously home is not like school, but you do need a bit of structure. Try and start learning at a regular time each day and knock off as usual. This doesn't mean you can't get them to do some chores, play and other learning inbetween, but knowing that there's a bit of routine is always helpful.
#4 Change activities regularly
This wasn't something I needed much, as I was pretty focused when at school, but I know a lot of kids find it hard to stick to one thing for very long. So if you're doing math and they're getting a bit over it, change subjects and come back to math later.
Try and have fun while learning. You might feel out of your depth or have no idea what you're doing, but neither do most of the other parents that have been forced into this! Just learn along with your child and don't be afraid to ask for help from teachers or friends (or Google!).
***And a BONUS tip from us here at Coolabah Turf!
If you want to disguise a maths lesson at home for the kids, don’t forget to use your backyard to assist with their learning.
A quick, cheap and easy landscape project will do more than just give your backyard a quarantine makeover. It's the perfect project for ‘homeschooling’ students!
Get your kids to work out how many m3 of soil you need to order if the area you’re about to turf is 85m2 and you need a soil depth of 1050mm.
They can also work out which turf they will need and why, and then come up with the overall budget required for the turf and dirt components.