Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Why it's good for my kids to go to school.

Part of me is always sad when holidays end. My crew are such good company. And today my crew headed back to school for another term.
But another part of me is very happy knowing that what we choose works well for us.

It's a gorgeous rainy day in Melbourne.
It makes me so happy to know that our rain tanks are filling up - we use a lot of water in our house and I like to know that it is being collected by us to use by us.

Every time school goes back I lament the end of holidays.  The walls echo with emptiness. And it takes a couple of days to get back into the changed rhythm.
I love the sounds of a busy holiday house.  Lots of extra adults and children around.  It is heart filling for me.  The stuff of life.

Yet as much as I LOVE to have them near, I know that for me (and for them) it is better for all of us if they learn to develop a life aside from me at school.

It is important to me that my role is as mother not as teacher- and although teaching is very much what I do every single day with my kids, the formal teaching role would not fit well.  I truly admire those that can delineate this and make it work for them and their children.

I think it is important for my kids to navigate the social arena of a diverse array of people their age.  I think it is important for them to navigate the trickier sides of people.
I think that learning how to get along in a community involves being alongside people you wouldn't normally choose to.

In our adult life our work places will see us needing to negotiate and work with people that are not like us, that have differing ideas, that work differently, that behave differently, that have different values.
It is SUCH an important skill to learn how to do this in a respectful way. As is learning how to deal with conflict.

I think it is super important for my kids to have role models that are not me or their dad & to be exposed to them every day. While I like to think that my kids can learn a lot from us,  it is unrealistic and unhealthy to not expose them to other ways of thinking and to other levels of expertise.  I am all for teaching my kids to tap into people's expertise.  Just as I hope one day they will share their own unique expertise with others.  This is how we learn  & progress and keep our minds open.

I also love that my kids get to have a bit of life that is secret from me.  I don't need to know every little thing in their life.  My role is to let the line go out a bit further until eventually I let it go all together.  They need to take responsibility for parts of their life without me by their side.  It is good for them to practise this a little in the safe confines of a school community. I want them to feel confident to let me go- as hard as that is for me.

My kids need to be away not just from me but also their brothers too.  Learning how to be a good sibling is a very different prospect to learning how to be a good friend.

And then there is this- I need a break from my children to be the best mother.  You all know how much joy I get from my children but parenting five is relentless.  I need to invest in me a little too.  And when I do it is no surprise that I am better at investing that energy back into my family.  I think it is super important that my children SEE me investing in me too.

So while I love the lazy slow starts of holidays, there are enormous benefits for all of our family for my kids to go to school.
As hard as it is for me to have an empty house at the end of school holidays I know very well that the emptiness is a good thing for all of us.

Today I think I will breathe in the smell of long awaited rain & bake a cake.

What are you up to today?
I hope it is a good one whatever you are up to.

(NB. I have edited the title of this post as it became clear I had upset people who home school their children. It was never my intention to suggest that my choice was any better than people who home school or that by some choosing this option that their children didn't get what mine do. I never meant to make it seem as if it was a competition or comparison. It was never intended to be a post about whose choice is better, we all make the choices we believe are the best for our children. We are all doing our very best to be the best parents we can. I say in my post that I admire people that do make home schooling work for them, I really do!  - it was merely meant to be a post about why I choose what I do.
I am sorry that it may have come across like this and can see how it may have, hence why I have changed the title to avoid any further confusion.)

YOGHURT & SPEKUULAAS Raspberry cheesecake.
Speekuulaas are a biscuit I have known since my childhood. 
Cinnamony and heavy with fragrance. Crunchy and delicious.
Mr Girlfriend is a big fan of cheesecake & so I thought i would make a cheesecake base using the crumbled up Almond speekulaas I had in the pantry.
I wanted to try and substitute what would normally be sour cream for yoghurt to reduce the heaviness.
Gee whiz it was DELICIOUS!
The yoghurt & raspberries lightens it and adds a lovely sourness which matches the richness of the rich biscuit base.


12 almond spekuulaas (normal ones will be fine!)
60g butter
600g light cream cheese
120g greek yoghurt
175g caster sugar
1tsp pure vanilla extract
3 eggs
2 tblsp plain flour


Preheat the oven to 180C

In a food processor grind the spekuulaas until it turns to crumbs
Mix together melted butter & ground spekuulaas.

Line & grease a 22cm springform tin.

Place the butter & ground spekuulaas onto the base, patting down so it is evenly spread across base.
Bake for 8 mins. Remove and let cool.

Mix all other ingredients & pour into tin.

Bake for 40mins. Centre will be slightly wobbly.

Let cool in tin.

Top with Raspberries & dust with icing sugar.

Enjoy this new to me toon from this great band from Brooklyn (SO much great music comes out of Brooklyn doesn't it!)


  1. Me too. Oh and I don't know how to add up and am a lousy speller!! Love this post Ruth x

  2. I couldn't agree more with you, and I'm not even 'qualified' (yet) to agree. I was a governess on an outback cattle station to children who learnt via distance education ('school of the air'). People back home would always ask me 'but why doesn't their mum just do it?' I saw first hand how incredibly difficult it would be to wear two hats - one of mother and one of primary educator. Miss Emma had to come in to wear that hat, I got that, it was incredibly important for that family, and I'm sure lots of others. I totally nodded along with you saying that it is important for your boys to see you investing in yourself as well, I think that's so so so important. I hope to remember all of this as I navigate my way through motherhood, starting in about 8 weeks (please be 8 weeks, don't come early, I'm not organised!)

    Today is rainy and lovely here too, that cheesecake is calling my name, as is a spot of crochet in front of the fire. Happy Autumn days x

  3. carolyn99_turner@yahoo.com.au22 April 2014 11:26

    I'm with you, Ruth. Love the lazy days and having them home but we all need to explore our own space. As a parent I see my children's strengths, weaknesses and talents but it's also important for them to see mine and to understand that I have an identity beyond being 'mum' - pretty tricky when you're a home mum, I imagine even trickier when you are home school mum! And to be honest, I don't think I have the ability to lead them through the final years of secondary school - feedback I can give but leading their education is a different kettle of fish! Shall spend the next few hours absorbing our beautiful grey sky and pop some Anzacs in the oven!

  4. MeganBlandford22 April 2014 14:44

    I have LOVED our first "real" experience of school holidays, and was sad this morning to see A go back to school (although I didn't let her know that!). But like you, I know it's the best thing for us: my little extrovert thrives on that social environment, and at the end of the day when we're together again we have lots of stories to share.

  5. I so agree.. It's exactly how I feel. I'm a much better mummy when I have some time to myself and they are better for having a school community.

  6. If institutional schooling is working for your family that's great, however, it's a misperception that homeschooled children are always at home, or always with their own parents or only learn from their parents. That would be a lonely existence indeed. It's also a myth that homeschooling parents never get time for themselves - I personally have a few free days a week. I also work from home and am taking a night classes. I get to nap or go out without children whenever I like. I will be going away on holidays this year all on my own and I know my very independent children will be fine without me.

    My young (still breastfed) children are mostly with me, however, my school age kids love to socialise and spend days at a time with other families and we reciprocate by having their friends for extended sleep overs. I do regular kid swaps with my friends in order to have regular days off. My children go away on holidays without me with friends or to their grandparents homes and have also traveled overseas without me. My older kids take themselves to their extra curricular activities that are close to home such as dance and art classes - they are gone for hours and as I never get along to their classes it's all very private from me unless they choose to share and the same goes for any other activity they do...we offer the children privacy and leave it up to them if they choose to share with us.

    If my kids were to go to the local school they'd be mixing only with children very similar to themselves - middle class Anglo Saxons - whereas at homeschool group they get to mix with children of many different religions and cultures and not just in a school setting but get to visit their homes (or boats or buses) We attend four 10 day camps each year and I can honestly say I don't see my children from breakfast until very late at night almost the whole time as they are too busy doing their own thing and me mine. We also get to know traveling homeschoolers who are temporarily in our city - in our homeschool group we currently have a familes from Israel, America, Czechoslovakia, England, Japan and Spain as well as two traveling families who live on a bus and a boat.

  7. What working for your personal needs and your family is great, but I think a far more accurate title for this article would be "All the things I don't understand about homeschooling and a comprehensive list of my preconceived notions that I have clearly not bothered to try to gain an understanding of."

  8. Hey Ruth,

    Ugh, I just posted a rather long reply and lost it… *sigh* Ah well. The gist of it was I do home educate my lovely girls and they live a vibrant, interesting, community filled life. They are all articulate, hilarious, creative and fiercely independent and can negotiate conflicts and navigate the social arena with a diverse number of people of ALL ages. Much the same as you or I do. They spend time away from home, time away from me and each other regularly. They have their own lives, quite separate from mine and they have freedom.

    I agree that not having acres to role models and mentors would be unhealthy. Our children have a very broad range of mentors at their disposal. Some they have found, some we have helped them find. These mentors help pass on skills they need and enrich their lives by broadening their community and providing wonderful role models.

    We spend lots of time each week with a huge group of families who have become my girls' wider family and if anything, life is a little too social! Most of the parents I share my home-educating days with also have jobs and things they are passionate about (as do I), well aside from their own children. They are interesting people from varied backgrounds and with a huge bunch of talents among them, which enriches all our children's lives.

    I'm not my children's teacher. I provide support for them as they navigate the world in their own way. All the hard work (the learning) is up to them. I totally agree that to be present while parenting, one also needs time not parenting. But this is totally possible in a home educating family's life. It really is!

    I absolutely get that you love and miss your children at the end of school hols and that school is a wonderful choice for your family. But I'd be surprised if the reality you've described, for the homeschooled family you've imagined, really exists. There are so many approaches to home schooling and the stereotypes around unsocialised, cloistered homeschoolers has well and truly been smashed. It's a big, wide, wonderful world and we're all living in it, loving it now! I'd love for you to meet my surprisingly well adjusted owlets one day :)

    As for today, well, we spent lots of time gardening, poking around the tip shop, mooching at a fave local cafe, listening to some records, cooking. I worked a bit… The kids spent some time playing minecraft and skyping their friends. Normal stuff. It was absolutely a good one. xx

    PS. This turned into a long reply too!

  9. thankyou so much for taking the time to reply (especially TWICE!) - I don't mean to demean anyone's choice here - and in fact looking back at it the title is really wrong- I do try and say in the post that I think it is ace when people can do this well, I really do!
    I think what the title should have read was "Why I love school holidays and why I love my children going to school as well'.
    It is more a commentary on why I love having my kids at home for the holidays- which is not what I hear a whole lot of the time- more often heard is "Sheesh I can't wait for the holidays to be oveer my kids give me teh ****'- which breaks my heart.

    It's true what you say about how many approaches there are out there & me making blanket statements was not what I intended- merely me thinking about what & why our choice is good for me I guess. I wasn't trying to say that people who home schooled didn't do those things but can see how it can be misunderstood as that.
    I really love your comment. thankyou. xx

  10. hi Lauren,
    Thanks for stopping in here. I have tried to clarify my position in my reply above- i never wrote this as a means to say that these things didn't happen in home schooling environments but can see how it may be misunderstood as that.

  11. Hi Sam,
    I hope my comment above clarifies things a bit more. Thanks so much for letting me know your story.

  12. How nice was it to hear the rain!

  13. the smell of anzacs is one of the nicest of all! so good to have some 'us' time huh. xx

  14. thanks Cindy. oh that cake is so good! I hope you make it one day. it's super easy and sooooo delicious. x

  15. community of any kind is the bees knees!

  16. Oh I so hear you on the "can't wait for holidays to be over" thing. What I think people mostly mean is they like their daily routines and how life is with school in the midst. Life outside of normal daily rhythms can be chaotic! But sometimes I come across peeps who make me wonder why they had kids in the first place… I must say we're always a bit gleeful when school is back and the museums, beaches, playgrounds and cafes are all ours and our buddies' again ;)

    Anyhow, thanks so much for clarifying, Ruth. I'm so happy you've found a way to live life that suits your family so very well and allows you to do all the things that make your heart sing. It's all any of us mamas can ever ask for, hey? xx

  17. EXACTLY! Choosing what is right for us. It is good we don't all do things the same- that would never work for any of us. and thankyou- I am really sorry if it has upset people. I never intended for it to do that. xxx

  18. I dont actually see why you've felt the need to bring homeschooling into it at all? You could say every single word in the article without even once mentioning home schooling, however by making the title of article explicitly reference homeschooking, every point in the article automatically gets framed as being a response or reference to your view on homeschooling. Then, when you say things like "kids need to be influence by people other than mum and dad" and "I need time away from my children" its a totally natural assumption that you believe these things dont happen in homeschooling, because YOU'RE the one that brought homeschooling into the conversation. You could have entitled this article "Why Im Glad School Went Back" and not changed a single word and had it still be a valid article without any of the implied value judgements on homeschooling. The fact that you decided, through your title, to frame the article around homeschooling (and in paticular you use of the concept of "feeling guilty" in your original title) indicates that there is some kind of underlying point or issue here for you, that you need to work through. Because there was absolutely no need to frame this article around homeschooling or even bring it up, unless you are trying to make some kind of point about the areas in which you, as a mother and teacher, feel that homeschooling is inferior.

  19. Yes, GG, Your reply did clarify things. Thank you. I get the feeling perhaps you have bought into the way the media portrays homeschooling? Accurate reports about home education are few and far between and the reality of home education remains a mystery to most. Most homeschoolers are far too busy living an unschooled life to bother tackling public perception but I am glad to see a few posters here addressing some of the common misconceptions.. You obviously have a good relationship with your children and am a thoughtful Mum. At any time in the future if you find school is not working for them I suspect you would be great at homeschooling.

  20. I'm with you Ruth. I can't wait to make that cheese cake, the addition of the yogurt sounds right up my alley. xx

  21. Judith Pyrah Arnold25 April 2014 06:57

    I don't wish to engage in an argument with you, but honestly based on your post your knowledge of home education seems very much limited. I've been home educating for many years now (I have six children and started homeschooling the older ones after elementary school) and I have never attempted to be the sole teacher for any of my children or to isolate my children from the larger community that we live in. What I am, how I see my role, is that of an educational facilitator or academic coach. With very young children who are just beginning to learn to read that can mean that I spend an hour or more working with the child on a daily basis and yes that interaction often takes place at the kitchen table. Later that day that same child is playing cards with seniors at a local nursing home, riding bikes with the neighborhood kids, and heading to swim team practice or learning about salamanders at the nature center (along with people of all ages including other children and adults).
    Once a child is reading independently there are so very many options for education and community activities that open up and my role changes to 'facilitator' (and 'driver', lol). For example, one teen child may be doing a formal unpaid internship at a local wildlife refuge, participating in a MOOC, enrolled in a private academy for an online distance course in Logic in which she interacts with peers via a Skype-like interface, and pursuing an independent study in history in which she reports back to me weekly. Another teen child might be taking classes at the local community college and heavily involved in local community theater, while reading her way through the Great Books while participating in an online discussion group made up of adults and other students. This child entered (on her own initiative) and won a local essay contest. Both have written letters to the editor of the local newspaper on numerous occasions. My other kids have participated in Zoo classes, classes at the local science center and local museums, competed in math and science competitions, and published poetry. I can't imagine any of my kids sitting passively at home waiting for me to instruct them every day!
    I think that if you have not had a situation arise with one of your children that causes you to consider homeschooling it is very easy to accept the stereotype of homeschooling that is often seen in the popular media. There does seem to be some sort of a group of very religious homeschoolers that apparently do sit at home and are very much heavily regulated by their parents, but honestly in all of my years homeschooling I have never, not even once, run into any of these families. Most of the families I know who homeschool are pretty much like mine and a few are even crazier. For example, a local general practice doctor in my town homeschools and her children at always at her office doing things with microscopes and bunsen burners. Please understand we don't sit home all the time, I don't provide instruction for all of my children in all subjects every day, and I am not the only adult my kids get to interact with! I also get plenty of time for myself to pursue my own interests. In fact, I am often home alone working and wondering what time I'm supposed to pick up which child!

  22. I dont have kids and I don't have an opinion on home schooling versus regular schooling and I didn't read the post in that negative light. Very interesting responses though! It would appear that there is a huge sensitivity amongst the homeschooling population with regards to their choices.

  23. I imagine Emma, that the sensitivity [and need to defend themselves and their choices], is because they are so often judged on their decision to educate their children out of the formal school system, usually by people who have decided that that choice isn't the right one for them and their children; which is fine, do what works for you and your family, everyone should do that but different things work for different families and judgement from people who have elected not to go down the same path as you rarely helps.

    Meh. I don't have children but if I was ever lucky enough to have them, no, homeschooling wouldn't be for me but if it works for others, fabulous.

    If what someone chooses to do, doesn't affect me in any way shape or form, I say let them do it and I keep any thoughts on it to myself :)

  24. Very well said. How important it is to value your kids' independence and privacy, in balance with the things you can share together.

    And wow! What a cake.


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