Published on November 11th, 2014 | by Christie0
Homeschooling Down Under & Liberstate Studios
Letter received from a reader:
Homeschooling Down Under & Sutherland Studios
We first heard about home education in 1990, when our son Jerry was only 2, and we took to it immediately. It was (and still is) a very unusual choice in Australia. Jerry (now 10) and Rachel (8) have never been to school, and we are committed to maintaining this lifestyle. My husband George is an astrophysicist at the Australian National University, and I have a degree in Graphic Design, but didn’t work while the children were young. Two years ago I felt that I could make the step into owning my own business, as the kids became more independent. I started Liberstate Studios, and jumped into learning a whole new world of skills – it was overwhelming at first! My home-based business provides freelance graphic design, web design and fibre arts (collage artworks, papier mache sculptures etc). My aim is to work part-time – about 10 (paid) hours a week, and 10 (unpaid) hours on administration and networking activities – but this is variable!
As we agree with Johnathan Rolt’s ideas on home education, we do not work through a regular curriculum with the children, but I make sure I spend at least 3 hours a day one-on-one with Jerry and Rachel – talking, playing board games, reading, doing activities, going to the library or on excursions with the local home education group. As is typical with home education, sometimes we’re doing maths at 10 pm on Saturday night, I often feel like a talking dictionary (“Mum, how do you spell…”), and the kids are rarely up before 9 am.
Running a business in a professional way while home educating is very challenging. Finding a good balance is hard. I get some quiet time to work in the early morning, before the family gets up, and then a few more hours later in the day, or late at night. I attend some business activities (such as Business Breakfasts at 7am) without impacting on the family much, but at other times the children accompany me. They bring a book or two and are (usually!) self-reliant and quiet. I also restrict my schedule to only one client meeting a day.
George’s flexible schedule as an academic is very helpful as well, as he can be with the children occasionally if I can’t take them with me, and they are both old enough now that they can be left at home for short times, staying in contact with me via my mobile phone. I think that my clients are intrigued by my having the children around all the time, and enjoy the family atmosphere in my office/home. Sometimes they even get to meet the pet mice – not something you can do at every graphic design studio! Jerry and Rachel have both learnt a great deal from seeing me learn so many new skills and develop myself in such a way – by being part of the daily life of my business, they have seen the sort of challenges that adults face every day in the real world. They get involved sometimes too – Jerry makes tea and coffee for my clients, and often bakes cakes. He makes dinner sometimes if I’m working to a tight deadline. Rachel plays ‘running a business’ games, and wants to have her own veterinary consultancy business when she’s older. They both give me advice on my design work, too!
The family and home education will always be my first priority, but running my own business gives me a great sense of accomplishment and self-esteem, which helps me as a mother and home educator. It’s a worthwhile and satisfying challenge!