• Liam Carroll

A+ Home Schooling with The de Mestres

Two years ago, Violet was struggling at school. Nearing the end of Year 1, her parents Mitch and Jade faced a big decision; persist with a traditional schooling system that was making Violet miserable and hope things improve or risk setting off on a possible rollercoaster of alternative educational institutions that might prove even worse. When the school counsellor suggested home schooling, they did some research and thought it was worth a go, quickly transforming their home into a school! Two years on, Violet’s thriving, and with Covid forcing us all to rethink the nature of work and education in a home-isolated world, the decision to embrace home schooling seems particularly timely.

With Violet’s success, Mitch and Jade started their second daughter Ivy straight into Kindy home-schooling. As Jade runs me through the way she teaches her kids, I’m certain the future will have more parents considering this path. “We don’t have to be regimented with learning a specific subject at a time. I’ll read Charlotte’s Web, stopping to point out spelling, grammar and technical aspects of English. We reflect on the story, the writer’s style, the subject matter of farming, family, friendship, ecology, animal rights and even spider’s web communication. The learning goes far beyond just learning how to spell.”

The flexibility of Jade’s teaching extends beyond literature. “When the storms buffeted Sydney, I took the girls to the beach, showed them how a waterfront home’s pool had collapsed into the ocean. We could apply that one event to better understanding science, erosion, meteorology, geography, city planning.” Even holidays serve as schooling opportunities. “While we were in the Blue Mountains, we went bushwalking for P.E., completed nature studies by observing flora and fauna, and even met with an Aboriginal elder who explained the importance of an age old Indigenous meeting place in the National Park, allowing us to better grasp the magnitude of the land itself.”

While the de Mestre’s experience has been extremely positive, they point out that home schooling is not for everyone. Jade is incredibly organised with a natural flair for teaching. She is able to work her own hours as operations manager for Mitch’s physiotherapy business. Also, the network of home schooling families on the Beaches allows their girls endless interaction possibilities with other kids, a crucial part of their overall development. These are important considerations to factor in.

As to the future, “We’re taking this a year at a time. Perhaps next year, traditional schooling may be a good option, perhaps not. At the moment, home-schooling is a perfect fit.”