(This is part of an ongoing series chronicling memories of my life growing up as a missionary kid in Vanuatu. For links to previous posts you can go here)
I had never heard of 'home school'. As far as I was concerned school was a collection of buildings I went to in my school uniform with my school bag and sat in a class with 30 other little boys and girls. My memory was that I quite enjoyed it. Believe it or not I was an incredibly outgoing and social 5 year old (something happened between then and now).
In Vanuatu we did correspondence school.
I hear stories of people who were home schooled, days staring at different times, breaks for excursions, following their interests - and I am rather envious. That's is not what our school was like at all.
The study in our house was set aside as our classroom. There were two wooden school desks we had brought over in our crate. Mum is a trained primary teacher and so thought we should start at 9am on the dot, with a recess and lunch break, and finish at 3pm in the afternoon.
Before we left we visited the NSW Distance Education office in Casino, and met our teacher for the year. Distance education is set up mainly for children living in remote areas of Australia, or traveling children without a regular school to attend. And there are a few children, like us, who live overseas. Our teacher had their own class of students all over the place who they would send work to and talk to on the phone (if you had one - we would communicate by recoding ourselves onto a cassette, and sending it back and forward).
A parcel with lessons was sent to us which contained instructions for Mum, and all the work we were to complete that week. Our days started with Spelling, then Maths, then English. Afternoons were reserved for fun subjects like Science and Creative Arts and HSIE.
By Friday we had completed all our worksheets, and they were put back into a parcel along with a taped message to our teacher (Which included our news, any discussions we were meant to have about different subjects and a report from Mum to our teachers back in Australia).
This parcel was then sent back to our teachers, and a few weeks later would arrive back, with our work marked and our work for another week.
There were always several parcels in transit, so when we got the parcels it was always a bit of a surprise to see what the work was that we had completed a month ago and now had received back. Those parcels were eagerly anticipated. Our teachers would add in stickers and treats for us, and there were new library books to pour over.
I understand why Mum did things the way she did. She was terrified that we would fall behind our peers back in Australia, and was determined that we wouldn't be disadvantaged because we had been missionary kids.
But she shouldn't have worried. We came back to Australia well ahead of most of our peers, and with a work ethic that was unheard of in most Australian classrooms.