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Toowoomba parents back 'unschooling' over tradition

TOOWOOMBA parents Rachael and George Clark are advocates of "unschooling" and say it's not about no school, but letting the children run with their passions.

The couple's eldest daughter Jemima, who has Asperger's, struggled with school from an early age and for two years they tried every parenting strategy in the book.

"We did everything to make her go to school," Mrs Clark said.

"At one point she flatly refused to go.

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"It came to a head when the teacher wouldn't allow Jemima to use the library."

The couple pulled Jemima out of school and visited the Wirraglen Support Group for Homeschoolers, Highfields where they first came across the idea of "unschooling".

"When I first heard about it, I thought what are those parents doing to that poor child?" Mrs Clark said.

After reading and learning more about the alternative style of education, Mrs Clark said she realised a change of mindset was in order about how she educated her children and her role as a parent.

Learning together as a family are dad George Clark, Milli, 9, William, 6, Jemima 12, their mum Rachael and Alexander, 18 months.
Learning together as a family are dad George Clark, Milli, 9, William, 6, Jemima 12, their mum Rachael and Alexander, 18 months. Kevin Farmer

"It was a journey, but we slowly phased in unschooling," she said.

"We're still getting our heads around it. Instead of teaching, we are engaged 24/7 with our children."

She said the philosophy of unschooling was letting the children run with their passions and direct their own learning, rather than being forced what to learn.

"People seem to think it's about sitting back and letting the children do whatever they want, but it's not. We're actually doing more as parents."

Are traditional schools the best place for a child to get their education?

This poll ended on 26 April 2014.

Yes - 18%

No - 81%

This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

"Our first project was a chicken coop. We did that to re-engage Jemima in learning and she would have to do maths and reading."

Mr Clark, a musician and electrician, said they couldn't believe the change in their eldest daughter.

"The growth in confidence has been amazing," he said.

"They are different children."

Mrs Clark agreed: "It was Jemima that led us there more than anything."

"Now she's doing robotics courses online. It's incredible what she's been covering."

Topics:  education homeschooling toowoomba



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