ICPA lessons for bureau­crats

The Northern Star - Northern New South Wales Rural Weekly - - NEWS - AN­DREA DAVY An­drea.davy@ru­ral­weekly.com.au .

IF ISO­LATED home class­rooms were vis­ited more of­ten by de­ci­sion-mak­ers, dis­tance ed­u­ca­tion would be much bet­ter off.

That’s the opin­ion of gra­zier, and home teacher, Alana Moller from Star of Hope Sta­tion.

Alana and her hus­band Scott run Star of Hope, which is sit­u­ated about an hour and a half drive away from Cler­mont in Cen­tral Queens­land.

Alana has been a vi­tal link for the ed­u­ca­tion of all of her daugh­ters and is cur­rently teach­ing Zarah (11) and Ad­di­son (6), as el­dest child Myken­zie (13) has fin­ished pri­mary school at their home class­room and is at­tend­ing board­ing school in Townsville.

Be­fore step­ping up to the role of home ed­u­ca­tor, Alana ad­mits she didn’t know what she was get­ting her­self in for.

She is a qual­i­fied sec­ondary school teacher but said it wasn’t un­til she was in the thick of classes she re­alised how alone and iso­lated she felt.

There are no re­lief teach­ers if she is un­well, col­leagues to gather ad­vice from or su­pe­rior prin­ci­pals to lend a hand in dis­ci­plin­ing on Star of Hope – it’s all up to her.

It’s lessons like that, that Alana is keen for pol­i­cy­mak­ers to un­der­stand. Next week she will walk the halls of Par­lia­ment in Can­berra with the Iso­lated Chil­dren’s and Par­ents’ As­so­ci­a­tion.

She feels there is a widen­ing gap be­tween the city and coun­try, and it should be up to those in power “to get off the beaten track and come and have a look”.

“I would like to see the peo­ple ac­tu­ally mak­ing the de­ci­sions to come and see what they are mak­ing de­ci­sions about,” she said.

“A cou­ple of years ago I had a few guys from the Queens­land Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion brought to my home by the ICPA state coun­cil.

“These were three peo­ple who make the de­ci­sions about Queens­land dis­tance ed­u­ca­tion and how we do our lessons, but all three of them had never been in a home school room be­fore.

“They were all teach­ers, but you can’t un­der­stand what it’s like un­less you have seen it.”

Amanda said the key to sur­viv­ing the chal­lenges of dis­tance ed­u­ca­tion was to build net­works with those in the same sit­u­a­tion.

“I have met peo­ple through dis­tance ed­u­ca­tion, who live nowhere near me, but we have be­come the clos­est friends be­cause we are go­ing through the same ex­pe­ri­ence,” she said.

“It’s re­ally im­por­tant to have that con­nec­tion. In that re­spect, so­cial me­dia is mar­vel­lous.”

Amanda said the pro­gram Out­reach, which gives clus­ters of stu­dents a school-type ex­pe­ri­ence at the Cler­mont Show­grounds, was in­valu­able to her com­mu­nity.

“The kids get to wear their school uni­forms and have real lessons with their teach­ers,” she said.

Amanda’s mid­dle child, Zarah, thrives dur­ing these weeks and spends the whole time with her friends. The week also gives par­ents the chance to catch up and a have a short break from the pres­sures of teach­ing. Amanda is pas­sion­ate about the work of ICPA, as she can see how much the group has ac­com­plished.

Her class­room is kit­ted out with the cor­rect equip­ment and learn­ing re­sources thanks to the ICPA, she said. While there was still a way to go, es­pe­cially in re­gards to the group’s Dis­tance Ed­u­ca­tion Teach­ing Al­lowance lobby, Amanda said her fore­bears had much tougher cir­cum­stances.

“When I think of the DETA lobby I of­ten think to my­self, ‘gosh, I wish that could be back-paid to my mother-in­law’,” she said.

“She taught her four chil­dren and her mother taught her. I just don’t know how they coped in those times.”

Scott will step up as home teacher while Amanda is lob­by­ing in Can­berra.

“It’s im­por­tant for my kids to know there is a big­ger world than just here. By me go­ing down there I am prov­ing that,” she said.

PHO­TOS: CON­TRIB­UTED

Alana Moller with kids Ad­di­son (6) and Zarah (11) at Out­reach.

Ad­di­son dur­ing read­ing time.

The Moller girls are ex­cited for mini-school in Char­ters Towers.

Alana and Scott Moller with their kids Zarah (11), Ad­di­son (6) and Myken­zie (13).

Zarah com­plet­ing a les­son dur­ing a fam­ily trip to the doc­tor.

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