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April 26, 2012

Changing the World One Family At a Time

By Lesley Mitchell

In a quiet valley, edged by the Hume lake, near Bowna, in the state of New South Wales, Australia, over 150 homeschooled children, parents, grandparents and caregivers gathered in March for CampFest 2012.

Arriving from varied states across Australia—some having driven for 7+ hours, others flown in—camps were made, tents erected, jayco’s, caravans and huts filled with people, activities and laughter.

Some arrived a few days early and shared a family holiday by the lake. On Tuesday the camp kicked off with a friendly get-together, meeting the families that we were to share the weeks experiences with. Children were allocated teams for the week and scattered off to share their adventures.

Team activities included: teen bonding sessions, abseiling, and the confidence building low rope courses challenged them to work together as a group to get their entire team across the challenge course regardless of age or skill level. There was boomerang throwing, disc (frisbee) golf, obstacle courses, and team building challenges which brought much group thinking that encouraged the children to think outside of the box and come up with creative solutions.

In the evenings there were group movie nights where children and parents shared food, laughter and bonding. Children created a presentation play together, put on a concert, a disco and explored the galaxy and science experiments with speciality lecturers. The first aid team came in to teach all the children what to do in an emergency.

Later that afternoon, I overheard 2 girls saying, “Lay still, you are injured and not to move whilst I call 000,” and then calmly explaining to the (pretend) 000 operator their cause for concern.

One of my favourite experiences was watching a teen game stop in its tracks as two little ones wandered in wanting to play. The teens quickly discussed how to play a game that would be fun for them, yet also include the little children-arms were wrapped around their shoulders and they were warmly included in the game. For me, this represented one of the most beautiful qualities that homeschool children exhibit: working together to find an inclusive solution for everyone.

The children were treated by Jenni and Roman (Australian Homeschool Network representatives) to huge showbags filled with hats, educational supplies and many treats. Their faces lit up with delight at the morning meeting as they were each handed their special goodie ‘sack.’ During the entire week, Jenni and Roman added special touches, including AM & PM teas and parents’ treat bags at the end.

For those who didn’t want to cook, all meals were provided, allowing families to relax and enjoy their times together.

Friendships were formed and strengthened, a couple of teen romances continued, and parents were encouraged and equipped through conference sessions and mens’ and womens’ chat rooms.

In the afternoons, parents brought their own areas of speciality and generously shared creative projects with the children. A swap meet of resources shared new and old books and allowed parents to catch up on areas of teaching skills and allay any concerns we may have had about whether we were ‘up to speed’ with our educational goals.

One of the dads organised a hovercraft ride for anyone who wanted to join in, which was a real treat to experience.

What do we take away from this week of togetherness? Renewed enthusiasm for home schooling and the realisation that we ARE doing a great job with our children. Friendships that are sure to continue, the ability to connect with support systems around Australia, knowledge of growing home schooling options. Watching our children grow and develop right in front of our eyes. Exciting new areas of skills development, but most of all, increased joy and confidence in our children, as they realise that they are part of something really dynamic and exciting and are on the cutting edge of making changes in this world—one family at a time.

Campfest is run by the Australian Homeschool Network (AHN) , and can be contacted via the website or at PH: 0409163372.

Learn more by visiting HSLDA’s Australia page