Most parents can relate to how nerve-racking it is to send a child to school for the first time. But for Deb on Parental Guidance, sending her daughter off to class when she was just four felt way too soon.
"I looked at her and thought, 'Do I really have to send you to school?'" Deb, 46, tells TV WEEK. "I started to do some research and found out about home schooling. Before then, I had no idea it existed or that it was even legal."
And 12 years later, single mum Deb has home-schooled all six of her kids – Jess, 16, AJ, 15, Cooper, 11, Fletcher, nine, and Lulu, seven – and become a huge advocate for at-home learning.
"Home-school parenting allows me to have that strong connection with my children," she says. "I really believe it prepares them for life in the real world, because we live the real world every day. They're not stuck in a classroom with only kids their own age."
While many parents have had recent experience of trying to bring the classroom into the home during COVID lockdowns across the country, Deb says her approach is very different.
"The key difference is that for us, home schooling is a way of life," she says. "I think that's what makes it so hard for parents trying to do school at home – they're trying to run their lives parallel to their child's learning.
"I've worked my whole life around my children's schooling, rather than making it fit in with my life."
Despite being confident in her style of parenting, Deb has some confronting moments on Parental Guidance this week. The screen-time challenge – where the kids aren't allowed to use their phones or computers for 24 hours – strains her relationship with eldest daughter Jess.
"Doing the challenge and dealing with those emotions with Jess, I felt like a complete failure," she says, admitting that she struggled to understand Jess' point of view.
But once the teenager explained her experience, Deb understood the affect that having no access to technology had on her.
"This is how teenagers connect now," Deb says. "And with Jess being home-schooled, technology is so important. It [the screen-time challenge] was singly the most challenging, yet most rewarding, moment."
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