I was a child of both home schooling and our local public school, before being sent to boarding school. Mum taught myself and my siblings around the dining room table as by that time the schoolhouse on our property had been converted into extra accommodation for jackeroos. The last time the building had been used was in the mid-1940s when my father and his two sisters were schooled there by a series of governesses. And I mean a series. Around twelve young women tried their best to educate that generation and apparently only one of those women left due to the isolation. The phrase, ‘little buggers’ comes to mind. Eventually my father and aunts were packed off to boarding school in Sydney.
My brothers and sister and I tried our best to disrupt lessons with mum, especially with a busy homestead buzzing around us. We itched to be outdoors. Crashing go-carts, fishing for yabbies or vying to be the one picked to go out with Dad in the old blue utility. Paddock bashing in the old ute was the phrase we overheard and clung to. Better still if the horses were in the yards. Maybe one of the jackeroos would take us out for a ride.
Our attempts at escape were glorious but fleeting. Mum was fast. Much faster than us. And she had a sixth sense when it came to her children’s attempts at wrangling out of lessons – crawling under the large oak table, dashing out a door, going to the toilet and not returning. She was there, firmly but lovingly, steering us back to our lessons. We quickly understood that the more dedicated we were in school hours the more likely we were to receive an early mark in the afternoon. Occasionally the wooden spoon was waved about and made contact, but we were learning in the heart of a busy environment and we soon understood that everyone had a part to play.
Mum taught us, cleaned, cooked for her family, jackeroos and an often continual stream of visitors, worked out in the paddock – red finger nails flashing, when required and generally kept the homestead running smoothly. The two-way radio was a constant reminder of what was happening on the property during the working week. The men chatting over the air as they discussed the movement of stock, the tasks of the day and as always, the importance of the weather. There were jackeroos coming and going – for smoko, for lunch and in search of Dad. And of course Dad came in regularly for meals, regaling us with tales from the day and quite a few from his past.
When it was decided that we should go to our local public school for a year or so, a transitional stage before we too began the rickety overnight train ride to Sydney boarding schools on the North West Mail (or snail as we called it), we finally realised how lucky we were to have been home-schooled. But the local public school had its own benefits, beginning with riding our motorbikes the couple of kilometers
back and forth to the school bus pickup point. Races along the dirt road top and tailed our school days.
And here’s me with my Farrah Fawcett hairstyle and my sister Brooke.