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Rural mums feel pressure of educating in the bush

SPEAKING OUT: Isolated Children's Parents' Association Belyando Mt Coolon branch president Kate Ashton and ICPA Queensland state president Kim Hughes in Alpha.
SPEAKING OUT: Isolated Children's Parents' Association Belyando Mt Coolon branch president Kate Ashton and ICPA Queensland state president Kim Hughes in Alpha. Gillian Semple

KATE Ashton still remembers the feeling of dread when she sat down in front of her five-year-old daughter with a stack of complicated school work to go through, knowing her daughter's education was resting in her hands.

Although she has no teaching background, Kate, like many other women on the land, dove in head-first to a life of educating kids in the bush.

Last week she was among the hundreds of mums who headed to Alpha for the Isolated Children's Parents' Association conference.

Although there are still challenging days, Kate has found her stride and, with the help of a governess, her daughter Chelsea, who is now 9, and Preston, 6, are progressing through their school levels.

Kate first joined the ICPA because she knew there would not be anyone who would fight harder for her kids' education than her.

"We all have friends whose kids are going through mainstream schools. You can see where our kids are missing out just because of where they live,” she said.

Living on Illamatha, a cattle property about two-and-a-half hours south of Charters Towers, distance education is the only option for her kids.

Kate spoke openly about the pressure she felt when she embarked on their education journey.

"It never goes away,” she said.

"Soon enough they will be going away to boarding school. I don't want them to get to boarding school and feel as though they were only half educated.”

When teaching her son, she noticed there were a few things he was not picking up quite right.

She trusted her gut and now Preston sees a speech pathologist in Bowen to help with his learning difficulties.

It's a two-and-a-half hour drive, but Kate believes it is worthwhile.

"I wonder if it would have been picked up if he was in a mainstream school,” she said.

"I am glad I am teaching him and am able to pursue other avenues to help with his learning.”

Kate attended a small school for her own primary education but her husband, John, was educated on the land by his mum.

Her top tip when it comes to teaching kids on the land was to ask for help.

"That might be from your neighbour who has gone through it, or your mother if she taught you,” she said.

"And if it doesn't work, just try and try again. And if you think something isn't quite right, trust your gut.”

Kate is now the president of her local ICPA branch. She said joining the group initially made her feel much less isolated.

"When you come to these events, you notice that the motions you are putting forward for your branch is very similar, if not the same to other branches,” she said.

"So we are all going through the same thing.”

Topics:  icpa rural woman


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