Friday, 30 October 2020

WHITIANGA WEATHER

Major home-based education milestone for Jenny Collier

A decade’s worth of current and former students, and educators gathered on Thursday last week to celebrate 10 years of Inspired Kindergartens Home Based Education in Whitianga thanks to the hard work and dedication of Jenny Collier.

There were greetings and reunions aplenty as families with children of all ages paid tribute to the care and learning that Jenny has given to so many. And while she was proud to receive her 10-year certificate from Inspired Kindergartens’ Kathryn Hawkes, the day also provided an opportunity for Jenny to reflect on a career in home-based education that has lasted for 36 years. “It just made sense to me at the time, I was raising my own children so having a few more around the house was not a problem,” she says.

But seeing how the children flourished and thrived in the relative freedom of home-based care, how relationships developed and friendships were formed, Jenny’s new job quickly became a deep passion. “They are all just part of my family,” she says. “That never changes, even when they grow up.”

Some of the teenagers that Jennie looked after as babies and toddlers still visit on occasion. “Come around any time, you know where I am. If you want to run away for a little while, you are welcome here,” she lightly jokes with some of her former charges.

Having worked with several other umbrella groups over the years, Jenny partnered with Inspired Kindergartens 10 years ago because of their strong focus on nature and the environment, and the benefits of these experiences for children. “Their philosophy really fitted with ours,” she says.

Kathryn says Jenny, who is now joined by daughter Tracie, also a qualified educator, “walks and talks” the values and beliefs of Inspired Kindergartens. She mentions projects at the Whitianga Bike Park and beach planting initiatives as examples of how the children were learning by exploring and contributing to their own communities.

According to Jenny, it is these freedoms and opportunities that are at the heart of the home-based approach. Whether it is at home or out and about in Whitianga, Jenny says the children can be actively involved in directing their own learning. Cupboards full of learning resources line numerous walls inside her house, while the garden is a haven for fun and exploration.

“We don’t have to have such strict rules,” Jennie says. “The children learn very quickly what they can and can’t do because we just operate like a normal family where we nurture and respect each other. I’ve never had to put things away in the house, the children just know what is theirs and what is not and we all tidy up together. Most importantly it is child-led, we aren’t trying to make them fit into a system, they can just be who they are.”

With more than three decades of what is a fairly all-consuming role under her belt, Jenny gets slightly teary when the word retirement is mentioned. “I do think about it now and then, but then you see all these beautiful children and all these families who believe in and support home-based education, and you realise what a special thing it is to be a part of it,” she says. “It’s a real privilege actually, that’s the reason I do it. I have been very lucky to have had some amazing educators working with me over the years.”

So the answer it appears is no. Jenny is hanging around for a while yet and the smiles all round on Thursday suggest her Inspired family wouldn’t have it any other way.

Pictured: A happy crowd of present and past students, and educators joined Jenny Collier on Thursday last week to mark a major milestone in her home-based education career.

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