Hi everyone, it’s Kate here. Thanks for tuning in today to the AHVISE podcast. In today’s podcast, we’re going to talk to Sonia. Sonia is registered with AHVISE as a family. And as such, she has a volunteer tutors come out to their home for six weeks, every year. The same volunteers as it turns out, and she will tell that story in this podcast and her involvement in the ICPA and her history with AHVISE. So I hope you enjoy this podcast.
KATE: Today, we’re going to talk to Sonia about how she’s going with her family there and how she’s using AHVISE and it’s really exciting. So I’m going to say hi to Sonia and thank you for joining me today. So hi! Sonia.
SONIA: Good morning, Kate, how are you going?
KATE: Excellent, excellent. And thank you for talking to me. I know it was a little bit hard kind of syncing together because we’ve both got busy exciting lives. However, here we are. So I just really want to start with just getting the sort of bearings on you and your family. So tell us a little bit about your family and your kids and you know if you have a farm there or what you do for income and so on?
SONIA: Yes, Okay. So my husband and he is a part of a family business and we live at Range View Station which is about 50kms south of a little town called Ravenswood with which is in North Queensland. The family moved here in 1982 from Proserpine they purchased Range View as a new venture because previously they were employees of local braziers in the Proserpin district and then sorted it was time to live and work for themselves so that’s what brought them to Ravenswood.
KATE: Wow okay, so how many kids have you got?
SONIA: We have four children which are all girls believe it or not. So, two of them are actually married living in Townsville and we’ve still got two at home. Montana’s in Year 12 and Bonnie is studying Year 9, and they’re both enrolled with Charters Towers Distance Education and obviously each girl has to have their own school room because distractions would be totally unbearable. So yeah that’s long and short of them.
KATE: Are they both in primary school or one in primary and one in secondary or both secondary?
SONIA: Both secondary. So Montana Year 12 and Bonnie is in Year 9 and so both are in secondary. Well Montana is actually in her last year. So look, it’s a great education just like Distance Ed.
KATE: Yeah, I’m just wondering how that actually routine works for the classroom for each child.
SONIA: So at the end of every term we, unlike what they used to do. So years ago they just had papers delivered to, with the mailman but nowadays we’re very fortunate that we do get the papers as well as we have access to online audios, face to face with teachers every day on a regular basis. So, you know while we’re still a bit isolated in the in the school room we’ve still got that advantage that they can deliver the lessons directly to the students. Then yeah, obviously as work is completed each week which we have to do, we send it gets sent into them either by email or if its massive files we’ve got to put in the post. At the moment they’ve just developed what has been up for a while but we we’ve come on board with using One Drive.
So the girls can actually drop their assessments and stuff straight into that so we don’t have to worry about trying to email big files and stuff like that. Look that’s a positive for the distance API for this year.
And, yeah look they can finish as early as they want, it’s up to the students. If they can get in and plug away and get their school work completed for the day. Well, you know the rest of the day is to themselves but unfortunately they have to go out and do chores and help out their mother in mustering or whatever but they can work around that.
KATE: So they help out with mustering, and as a farmer you are right? So they do I guess all sorts of farming stuff as well. Do they enjoy that like do you think they’re loving their childhood is that it?
SONIA: Yeah, they love it. Well, they’ve had to love it because we’ve had weeks here where we have been very busy. Mustering cows and pulling wieners and stuff off and the girls have worked at night time doing their school work so they’re free to give us a hand the next day. Because wages are pretty expensive nowadays. So you just have to cut a bit of costs where you can and the girls are very capable young girls. So, they’re really enjoying it. And they always say ‘you know mum when are we going cow mustering next or when do you need help?’. So, yeah they’re keen, they’re very keen which is a great thing and you find most rural kids are like that.
You can visit our website at www.ahvise.org.au.
Kate: So your two older children, the two older girls, they were from also a classroom run by you and they’ve gone on to boarding school didn’t you say?
Sonia: No, they’re both married now. So we’ve got a little school about 50 kilometers from us called Ravenswood school. So, they did primary school there and both of them went to boarding school in Charters Towers. Obviously they’ve finished school now and look when it comes down to it. There’s no way I could have coped with four kids in the school room here with life as well and a lot of families do that but it just the time wasn’t right so they were fortunate to be able to go away to boarding school and they finished and got great jobs in Townsville. So they’re married and I presume there’s going to be grandchildren on the away in the not too distant future but I don’t know whether I’m ready for that.
KATE: Well, they can come in your classroom you’re all ready to go. So tell me about AHVISE so you have a tutor come out so that would work in sort of sync with your Charters Towers Distance Education tutoring as well they all sort of all three would work together the kids, the school and the volunteer is that right?
SONIA: That’s right. Yeah, so we’ve had a VISE couple since 2015 we’ve had the same couple well obviously because VISE is now AHVISE. So we’ve had Jan & Peter Torrens from Melbourne who are experienced mainly in Secondary schooling so it just, the match fitted.
You know, they were specialized in that secondary field because there’s not everyone – every teacher is capable of that but probably capable but not specialized in that. So fortunately we’ve had them for the last four years you know in a row which has been fantastic and they’ve really become a part of our family.
The girls love them and look, the girls education has improved you know, since they’ve started to come up to us because you know early intervention is a very important thing. So, from the age of I think Bonnie was in Year 4 when Jan and Peter started coming.
So, they’re pretty important years to get them pointed in the right direction and you know look, we still have a lot more contact with Jan and Peter. I go down every year and spend a week or so with Jan and we we’ve just been down there and we’ve been to the Australian Open and you know done some stuff together. So, yeah they’re very much part of our family and they can see you know, I’m not always on call 24/7 in the school room when Jans here. Because, she you know, she can just take the pressure off well it’s normally about six weeks so it’s been wonderful having them.
KATE: Yeah, I was going to say how long they come for about six weeks a year is that right?
SONIA: Yeah, we’re getting six weeks a year is the way it’s always been and they always work it into their holidays or we were fortunate last year Jan and Peter decided that we’re going to Western Australia for their trip. Their getaway for the year and they went home to Melbourne by North Queensland. So they pretty much went right around Australia and half of it was to say to have a holiday and the other half was just to be here with us for six weeks which you know, you don’t hear very often that’s a mighty effort for you know, people that are in their 70s.
KATE: So they’re definitely like part of your family, I mean in your own mind because they’re coming back every year. It’s almost like an Aunty and Uncle or you know nan and pop, it’s amazing.
SONIA: Absolutely, absolutely. And like I said they’re just they’re just amazing people. I’m always talking them on the phone or email or Skype and yeah they’re just wonderful people. Actually our eldest daughter got married here at home in August and Jan and Peter we’re here and Jan was one of the biggest awarded catering for it as well. So you know, yeah she was fantastic you know it goes above and beyond school room.
KATE: Yeah, where do they stay? Do they have their own room their own little quarters? Because sometimes they have these dongas and things like how do you do that how do you manage that?
SONIA: Jan and Peter have got their own caravan, a pretty big one at that. Very comfortable I might say. Yeah, so they obviously go and do their yearly trip somewhere and then they just bring the van here and we hook them up and they fully pretty much self-sufficient. You’ve got a bathroom, TV and all that sort of stuff. Although so they have breakfast in the caravan, and then they have all meals with us. So morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner we all sit down as a family and have those meals together. Because, you know I think it’s really important to be able to bond with those people. You know, people like that and they love it. You know they just love it.
KATE: So that’s that’s pretty amazing. I know that sometimes. I mean, because I’m thinking coming from WA with the caravan. Is that what you’re saying? They came from WA with the caravan.
SONIA: They did.
KATE: Oh, my goodness.
SONIA: So that’s dedication.
KATE: Yeah. That’s like, that’s really amazing. So if you were to talk to potential volunteers for AHVISE. What advice would you give to them?
SONIA: That’s a tricky one, I don’t know. You just need to really form great relationships with your families that you go to, you know, like, obviously not everyone’s going to go=el. There’s going to be issues for that because you know we’re all different people but I think becoming as involved with the family as you possibly can it’s probably a bigger advantage than not.
Although, there are some families that don’t particularly want that you know okay you’re here to do school so you know we want our space and that works that I’m not saying it doesn’t. Just in my circumstance or I’m a bit different I suppose anyone that comes to stay with us it’s one in all in. That’s the way the whole family’s been over the generations you know that we’re just very loving, caring people and we just love company.
KATE: What about families, so families like yourselves what type of things would you suggest to them if they were considering AHVISE?
SONIA: Be open-minded and to just give it a go because they’ve always – the majority of what I’ve heard is that the’ve got the kids best interest at heart. I’ve got a actually go sister in law that has been enrolled with AHVISE as well and she’s had wonderful, wonderful tutors as well. Obviously each year has been different but just form bonds and I think that’s the biggest thing is most people tend to form a bond with their VISE couple which is amazing.
KATE: That’s great you know I really appreciate you saying all this and the funny thing is I reckon people will listen to this, especially families and they’ll say I want a tutor like hers that will travel from WA just for me every year you know like that’s pretty amazing.
KATE: I think you know like being a home tutor is a pretty, pretty long year with you know with school. Especially when you’ve got outside work and everything that requires you know [inaudible] and you know where do the list of duties actually end for a mother like myself. So to have that person to come in, and have the time to sit down and do all that extension stuff with the kids you actually don’t get to do. Especially, if you’ve got numerous kids in the school room. Look, I think that’s a great thing and especially I’m not quite confident with some of the some of the terminologies and stuff of schooling of this particular generation. So you know the way I did long division was totally different the way they do it now. So having that person and you know what long and short of it that’s what a teacher does they teach. It’s different and you gotta let the professionals do their bit because you know, it’s only going to help.
KATE: Yeah, it’s going to fill those gaps where maybe you did have a different approach.
SONIA: The biggest thing I think is the social interaction for the kids. So, you know, while there are lots of challenges, most challenges we think of them as everyday life and deal with the situations accordingly. I’m not sure that actual word appears in my mind often otherwise, you know what the brain will do so much over processing and but overcoming the kids social side is a bit of a tricky one. You know, like, we can just pop in the car and go to netball twice a week because logistically it’s just not going to work.
So we try to do as much as we possibly can, you know, going to school camps and [inaudible] and sports camps and whatever is available to us as Distance Ed family. We also have great work of friends that we try to catch up with on a regular basis, whether we get away or you know, they come to us and they do girls do have social media. So you know what, they can communicate pretty much more on a regular basis than the other. Yeah, well, we do put caps on that. You know, it was getting a little bit out of hand I think social media is a wonderful thing but it can definitely be a torture.
KATE: It can be good and bad. Yeah,
SONIA: Absolutely, absolutely. It can be very distracting for too much of the time if you don’t keep an eye on it. So, you know, just wanted to do a little thing on challenges.
KATE: When you say challenges do you mean from the perspective of the mom or the kids? Are you saying both?
SONIA: I’m saying in general okay. For the kids, for the mum, for the business. You know, like you just like for example [inaudible] and stuff like that that we’ve just been combing through it is what it is and fortunately we’ve come through not too bad where as others haven’t. We just find that we can’t put too much – over thinking it. Because it just kind of lead to so many issues, mental health all that sort of stuff so it’s a tough one. So you just know, you just gotta just keep going and a positive attitude is the biggest thing.
KATE: So what you’re really saying is that we know that we know you guys go through that and just to keep going just keep putting one foot in front of the other. You reach out to organizations like AHVISE or whoever get all the help you can get that’s really what I think you’re trying to say. I get it now, yeah.
SONIA: That’s you know in a nutshell and you know like there’s so many people out there that are not aware of AHVISE. They’re not aware of it and I look I think it’s very important to get that word out. Look, I’m heavily involved in ICPA which is Isolated Children’s Parents Association and we are also committed to getting the word out on this great thing. I think yeah, t’s amazing.
KATE: Do they have a website, the ICPA?
SONIA: Yeah, we do. There’s some so it’s a lot lobby body that we go to government and lots of different organizations you know to help with rural education. That saga that just happened over in the west where they’re going to close down school of the Airs. It was ICPA that actually had a big influence on that not happening. It’s another great organization.
KATE: Yeah, that’s amazing. Well look, I’m glad you mentioned it and I’m glad you mentioned all those things too and obviously what you’re working with ICPA and people can get involved with that too if they feel they need support. You know there is, you know you’re not totally alone and there’s all sorts of ways you can reach out and I know Aussie Helpers have the Virtual Psychologist so that farmers can use their text on their phone to get support. Because you know, sometimes they don’t want to ring up or whatever so yeah I mean, there’s all sorts of things out there it’s just a matter of finding the motivation or inspiration to continue which obviously for you would be your kids.
SONIA: Yeah, that’s right.
You can visit our website at www.ahvise.org.au
KATE: Look I really appreciate you sharing that with us today and I think we should leave it there because we have gone over 20 minutes even though I promised we wouldn’t.
SONIA: Lovely to chat. Thank you.
KATE: Yes, it was lovely chat and thank you so much for talking to me and I’m glad we got through it even though my phone rang while we were [talking] anyway. It never rings Sonia. But now that I’m on a call to you anyway.
SONIA: It’s a bit like Kate, you know when kids are quiet and as soon as you pick up the telephone, you can guarantee that they’re going to just start with the ‘mum, mum, mum, mum, mum’
KATE: And that’s is so true! Exactly, I agree 100% with that. I was saying that the other day. Alright, well look, I’m going to let you go so I’m gonna hang up now but I really appreciate your time. All right thank you. Talk to you soon.
If you’re a farmer and you’re struggling, please know there is support available. Feel free to contact Aussie Helpers Virtual Psychologists and know that you are not alone.
Text: 0488 807 266
Call: 1300 665 234
For more information visit -> https://aussiehelpers.org.au/aussie-helpers-virtual-psychologist-for-drought-affected-farmers/