Julia’s back to school

Julia Backhouse will move to Launceston in the new year to study at University of Tasmania – a feat many thought unlikely. Picture: Ashleigh Force.

Learning. A bright, unique child, Julia Backhouse was often told she would never make it to university.

Naturally, this bugged her. As someone who dreamt of having a career in caring for others, university seemed a practical way to realise her dream.

The reason Julia, now 19, was told something so disheartening on so many occasions was because she was homeschooled.

Born in Brisbane, Julia moved to Stanley as a six-year-old and spent most of her childhood and adolescent years there, helping her parents run the family guesthouse.

At 16, she moved to Smithton where she now lives with her mother and younger sister.

“I’d been at primary school for about four-and-a-half years, and things hadn’t being going too well,” Julia said of her move to home-based learning.

“I was bullied and wasn’t functioning well in the school system, so after some careful thought, my mum pulled me out.”

Julia was joined by her sister Francesca in being educated at home and says both have “thrived on the experience”.

There are close to 850 children registered with the Tasmanian Home Education Advisory Council in Launceston.

Each day was very different, with the only typical ones being during summer when we helped with the family guesthouse,” Julia said of her school routine.

“Winter was the best time for homeschooling as we had days to ourselves to cook, read, dress-up, write and perform plays or watch a documentary.”

In an effort to achieve higher marks in her senior years, Julia made the decision to attend Hellyer College part time in Year 11.

She said that returning to the school system “was strange at first” mostly due to the “rigidity”.

“But I made some wonderful friends and I enjoyed being part of a group, which made a change from studying alone.”

Along with the suggestion that a homeschooled child will not gain as good an education as a student in formal schooling, Julia often had to justify another area of her life.

“One of the things that constantly comes up during homeschooling is ‘how are you being socialised?’”

To quash any concerns, Julia became a Circular Head Youth Leader in 2013 after encouragement from a friend and joined Upbeat, the youth choir at the time saying it “gave me an opportunity to do some community work and make friends”.

Julia had dreamt of being a midwife for many years, but a hardship pulled her in another direction.

“Back in 2013, my dad was in and out of hospital with lung cancer,” she said.

“We’d go and visit him a few times a week and during our visits, I got to know the nurses, particularly Vicki Murphy, who has been my biggest influence.”

After two years of indecisiveness and advice from a close friend, Julia made her decision.

She has now learnt she has been accepted to study a Bachelor of Nursing at University of Tasmania next year and she is ecstatic.

“During our time homeschooling we’ve had so many negative people saying ‘you’ll never get to uni because you’re homeschooled’, she said.

“This is a real indication that what we did, what we believed in, got us to where we wanted to be.

“Homeschooling definitely wouldn’t work for everyone, but for us it was the best decision we could have made.”

As for the move to Launceston in the new year, Julia said: “This will be the first time I’ve lived away from home, so I’m a bit nervous, but I’m really excited to be starting this journey and developing what will hopefully be a lifelong career.”


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