Friends often ask me, what does homeschooling look like for my family?
I asked myself this question dozens of times before deciding to homeschool my son. I am still asking myself this question after making the decision to homeschool and carrying out this plan for months. I tried to reach out to other homeschooling families and read blogs to try and find an answer. I was so afraid of doing it wrong. You know what I finally figured out?
There isn’t a “right” way to homeschool.
Homeschool looks different for every family. It seems for every family there is a way to homeschool that suits you and your child. Once I realized this, I was able to settle in a bit and figure out what homeschooling is going to look like for our family.
M and I are going through the “deschooling” process right now. We seem to be getting to the end of it. During the first few weeks of leaving school, we both still had the public school mindset. He would ask me what days we would study specialty topics, like art and music, or if we were doing math on the same schedule as his peers. I struggled at first too. I was trying to make school at home. This didn’t work for either of us. When M was asking about school, I would second guess myself. When I was forcing a school-like environment at home, we would butt heads and argue about work. I realized I was trying to make him learn the way I wanted him to learn, instead of the way he wanted to learn. I took a step back and decided to let my agenda go and embrace his learning style. As a teacher, this was no easy feat.
My son loves listening to stories, he loves nature, and experiential or hands-on learning is how he excels. Right now, he doesn’t love writing or reading. This breaks my heart because I’m a reading teacher. But I have faith that he’ll get there and I know that I can’t force it.
I’ve settled on 20 minutes of homeschooling a day per subject as my goal. Sounds easy enough, right? But I also have a 3-year-old, run an online tutoring business, and manage a wide assortment of other mom life stuff. You might be thinking, “What? 20 minutes! That’s not enough.” I thought that at first too. I have realized that students spend a tremendous amount of time in school waiting. Students wait for their classmates to finish schoolwork, they wait in line for lunch and recess, and they wait for the teacher to come to their table. With homeschooling, there isn’t as much waiting in a child’s day. My son is also 6 and learns so much outside of those 20 minutes of structured learning through life and through play.
I started building a homeschooling curriculum around his learning styles and interests and our life.
I haven’t figured it all out yet, but I’m thinking of this year as a bit of an experiment. We have settled on a science curriculum called Exploring Nature with Children. It’s not just science though. It also includes reading and writing. We are using a fun math curriculum called The Life of Fred. It’s very outside the box and different than anything I’ve used before as an educator. We picked it because it’s story-based. I read out loud to him, and at the end of the chapter, he has to answer a few questions before we can go to the next chapter. So far he likes it. We try to cover at least a chapter a day, but sometimes we do 3 one day and then don’t do it again the next day. I try to follow my son’s level of engagement.
For language arts, I haven’t settled on any set curriculum or any other fixed materials. I have access to a lot of materials from my own teaching work. I am trying out several different programs now. He is reading on Reading A-Z and also listening to many audiobooks. He loves audiobooks. A few weeks ago, he got into the boxcar children books and was listening to a book a day, or as many as I’d buy him on Audible! Some days feel Pinterest perfect. We light candles, have tea with our read aloud, and get all our assignments done. Other days are, well… other days.
I have to allow flexibility.
Outside of our fixed study plans, we look to life for inspiration. I watch and listen for learning opportunities in the real world. One day, while we were standing in line at Starbucks, he started counting coffee on the shelf. So, I slipped in a math lesson and we practiced skip counting by fours to see how many bags of coffee were on the shelf. In the car one day, he started asking me about shapes and patterns. We photographed patterns we found while we were out and then when we got home we did a little lesson on 2D/3D shapes. We are cooking together and writing letters to family and friends for writing. When he’s doing sleepovers with his Nona, he’s learning about art, science, and life skills as they go about her day. He is learning everywhere.
Our days are not entirely what I imagined homeschooling would look like for us, but I’m trying to accept that that’s okay. If you’re a homeschooling family, what does homeschooling look like at your house?