I’ve had a lot of people asking me lately about how we home school. The great thing about homeschooling is that you can do it however you want. Homeschooling can be completely individual to your family. However, it’s also a really hard job, and I know it helps to have ideas on how other families make it work. To that end, here are some things that work for our family…
Using a Curriculum
Much respect to all who rock at un-schooling. However, we follow a curriculum. Kind of. I worry I’m not going to keep the kids on track if we don’t have any structure. Not only that, but I worry the kids are going to be way behind their mainstream schooled peers if I don’t use something that helps me gauge where they should be during that year. Yes, I’m such a conformist. I apologize.
The only thing I’ve noticed is that I have never really loved any of the curricula we have followed. I always end up buying it as a template and then I use some of the materials and don’t use others. For some subjects or topics, I find other resources that teach the same things in different ways. Basically, I’m pretty much wasting a bunch of money to make myself feel like I’m not dropping the ball with their education…but it’s still cheaper than private school.
The Homeschool “Classroom” Setting
I know people who talk about how they love homeschooling in their pajamas. I did that once and we all felt gross (kind of like the feeling you get when you sleep in too long and feel like the day is wasted). But don’t listen to me if that is what makes you all happy. Homeschool however you and your kids feel most comfortable. If that means a pajama day for everyone, do it.
For us, we like to get out of the house. The beach is our #1 favorite place to get work done. We cover a subject, play in the waves, and repeat until we’re done. Obviously this will only work if your kids won’t get distracted, but we’ve found that even in the most magically distracting places (like Disneyland), they not only get their work done, but actually learn!
Don’t forget, you are not confined to a specific structure when homeschooling. For adventurous families, you can make lesson plans around travel itineraries. We travel often and have found that it doesn’t require as much research as you think. Most tourism offices can give you ideas and help you arrange some day trips. If the educational tours are mainly for adults, you can call ahead and ask to make it more kid-friendly. It’s been amazing to see how people go out of their way when it comes to someone’s desire to learn or teach.
If you can’t travel far-and-wide, local museums, farms, aquariums, and various other companies are also great places to set up day trips. There are specific homeschooling days for most museums and learning centers. Many other places offer tours for free on weekdays.
Set Your Own Pace
A great thing about homeschooling is that you can keep going at each child’s own pace. You can also still use tutors and other resources such as co-op classes and one-on-one evaluations to help if there are any sort of concerns you have with your child’s progression. Many homeschooled children can get a lot more work done, but I would strongly recommend not pushing them for the sake of getting ahead, and really just go with a pace that your child is enjoying.
I will say that you may be surprised by your own child’s pace. Many weeks we end up working on their school material seven days a week. You’ll also learn what subjects your child favors. One of my kids isn’t as interested in reading, but loves math. He finished two years worth of math curriculum in a couple of months. However, reading is challenging for him. Rather than just let him ignore important topics he finds more difficult, we as parents just had to get WAY more creative and try different things, until we found a way to work on reading that clicked with his more mathematically-wired brain.
As far as homeschooling groups, I have heard amazing stories about supportive groups and then some not-so-great stories about groups. I would say it is worth checking them out and then if it isn’t working don’t feel obligated to stay.
I have spent countless hours worrying about things that I’ve discovered in the end were pointless to be concerned about. Grab some resources, bring in professionals if you need to, and have fun…More importantly, make sure your kids are having fun. I never want my kids to have that “Monday morning feeling” most of us know all too well. I want to give them the confidence now to know that they can be productive and still love what they do. Hopefully, when it comes to choosing a career, their school setting will help them know that they can always make a living doing what they love.