. . .But Were Afraid to Ask
Part 3: What’s Your Style?
My husband and I were having dinner with a younger couple a few weeks ago, and as often happens, the topic of homeschooling came up. Their children are still pretty young, but I could tell they were curious about the possibilities.
“Do you have desks and a chalkboard? Do you have to follow the school district’s curriculum? Or do you let the kids choose what they study?”
I spent the next few minutes sketching out the wide variety of homeschooling styles.
There are as many ways to homeschool as there are reasons to do it. The spectrum ranges from school at home families to unschoolers, with many people falling in between.
Some families prefer to re-create the school environment within their homes. They will arrange desks and chairs, sometimes hang chalkboards and maps and stick to a strict schedule. I’ve known some parents who require their children to get up and dress early in the morning, put their books in backpacks, leave the house and return to ‘school’. For them, this separates the ‘home’ from the ‘school’. Many of these children use a very structured curriculum that isn’t unlike that found in public school districts.
At the opposite end of the homeschooling rainbow are the unschoolers. Families who fall into this category tend to be fairly unscheduled. The world is their schoolroom. Some unschoolers practice ‘delight led learning’, wherein the direction of study is determined by a child’s interest. For example, if my son wakes up one morning fascinated with gorillas, we might begin with a trip to the library to find books about gorillas, followed up by a visit to a local zoo. We might stay on this track of study for as long as my son is interested.
Of course, there are benefits and drawbacks to each style extreme. More structured families offer their children consistency and routine, but it’s also possible for parents and/or students to become overwhelmed or burnt out. Unschoolers tend to be more relaxed and laid back, but sometimes the kids lack the basic concepts in subjects that require more discipline.
Most homeschoolers fall somewhere between these two extremes. We might refer to ourselves as eclectic homeschoolers. In my family, for instance, we do maintain a schoolroom. It’s a book-shelf lined room that also houses our daughter’s piano and the sewing machine. We have a whiteboard hanging alongside a large computer monitor that I use when teaching certain subjects. But this room is used more as a library—the place where the schoolbooks are stored, where I keep my homeschooling materials—than it is anything else (although we do meet there at least once a week to do our French and history lessons and frequently one child or another will use it as a quiet studying spot).
Our math lessons are very structured. Math is one of those subjects where order is really required. For younger kids, we do employ ‘delight led learning’ in science; young children are endlessly inquisitive, and harnessing that curiosity can create a lifelong love of learning.
One of the wonderful aspects of homeschooling is the choice and variety each family has when planning its journey. And it’s possible that each year could be different; our style has evolved from when our kids were younger. Our goal in the early years is to inspire a will and desire to learn and give them the tools for learning. As they grow and mature, we concentrate more on specific courses of study.
If you’re just beginning your homeschooling journey, experiment! Try out some different styles. See what works best for your family and where you are in life. Remember that you can always adjust and make changes as you go along. . .flexibility is one of the hallmarks of homeschooling!