Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Homeschooling...Part 3

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Homeschooling. . .
. . .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!

Tawdra Kandle is stay-at-home, homeschooling mom of four children who range in age from 9 years to almost 21 years. She and her husband of over 22 years live in central Florida, where he is in seminary. Tawdra spends most of her precious free time writing and reading, and she loves to travel.

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Kim on Thu Feb 18, 07:22:00 AM 2010 said...

Thanks for this post on Homeschooling. It's a possibility I've been considering even though my children are in elementary school already and one is about to head to middle school.

Organic Motherhood with Cool Whip on Thu Feb 18, 02:10:00 PM 2010 said...

This is the greatest post ever. I am new to homeschooling. Just started this year with my 5 year old. We are part of an awesome co-op that is very eclectic in its membership, which is awesome cuz there is so much to learn from every style.

I briefly put my son into school a couple of weeks ago for 2 days. It was the worst experience ever. He hated it and said it was his worst day ever. And he's never said that before in his life. Now I am not against school, but I just couldn't make him continue after that.

Now I am more convicted about homeschooling than ever. I think there are good schools out there and some chidlren may thrive in them. But at least around here, the education being offered is sub-par in my opinion, unless you pay for private Montessori or Waldorf education.

That said, the most important thing to me is respecting people's choices about education. Education is just another arm of parenting. You can either choose to be really involved in it or not, regardless of whether you are a homeschooler.

I love being involved in my children's learning. It is so much fun and that is a big part of the joy of homeschooling. Yay for homescool!!! Thanks for the wonderful post.

tawdra on Sun Feb 28, 04:23:00 PM 2010 said...

Thanks for the good feedback. Kim, I started homeschooling when my older 2 were in 4th and 7th grades respectively. So don't worry about the timing. And OMwCW-I agree with you. I tell my friends that *I* am a better mom because I homeschool--better than I was when my kids were in public school--but not better than anyone else. It works well for our family, but other choices are just as valid, depending on each particular situation.


Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Homeschooling...Part 3

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