How We Homeschool

by Stefani on 8-September-2007

We are homeschoolers.

Bookish

That simple statement invariably opens the door to some fairly strong reactions.

Some folks think it’s great. Some people think we’re nuts.
We hear a lot of “I could never do that” or “aren’t you worried about… ” (socialization, how they will get into college, if they will learn all that they need to, etc.)

We also get lots of emails from people who are thinking about homeschooling but are unsure where to begin, or if it’s right for them.

I don’t know all the answers. Things would be so much easier if I did!

All I can tell you is a little bit about our own journey and hope that it helps you as you find your own path. Please know that what follows is a view of OUR home education. Your homeschool may look different and that’s okay. In fact, I would hope that your version of home education looks like YOUR family and reflects YOUR needs and those of YOUR children. I’m sharing this with you in the hopes that it will give you some ideas and inspiration, not because I believe it to be a formula for success with all children. The surest path to frustration is to try to model your homeschool after some other family’s needs, so proceed with caution!

We have homeschooled our sons right from the start. From the moment our oldest was born, we were excited to share with him all that the world has to offer – Beethoven to Hendrix, Monet to Pollock, tiny amoebas to the vastness of the heavens and everything in between. We wanted to be a part of his journey to knowledge – to witness his wonder.

So, when the time came for our son to begin kindergarten, we chose homeschooling so that we could be with him, walk beside him, delight in his new discoveries. We made that choice not because we felt that it was the “right” thing and all the other schooling choices were “wrong,” but rather because it was the most “right” for us at the time.

Mainly, we did it to give ourselves and our children time – time for being together, time for exploring our interests, time for pausing and working on the things that are difficult for us, time to figure out what it is that pleases us, what our passions are and time just to be still.

It is not always so serene though. Our house is often a mess, there are raised voices and ruffled feathers sometimes, there are days too when I wonder what on earth we were thinking, but life is like that – some days are better than others.

All in all, we feel like the last four years of homeschooling have served our purposes, filled our hearts and our minds, and woven our little family more tightly together.

You can read about some of our homeschooling adventures here, in our archives.

Here are some of the questions we hear most often from people curious about our homeschool, and the best answers that we can summon:

Q – Are you classical homeschoolers or unschoolers, or what?

A – For the first three years, our homeschool could have been best described as “ecclectic”. We did use some textbooks and curricula, but more as reference/resource books than our driving force. Mostly, we followed our boys’ questions and interests. We tried to spend some of each day exploring number concepts, reading and writing (they wrote their questions, about their drawings, letters to their loved ones, stories of their own, “how-tos” or documentation of their current passions), and the rest of our time was open for projects of their choosing.

This is still a pretty accurate description of our learning lifestyle, but we have made a few changes this year, including adopting a curriculum. We did this not because we felt that we were missing anything or because our belief that learning should be largely child led has changed. We are using a curriculum that we feel fits in with those beliefs and yet also gives us some scaffolding on which to build our days. We felt a need for a little bit more structure, but not too much, so we’re giving it a try.

Learning To Stay In The Lines

Q- So what curriculum do you use?

A – During our first three years of official homeschooling, we didn’t follow any curriculum exclusively, though we did have many resources for reference. You can find many of the titles on our bookshelf in our Book Store. In the early school years, we also love the sweet old fashioned simplicity of the Reading To Learn series and the Amish Pathway Readers. For the most part we just played and explored… I think playing and exploring is still drives most of our learning!

These days though, we are also using Sonlight as sort of launching pad for history, social, geography and literature studies. Sometimes we follow the chart and plan exactly, other times we deviate, dig deeper or skip things all together. The curriculum doesn’t rule us.
For math, language arts and reading we use Christian Light Press. I chose this path because I felt like my boys needed a little more structured math and language practice. We went into it with the agreement that we would try it for a month and decide together if it was working. In other words, they had a part in evaluating whether or not they felt these things were adding to their education. The result? The boys think these books are challenging, sometimes a pain, but definitely helping them make demonstrable strides. So we’re sticking with them.

You can read about our long journey to deciding on a curriculum and how it works into our lives in parts one, two, three and four of our “Homeschool Posts”

Q – Aren’t you worried about socialization?

A – In short, no. Our boys have lots of opportunities to learn social skills. They participate with other kids in Sunday School and Awana, karate and music lessons. They interact, day in and day out with their siblings, the gas station attendant, the grocery store clerk, grandparents, cousins, family friends, kids on the block, etc. They get a chance to meet people of all ages and ideologies, and overall seem to be polite, kind, socially acceptable individuals.

If anything, I think homeschooling gives us the distinct advantage of being there to give social guidance as the need arises.

Bird Brain

Q – How long will you homeschool?

A – We have no idea. We love it now, and I don’t see us doing anything different. In fact, we have big plans to take our show on the road in an RV one day, but we keep the door open, just in case. Someday, if the boys feel the need to experience school, and if , after careful consideration, we think it’s a good idea, that’s what we’ll do. We take it one year at a time.

Bean Counters

Q – How on earth do you spend all day with your kids? Mine would drive me insane!

A- Well, yeah, sometimes they do – I imagine I make them crazy from time to time as well. I give grace, and I hope for it in return. I try to remember though that this is only a phase of our lives, and one that is slipping through my fingers at light speed. I’m glad that I get to soak in all of them that I can, while it lasts. The good, the bad and the ugly. Being there to see the light come on when they finally grasp something, that’s worth the noise and the complete and utter lack of time and space for myself, save for the wee hours. Knowing that I taught them to read, that I gave them that gift that will serve them always, well I wouldn’t trade that for all the clean houses and quiet lunches in the world.

We know too, that not everyone has the desire, ability or means to do what we do, and that homeschooling is not right for every family. It is a deeply personal decision.

We believe that good parenting has many different faces. There is more than one way to love and inspire a child. This is our way.

Leaves Have Rivers In Them

Q – Don’t you worry that you’ll miss something, leave something out, wreck them for life or at least wreck any chance they have of getting into college?

A – Well, I *am* a mother, so yes, I worry about stuff like that all the time. I’m pretty sure that I would question my choices no matter what they were though. I do the best I can. I love them with all I have. I pour myself into their raising and education, and I hope that it will serve them well, and that they will give me a little grace for my failures. Isn’t that sort of what we’re all hoping for?

Q – Are you crazy, hiding your kids from the world, hippies, anti-social, Evangelical whackos or what?

A – Um, I think the answer is no, but then, maybe in some ways we have been all of those things in fleeting moments. Sometimes yes, I want to hide my kids away, but sometimes I think we homeschool because I don’t want them hidden away from all there is to do OUTSIDE of school doors.

Sometimes yes, we are total hippies that want them to follow their passions and experience some uninhibited free thought, question authority and love outloud.

Sometimes yes, we get a little fed up with mindless culture and would rather pull away and do our own thing.

And yes, faith is important to our lives, but no, we don’t try to shield our kids from other view points, nor will we try to talk you out of your convictions.

I think we’re pretty normalish. I don’t think you could pick us out of a crowd as freako homeschoolers. In fact, if you’re here, and you’re still reading, and maybe you’ve found a thing or two in my blog to laugh over, share with your family or inspire you, then I’m pretty sure we could hang out and find plenty to talk about. I’d like that.

Now, if you still have questions, then click right here to send me an email. I will do my very best to help. You can also read about our daily learning adventures by visiting our homeschooling archives.

We hope that no matter what form your learning journey takes, it leaves you breathless and wanting more!

Golden

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