Everyone has their idea of what homeschooling should look like. From the school at home types to the radical unschoolers you will get an array of experiences and strong willed opinions. These are mine.
When we first started homeschooling I had no idea what it was about, I just knew what I had been exposed to in school. I made a mini classroom, decorated a bit and got some workbooks. It was easy, my oldest was 4, nearing 5 in December. I wanted to start him in early as he was ready and I was anxious.
The first few years were fairly simple. My younger children wanted to "do school" as well so I always had coloring books and simple workbooks for preschoolers. We bought our "curriculum" from the Dollar Tree and Target bins.
As my children got older I began using Internet resources and printables. We never bought an official curriculum. My goal was to use as many free resources as possible.
My role in homeschooling was organizer. I gathered all the materials and my husband implemented the lesson plans with the exception of my day off. I liked to do the lessons on that day.
We tried several schedules. We did 30 minute blocks of each subject daily, we did block scheduling where we did 1 hour block and alternated days, we did group lessons and individual lessons. We did a 9 month school year, we did year round school. We pretty much tried it all.
As the children got older and the family grew, the dynamics changed. I think every family, regardless of size, has these kind of growing pains. It was harder to do it all, watch littles, homeschool the bigs, get the chores done and everything else that goes along with it.
We took longer than normal breaks. Instead of a week between semesters it was two. A short break for moving or a new baby turned into a month. We began to stop homeschooling...or did we?
One thing I can say for sure about children is they never stop learning. They are constantly absorbing and sharing and applying information. While we had suspended our formal lessons, my children continued to learn. Some, being more studious than others, would take out their workbooks and work in them, others would find some project to create.
They would find something that interested them, spend a week or so fixating on it and move on to the next. I would stress about resuming formal lessons and try for a week and we would fall back into our natural pattern of doing our own thing. After a few of these last bit attempts to organize and plan our homeschool I realized, we weren't not schooling, we were un-schooling.
Unschooling is life. Its simple, it's fun, it's rewarding. It's actually what most adults do. Why is it so hard to grasp the concept and apply it to our children?
Unschooling is not a lack of education, it's a lack of processed education. Think about the last thing you learned. Maybe you taught yourself to crochet. Maybe you took a Spanish class. Maybe you finally got that recipe for fresh baked bread right. This is how we learn, we find a desire or a need and we go from there.
We learn best by doing, we learn better by doing what we are passionate about.
Many people confuse education with memorizing and regurgitating facts. This works short term and makes test scores look good. One of the biggest excuses I hear from parents regarding why they can't homeschool is that they aren't smart enough.
It is my thinking that if they went to school and leaned all of the stuff their child needs to learn, they should be able to share that knowledge with their child.
But they can't. Because the didn't learn, they just memorized. This is a faux education. It perpetuates the myth that parents are not qualified to teach their child. Any parent who has a desire to, can homeschool.
So what do we do when we need or want to know something we don't? Our first "rule" in homeschooling is to help our children to use the resources they have to get the information they need. I took 3 years of algebra. (I had to take algebra 1 twice). I have no interest in teaching algebra. What I do have is a desire to help my child learn, and a vast array of books and Internet sites. I can help my child learn how to learn algebra.... When (s)he is ready. This usually happens when a life situation arises and we can use a real life application. And these actually come up often. We use it to find out how many of something we can make with the resources we have, (if we have 40 lbs of pasta and we use 3# per meal,how many pasta meals can we make) we also use it to figure out our gas budget, how to divide snacks evenly etc.
So what does homeschool look like today? It actually looks a lot like play. My 14 year old has planned and planted our garden. My 12 year old likes to take things apart to figure them out. They all have been working on building small boats to have a boat race in the creek. They are using whatever materials they can find and are discussing the properties and benefits/flaws of each one.
Peer teaching is a valuable asset. My children love to share what they have leaned with each other. We know that group work is just as important as independent study. We love to have group discussions.
I let my children plan their "lessons". As I type this my 5 year old went into our library, grabbed a pair of scissors, scotch tape and an empty box and made a Vambrace/Gauntlet. When the tape failed he tried the glue. I love watching my children's experiment.
My children have the freedom to let their creativity dictate their education and it comes in many forms. This kind of education doesn't come from a factory. It has to be cultivated individually. It varies by child, by age and by the daily changes in life. We cannot duplicate this in a classroom.
Set your children free and unschool!