Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Homeschool Reflections

Homeschooling in our area seems to just be exploding. When we first joined our local co-op about five years ago, I would guess there were maybe fifty kids in the co-op. Then a couple years ago it just began to grow like crazy. Our numbers swelled to over 100, and we were forced to start a waiting list because we could no longer accommodate such a large group of students. At the same time, at least three new homeschool groups began in the area.

With the sudden influx of so many homeschoolers, I often find myself in the midst of conversations with new homeschoolers with a million questions about what curriculum to use, or how to get started, or how to handle a toddler while schooling an older child. Most of the time my answer is to just relax and enjoy the process. Not as easily done as said, and probably not the answer most people are looking for, but really, it is the best advice I have. 

It was in the midst of one of these conversations, with a complete stranger who stopped me because she thought we looked like homeschoolers, I realized I am no longer a novice homeschooler. I'm a veteran. I am not exactly sure when that happened. Quite, honestly, I still feel like a novice at about every turn. Every year there are new academic skills to learn. Kellen pushes me to teach, or facilitate his learning of, new things on a daily basis. The younger children may be learning skills that I've previously taught to an older sibling, but they learn at a different pace with a different set of talents and interests. I still feel like I am trying to figure out this homeschooling thing.

When we began homeschooling with Kellen in kindergarten, almost eight years ago, we were very much homeschooling in a school at home manner. In fact, we used an online charter school at home. In some circles, that isn't even considered homeschooling.

We moved here when Kellen was in second grade, and that kind of schooling was no longer an option. By the time Lydia entered the homechool scene, there were two more babies to care for, and the beginnings of the farm. Over the years there have been a lot of times when life has just gotten in the way of the book work of education. This last school year we may well have had more days without school books than we had days with the school books.

It is hard not to feel guilty about this. It is easy to feel like I am failing my children, and that I really need to get my act together. When I feel that tinge of guilt come on, I just have to remind myself that by any academic standard our kids are doing just fine. And more importantly, that education is not about how far we get through a text book. It isn't about how many facts my kids can spout off. A lot of the education I want my children to have for this life has nothing to do with anything you'll ever find in a text book.

Many of our best lessons come when we aren't using a text book. Someone will ask a question, or maybe we'll see something that sparks a conversation, and we are off on a educational moment. It is amazing to me how much education happens when I simply turn off the screens (TV, games, and computer.) The kids go outside and find things in the woods. They create clubhouses. They read. They play board games, and just yesterday Kellen and Lydia had a globe out. Kellen was quizzing Lydia on world geography. Education happens. It doesn't require a text book.

Even though I've been in this process for a long time now, I still don't know what I am doing. I still wonder how to challenge my gifted student, how to make math click for my child who struggles with math, and how to get a certain child to sit still long enough to learn the things he should. I'm quite certain they don't write enough, and I've yet to figure out a plan of attack to address that, and the big question looming over my head currently is how in the world I am going to add another student into this mix next year.

Despite all my shortcomings, despite our crazy life, despite all the things I've yet to figure out, these children are getting a high quality education. They are thriving. They are learning. So, my advice to new homeschoolers is also my advice to myself, "Relax, and enjoy the process."


  1. That is good advice! I remember a seasoned homeschool dad on a message board told me to focus on character education and chill on the academic stuff. And for some reason this really helped me relax. I discovered that as a first priority I'd rather have a pleasant decent soul as a child. Everything after this is just gravy. You learn about yourself as well.

    Education really does happen. My daughter is too active for formal seat work, so is unschooled yet she is self taught just by having access to lots of learning items and the outdoors. We now have a little zoo full of bugs, fish, hermit crabs, and other insects. And you know this leads to questions which leads to library books, print-outs, etc.

    I'm much more relaxed starting homeschool with my daughter.

  2. That's good to read, stephanie........ I miss homeschooling A LOT and I think we'll most likely go back to it when we move back to Ohio.
    Like you said, you really have to ask yourself - what do I want my kids to know when they grow up? A whole bunch of text book facts? Sure, they need a little of that, but there's soooooooo much more about life they can learn from their parents. That's what I love about homeschooling.
    I remember when you were first starting out with Kellen! You've been doing this a long time.

  3. Alexandra, It has amazed me how the younger ones pick knowledge up from the older ones and from just being around while we do school.

    Jess, you make me sound old. LOL

  4. I read an article earlier today about finding pen pals for your children. Writing and learning about some one in a totally different place.... it's a win/win!