While homeschooling is no longer considered fringe, we are certainly a minority in the world of education. I get asked a lot of questions about our homeschooling choices and thought I’d share some things about it here.
We’ve had great days and bad days and everything in between, but I think the secret to not only our survival, but to our success, has been three things:
1. Minimalism – We don’t have empty rooms or bare walls by any means, but in almost all areas of our life we have just enough. The boys each have a couple pairs of shoes and enough of all their clothes to get them through a week, but not much more than that. They don’t have an excessive amount of toys. We have things on our calendar, but not so much that things feel hectic. We have food in the fridge and pantry, but not so much that we can’t see what’s there. We have plenty of homeschool curricula but not so much that we can’t get to it all or that it’s falling all over the place.
2. Organization – This might seem obvious. Those of you that know me know that I am extremely organized and I often get teased about it as though my organization skills mean that I am uptight or inflexible. In fact, the opposite is true. I often say that it is my organization that allows me to be so flexible and laid back. And the minimalism helps with the organization. It is much easier to be organized when there is much less to organize — whether it be stuff, a schedule or homeschooling curricula for three kids.
3. Flexibility – I think the minimalism and the organization both feed into this as well. It is much easier to be flexible when you are not overwhelmed by what’s going on in other areas of your life. If I am sick or have a terrible night’s sleep, we can skip school that day or just do a few subjects. Because I’m organized and know that we have already put in plenty of days this school year, I don’t worry about it. It will be better for us all if we just lay low. I get to rest and the kids are excited for an unexpected day off. The organization (and simplicity) allows us to change plans when an unexpected opportunity arises. Being flexible means changing curriculum if something isn’t working for the boys or for me, or it might mean ending the day early because for some reason things just aren’t going well.
But homeschooling is not fun and giggles all the time. There are times when it’s a real struggle to just finish the day. Sometimes there are bad attitudes, and things don’t always go as smoothly as I’d like. But there are way more good days than bad.
One of the great things about homeschooling has been removing “school” from our family dynamic. No more hustling the kids out of bed to eat, get dressed, brush teeth and catch the bus. No more checking multiple backpacks for homework, permission slips, notices and papers. No more hurrying them into bed so they can get enough sleep and be able to get up the next day and do it again. It feels like we have moved to a more intuitive way of living. We do what feels right. We have a general routine, but we are flexible. My husband gets home an hour later than he used to. With homeschooling we don’t have to miss out on an hour a day with him; we just put the kids to bed an hour later now. We take time off in the middle of the day for appointments or to go to a pool party or for errands. Or we take days off when we have company or just feel like going to the beach for the day.
My older two boys (Primo, 9-1/2 , 4th grade and Segundo, 8, 2nd grade) study the following subjects:
- Language Arts
Initially I had music and art in there, but I’ve found that it is just too much for us. The boys get exposed to music and art in other ways, so for now we will not worry about those subjects. Maybe once they’ve mastered typing (who knows how long that will take) we can bring those subjects back. But for now, I prefer to keep working on these core subjects.
When we decided to homeschool I assumed that the boys would be doing all the learning. I knew I would get a refresher of all the stuff I’d forgotten from my elementary school education, but I had no idea that I would be learning so much more than that.
The first few days of homeschool were the honeymoon period, but sure enough, the honeymoon ended. When it did, we figured out what wasn’t working, made some adjustments and then kept adjusting until it was working again. And as I’ve learned over the last year, this is a never-ending process.
I went into homeschooling with my eyes wide open. I did months of research and talked to dozens of homeschooling moms before we began. I knew it wasn’t going to be sunshine and rainbows all day long every day, but I felt like I knew what to expect.
- -I expected it to be a lot of work
- -I expected it to be overwhelming at times
- -I expected that I would be able to manage the planning with no problem
- -I expected that there would be times where the boys would say they didn’t like homeschool anymore
- -I expected to enjoy it most of the time
- -I expected to love the flexibility
All these expectations have been met. But what I didn’t expect was that becoming their teacher might actually make me a better mom.
What began as my paying attention to how the boys were responding to the different curricula and to whether or not our routine was working turned into me paying attention — to everything.
I noticed not just whether each boy liked a particular curriculum, but I noticed which subjects each of them is most interested in. I noticed that Primo likes to stand up when he works, but that he continues to stay focused. I noticed that he is fascinated with music and art and does it voluntarily even after school is finished. I notice how easily math seems to come to Segundo and how he has a remarkably good accent in French.
When they were in public school I only noticed things like whether or not we were running on schedule, if they were moving fast enough or if their homework was done. Our time each day was driven by the school and its schedule. Each morning we focused on getting them up in time to eat, dress and catch the bus. When they got home there was homework, dinner, showers and making sure they got to bed in time to get a good night’s sleep. With homeschooling, we are on our own schedule and so our time together is much more relaxed. We have the time to just Be.
I feel like homeschooling has allowed me to know my boys on a deeper level. When they were in public school I went through their backpacks each night and looked at their completed worksheets so I knew what they were working on in a superficial way. But now, I get to really see how their minds work. I hear the questions they ask. I see how quickly they get some things and how they struggle to get others. I guess it’s the difference between reading something and experiencing something for yourself.
Do not train children to learning by force and harshness,
but direct them to it by what amuses their minds,
so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each.