"If you don't do school, then what do you do?"
"What do you mean you don't do 'school-at-home'?"
"Do you use K12 or Odyssey?"
"Are you taking Labor day off or still doing school?"
"What do you use for PE curriculum?"
"I thought about homeschooling my kids, but I don't want them to be weird."
This seven part series is the product of several recent conversations with other homeschoolers (and one non-homeschooler), conversations that included the above questions (and statement). I kid you not, someone actually said that last one directly to me! :)
In layman terms:
"School-at-home" refers to replicating a public school model of education in the home. It might also be referred to as "traditional." This often means a schoolroom, workbooks, packaged curriculum, set school hours, subjects and days. K12 and Odyssey are online school programs. I'm realizing more and more that people often understand homeschool to mean "school-at-home." While some families do homeschool this way, we do not. In the recent conversation when I was asked if we use K12 or Odyssey, I was really surprised. I didn't even know how to respond. I said, "We don't use either. We do a lot of unit studies and hands-on activities. We go for nature walks and visit interesting places." I thought other homeschoolers "got" each other, but in that moment I realized she thought I was full of crazy talk! :)
Through this series I will explain a bit more about how and why we homeschool the way we do. I will also show you a week in our life, Monday through Friday.
This series is not to say that the way we educate is the right way and all other ways are wrong. This is simply the way WE do it. It doesn't mean you have to do it this way. And it definitely doesn't mean your way is wrong and inferior. I'll share an experience in Part 2 about a time I felt like my way was inferior and I tried to be like someone else. Please don't feel that way. Be you! Who knows, maybe my way is a bunch of hooey gooey since my oldest is only 7. I guess all I can prove is that you can receive a pretty decent education from real-life learning, up to age 7. I'll let you know if works beyond that!
Before we start, I'm going to answer a few questions:
What if your children are behind?
I do not believe all children need to know the same things at the same time. As such, the terms "ahead" or "behind" are irrelevant to me. Each child is individual and as such, should be allowed to develop in their own time, without the pressure of being compared to another child. Learning is not a competition.
If my children entered public school tomorrow, they would likely be labeled as behind because they weren't there for all the same lessons and topics. But giving that label is silly. Here's why: that would also mean that any child who entered my home and doesn't know everything my children know is also "behind." Do you see why this doesn't make sense? How can you say the child who learned about sewing is "behind" the child who learned about worms? And why isn't the child who learned about sewing "ahead" of the child who learned about worms? Who gets to decide which knowledge base is more important anyway?
Neither child is behind. Their knowledge base is simply different. I do not know everything all other 31 year-olds know. The Mr. doesn't know everything all other 36 year olds know. That's not the way the real world works.
My goal is not to fill a bucket, but to light fires within.
How do you plan to teach chemistry or advanced math?
If we continue to homeschool when our children are older, I will not be their sole "teacher." I am not even their sole "teacher" currently. They have interests in things I don't know much about already. Like tumbling, karate, robotics, art and piano. When an interest is sparked, I simply help them find ways to learn more and if that means finding a teacher, we find one. Mowgli is pestering us for violin lessons and Bud really wants to learn to play the guitar. Teachers will need to be found for both, when we decide (and can afford!) for them to pursue these interests.
If you don't do "school-at-home" how will your children ever learn to stand in line, sit still or raise their hands?
They learn to stand in line anytime we go to the store, or to play laser tag, or to a carnival. Standing in line is something that happens pretty regularly in real life. They learn to sit still when we attend events that require sitting still. Like plays, ballets, musical performances and our 3-hour weekly church service. (We've attended two ballets, five plays and one televised musical performance in the last ten months.) As far as raising their hand goes...I don't know. They seemed to pick that one up somewhere, perhaps storytime or church?
I thought about homeschooling once, but I didn't want them to be weird.
Yup, it's true. Some homeschooled children are weird. Some. Just like some public, private and charter school students are weird. I know because I went to public school and the weird kids were made fun of. I also know because I run into some pretty darn odd people every so often when I'm out and about. Like the lady who plopped herself down about two inches from me while I nursed my baby (covered) at the park recently. Then she stared at me. I smiled and looked away and she continued to stare. I looked at her, smiled again and said, "Hello." She continued to stare. It was downright odd folks. There are all sorts of quirky, odd and eccentric people out there.
But then again, maybe she was homeschooled.
And like my friend, Rach, says, "How do you know you aren't weird?" :)
Plus, what's wrong with being a little different anyway?
Are you taking Labor Day off or still doing school?
On Labor Day we went hiking. The boys brought an insect nature guide along and a glass jar. They read the nature guide in the car on the drive to the mountain. (They actually fought over it and I had to time how long they each got it.) They collected acorns, looked at bugs and Mowgli caught a caterpillar.
So, yes. We had "school." (But that's what we call real-life learning.)
What do you use for PE Curriculum?
I see this question being bounced around the homeschool forums often and it puzzles me. We don't need a textbook or worksheets or curriculum to learn physical education. We need to be physical! "PE" in our house looks like this: a family hike, a bike ride, entering a race, going to the lake, going swimming, going for a walk, playing basketball, joining a team, playing at the park, going bowling, going to the skate park, taking the kids with us to my volleyball games or one of my husband's many games in rugby, basketball or volleyball, playing tag, riding skateboards/scooters, playing catch, jumping rope, going fishing and letting the kids see us being active. (Jumping rope is also a great way to practice ordinal or skip counting!)
You'll notice in the coming parts of this series that there aren't very many "school" activities in our learning. Thus the tagline: trying to take the "school" out of homeschool. When something is taught I ask myself, "Is there a way this could be taught/learned without curriculum but from a real-life experience or some really great books?"
Usually there is.
But I am definitely still working on this. My mind is programmed to think lessons, textbooks, worksheets. It is out of my own insecurity that some of the school-at-home tasks remain.
In the coming days I'll share with you how we got to where we are as homeschoolers and what an average week looks like. I didn't plan any special activities or do anything differently than we usually do over these days I will share with you. I simply decided one morning to pack my camera around and take quick notes of the things we did. I'll also tell you about a time that we were school-at-homers and why that didn't last.
I realize some of what I just wrote is going to be hard for some of you to wrap your mind around. You're probably scratching your head. You're likely thinking, "Huh?" She doesn't care about her children being behind? "She doesn't make them start school at 8:07 every morning?" "She thinks hiking is school?" (No, I don't think hiking is school, I think it is learning. :)
If I had read this post (and series) a couple of years ago, I would have been baffled too.
But who knows, maybe in a couple years, I will be reading about your real-life learning!
I hope you'll stick around.
Click HERE for Part 2: How we fell into homeschooling, then became school-at-homers and why that didn't last.