One of the first pieces of advice that is given to new homeschoolers is, “Homeschool is not School At Home.”
This is amazing and well-needed advice for most new homeschoolers. It is so easy to fall into the trap of trying to reproduce the “typical” school day at home.
Trust me I know!
When talking to new homeschoolers some “get” this concept right away. Others, not so much.
The reason I really want to dig into this topic is I am a huge believer in homeschooling being what you need it to be for you and your family.
It’s the one time you get to be completely selfish Mom! Homeschooling is about you. Your children. Your family. Your needs. Your wants. Are you getting the picture?
As great as it is to read what others are doing for ideas, encouragement, and inspiration we need to remember that what works for others does not always work for you.
And sometimes we discover what works for us is the exact opposite of what everyone else seems to be saying.
For example…homeschooling is not school at home, except when it is.
Homeschooling is not school at home.
What is meant by this? What is “school at home?”
This is when you try to replicate the school system at home.
- Children sitting at desks to learn
- Subject use textbook
- Subjects are done by time
- “Play time” is set times of the day, for timed periods
- You raise your hand to ask a question
Let me share an example:
You call the child in to do school and sit them at the desk or table, they work on Math for 45 minutes, you read the question, explain or show how to do it, then let them work. When the time is up whatever they don’t complete they must do later on their own time. You move on to the next subject.
Sounds a lot like public school, right? Each subject has its own block of time. Science is separated from Math which is separated from Geography and on and on.
This is “school at home”.
When Homeschooling is not School at Home:
The best way to describe homeschooling not being school at home is to view it as the opposite of the above. Everything is connected.
The “school time” is more relaxed.
In this setting:
- The child has input
- You follow their interests
- Less book work and more hands on work
- A topic might be chosen that includes many “subjects”
- You spend as little or as much time as needed to fully explore the topic under discussion
Note the difference in this example:
You call the child and talk about a question they raised the day before about a blue lobster they saw on a poster. You remind them of the question, you pull up National Geographic online and show them the photos and read about “Toby” and why he is blue. Then you go to your Notebooking Pages and print off the Lobster sheet, the child fills in this sheet, colors a page, makes a craft if they so desire. Next, you decide to learn more about the feeding habits, life cycle and environment of the lobster.
As you can see, everything here is connected. Many different subjects are used if you wanted to break it down.
This is not school at home.
Homeschooling is not School at Home…Except When it is.
What happens if you are already doing school at home?
Welcome to my world.
When I started homeschooling I fell into the trap of doing “school at home”. I remember talking with my husband and we discussed things we saw (at that time) as failures of “homeschooling” children.
You know, all those myths that you might have believed or still do? I was there, I believed them too.
Some I believed were:
- My children had to be sitting to learn.
- They must do every page in every textbook.
- All the subjects had to be timed.
- They would have “homework” if they didn’t get it done on time.
- And more…
Guess what? We all start somewhere. Maybe it isn’t the “right way” or the “best way”. I started with dollar store workbooks and brutally rigid, confining “homeschooling” rules.
Discovering: The world is your classroom!
Fast forward a bit and I started noticing that learning wasn’t confined to the table. I started noticing my children were learning outside of “school” time.
I started having conversations with my children specifically aimed at teaching them, educating them, and my eyes opened up.
In fact, my son learned without me!
He took an intense interest in the solar system when he was staying with his Nanny.
One day, this little boy, all of 5 years old, told me all about the solar system, planets names, colors, the order they were in, how many moons they had and more!
I was blown away. After all, I didn’t teach him this. How did he learn?
Fighting for Change
It took me a while to relax, I would love to say a few months but really it was more like years.
By this time my children were used to textbook and workbook learning. They were used to learning by reading and writing, a few hands-on experiments, crafts, and coloring pages.
When I decided to branch out and say, “instead of doing school today let’s go to the beach and see what’s there.” I got shut down. BIG TIME! They worried they wouldn’t hit the number of days they needed, or they wouldn’t get their lessons done on time.
Yes, I had taught them making checkmarks on a sheet, crossing off days, lessons-these were things that were important.
When I wanted to change, they dug in. No way. No how.
At first, I was really upset, I wanted them to discover the world had so many learning possibilities around them. I was jealous of when parents would talk about how much fun they were having in their “school” days.
I wanted to fix my mistake. I wanted them to fall in love with learning. Show them, it can be fun!
Lightbulb Moments: You can have both!
I chatted with a lovely homeschool mom who hangs out in my comments and I was lamenting again about an effort that failed. She pointed out that sometimes your children know what works for them, that’s great! So work with that. Duh!
She was right, they do.
I needed to stop stressing about changing and start working with them.
When we chose our curriculum this year, I went about it a bit differently. This resulted in the children speaking up, expressing desires, and having a true say in the matter.
We do still “book work /text books etc.” from September-End of June. This is our “school year.
They take control over their schedule, have an input on what courses they take, how they want to learn be it textbook/workbooks like their favorite history program or online programs they love. They have chosen to do block scheduling and yes it is still separated by subject.
That being said, what my children do not know they “unschool” all summer.You can have the best of both worlds! Click To Tweet
Technically we school year round. They just don’t know it. I tell people who ask that we break. We do. There is no planned school, no programs, no textbooks, no reading list, no “school” all summer.
However, I really cash in on this “free time”.
This is when I let encourage them to explore the world around them, read new books, try new things. We load up on life skills, volunteer work, parks, and new experiences.
Here is an example of a family trip filled with learning! Meet Nova:
We have discussions, do research on why something worked or didn’t. Failed bath bomb anyone?
My daughter draws, crafts, creates for hours. Then switches to Minecraft for a few days.
My son pulls out Lego building until he is bored, then comes out and works on writing his book, making images and editing. Figuring out why a code isn’t working, failing, and working until he achieves what the desired outcome is.
As I am typing this, my son came out to get food. I asked him what he is doing. He says he is learning about electric trains from YouTube. Then he goes on to explain (excitedly!!) about electronics, magnetics, and why and how it works.
Are they doing school? Nope just chilling!
Homeschooling is not school at home…except when it is.
Sometimes what works for you doesn’t work for others. For us, school at home works-right now.
I might wish I was “unschooling” year round or “strewing”, or whatever the newest to me thing is right now. Maybe someday I will be, but until then, I am going to do what works for us, which is secretly having the best of both worlds!