How to Homeschool? It’s easier than you think.
We’re in our 8th year of homeschooling here at the Geary Academy. At school, I go by Mrs. Madame BigButt because it is hilarious to have the kids read it out loud when presenting a paper. But, you can read more about our homeschool and what we’ve accomplished academically at the end of this post because right now, I want to focus on you.
But before we dive in, it is important to understand what brought us to homeschooling. You see, we didn’t start until my oldest was in 7th grade and my youngest was in 3rd. They attended private Christian school because we wanted a Jesus centered education. But, we had begun to feel the effects of the economic downturn and paying three tuitions was just not possible anymore. Prior to this point, I didn’t realize homeschooling was an option for us. My husband was against it (“Those kids are weird!”) and I thought it was a bit weird, too. We had both grown up attending public schools, so that’s what we knew, and we knew it wasn’t for us.
This actually brings me to my first point (finally, Katie. Honestly.)
Let go of preconceptions. Just all of them.
This point has lots of sub points.
1a. Let go of preconceptions about what society says school looks like.
Maybe you, like me, didn’t even really realize homeschooling is an option. Although, with the pandemic many of you have been virtually schooling. This is 100% not the same thing as homeschooling, fyi. You and your children are still beholden to the schedule and materials the school district lays out for you. When you homeschool, you choose your materials. You choose your schedule.
One of the issues you have to let go of is that homeschool kids are unsocialized weirdos. There are SO. MANY. homeschool support groups available all over the world at this point, and if you’re not careful, you and your children will be socializing all week long and not getting anything else accomplished. Kidding! Mostly. But for realz, there are field trips, co-ops, homeschool days at museums and roller skating rinks and so much more. Your kids will have friends if you decide to participate.
We could not have been as successful at homeschooling without the support of a co-op. A co-op can mean many different things, but for us it was a place where we got together each friday for fun “classes” such as art, gym, and musical theater. The co-op also had tons of events and field trips. My kids have all formed their friendships at the co-op, and we couldn’t be more grateful.
So, socialization is not an issue anymore. And don’t even get me started on how well homeschoolers fare academically, emotionally and spiritually. There is a literal ton of research on how beneficial homeschooling is, so I’ll leave that quick search to you. Awesome people are homeschooling their kids. Why not you?
1b. Let go of preconceptions about what YOU think school “should” look like.
You do not have to do “School at Home”. You are a homeschooler now! That means you get to walk in true freedom! Check out your state’s homeschool laws and go from there.
If you really want to teach your kids in the style of school, more power to you. You can actually do that. But there is a whole wide world of options to explore. Have you heard of unschooling? What about delight-directed learning? Classical education? Unit studies? Block schedules? Charlotte Mason? RV Schooling? World Schooling?
Our family chose a mix of a lot of different options and remained open to change should one option not work from year to year, or semester to semester, or week to week. We also did four days of academics and one day of co-op. The days of academics lasted only as long as needed to accomplish what we set out to do, and lasted on average, 2 - 3 hours a day, even when the kids were in high school. We took off most of December for Christmas and ended the year at the end of April.
The point is that public school does it one way because it has to. It doesn’t have the resources to help each student learn in the way that is unique to them. You do, though. You can totally help your kid learn math facts using hopscotch or nerf guns.
Here is where I am going to get radical on you. I hardly ever “did” science or history with my kids when they were younger. Instead, we would go outside, go to the history museum, read books, and watch a ton of documentaries on the subjects that interested them. We traveled to Europe twice. We focused on reading (because when you can read well, you can learn anything), math, and writing. But if you guys love experiments, do them!
School can look like: grocery shopping, baking, leaf collecting, field trips, household chores, automotive care, receiving an allowance, etc. Your child does not have to be seated. Your child does not have to complete endless worksheets and dioramas (unless your child loves that sort of thing!) Childhood is but one sweet, short season and should be honored.
1c. Let go of the expectations of others and just do you.
Now we get to the heart of the matter. Ask yourself, why are you raising your kids? What is your main goal? Is it so they can recite all of the United States Presidents in order or write a killer essay? Probably not.
Our goal was to raise Jesus loving kids who are kind to each other and kind to others.
How exactly does school fit into that goal? Well, it doesn’t. Of course I am not saying school is unimportant. I'm saying that it is less important than achieving our primary goal. Education is required to be an interesting, well rounded human being. Education is required to take care of oneself in adulthood. But education is different from “school”.
Please do not worry if your child isn’t “achieving standards”. Again, standards are about a group, not about an individual. Some kids are reading at three while others don’t really get it until later. It’s okay. Take a breath, focus on your kid, and allow them to develop over time. Everyone has different talents and intelligences. Focus on what makes your kid really special, because you can!
It can be difficult to walk through this when grandma is quizzing the kids on what they know, and they “fail” to live up to her standard (and should we even talk about if grandma knows what is developmentally appropriate at this age?) but as long as you are clear on your family’s goals, it is easier to withstand the critique with a smile. The fact is, your kid may be an academic genius who is doing algebra in the 3rd grade, or they may be painting masterpieces that could hang in the museum. Or more likely, they are just a normal child, developing appropriately for themselves. I count that as a total win.
So, mama, you and your family do you and do it with fun, freedom, and the comradery that comes from loving each other well. The world could use more of that.
This is our track record, and by no means do I believe you should compare your family to mine:
Robbie skipped 8th grade and graduated a year early, effectively skipping two grades. Not only did he graduate early, he graduated with his Associates Degree from our community college. With honors. He then took a gap year to participate in a biblical leadership program. After finishing, he attended university on academic scholarship, but has since decided to take a break from school to figure out what he really wants to do with his life. Robbie loves Jesus, D&D, and is the most talented person at interpersonal communications that I have ever known. He is 20.
Lulu also graduated a year early with around 40 college credits and with honors. I say graduated, but she will actually graduate this year, 2021. She is completing her senior year academics free and enjoying all of our co-op activities such as musical theater, homecoming, prom, etc. Lulu is a professional aerialist and loves performing on the silks. She also has no idea what she wants to do with her life beyond that and is trying to figure it out. She is turning 18 in three weeks.
Sam is a sophomore and is in his second semester of dual enrollment at our community college. He is on track to graduate with his Associates like Robbie. Sam is super creative and imaginative, an awesome writer, and he will give you the shirt off of his back if he thought you needed it. He also has no idea what he wants to do with his life, but hey, does anyone at this age? Sam is turning 16 in 6 days.