I suppose it is the greatest blessing and also the greatest curse that homeschooling affords so much freedom. Instead of the mythical idea that “only experts can teach”, homeschool moms face the often-overwhelming dilemma of sorting through the ocean of teaching resources, styles and approaches.
But if there’s one freedom for which I’m thankful, it’s that of allowing my children to pursue their passions. Children need room, tools and lots of time to grow and develop their gifts. And they need to be told that those gifts are important and can make a difference in how they live.
Through years of research, we decided long ago that the traditional classroom approach wasn’t the best method of educating children. (Read John Taylor Gatto for more information.) We take a more relaxed approach that frankly pulls ideas from Waldorf, Charlotte Mason, eclectic, unschooling and traditional, tailoring it to our family’s needs, and changing through the seasons.
If the relaxed approach of homeschooling appeals to you, my book, Think Outside the Classroom is a great place to start, giving an overview of what it is and then practical ways to put the style into practice.
As I frequently get asked to explain exactly what we do in school, I thought I’d give you a glimpse of what we’re doing this year, as I’ve added a slight twist to the plan. Just remember that your family is different, your children are different, your season is different, and take joy in the freedom and discovering what works best for your family.
We are sticking to a traditional curriculum. Most of my children use A.C.E. paces, with a few exceptions. Remember, especially with younger children, that math is everywhere, and it’s important to help them see how math is used in all of life. I usually don’t begin math workbooks until they are 8 or so, using practical math until then. Counting, addition, subtraction, fractions, etc. can all be taught in the natural progression of life.
I also don’t stress about higher math. We have tools now that make it possible to function in society without being Pythagoras, and a child bent toward that field will thrive without much pushing.
We are continuing what we’ve always done, which has proven sufficient for producing a foundation for good communication. Copywork. My children begin copywork as soon as they can form letters and continue through high school.
My three older children will begin an in-depth Bible Study. I created a plan of study and designated several passages of Scripture I want them to go through. They will also write summaries at the end of each study.
The previous subjects shouldn’t take much of the day to complete. The rest of their time I’m giving them to pursue their personal passions. My four older children have super-clear passions and thrive in each of them. I have mapped out a course of action that involves research, experimentation and/or a project.
- Ashton: Art–He is to choose and study 5 different mediums of art, answering the questions I’ve written about each one, reading and researching which may involve visiting/interviewing other artists. Then he must experiment with each medium. Because he is an artist, we want to give him every advantage in pursuing his life work around his passions.
- Alexa: Crafting–Her ultimate project is to open an Etsy shop. She will study branding, product creation, tips on selling through Etsy and business math as it applies to buying and selling.
- Avalee: Fashion Design–She will study design through youtube videos, research color, shape and trends, and take some private sewing lessons and ultimately design and create an article of clothing.
- Brooks: Mechanics–He has already learned (through youtube) how to dismantle things such as a carburetor and put it back. His greatest passion in life is to operate and/or repair heavy machinery. He will do some reading on mechanics of different types and then put it into practice in actual repair work. We have an advantage that my father lives close by and has lots of machinery that, unfortunately, need lots of repair.
Science, History, Geography
Everything else will be left to a more unschooling (with direction) approach. Between individual reading, family reading, documentaries and conversation, these topics are covered with surprising ease. The more to which we are able to introduce them in the course of interests and living, the more “stickable” they are.
My younger children do copywork, simple math and reading. They sit in on family read-alouds and they get massive amounts of time to do art activities and crafts (I try to keep them supplied with materials for creating). They watch some science shows, cook alongside me or an older sibling, do their chores, build, and play.
So that’s it for these next few months or maybe the whole year. It will change. There is so much to do, so much to explore and discover. Relax in the journey and remember your children were created for learning. It will happen.