I get asked all the time why we homeschool. But before I attempt to answer that question let me clarify what this post is not. It is not a post written to sway people into homeschooling. I am not against the school system, quite the opposite actually. I come from a long line of educators. My best friend is a teacher. I love teachers. I even thought for a hot second I wanted to be a teacher in college. Turns out, ironically, I don’t have what it takes. I went to public school. My husband went to private school. I can’t stress enough the value formal education has in my family. So again, I’m not here to talk you into homeschooling. I’m simply here to share our journey and answer a FAQ.
Also, you should know I’m not your typical homeschool mom. I don’t fit the bill. I’m not by the book. In fact, I never imagined I’d be a homeschool mom. I had zero desire to homeschool. Until my oldest turned 5. It came time to sign him up for kindergarten and he wasn’t ready. Cam has more energy in his little finger on any given day than I do in my whole body. He is bright and creative but struggles to focus on any one task. He can’t sit still and always has a million things to share. I knew he wouldn’t thrive in the traditional school setting so I started looking for options. The last thing I wanted to do was set him up for failure. I intended to find an alternative just to give him another year to mature, what I didn’t expect to find was a lifestyle that allowed my family to flourish.
The idea of homeschooling full time was a bit daunting to me, so we partnered with a local study center. Cam attends formal classes 2 days a week and does the rest of his studies at home. They determine some of his curriculum and I supplement with what I feel is necessary and beneficial.
Here’s what we’ve come to love:
Hello travel family here! Flexibility is key for us. By now you know how passionate I am about traveling (If you’re new here, here’s the specifics); homeschooling means we don’t have to give that up. If we want to go spend a month in California with my parents, we do. If we want to go to Disney World offseason, we do. Our travels aren’t limited by a school calendar.
My husband works swing shifts. Sometimes days, sometimes nights but always 12 hours. He works a lot of holidays and weekends and is often home a big chunk of the typical work week. If Cam were in school full time they would miss each other for days at a time. I haven’t gotten to a point where putting Cam in school full time is worth giving up the days and afternoons he spends with his dad hiking and fishing.
I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t admit that some of it is selfish too. Being at home most of the time means I don’t have a schedule to keep. I make the schedule. We sleep in when we need it because I don’t have to get kids out of bed to go to school in the mornings. We do our work when we want to where we want to. We take days off. We take breaks when we need to. Sometimes we do our lessons in the morning, sometimes we do it before bed. Sometimes we read books, sometimes we do workbooks, and sometimes we go on hikes and collect caterpillars and tadpoles to study metamorphosis.
Opportunities for life lessons.
We are currently working our way around the globe studying different countries. We just recently spent some time learning about Japan. We read a children’s book about a bonsai tree that survived Hiroshima. We spent hours talking and thinking about World War II, about conflict, about patriotism, about the effects of war on a nation, about prejudice and stereotypes, about the aftermath of our choices, and about God’s part in all of it. We didn’t open another school book that afternoon.
I’ve found that sometimes math and science can wait. “Intelligence plus character. That is the goal of true education.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
I’ve also found that sometimes math and science are just part of real life. A few months ago for our math lesson, Cam and I went grocery shopping on a budget. We meal-planned, shopped the sales, and earned the fuel perks. You’re welcome ladies.
Like I said earlier, Cam’s not a traditional student. He’s a physical (kinesthetic) learner. That means he learns best when he can use his body and his sense of touch. Sitting and listening to someone talk is the last thing he wants to do. The result: he fidgets, he moves, he makes noise, he daydreams, and only gets half of what is being taught. Cam has also been diagnosed with ADHD which means he can’t control some of this impulsivity and can end up being a distraction to those trying to learn around him. I don’t feel like he would succeed in a classroom setting at this time. He wouldn’t learn to his capacity and he would get in the way of others learning to theirs. At this point, I can satisfy his learning style best at home while we develop the skills and coping mechanisms he needs to be successful in a traditional classroom setting.
When we did our insect unit in science this spring. We did some workbook work but the concepts stuck when we went outside searched for bugs and looked at their anatomy under a magnifying glass. We dug for worms and watched them dig tunnels in the habitat we made for them. Then we had a picnic lunch and talked about how God created different animals with different functions and needs, and how different environments meet those needs. Not pictured: the tears that came when it was time to let his “pets” go. Insert eye roll here.
I can’t wait until we study American History and take a trip to Washington D.C. where we can walk through the memorials and the Smithsonian Museums as we learn.
Homeschooling allows us to find the balance between his learning style and the disciplines of education. We’re taking our time learning how to learn and developing a love for it.
We work at our own pace.
Magda Gerber said “Childhood is not a race to see how quickly a child can read, write, and count. It is a small window of time to learn and develop at the pace that is right for each individual. Earlier isn’t better.”
It amazes me what my child is capable of. That’s one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned as a homeschool mom and parent: never underestimate your child. The study center we partner with works a grade ahead. So while he is in 2nd grade, many of our curriculum books are actually for 3rd grade. This was one of my biggest concerns when we started this program. “Why ask them to do more than they need to?” The answer: because they can.
Homeschooling allows me the freedom to experiment with his abilities, his interests, his strengths, his weakness; and then custom tailor a path for him based on that knowledge. There are some subjects that Cam needs more time in. Concepts that require straight memorization and fine motor control are not our friend. Math facts, spelling words, handwriting, we struggle. I want to pull my hair out. Don’t worry, I’ve got plenty. There are other subjects we breeze through Latin, science, history. Easy peasy. We have the flexibility to put the time in where we need to and where we want to.
More time outdoors.
I would never classify myself as an outdoorsy person. I don’t have the hair for it. Seriously, ever seen the people who whose hair still falls just right after a day of camping, hiking, and sweating? I’ll spare you the details, but that’s not me. But somewhere along the way, we’ve become an outdoorsy family. The more time I spend outside, the more benefits I see for my kids (spoiler alert: full blog post coming on this topic).
Apart from the obvious: fresh air, vitamin D, physical activity; I’ve found nature to hold so much more for my children. It inspires their curiosity and develops their inquisitive minds. I’ve watched them look in holes, climb trees to see what it’s like at the top, and follow the sounds of a woodpecker to see why he pecks. We test our problem-solving skills when something goes wrong and we’re miles from the car. We think, we question, and we stand in wonder.
One of the biggest benefits is that nature is where Cam is comfortable in his own skin. Because of his ADHD, daily tasks are a constant challenge to him. He has to work all day at controlling his body, at respecting boundaries, and coloring inside the lines. When he’s outside, he is free to move, free to make noise. He can slow down and dig or he can speed up and swing from the vines in the woods. His mind can go where it wants. He’s free to just be.
Homeschooling allows us to incorporate nature into our lessons, to skip lessons when the sun is shining, and to even take our classroom outdoors when the weather is right. It allows us to be in an environment that resets, recharges, and refocuses our family.
Some of you are thinking, she didn’t list “faith” as a reason to homeschool, doesn’t that play into it? Absolutely. My goal as a parent is to ground my children in their faith, to give them time and space to form roots and ask questions in a safe place. I want them to know there is no limit to their Savior’s love, that there is nowhere that grace can’t reach, and that only in Him will we find true worth and purpose. But we try to incorporate our faith into everything we do- not just through schooling. You don’t have to be homeschooled to build a solid foundation. I wasn’t. Homeschooling might give us more time for conversations but it doesn’t give us better time. You have to be intentional in whatever time you’ve been given.
So we’re making the most of that time in a way that works for us. “Homeschooling allows you the freedom to step off the highway of learning and take a more scenic route along a dirt road (Tamara Chilver).” Seasons change and I anticipate this won’t always be our pace, but for now: we are enjoying the view.
Photo Credit: Michelle Hill (Rae of Light Photography)