Updated: Apr 3
I want to start by saying, homeschool life chose us- kinda. When our oldest was in kindergarten (at an amazing public school btw. Shout out to Mrs. Peterson. W still raves about all the cool things you taught him!) we learned he had a severe visual impairment in one of his eyes that labeled that eye legally blind. We were undergoing extreme patch therapy in hopes of avoiding any surgeries at such a young age and found that the more he was away from direct supervision, the more he would 'cheat' the patching; ultimately setting him back in the therapy. He was in a large class with one teacher. And as wonderful as she was, I could not in good conscious ask her to make sure she was looking for that tiny corner to be pulled up while simultaneously watching and teaching 25 other 5 year olds. So we pulled W and made the decision to school at home. Everyone who does this will have their own origin story and it is always morphing to some degree. At least from what I've found. So if you are reading this hoping to find some solidarity in your why... the solidarity that I find to be the most encouraging is the desire you have as a mama to always protect, steward, teach, love and encourage your children. That's the only why you NEED to have. Everything else becomes supporting factors on the days that require more coffee.
Now, once we got started there was no turning back for us. The amount of freedom we found as a family, and that he received to just be a kid was incredible. There was no more fatigue, over stimulus or bad attitudes that were anything more than normal age behaviors. There was a regular routine that included copious amounts of rest as needed. Sickness became practically non-existent in our home. And if I'm totally honest, I found myself questioning why we didn't just start this way. So we've stuck with it for the last 6 years, adding siblings to the class roster as they were ready.
As the years have gone by I have found we have morphed into a type of 'unschooling' that is beautiful and works amazing for our tribe. That is a daunting phrase to many; unschooling. So let me explain what I mean by this. I know the first time I heard it I pictured Lord of the Flies type days being classified as "schooling" and found the concept I had conjured up to be feral. This is not that.
We strongly support and enforce education. But the way in which we educate (math, reading, language, science, history, government and extra curriculars) would never work in a brick and mortar setting because it is just too one on one for that size class to function or progress. We believe in playing. We believe in living and being free to explore. So how does this all tie together? We learn through our play and living day to day. We talk about everything all the time. And when it is time to sit and focus on math, reading or language we do so when they are able to focus and actually retain the information they are being taught. This does mean that I do not keep a rigid schedule (worth noting here this has required TREMENDOUS personal growth for my type A and carried a daily planner for sanity and internal peace since I was 9yo self). We spend anywhere from 2-3hrs, three or four days a week working on 'subject' work. We blend curriculum from All In One Homeschool (aka: Easy Peesy), My Father's World and any other supplements we add in to really drive a topic home. And that's it. We try to read together, out loud or independently daily. Sometimes this is as simple as helping with cooking dinners and reading the directions and ingredients then following them (reading comprehension and home ec.). While others, it looks like sitting with a book for a set amount of time and journaling about what was read. In all areas the kids are allowed to work at their own pace. My kiddos have an inherited aptitude for math that I attribute to their father. So typically, this means we finish their current grade level much sooner than the school system around us does. Now, before you come for my head over the lack of weekly hours spent in books because "it just isn't enough", you should make note that we school year round. We do not follow the public school calendar. While we do take breaks, we do not take off more than a week at a time. I found for us it was way to difficult to re-establish our home and school rhythm with months off at a time. Since school is done at home, time off dominos into everything at here. And our schedules are built around making sure they are learning first and foremost. So breathe. They're actually receiving more instructional hours than a publicly enrolled child would.
I incorporate as much or as little time and skill refinement/repetition that is needed for them to succeed and remember what they're working on. For everything else, it is always hands on and engaging. We have countless resources I'll print and bind for them to use as interactive workbooks and we learn all the things this way. So far this year, we've done an in depth study on gardening and the seed germination to harvest process, sharks, big cats, moon cycles and oceans and tides, deep sea life and we are introducing seasons and forestry soon. These studies go more in depth with our olders as I assign them research projects they help each other with but the littles are right there joining in with us the whole time. My 4yo is able to answer all the things my 9yo can because she is engaged too!
The reason I call what we do 'unschooling' is because we don't 'school' daily, we don't always incorporate books, and we often find our learning best done outside and away from the confines of a traditional "pull out your workbook and pencil and turn to page..." setting. Even though we do book work as a regular part of it. We are somewhere between unschooled and homeschooled, I guess if we were to be technical. I opt to call it unschooling as of late because it has removed the mental pressure I place on myself to see them at an above average academia placement and helps me to reframe and focus on the wide scope of what they are actually being taught on a daily basis.
There ya go. A small glimpse of what works for us. Again, as with anything I share, this is not the gold standard of what home educating should be for you and your kids. It is simply what works for us. So take what you can, and throw out the rest. Just find what works for you! And know that I'm here cheering you on, cup of joe in hand, because let's face it. At times, it can feel overwhelming. And it is nice to know there are options!