What I wish people knew about our homeschool
Many times when people comment to me that they could never do homeschooling, the comment is being made on the heels of an unexpected break from school (extreme cold snap, multiple snow days... a pandemic) when the students are sent home with packets of work to complete at home. I don't know how to fully explain how much not like homeschooling that is.
I think there is a general misunderstanding of our homeschool life that I would love to clarify. And when I say "homeschool," I'm going to limit my comments to our experience of homeschooling here at Stephens Academy. Every single family is different, kids are different, there are about a million different curriculum options and methods and variables. But here are some things I wish people knew about us.
Homeschooling is not doing "school at home."
We don't do worksheets. Ever. Math is the closest you will get to finding my kids working out of a textbook. If you had a live feed into our home, on any given hour you would find the big kids scattered through the house reading classic literature, reading biographies of scientists or missionaries. You might find them "narrating" (telling back what they learned) to me either as I clean up the kitchen or into the voice memo app on a phone and texting it to me.
We don't do fill in the blank worksheets or quizzes or tests. We do spend several hours a day working together at the kitchen table, working on handwriting, learning Latin, reading Scripture, poetry, Shakespeare stories, fairy tales, biographies, historical accounts, or the US constitution one article and amendment at a time. We learn about great artists and study their work. We sing hymns and fun (sometimes sad), obscure folk songs. We go on nature hikes. We draw and paint. We have our rough days like anyone. But honestly, it is beautiful. Beautiful. It is the education I never knew I missed out on. And here's the best part - I'm learning it with them. I'm not an expert. I'm a fellow student who happens to buy the books.
Our home has a flexible but orderly rhythm.
Having predictable order and expectations diffuses stress and conflict. This is a huge point, and some of what prompts the "I could never do homeschooling" conversations referenced above. A loss of order and clear expectations is part of what makes kids home on break from traditional school go stir crazy, in my opinion. Changes in routine are stressful for everyone. The most predictable piece of their week is gone, they don't know exactly what's coming next, exactly what's expected, what they have control over and what they don't.
In our house, I'm not a "by the clock" person and I don't do well with set times. But we have a predictable rhythm. The kids get up, get breakfast, do their chores (we have assigned weekly "cleaning zones"), and their other morning routines (get dressed, brush teeth, have their own time reading their Bibles). After that they know to get working on their individual work.
They each have a list of what needs to be accomplished that week. I have their 36 weeks of school mapped out from the beginning of the year, and they know exactly what needs to be done by Friday. I don't care what order they do it in or how they space it out, as long as it's done by Friday. Routine, clear expectations, and communication are incredibly important. We (almost) never have arguments or clash of will about chores or school work. They know what they need to do. They have some control over how and when, but the what is nonnegotiable and always has been.
Our homeschool is very philosophy driven.
Our homeschool day that I just described would sound very similar to a lot of the homeschoolers in our philosophic realm - but very different from many (most?) others. There are a number of different major educational philosophies at play in the homeschool world that make for vastly different educational experiences. We are a Charlotte Mason homeschooling family, and we follow Ambleside Online for our curriculum plan and structure. I love Charlotte Mason - when I stumbled into this world it was like someone filled my lungs with pure oxygen. And the CM/AO homeschooling community is just an incredible network of women. Some of the most brilliant, thoughtful, intentional educators I have ever interacted with have been within this community. Which brings me to my next point...
These educators are masters of their craft
...although they would probably never ever call themselves that. They would likely just tell you they are lifelong learners. That is the beauty of an education like this. It is based on a deep belief that "children are born persons" - they are not empty vessels to be filled or computers to be programmed, they are fellow image-bearers of God created with a need for intellectual food and training just as their physical bodies need food and exercise. And mothers are born persons. The women who have most deeply impacted my thinking about and practice of education have been deeply and profoundly self educated. Incredibly widely read. Deep thinkers. Never stopping on their journey to worship our God, behold His glory in creation, recognize the Story woven throughout literature and art and science and history. Get the picture of a simple-minded denim-jumper-wearing mom just baking cookies and trying to shelter her kids from the world out of your mind - nothing has challenged and grown me as a thinker like being in the CM community. Homeschool moms are a force.
Education is more than a curriculum to us. It is more than a task. It is a lifestyle of lifelong learning. A family culture based around great books and ideas and growing together.
As often as people comment to me that they can't imagine doing this, I cannot imagine not doing this. We love it. Bad days and meltdowns and sibling squabbles and all. I can't imagine not continuing my own education as I facilitate the education of my children. We are just image-bearers, learning to know God and worship Him more deeply together.
And that's what I wish people knew about our homeschool.