Homeschooling or School at Home?

Changed our homeschooling approach again for the umpteenth time!  Am thinking about dabbling in a bit of unschooling.  Ohhh the control-freak in me is getting the shakes!  I can feel it!!!

I read somewhere that it takes two years, on average, for the homeschooling parent to find his/her feet.    We started off with Sonlight and loved the plethora of good-quality living books, but felt tyrannized by the schedule!  After a year of Sonlight, I felt rather more confident and decided to start experimenting with other curricula.  And for that, I spent hours on the Internet researching what other parents thought about the options.  My Old Reliable is   It’s my favorite site for eavesdropping on other homeschooling parents’ thoughts about their curriculum. I realize it’s different strokes for different folks, but I find it very reassuring to make a decision after hearing both sides of the story.  A few parents might rave over a particular Math curriculum, for example, and others might say their kids hate the repetitiveness of that curriculum.  I read all the reviews and make up my mind.

We’ve been doing things the traditional, and Charlotte Mason way, and have had quite a structured home school.  But when I heard my dear daughter beg to spend an hour more on Science when she had five other subjects to study, and I caught myself saying, “Yes, but make sure you finish all the other subjects on your schedule” only to hear her groan, I realized with dismay that I was replicating school at home.  Ohhh, it’s a ticklish issue getting the balance right.  I want her to learn discipline and perseverance, and I also want her to imbibe a love for learning and creativity that will last a lifetime.

So, once again, we are going to try another approach…one that will allow her to work on the basics everyday but also give her huge chunks of time to pursue her passion for Science and her never-ending list of questions.

At the moment, we have table time from 9 am to 1 pm.  Afternoons are for extra-curricular activities: Sports Club on Monday, Gymnastics on Tuesday, Art and IT on Thursday, and Piano on Friday.  She also gets to work on educational software and typing in the afternoons.   The learning co-op I belong to organizes monthly or semi-monthly classes at the Art Gallery, the Museum, and  Science Alive, and we go to all of them.  If there were more days, we’d do swimming, drama, and Scouts. We also need to find a slot for foreign languages!!! 🙂

A Relaxed Homeschool – Dream or Possibility?

Well, our new routine kicks off this week.  The extra-curriculars will stay in place, but during table time, she will have to do Math, Language Arts and English everyday.  For English, she can choose from  grammar, writing, vocabulary or spelling  each day.  After she does what she has to do,  she can then choose what she wants to do for that day.  The menu of yummy options consists of: History, Critical Thinking, Science, Current Events/Social Studies, Music, and Art.  And we have several bookshelves of good quality books and learning resources for all of those subject areas at home, with a public library only five minutes’ walk away.  She won’t lack for good stuff.

When I told Charis (10) that we would experiment with this new way of doing things, her face lit up and her entire body bloomed – big, expansive arm circles swept the air.  Her face glowed!  “Mom!  This is like being told I can stay by myself in a room filled with sesame balls!!!” (her favorite dessert) 🙂

It’s a right challenge for me to actually loosen the reins a bit and trust her to follow her instincts when it comes to learning.  But I believe that God hardwired each of us with gifts, talents, and abilities, coupled with curiosity for the field of our greatest contribution.  So, by allowing my daughter the time to pursue her love for Science, I am paving the way for her to excel and later contribute in that field.  I have given her carte blanche to learn as much as she wants.  She’s already told me that she knows what she wants to be when she grows up: a scientist and a writer.  And since she loves the Magic School Bus series, she can see what the possibilities are for writing about Science in a fun way that will make other kids love Science , too.

As we take this nerve-wracking step towards a more relaxed homeschool (shudder, shudder, shake – repeat after me “YES, WE CAN!), two things wiser folk have said to me come to mind:

1) You can’t ensure that there will be no gaps in your child’s learning because there is just way too much to learn!  Even school children have gaps in their learning.  But just because your child isn’t learning what school children are learning doesn’t mean that your child is behind.  Who knows?  There must be heaps your child has learned that a child in school has not!

2) So what if she doesn’t finish reading the Classics before the end of High School?  She can enjoy them the rest of her life!  That’s the beauty of lifelong learning!  She won’t stop learning when you stop homeschooling!

Yes, of course…. silly me.

Okay, let’s have a cuppa.