Discussing homeschooling is kind of like talking about breastfeeding in that it can come across as bashing mainstream education. That is not my intention. Nor am I trying to ‘convert’ anyone or say that I know best. I’m just sharing for those who have asked and are interested.
However, if you’re reading this and your children are in a traditional school, I would like you to consider the question for yourself and your family: why do you choose mainstream education? I don’t mean that in a confrontational or judgmental way; was it something you questioned?
So, why are we homeschooling?
For me, it started when I realised that mainstream education really didn’t suit my parenting style, nor my values about education. However, even half way through last year I was considering a ‘local’ (hours drive in traffic) Montessori school.
I’m always challenging the norm and questioning what will work best for my family. My husband was less keen on home education at first. His initial reaction to me asking about homeschooling was (and I quote) “We’re already weird enough”. Our parenting has been alternative and eclectic and raised some eyebrows. From ‘extended’ breastfeeding to using breast milk donors, co-sleeping, gentle discipline, baby wearing and all that comes with the Montessori lifestyle.
We both didn’t have much experience with homeschooling. I mean, we met each other in high school and both had a mainstream education. I think Mike (my husband) initially just thought “can’t we conform in at least one way?”. It is sometimes hard to stray from the norm. So we started with the thought that we would try homeschooling through the preschool years and see how it went.
Well, that didn’t last long.
I started to research homeschooling online and finding more people who home educate and talking with them about it. I looked at it from so many angles and kept an open mind. What became more and more clear to me was that homeschooling didn’t have to be how I expected it to be.
It was homeschooling bloggers in the end that were my final push to go ahead and work towards home educating and setting up a co-op. These were my friends and people I so admired. I’m so thankful that I spoke to them about it and had their support and advice.
Something else that pushed me personally was that if I wasn’t home educating, I would be educating other people’s children. The idea of studying to be a teacher and sending my children away to a different teacher who couldn’t possibly know them like I do didn’t make sense to me.
Evaluating how I view and what I value regarding learning and education
Really ‘homeschool’ isn’t the right word for how I view learning for my family. It’s certainly not like school (and not necessarily at home for that matter). I’m not a fan of labels but at this point, it would be fair to say that we are eclectic unschoolers. I’m not aiming to replicate school at home. I do not intend to use a curriculum, nor do I want to involve the usual forms of testing.
There are broad definitions regarding ‘unschooling’. For me, it’s all about nurturing curiosity, child-led and interest-based learning with me (and other adults) acting as facilitator. I don’t subscribe to some hardcore notions of unschooling.
I want my children to learn to learn. I want them to learn the way that I (and other adults) learn – based on what interests them and by determining how to find solutions on their own. I want them to be resourceful and driven by curiosity; rather than because someone else says it’s important. As a parent, a certain amount of ‘de-schooling’ was needed (and is still unfolding).
Think about what the general goal of school is: for preparing children for jobs and life in the future. This future is over a decade away for most kids. Think of how the world has changed in the past decade or so. It would be impossible to determine the future – with vast digital and economical changes, and an ever-changing job market. The unpredictability of our children’s future is a clear indication to me that a versatile form of education is required.
In many instances school has become a place where we send our children to earn a piece of paper proving that they attended and ticked off core standards. Unfortunately, this ‘piece of paper’ is continuing to mean less and less.
For me, the aim is to nurture children who have a life-long love of learning and are passionate and capable people. Empowering them to find their own solutions and challenge things.
So what’s so great about home educating? In my opinion, it allows for:
I love that home educating allows for my children to learn about what interests them. Chances are, they will likely retain a lot more information if they’re able to learn about what fascinates them, what they think is fun, and/or what they care about it.
“To learn how to do, we need something real to focus on — not a task assigned by someone else, but something we want to create, something we want to understand. Not an empty exercise but a meaningful, self-chosen undertaking.” ― Project-based Homeschooling. Lori Pickert
They can learn at their own pace. Learning as fast or slow as they like. Revisiting subjects in new ways and expanding on learning when it is relevant and meaningful to them.
They can learn in ways that work for them. There are so many different learning styles. When home educating, you can more easily and readily determine how your children learn and help facilitate their learning endeavors to help them to understand and problem-solve.
“Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.” ― Socrates
From the very beginning, they can be empowered to know that their thoughts have value and that they’re not an empty vessel that needs to be filled. I want my kids to be able to be their unique selves and display original thinking.
Socialisation is an often controversial subject regarding homeschooling. One of the main things that is said to me when the subject of homeschooling is approached is “I think socialisation is important”. And that’s the thing – so do I! However, how I view socialisation might differ to mainstream views.
To me, these concerns surrounding socialisation and home education assume that schools are the best place to become ‘social’. Schools… where children are generally only with children their age and of similar socio-economic background.
Home education allows for a broader range of socialisation in real life experiences and in meaningful ways. From general socialisation in daily activities to playing and collaborating with kids of all ages. Home educated kids get to speak with – and learn from – a variety of adults and experts.
In the childhood years, you’re only beginning to learn who you are and how the world works. I think home education allows for healthier socialisation. Children are less influenced by their peers (although there is still their fair share of that with friends in general from hobbies, home education co-op, etc!) and are able to form strong family bonds.
Issues like peer pressure and bullying are significant and real. Like I’ve said in my previous post about Questions to Ask if You’re Considering Homeschooling – fear alone is not a good reason to homeschool. However, the ability to minimise the things we fear is still something that contributes to why we are happy with our decision to homeschool.
Time to wonder and to pursue things that matter to them. Time for free play. Time to explore, to tinker, experiment, invent and make mistakes.
Time to master things. Mastery takes time that a school schedule often doesn’t allow for.
With unschooling, learning happens all the time, and there is no division between learning and life.
Flexibility and Freedom
I love that home educating allows for more freedom. Freedom to learn, to question, and to challenge what they learn.
“I think the big mistake in schools is trying to teach children anything, and by using fear as the basic motivation. Fear of getting failing grades, fear of not staying with your class, etc. Interest can produce learning on a scale compared to fear as a nuclear explosion to a firecracker.” ― Stanley Kubrick
Unschooling means that we don’t have to work around school times or calendars. We get to spend time with our kids during their best hours – when they are rested and happy! We don’t have to be out the door by a certain time every week day. Therefore, we will have the freedom to travel, the freedom to be spontaneous and to form our own wider ‘community’.
Ultimately, it is about flexbility. The flexibility to do all of what I have spoken about above. To learn about what they want, how they want, when they want. The flexibility to learn creatively in all facets (academic, social, life skills, etc).
I know that some of these benefits are not unique to homeschooling. I also know that some will think that some of the aspects of school are needed or are ‘just how it is’. Which is fine, that’s your values and your decision. I’m not saying home education is the best for everyone, but telling you why it’s best for us.
Do you have any questions about homeschooling? Ask me in the comments below or over on my Facebook page!