Editor’s Note: I really wish I had read this when I started homeschooling / roadschooling. As a brand new homeschool mom, my ego was firmly intertwined with my kids’ educational progress and I sure did make a mess of things. But thankfully kids are resilient and they got me back on track soon enough.
Guest Post by Nance Confer of Florida Unschoolers
First, relax. You, Mom and Dad, relax. The kids will be fine while you take a breath. And another.
One thing you have done by deciding to homeschool/unschool is to give your family the luxury of time. Enjoy it! You do not have to follow the local school schedule, you do not have to get to school on time, you can linger, you can dawdle, you can hang out.
While the kids are having a great time playing, you can use the next weeks and months to familiarize yourselves with the different approaches to homeschooling. On one end of the spectrum is unschooling. The other end is a boxed curriculum/school-at-home approach. And there are many choices and combinations in between.
Take a fun trip to the library, to the children’s section, and find the parenting shelf. There will be a few books on homeschooling. (While you are there, get your child his own library card and let him use it. Really. It’s OK. )
Take yourself to the bookstore. They will have a whole section on homeschooling. Read about different ways to unschool/homeschool online.
Most of these sources will tell you about one approach to homeschooling/unschooling, that it is great and you should do it their way! And many want to sell you curriculum and materials to help you do it their way.
But don’t rush out and buy a whole curriculum or a whole lot of anything right away. Ease into interests and approaches and dabble before taking the plunge. Find your own way!
“But what am I missing?”
Nothing. You’re not missing a thing. Homeschooling/unschooling is not brain surgery. There’s no secret code. There’s no magical, precise list of things your child needs to learn, in a certain order, at a certain age, in a certain way, to be educated.
Start with the things your child likes to do. Do those things.
Provide a rich (not expensive) environment, full of books and computers and art supplies and TVs and blocks and Legos and board games and puzzles and video games and . . . you get the idea. Prepare to have a more cluttered house. A more active house. A noisier house. The house can be perfect and neat and quiet when the kids are grown.
Follow up on things. If the stars are interesting, get a telescope and camp out to watch the stars and look at videos online and check out books from the library. Provide the tools you can to follow up on an interest.
Get out. Florida is full of great outdoor activities. People come here just to do these things! Visit the state park, hike the nature trail, go the the oceanographic center, the zoo, the art museum, the science museum. Go to the beach. Walk and run and dig and explore and take your time.
Don’t turn every activity into a lecture. Enjoy the interest, or at least get out of the way while your child enjoys it, but don’t lecture. Talk. Like a regular person talking to another person about something interesting.
Go online and look at samples of curriculum or “educational” websites. Figure out if any of them are providing anything you need in addition to time and a library card and the Internet and your own good sense.
For a sanity check, visit the World Book Encyclopedia Typical Course of Study page — http://www.worldbook.com/content-gateway/typical-course-of-study Not to memorize it and follow it to the letter but to realize that you already know that Kindergarten-aged children can learn how to take care of pets and celebrate the 4th of July, 3rd-grade-aged-children can read a lot and learn about multiplication and division, and that 12th-grade-aged children are specializing and may or may not be headed to college.
Realize that all of this is very general, not specific to your child who is reading at 4 or doesn’t start reading independently until 10, who loves math and hates poetry, who loves to draw and won’t look at a math puzzle, who needs quiet time to read or who bounces around building and creating. Stop thinking of your child as being in a particular grade. Stop comparing him to public school children. Ease into knowing the actual child in the room and do what comes next for him instead of wondering what would come next in public school.
Plan ahead. If your child wants to play football at the public high school, find out how that’s going to work. If online classes appeal to your child, visit FLVS (www.flvs.net) and see how the Part-Time program works, what classes are available. Then compare that to other choices online. Try one. See how it goes. If your child is headed to college, research the options and what is needed for that journey. Yes, it can be done but it takes some research. It takes finding out what the requirements are and meeting those requirements.
“But I’m wasting all this time!”
No, it’s not wasted. The kids are having fun and you are all becoming more confident in your family’s homeschooling/unschooling choices. You are deschooling.
Deschooling, the process of getting used to being home and in charge of your own day instead of being on the school’s schedule, includes your family making decisions about which activities you like and which you want to skip. It includes your child taking ownership of what goes into his brain and recognizing that he can learn the skills needed to pursue an answer. You can present or strew, arrange and transport, schedule and assess, while he is learning that he can speak up and express an idea, that he will be heard, that this is a tailor-made experience, designed for him. All of that takes as long as it takes — maybe months.
Then one day you will all look up and realize you are just going about your day without worrying if something “counts”. Deschooling done!
Along the way, you will notice how much time you can spend on an idea and how that compares to the time allotted to schooled children.
You will notice how much better everyone feels when they get a good night’s sleep and live on their own sleep schedule.
You will notice how information “sticks” so much better when your child is actually interested, and participates in his own learning, as he acquires the tools to learn more on his own when he has a question or an interest.
You might find other homeschoolers/unschoolers in your area. You will click with some and not others and get to choose who you want to socialize with. You will learn that socializing is not restricted to homeschooling/unschooling groups, that getting interested in an activity out in the world also means socializing with other people — whether it’s a sport or classes at the art museum or volunteering, you meet other people and get to know them as you please.
You can also learn to be at home and to be quiet and rested. Your family does not need to look busy all the time, running here and there or constantly working at something that looks like school. You will learn to appreciate downtime. To understand how much better you and your child learn about any number of things when you have a chance to digest the information, to mull, to forget and refresh, to get off the treadmill.
Homeschooling/unschooling is a lovely way to live. It takes some getting used to and some adjustments all around but it is worth it.
Now what? How about a good book by the pool?