Homeschooling Outside the Box

I’m about to write on a topic I rarely touch: homeschooling. I don’t usually write about it because 1) I think how you educate your children is a very personal choice 2) I usually don’t think I have much worth saying that you can’t find somewhere else.

 

But, here we are; and this time I actually think I have something to add to the conversation.

Over the past few years, I’ve been into bursting apart boxes in my own life. Not the cardboard kind that my children relish more than a gadget, but the kind society/people try to put you in. I won’t be put in your American box or your woman box or your religion box or your homeschooling momma box. I believe my God is gorgeously multi-faceted as you can see in creation and redemption and history. My God doesn’t fit in a box and neither does His creation. It’s been one of the most freeing journeys of my life to delve into His word and His goodness and to realize that His burden truly is light. Interpreted into my own life, this means rejoicing in mine and my family’s unique path upon which He has put us. My theme this past year has been “Jesus is better!” He’s better than any box or formula. He’s alive and speaking and ready to be sought.

While this post happens to be headed in a more practical direction, I first want to get down where I’m coming from. While this is more directed at home schoolers, my hope is that you can take this thought train and apply it to any of your education choices.

Allow me to lay down one more piece of groundwork. My kid’s education is important to me. I want to equip them for whatever their future holds, and education is a key part of this. I want my kids to go to Yale if they want to go to Yale, or go to trade school if they want to go to trade school, or anything in between.

But now let’s talk about the journey. I used to view my options as this:

  • Public School- education system I wasn’t in love with and didn’t want to navigate with one specific child of mine who has some slight learning disabilities.
  • Private School- $$$$$$$$$$$$$
  • Home School- in which I rot my brain to mush spending 5/7 of my week redoing, with my child, the one thing I got a diploma to prove I never had to do again.

If you haven’t already noticed, I had some major box issues in regards to education. I’ve since met some excellent people who have help me smash my public school box by helping me see how you can successfully navigate this education avenue. Unfortunately, I haven’t won enough lotteries to overcome the private school x4 children box. But the rest of this post will be devoted to destroying that last box together.

I’ve met women who are nothing short of ecstatic to homeschool their children. I want to punch them in the face, question their sanity, admire them. But that’s just not me. I’m a classical-style homeschooler, but not one ready to say goodbye to you for the next 25 years of my life. So after 8 years of doing this, here are some thoughts on how to do classic homeschooling while thinking outside the box:

Kindergarten

It’s been proven that being allowed to truly be a child is healthy and that simple play actually develops certain parts of the brain. I’ve also watched small children become quickly disillusioned to learning when pushed to hard to just sit. I interviewed my mom (a 29 year veteran to homeschooling which automatically earns you sainthood in my book) and a former public school teacher before I started my oldest in a kindergarten curriculum. I asked them to whittle down for me what they felt were the essentials of a solid year of kindergarten. They both agreed: math, phonics, reading, and handwriting were all very important. So while some children might flourish with these and science, history, music, etc., many need you to just keep it simple as you introduce them to learning. Don’t put yourself under the pressure that you have to make your five year old sit for hours doing it all.

Your Schedule

What works for you and your family?

I mean it. What truly works? Are you a “push hard through four days of school and have a three day weekend” family? Are you a “spread it out over 6 days” family? Do your kids do better with breaks in between each subject or by starting early and finishing by lunchtime? Do you find you enjoy a summer break or do you prefer 8 weeks on and 2 weeks off year round? If you don’t know the answers, explore it. You can’t smoosh a family a one-size-fits-all mold. This is the beauty of homeschooling.

Your Material

I started off with one curriculum. It was the one I grew up with; and I just assumed that because it worked for my mom, it would work for me. I was wrong. I’ve found that being opened to different books and tailoring it to my individual children’s strengths has been a life-saver. We’ve tried online subjects and colorful books and hard-core books. I’ve learned that I’m a Math-U-See groupie and that everything else is in flux. I’ve learned that somehow my children read 10x better with colorful interesting storybooks than with reading handbooks. And I’m still growing and learning.

Getting Help

IF YOU READ ONE SECTION, READ THIS ONE!

I remember sitting with some other homeschooling moms as we watched our little ones play. I shared that I grading time was a constant source of contention in my home. She casually commented that this was why she paid someone else to grade. It was a flippin’ watershed moment for yours truly. Somehow in between our lack of money to pay for private school and our decision to homeschool, I’d never considered that there might be a happy medium for our budget. Homeschooling DOES NOT necessarily mean that you HAVE to be alone doing school with your kids 5 days a week. I currently am only the primary teacher 3 days a week. We have a co-op that’s run much like a school which my children attend one day a week, and we pay my sister to grade and run a light day of school on Fridays. With my personality, my kids’ love of changing things up, and my side photography business- this is perfect for our family.

But it can be done so many ways. I know one family where dad is the homeschooler. Another where they do university model schooling where the children are attending school two days a week and at home three. Others pay a mother’s helper. Still others who run their homeschooling entirely online. Check your budget, open your options, and find out what’s right for you.

So there you have it. I’m not expert for all of you, just a homeschooling mom encouraging you to learn to be the expert for what’s right for your family, your children, and even you.

 

If you’ve been trying to put yourself in someone else’s box: grab that box, line it up carefully with your feet, and JUMP all over that sucker until it’s a crumpled pile. Then get on your knees and talk to the One who made you unique.


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