I’m a homeschool graduate as well as a homeschool mom, so I guess the most significant way my homeschool has changed over the years is that, strictly speaking, I’m no longer the student.
Except that wouldn’t exactly be true, because I think in some ways I’m learning more as the mom than I did as the kid. Here are just a few things that have changed on our homeschool journey (as I write this post our oldest is 13 and doing 8th grade work):
- I don’t worry about starting formal school work too early. With our oldest we started Kindergarten when she wasn’t quite five. (Her birthday is in December). I was fired up from reading The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Homeand ready to get the learning show on the road. Now, five kids later, I don’t start Kindergarten that early. Our 4 year old will turn 5 in September. We’ll probably call her a Kindergarten kid for the sake of our co-op, but it will be relaxed.
- Labels are less important to me. In the early years I would have called us “Classical Homeschoolers”. Now I’d probably call us “Relaxed Classical” or “Classically Eclectic” or even, on certain days, “Classical Unschoolers”, even though that’s pretty much a contradiction in terms. What that means to me: we still follow a lot of Well Trained Mind principles but we’re more flexible. I don’t want to overwhelm my kids with too much memory work or too heavy of an academic load. I don’t like overwhelming myself with strict schedules I’ll never be able to follow or a sense of failure when we have a day when we clean and talk and cook and play outside but don’t crack a workbook.
- Knowing my kids is more important than finding a perfect method. At this point I can’t imagine trying to make all my kids learn something the same way or at the same time. What one child loves, another may despise. We adapt as necessary. This is one reason why it’s nice to have more than one child (if that’s God’s plan for your family): you figure out that 1.) You’re not a perfect OR horrible parent just because your child is easy or hard to raise and 2.) Those kiddos come out of the womb with some strong opinions about how life ought to be.
- We’ve joined a co-op. My kids love it. I like it. We’ll go back next year. This is the first year we’ve been part of a co-op. We hadn’t before because of cost and scheduling difficulty (and my own doubts that it would be a good fit for us). I hadn’t realized how isolated we had become (no one else in our church homeschools) and how much even this introvert needed other homeschool moms to talk to. (You can find more silly and serious reasons I’ve enjoyed our co-op here: 23 Reasons This Introvert Mom Loves Homeschool Co-op)
- We have more of a dedicated space for doing our homeschool work and keeping all our materials. Once again, this is the first year we could really say that. My husband and I want to re-do the downstairs at some point (it’s one space we didn’t rehab when we bought the house) but just having a place to put all our books, art supplies, and games has been a blessing. I don’t take it for granted, because for years we didn’t have that. It’s possible to homeschool without a dedicated room (we did for years) but it’s nice to have the increased flexibility of more space.
- We use more multi-media tools. Online sites, purchased curriculum that work on computer, and DVD sets have eased some of the strain on my time. When we started, I had one student, one toddler and a baby. Now I have five kids from 13 down to 22 months, with a baby on the way. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to do EVERY subject with every child. A few of my favorite resources of this type:Learn French: Rosetta Stone French – Level 1 (for the older kids), Hooked on French(for the younger kids), and First Form Latin, Instructional DVDs. We have other favorite online games and learning tools, but these are things we use weekly.
- I’m less willing to argue about homeschooling. I’m never going to call myself a Charlotte Mason homeschooler because I’m too independent and I’d rather not run afoul of the CM police. Not to pick on that method, but some of its adherents are True Believers and will let you know it. Other methods have similar folks, so I prefer to make up my own label (see above). When I make my own label, no one can tell me I’m doing it wrong (except my own self and trust me: she can be a brutal critic at times). And I’m not going to change my mind about the benefits of homeschooling over other educational methods. I’m a homeschool advocate. Full stop. If someone wants to ask how they might homeschool, I’d be glad to have that conversation, but if someone wants to argue that my kids should really be in public or private or Christian school, the discussion is over before it starts. We’ll have to agree to disagree and all that good stuff.
- Enjoy the journey because it’s longer, deeper, shorter, and sweeter than I realized at first. Each stage has something to endure and something to enjoy. Transitioning our oldest to higher level work came with some tricky points, but it’s also a joy that she can do so much of her work independently. The preschool years are parenting intensive but it’s so fun to watch them learn and make connections. Their delight in the world is contagious. Don’t rush through the stages: enjoy them. Ease your worries about whether a particular workbook was finished in a specific time frame or whether the child is narrating properly for her age or maybe we really should be doing more Shakespeare? The joy is in the journey.
Here’s what I’ve learned from my own years as a homeschool kid and now my years as a homeschool mom: every education has gaps. Every one. Our job is to equip our children to grow and fill those gaps as they need or as circumstances require.
I’m raising my children to:
- be able to teach themselves
- obey for the right reasons and not the wrong one
- be growing well-rounded adults, not perpetual children