Friday, May 13, 2011

What's My Homeschooling Method?


Ok, so I signed up for the Blog Roll at Hip Homeschool Moms for the upcoming school year. New Homeschoolers can sign up in the New To Homeschool category and also under a category of teaching style. The categories are Traditional, Montessorri, Eclectic, Unschooling, Unit Studies, Charlotte Mason, and Classical.

Well, since we're fairly new at this, I wasn’t too sure if we have even found our style yet. It really got me thinking about what style of Homeschoolers we are.

You ask - Why such deep thoughts on a simple subject?

Well, it is because my mind LIKES to pick a random and not-necessarily-so-important topic and think on it obsessively and completely until there is nothing left to think about- ESPECIALLY at night while I'm trying to sleep.

And now that I have a blog, I can write about all of these deep thoughts too. (Hey- I warned you that I'm a smartypants)

Defining ourselves at the beginning of this journey was easy. The label was already chosen for us- Accidental Homeschoolers,. As an Accidental Homeschool Mom, my first concern was to pick out a curriculum that would give Padawan what he needed to finish the year out. The only game plan I had in mind was to print the State Standards and find something that in some aspect followed them. A few weeks before pulling him out of Public School, I Googled the word curriculum and was immediately overwhelmed with the amount of choices.

I'm having a hard time choosing between 7 styles of Homeschooling- how do you think I felt looking at literally 100's of choices of curricula?!? Yes, I also learned that the plural of curriculum is curricula- just in case you didn't know and were wondering.

I quickly decided that the best thing for Padawan for the time being was to use Time4Learning. I loved Time4Learning! I liked that the lessons were all planned out for me and they looked fun and interactive too. Another deciding factor was that we wouldn't be spending money on a year's worth of curriculum for a half-year of school. It would also buy me some time to figure out what the heck I had gotten myself into! I guess you could say it was an Emergency Curriculum.

The first two weeks we were on somewhat of a schedule because Padawan had wanted to be finished with school by the same time he used to be. We were careful to watch the clock and make sure that we had done the required 4 1/2 hours-not a minute less-  like the school board was watching us on candid camera! The first few days of Homeschool felt like a cross between letting Padawan play hookey and getting  him to do make-up work.

The schedule flew out the window the 3rd week because we had taken a week off for Thanksgiving Break, and we are just not a schedule type of family. His dad had recently started a new job during the previous summer and he wasn't even on a predictable schedule.

Things have changed so much since those first weeks of our journey. There is so much difference between our way of "doing school at home" when we first began and our way of doing things now.

A lot of days it feels like we are becoming “Almost Unschoolers". See, we're not all the way Unschoolers, because I'm not completely following the Unschooling Philosophy of letting go and letting Padawan totally lead the way. I find the concept and philosophy completely liberating, but frightening at the same time. I can almost embrace it on some levels.

I totally understand how Unschooled does not mean Uneducated. Some of the smartest people I know never had a formal education, and there are schooled people that I have met that were very uneducated. I can also see how Unschooling would totally not work for some children. I love the idea of Unschooling for Padawan because it is a joy to see him follow his passions and soak everything up that he can. But then my thoughts come back around to what I know and am familiar with and what feels safe. It makes it seem like completely Unschooling would just be a guilty pleasure for both of us.

During our time of trying to "do school at home” Padawan was somewhat willingly paying attention to some lessons, and I could see him shutting me out during other lessons- especially math. We fill in some of our school time with things that he suggested. His favorite was to look up random YouTube videos on animals, science, or whatever. (It still is his favorite when we say "Let's do some school". ) He also asked me to teach him how to cook, and he would make up his own science experiments. One day he asked if we could float different kind of chips in a bowl of water to see which ones sank first. When we were doing things like this he would often say “I can’t believe this is school- it’s so much fun!”

This way of “doing school” works ok, but I can still see where the road bumps and battles could come into play again...Math and Writing. I’m trying not to stress over doing things perfect right now, because this is new to both of us, and he was learning so many other things eagerly. I had read before that it takes a while to de-school too. Using the formula of 1 month for each year that a child was in Public School, I calculated that would have put us at right about NOW.

You see, on days that we "do school" later in the day and Padawan is allowed to have his free time first and to discover the world around him as he chooses, he follows his obsessions. (Like he used to only be able to do during summer break). He naturally soaks in so much History and Science that it blows my mind. He's always building, experimenting with things, and watching what makes things work. He comes up with detailed theories to explain why he thinks things happen. He's so full of questions. This is a child who watches documentaries because he likes to. He can repeat an encyclopedia's worth of facts on anything that he becomes interested in. A lot of the things he likes to do involve reading and math of one sort or another too. He asked me to show him how to do laundry because he wanted to, and he likes it! Don't ask me why. All the time he's asking me if he CAN do some laundry.

I’ve been kind of conducting a secret experiment. If I add up all the time that he's spent on educational activities without either one of us saying "Let's do some school" at some point during the day or on days that we aren’t “doing school” it is well over the state’s requirement of 4 1/2 hours. Learning comes so natural to him, and we are not longer at odds with each other. I hear "I love you, Mom!" over and over throughout the day. This from my child that I have been at war with 10 months out of the year since Pre-K because of school.

Padawan told me once that part of the problem with school was that they were trying to teach him things he had already learned at home from me and his Dad.

I guess my biggest fear about completely Unschooling is that I want to make sure that he will be able to get into a college of his choosing- if that's what he decides to do. I worry that I will not have prepared him for that if I don't at least stay out in front of him and guide some of his education.

So, I try to throw in some story time to get him interested enough in a book to finish it himself. I squeeze in a spelling lesson or writing assignment and a math lesson here and there. I find documentaries on the history subject at hand - this year was US History. Sometimes I come up with an experiment, art project, or activity. Sometimes I'll do something without him, but within range just to see if it catches his interest. I've even attended online classes from Currclick by myself in hopes that he would take part.

You know, if it were all up to me, our Homeschool would probably end up being looking like Traditional school- maybe not so much with a tight schedule, but definitely with structure. That's what I know and what I am comfortable with. It is the most common path. Its all laid out there in textbooks and workbooks. You can just get it done and get on with the day. Its all there in black and white to see what was accomplished. But you know- that way was not working and it took me way too long to see it. My Padawan has proven to me and his father over and over since the day he came into this world that he came with his own unique set of instructions- only we didn’t get the complete owner’s manual.

When family or friends ask me how school is answer is: "Fine, but you know it doesn't look much like school." And I’m sure they think that's a bad thing, and on some level a small part of me still does too.

So, to answer my own question… I am a Spirit-Led-Relaxed-Eclectic-Montessori-ish-Unschooling-Traditional-Trial-and-Error kind of Homeschooling Mom!

I’ll go check the Eclectic box now!


  1. I have been able to get my reluctant writer to write on the topic she's interested in [bears]. Maybe fewer battles if he writes up his experiment just write your explanation of what you did kind of thing. Anyway, we started homeschooling 5 months ago and I'm in a similar boat. There's some traditional school stuff going on, but our homeschool doesn't look much like school. I have 2 free learning websites that have helped us study easier. Google Timez Attack and Spellingcity. They have worked well for us; maybe for you too.

  2. Man, every time you mention that math and writing are your son's biggest struggles, I can so relate! Those are the typical struggles of kids with Nonverbal Learning Disability. Kids with NLD also have sensory issues and anxiety and trouble with socializing with peers. They also have big vocabs and appear gifted to most people. But they don't usually have the preoccupations (or limited interests or obsessions) you've mentioned. That's more an Asperger's thing.

    Just thinking out loud on your behalf!


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