Homeschooling FAQ

Sometimes for us homeschooling looks like this....

As a new homeschooling family (new since my oldest would be starting kindergarten this year) I get a lot of questions from friends, family members, and even complete strangers. My oldest will be 6 in November and is tall for his age, so when we are out places during the weekday he often gets asked if he’s in school. My reply that we homeschool is typically met with the following frequently asked questions. **Please note that my answers to these questions are merely an individual reflection of my own family and are NOT in any way meant to convey I think homeschooling is superior to public education. It’s simply what we feel works well for our family dynamics and jives well with our desires for both ourselves and our children. Also there is a great deal of variation within each homeschooling family so while what is shared here might reflect a segment of the homeschooling population, keep in mind there are LOTS of different ways to approach homeschooling! Additionally homeschooling is such an expansive topic, it’s difficult to squeeze it all into one blog post, but here’s my humble attempt. 🙂

but more often it looks like this....

Why do you homeschool?
When my husband and I were 18 years old we took a 3 week road western road trip. One of the places we went was the Grand Canyon. We happen to hike down at the same time and pace as a family with three children. On the way down I got to talking with the mom and asked her if her children were on Spring Break. She replied that no, they were homeschooled. We chatted as we continued down into the canyon and I was highly impressed with her children….how they spoke to each other, how they interacted with their environment, and mostly how they were uninhibited in their joy for the experience at a tender age when many individuals are overtly aloof during family outings. The mom also said something that has stuck with me ever since. She said “We use the world as our classroom. Instead of reading about the Grand Canyon in a textbook, we are here for an entire week to explore it hands-on”. At 18 I thought to myself, ‘wow, that sounds really incredible!’. Then and there the homeschooling seed was planted. Since then I have researched it more and perceive homeschooling to offer our family the following benefits:
• Provides us a great deal of freedom in allowing our days, weeks, months, and even years to flow organically
• Learning is consolidated because it is highly individualized.
• As a family we are granted a great deal of time to pursue leisure and hobbies which contributes largely to the development of self
• Our family remains the primary influence in our child’s life
• Content and subject matter is driven by individual desires/interests thus fueling an intrinsic motivation to learn
• Unhealthy academic and/or social pressures are pretty much obsolete

 

or this...

 

What does your daily schedule look like?
Currently we don’t follow a daily schedule. Again to us this is one of the biggest benefits of homeschooling! Of course there is a general rhythm to our days, mostly dictated by hunger and sleep needs, but otherwise our days are pretty flexible and can be adapted to whatever our needs or interest are on any given day. During our week generally one morning is devoted to going to the library, one morning is devoted to attending a playgroup/homeschool co-op with friends, one morning is devoted to grocery shopping, and one morning is spent doing household chores.

How much time per day do you devote to schooling?
Given the young age of my children, I feel they learn best through self-guided exploratory play so very little time is spent in direct instruction mode. I don’t have a designated “school” time or location in my home. I feel like my children are always learning and my role is to capitalize on the countless authentic learning opportunities that arise each day. In addition to providing a stimulating learning environment in our home, I try to infuse learning into everyday activities such as cooking, fixing something that is broken, a random bug we find in the house, the weather for that day, etc. Reading aloud together is a part of every day, averaging about an hour a day. We are a TV free family so our children do not spend any part of the day watching TV.

and this....

What about development of social skills and friendships?
The lack of social engagement is commonly cited as a detriment to homeschooling. The stereotypical homeschooler is seen as socially awkward and incompetent. Truthfully I am kind of puzzled as to why a traditional classroom is viewed as an optimal social environment? I see it as one of many opportunities to socialize children. Socialization happens everywhere, all the time. At the grocery store, at extended family gatherings, at the park, at a friend’s house, in the neighborhood, at community events, in organized athletics…basically at any public venue where there are people, there are opportunities to socialize. Additionally I believe there to be great benefit in multi-age/multi-generational interactions. I like when older people engage with my children at the library. I like when my five year old spends time with a friend’s new baby. I highly value these social experiences my children are routinely provided because they spend their days outside a of a same aged peer classroom.

this too....

What curriculum do you use?
None at this time. We may venture into using a curriculum as our children age and if we feel the need to provide more direct academic teaching. Ideally we would like our children’s learning to be primarily self-directed however remain open to all possibilities of what will work best for our family during any given time.

 

also like this....

 

How long do you plan to homeschool for?
As long as it continues to work well for our family. Sometimes people are concerned how I will meet the more complex educational needs of my children once they are of high school age. I have faith that we will gracefully cross that bridge when we get there. There seems to be a great deal of concern that homeschooling will not adequately prepare children for college. I feel there is ample research that implies quite the opposite; that generally homeschooled students do well in college, if not excel in higher academics. However my goal is not to prepare my children for college or even for a “good paying” job…my hope is that they enjoy learning and have the ability and confidence to learn whatever is of interest to them.

this...

What if your kids want to go to school?
I realize there is a strong possibility that someday my children will express an interest to go to school. It would be natural for them to be curious about attending school since it is the mainstream approach to education. If/when they do we will openly discuss, in a developmentally appropriate conversation, their reason(s) for wanting to go to school. Currently I think my oldest child gets asked so often about attending school (and sees some of his peers going to school), he gets the impression it is what he is “supposed” to be doing. Recently he has asked me on several occasions “Am I going to school?” Sometimes I will say “We are going to homeschool like (insert friend’s name here)’s family”. Other times I will ask him “Do you want to go to school?”. Usually he says something like “Maybe when I am (insert any random age here) I will go to school”.

I have a friend who has 6 children she homeschools. After several years of homeschooling her oldest two children asked to go to school. They were quite persistent in their desire. After much internal conflict, the mother decided it was important to respect their wishes so she enrolled them in a public school. After a few weeks, their curiosity about a traditional classroom environment was met and they decided they wanted to go back to homeschooling. So they did, albeit with a few changes in place. The expression of desire to go to school served as a catalyst to examine their approach to homeschooling. The parents then modified their approach to better engage their children’s learning style/needs. I keep that story close to my heart as a reminder that this homeschooling journey is a fluid one and the importance of my children having a voice in their learning.

How are you adequately equipped to teach your children? 
Ironically I do have a Master’s degree in education and am a certified special educator; however I don’t know if this fact hinders or helps my ability to homeschool my children? Honestly I believe that for the most part I will be learning alongside my children throughout our homeschooling journey. In fact I am kind of excited to think about my own knowledge of various subjects deepening as we explore them together.

or even this....

What about the real world? How will your children learn to function in the real world?
This question/comment always makes me chuckle a bit because as far as I know we as a family ARE currently living in the real world. Everyone’s reality is their own, even if it is a bit left of center. 🙂 My children can ultimately choose to live life in a more mainstream way or in their own highly unique way. I trust they will have the necessary tools to do so at any given time.

What are the challenges associated with homeschooling?
For us homeschooling means primarily being a one income family while at the same time there are costs associated with homeschooling (materials, activity fees, curriculum, etc.). Additionally it means a lot of togetherness as a family which is a benefit but also a struggle sometimes too. There is a balance of family cohesion that is sometimes difficult for me to obtain. All in all the benefits far outweigh the challenges so for now we happily navigate through the challenges.

 

however THIS is the heart of homeschooling for us...exploring the outdoors together as a family

 

Are there any questions you have that I have not touched on? Any homeschooling families want to chime in and share their thoughts/experiences?


-Sarah

Tags: benefits of homeschooling, family dynamics, homeschooling family, homeschooling FAQ, kindergarten, public education, unschooling

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