In recent years, while the homeschool population keeps growing steadily, there has been a big shift in homeschooling approaches, as well as the reasons why people are choosing to educate their children outside of the school system.
You are here because you are curious, or you are toying with the idea, weighing in your options…Or because you have already made a decision. You have been reading the different descriptions and flavors of homeschool which is helpful but it doesn’t quite quench what you are really looking for. You are looking for a way that resonates with you and your family.
You know why you are choosing to homeschool, but you think you have to follow the curriculum that school dictates, and unschooling doesn’t make realistic sense to you. This has been nagging at you “like a splinter in your mind”
So as Morpheus told Neo, let’s see how deep the rabbit-hole goes…
Reason 1: Schools
Everyone knows education must change, the problem is that no one really knows how, and those who think they know, don’t get it right. Part of the problem is that people bundle everything into the words school and education, when in fact these are two very different things.
Homeschooling gives families the ability to design the education they think is best for their kids. Not only that, but they are able to make changes as their kids’ interests, strengths, weaknesses, evolve.
Homeschooling these days is a mix of learning at home, playing a lot, and taking classes outside of the house.
This means that schools seem dated but also there are programs and other options that keep popping up. There was a big exodus to charter schools, for example. Then Montessori.
Even Waldorf -which in Waldorf School’s words: it’s a school for those who can’t keep their kids at home. The Kindergarten program in fact tries to resemble as close as possible a home environment, right down to the kitchen/dining room classrooms, baking and cooking, at least an hour of free play outdoors before class, no books, and no writing.
I am going to apologize right now to my dear public school teacher friends, and my private school teacher friends, because you are not gonna like this.
Schools have to present to parents a compelling reason to have their kids in their center. Public schools are very hip on “giving kids a head start”. This is code for “enroll your kids in public school as young as possible”. But do we really want to give our kids “a head start”? In what exactly? What kind of head start does 5 year old need?
Kids are going to develop no matter what, naturally and according to their age and as individuals.
Teachers and governments emphasize the importance of “reading for success”. Really? I think we all want our kids to succeed, but I can’t see my 5 year old applying for a job! They say that math worksheets are important…”in case she wants to be a mathematician when she grows up” That’s like saying that coloring books are needed in case kids want to become artists. It doesn’t work that way.
Reason 2: Homeschoolers are also changing
The pervasive idea of the homeschooler is such families that chose to homeschool because of social and religious reasons. It’s not that they dislike the structure, the grades, the subjects, it’s simply that it lacks a Christian centered curriculum. But more and more Homeschooling is being redefined by new families that homeschool, because the whole Education ecosystem is changing, not for religious reasons.
Parents nowadays are a little more knowledgeable because we have this thing called Google at our fingertips. They also understand the importance of having a connection with their kids in order to have a good relationship. They reject the whole authoritarian approach to parenting.
So why do I keep going on about school when this article should be about homeschool?
Because when we venture out to pull our kids out of school we are still tempted to recreate school at home, follow the same program, the same curriculum, and worst of all: the same mindset. The grades, the textbooks, the testing. This approach puts a huge stress on the families because it goes against the grain of kids’ development and we also have no idea what we are doing because we are not trained teachers. We know this can’t be right. So we spend a lot of money on a fancy curriculum that comes in a fancy box with big thick books that smell great and are labeled for each school grade. Turns out mom is the only one excited about these books…doesn’t feel right.
It defeats the whole reason why you chose to educate outside of the school system.
The New Homeschoolers have a different outlook on what to prioritize to provide our kids the best environment and education. The New Homeschoolers are open to making the mental leap to changing their mindset to fit their family’s life style and needs, using common sense instead of a program.
Reason 3: You Can Raise the Bar
Here is the secret: Kids will easily learn anything that is developmentally appropriate. It doesn’t mean that they are left to their own devises. You can really raise the bar by being aware of what is developmentally appropriate.
Age appropriate learning = smarter and more emotionally intelligent kids
For example, the most natural and easiest thing for a little kid to learn is a language. If you are thinking about introducing movies and YouTube to your toddler, limit all the content to a foreign language and in a relatively short time (by the time she’s 3 or 4) she will understand everything in that language. Maybe even speak it fluently. However, if you are teaching reading to a 3 year old it will be like pulling teeth. While if you wait until she’s 7 or 8, maybe it won’t be easy, because learning to read in English is hard, but it will be a lot faster.
When kids are 4 and 5 they practice Art. It is the natural way they practice coordination, fine motor skills, and putting their creativity to paper. It gives them a challenge and when they overcome that challenge they get better -that gives them confidence. At some point they’ll start coming to show us a drawing they are really proud of, or they’ll present us with a drawing for our birthday.
The longer they spend painting and drawing, the more confidence they gain in their mastery of pencil to paper and the easier writing will become when they’re 7 or 8. They will write almost effortlessly and without power struggles. In fact, their hand writing will be better than those kids who have been forced to learn to write since they were 5 years old.
A 6 year old who goes to a very rigorous school just told me yesterday, as if it was the most curious phenomena, that she is “lately fascinated by drawing!” Go figure! She’s 6.
As kids get older, their reading skills get better and they get into books that are interesting and incite curiosity to learn about certain subjects, like science, history, anthropology, etc. They may chose to learn algebra because they need it for something else they want to do. They may want to start a business.
Being a well educated, cultured person doesn’t come from doing school work and homework.
Reason 4: Traditional education is not dead
As the media keeps pumping information about future jobs and the emphasis in STEAM, Engineering and Robotics, parents start to realize that it may be true that traditional education is dated and they look for other options, and demand some changes.
An interesting point to be made is that we are loosing sight of what we mean by “traditional education”.
“Traditional” ranges from the subjects learned, to how the content is delivered and how kids are expected to learn. Often by memorizing facts and following very specific rules and guidelines established by the school and the teachers, all the way to how much time is spent in each task, and how achievement is structured and measured. I agree, that version of “traditional” is dead.
On the other hand the “traditional” knowledge that was passed to a scholar fifty years ago or thirty years ago for example, has not done anyone a disservice. It was aimed at creating well rounded individuals that sounded like they had culture when exposed to any social setting.
A young person who can take on conversations about history, literature, express informed opinions and do so eloquently, with perfect grammar, and in a few languages….nothing wrong with that traditionally educated person! In addition they might be good at science, maths, physics, art, business or a vocational trade and go on to related fields at University or internships. Nothing wrong with that either!
The problem when it comes to “traditional” education is that the way schools structure learning jibes with society in this day and age. Also, a lot of the learning that is expected to happen is out of sync with kids’ natural development.
Reason 5: You are not alone
We do have to get used to the idea and understand going into this that the term “homeschooling” couldn’t be more inaccurate: because kids are not educated in school, doesn’t mean that most of the education has to happen at home, and because some of the education happens at home, doesn’t mean that it has to resemble school.
Here in True Jedis you can find resources, samples, and suggestions to help while you take the leap into a new wave of education.