What does homeschooling look like? There’s no one way that homeschooling looks or doesn’t look. There’s no perfect ideal and certainly no perfect moms! Beware of the trap of comparison which leads only to discouragement and disappointment. What homeschooling should look like is finding the rhythm that works for you and your kids. Having said that, I will give some general conclusions about what homeschooling looks like from my own experiences with our kids and the feedback I’ve gotten from the homeschool community.
It does not look like traditional school.
It might even look a little unorganized because everyone is not learning the same thing at the same time. Homeschoolers don’t sit in desks, say the pledge, or listen to announcements. When people come to our house for the first time and see the room where we keep our school supplies, they sometimes ask, “Is this where you do school?” Well, yes and no. We do school all over the house.
Homeschooling looks like children working and learning individually at their own pace. In our house, everyone starts by getting their daily checklist, their books or computer, and finding a space to work. I am available… not lecturing or teaching in the traditional way, but as a facilitator. When they come to a new concept, I introduce it to them, pulling out manipulatives as needed.
Younger children need more direct one-on-one work, but as they grow in their reading ability, they are more apt to be self-learners, to take ownership of their work.
Homeschooling may look like having lunch outside, spending afternoons reading together or pursuing individual interests. Real learning is happening all the time. Homeschoolers tend to be more aware of learning as a lifestyle and less concerned about where they “do” school or “school hours”.
It looks like reading. A lot.
Homeschoolers tend to read a lot. Why? Because they can. They have time, they have space, and they are curious.
If kids have free time, not cluttered with schedules, not distracted with screens, they are natural learners. Children are born with an innate curiosity. We belittle them when we try to cram information into their brains. This child is a person, after all, not some cog in a wheel.
If they have the freedom, if they have the world at their fingertips, they will reach out to grasp it.
Sometimes it looks messy.
This verse of Scripture comes to mind. “Where no oxen are, the crib is clean.” Maybe if the house was empty part of the day, it would be easier to keep clean?! When lots of little children inhabit one place continually, the 2nd law of thermodynamics is in full force!
Papers, pencils, books, devices, Lego’s or Lincoln logs for the littles, math games… kids like to spread their work out! Often they are working on projects.
To be inquisitive, to have ideas, to explore is not usually a neat endeavor!
In our home, we try to keep things picked up. The kids have chores. We put school work away before dinner, but during school hours, the house looks lived in!
More time (than traditional school) spent doing life skills.
Again, because our “school” is a home and not a building, home and school often mesh together. We usually have at least one hot meal together. Since they are here for a lot of meals, they have learned how to cook. Because they are here three meals a day, they’ve learned to clean up, too. These skills take lots of practice.
They are here when I pay the bills, when I go grocery shopping, when a neighbor needs help. They feed our animals and put them out every morning. Our older boys have learned how to sell items on eBay. They respond to offers, manage orders, and ship out packages during the breaks they get in their school day.
Occasionally my husband is home during our school time and he can sometimes be found in the garage building things with wood. Whenever he is working on a project, you can bet he has one or two little people “building” a project beside him.
What does homeschooling look like? Homeschooling allows time to focus on problem areas until mastery. We don’t just move on to the next concept to keep up with the scope and sequence. When my child is struggling with, say, long division, we take it slow, and work through it until he is confidently mastering it.
I’m not overly concerned about test scores or completing the state requirements. As their mom, my expectations for them go deeper than that. I don’t care so much what the school kids are doing. Rather, I want my child to be competent in long division so they can function in the adult world! I want them to know how to stick with something until they get it. Often, character is built by struggling and conquering!
I want them to be challenged-whether academically, physically, socially, etc.- at the level that they need, and I feel that, as the parent, I have pretty close tabs on where their challenge level is-what is enough and what is too much.
A close-knit homeschool community.
In my opinion, it’s hard to succeed in homeschooling without a circle of close friends. We are blessed to be part of an amazing co-op. Our kids have had these friends since they were very young, some of them from the time they were born! Because families are involved in co-ops, meeting up at people’s houses is frequent, and the kids have formed close friendships.
Homeschoolers also meet up to take advantage of empty places… like Bounce U or skate parks or birthday parties in the middle of the day. Last year, one of the moms in our co-op organized a group of girls to participate in the Lancaster County Envirothon contest. They met every Thursday to learn all the birds, mammals, insects, trees, and flowers native to our area. Our daughter was one of the girls in this group. She and her friends won first place in the competition, competing against many public and private schools!
Our oldest son participated in a biology lab that another mom organized for a group of kids. They met up a few times in the year and dissected frogs, perch, and earthworms.
Being OUT, making friends with people of all ages from various backgrounds.
I think its safe to say that homeschoolers as a whole tend to seek out local events and be very involved. Though they may travel to and from these places with their family unit, they are not confined to one group of kids or one place.
They interact with the working world. They see what happens out there all day. I remember thinking as a kid, “I wonder what is going on in the world while we are here in school.”
Community activities, shopping, errands, markets, library classes, guided nature hikes…these are regular occurrences. Homeschoolers are out!
Kids learn to ask questions as well as talk with adults and other children of all ages and many diverse backgrounds. They learn to make friends with anyone, any age, any where.
Frequent encounters with living things.
Because home is not sterile, kids are naturally in close relation with raw materials and living beings of all kinds. Beautiful flowers, baby babbles, people working, birds singing, fabric, music, food, smiles of old folks.
Are the monarchs are on the milkweed yet? When do the Dark-eyed Junco’s first come to our patio in winter? The rabbits are burrowing their nests… soon there will be bunnies hopping around the yard!
We watch for things like these every year. Elderly neighbors need help walking out to get their mail, tree services are cutting the tree down next door, the baby entertains everyone with gummy smiles.
Homeschooling looks like kids suddenly get swept up in an idea or something they want to try and having the freedom to do it right then. When the idea strikes… why wait?!
It looks like kids experimenting, building forts, making up their own games, writing and acting out skits, playing in the rain. “Mom, can you show me how to knit a scarf for my American Girl doll?” “Mom, look we made our own stilts. Watch us walk with them!”
What does homeschooling look like? Lest I be accused of sugar-coating, I must concede that homeschooling also looks like HARD work!
Being with children can be exhausting! Children are fountains of energy.
They are little sinners just like us. Sometimes they mimic our flaws and that stings!
Some days the toddler throws up, the teenager talks back, and you end up crying with your fourth grader over fractions.
Yes, homeschooling looks like hard work. But when you really love something, it is always worth the hard work to do it.
It is a kind of hard work that is freeing and beautiful, and for those of us who homeschool, it is absolutely WORTH IT.
What does homeschooling look like? What homeschooling should look like is finding the rhythm and routine that works for you and your kids!