Most of us have heard of homeschooling, and we think we know what it is, but truly, what is homeschooling? It’s just like school but at home, right? Distance ed? A boxed curriculum that I just unpack and go?
Well, yes and no. Probably more no than yes.
Homeschooling is a legal term as well as an educational choice and lifestyle which is separate from schooling, public and private. Homeschooling is legal in all of Australia, but is regulated differently in each state. It is important if you are considering homeschooling that you learn the requirements in your state.
Simply, homeschooling is facilitating and supporting your children’s learning from home. It is the parents taking the initiative and responsibility of choosing an educating style and/or philosophy which best suits their child and family rather than relying on a school or other authority to do it for them. It is progressing at a rate which suits your child’s development rather than at a prescribed pace. It is diving deeply into topics which interest your child rather than skimming along the top of everything.
Who homeschools? It’s probably just the rich families that can afford to buy expensive curriculum and have one parent not generating an income by being employed outside the home. It’s just the fundamental religious. It’s the hippy crowd.
No. And yes. Of course this is some of the homeschooling community, but certainly not all. Not even the majority. Families come from all backgrounds, all income levels, all religions in all varying degrees, all different philosophical backgrounds. The one thing that all homeschooling families do have in common is that they are putting their children’s education first. We are choosing to take on this responsibility, and they take it seriously. Without knowing where you, reader, are, I would venture to guess there is a homeschooing family in your neighbourhood or at least in your postal code. We are more common than you might imagine and absolutely normal, whatever that means.
How and where do you homeschool? Is it 9 – 3 at the kitchen table, 5 days each week? Like school, right? Lots of expensive textbooks with the occasional field trip or film. It is just school at home.
No. Not at all unless you choose for it to be, but honestly why would you when it can be so much more? More fun. More adventures. More exciting. More learning.
Coming from the backgound of having been schooled ourselves, most of us do start homeschooling in a way that resembles at least loosely the classroom we experienced, but along the way, we deschool; that is we shift our mindset about how learning happens to a more open and natural setting. We recognize the learning that happens through play and interests and so we encourage and support more play and interests. Children are naturally curious and inquisitiveness and often we just need to stay out of the way as they get on with their own learning. Homeschooling can be as much of a learning experience for the parents as it is for the children.
Families new to homeschooling like to ask in the fb groups to see photos of other families’ homeschooling rooms or spaces in their homes. This always brings up photos showing a bit of the wide range from yes desks with computers on them lined up in rows to kitchen tables, lounges, bedrooms, museums, zoos, parks, creeks, playgrounds, sports fields, and so on. Learning happens every where. A child can read a book or play a game any where. Classroom optional.
Of course, it is helpful to have a space where resources such as office and art supplies live in the home, but desks are optional.
What about friends? Homeschoolers are isolated at home and never get to make friends, right?
No, not unless that is the experience you want for your children.
Yes, it is true that it is now on you, the parent, to ensure your child has opportunities to meet and play with other children, and you will find the homeschooling community is the most intentional group of parents when it comes to making sure their children have those opportunities. They don’t rely on adult-led activities for their children to make friends, but will weekly and often multiple times during the week with other families for their children to play and share learning experiences whether it is co-op learning, one-offs, adventures, excursions, or park days.
Often because they can study an interest deeply, our children are the ones who engage enthusiastically with the docent leading the tour at the museum, with the librarians as they work together to track down a specific resource, with tour guides, park rangers, and even grocery store clerks. Our children aren’t burned out from being forced to learn about stuff that is mind-numbingly dull, but are engaged learners about everything that interests them.
Our homeschooled children have playmates of all ages, acquaintances everywhere they go, and a circle of besties who they meet-ups with regularly. Sleepovers are frequent. Camping is a family adventure. And best of all, because we are engaged in our children’s learning, we know their friends and most of their friends’ parents too.
I hope this answers at leats some of your questions about homeschooling and busts a lot of the myths. What did you think as you read? Were you surprised? Share your thoughts in the comments and let’s keep the chat going.
Cheers – Ann
Books I’ve enjoyed reading about homeschooling include:
Free to Learn by Peter Gray
Teach Your Own by John Holt