What do I mean by unconventional? I mean anything other than textbooks. Most of us were brought up to believe that the only way to teach is with a textbook that you assign to the student, they study it and then they take a test to see how much they’ve learned.
But is this the way we learn as adults? Not me. When I’m interested in learning about a new topic the first thing I do is go to the library and find out what books they have on the subject. Now I know, some of you are already thinking that I’m behind the times. Many of you would be quick to point out that the Internet is a far better resource than the public library. Call me old-fashioned, I am a reader and would rather have a book in my hands than stare at a screen. But since you brought up the Internet, there are lots of ways to gain information there too!
Some homeschoolers are uneasy with a truly unschooling method. This is where you allow the student to completely control their learning environment and the topics they choose to explore. I am not necessarily saying that to go unconventional, you have to go completely unschooled. There are many degrees of learning between conventional schooling and unschooling.
I’ve collected a selection of resources that might help you feel more comfortable with a less structured learning model.
Carschooling – when you have to spend a lot of time in your vehicle and can’t seem to get any schoolwork done, here are some ideas to make the time profitable.
Project Based Learning – Choosing projects that help your child explore their interests in depth. The possibilities are endless. What is your child interested in?
Notebooking – Creating notebooks to collect information as the student learns about a topic.
I’m not sure I actually remember our first day of homeschooling. I guess I can ask for a little grace in that department. After all, it was 1991 and we’ve had quite a few first days since then. Twenty-six to be exact.
But this year is different. As I saw many friends posting pictures of their cute little scholars getting ready for school I got a little sentimental. It’s the first year I have no student starting a new season of learning. They are all finished. All 7 have gone on to other things. Hopefully, I succeeded in instilling a love for learning in each of them and that will never end. But the days of working at the table with a little boy whose eyes lit up when he completed his math assignment with no mistakes are long gone.
Actually, I haven’t had any of those moments for a long time. High schoolers don’t normally get too excited about assignments! Sometimes I wish I knew at the beginning what I know now. If I had it to do over again, I would be less concerned about performance and focus much more on character building. I think we got better at that towards the end but even so, I still felt pressure to aim for some man-made standard.
I have realized how much time and energy we put into competing with others to see how we measure up and it’s just not worth it. In the end, you just do your best and keep moving. The things I remember worrying about with my boys, the areas of learning where they seemed to be struggling, caused so much stress at the time. And now, looking back, I can say that all those times of striving for something more have had no visible impact on my boys’ success in life. They are all doing just fine.
How do you measure success anyway? Isn’t it simply about setting goals for yourself and working toward meeting them? At this point, none of my boys have bachelor’s degrees. None have letters after their names. So what? They each have found their sweet spot. They are pursuing what interests them and doing it well. And…most of them have no school debt! I couldn’t be happier for them.
And for me? How do I embrace this next season? Right now I am looking for ways to share what I’ve learned. First is this blog. Hopefully, I will continue to share insight that will help other homeschoolers. Also, I have taken on some students to tutor. I am looking at ways to tutor online as well. I see myself as a homeschool coach that can offer strength and encouragement to other moms who may be at the beginning of their homeschool journey.
But it’s also a season to dust off the things I’ve wanted to do for a long time. Quilting, genealogy, reading the zillions of books I’ve been wanting to read, and writing. And I get to spend time with my grandchildren which gives me great joy.
If you are in need of someone to come alongside you as you travel this homeschooling path, contact me and we can discuss how I can help you. I know it was a great help to me when I was just starting out to spend time with veteran homeschoolers. It made the journey less daunting to see those who had survived!
I was excited. This school year looked to be starting out just right. About the only thing we do that could be considered traditional is our start and end dates. We “traditionally” begin on the Tuesday after Labor Day and end the Friday before Memorial Day. It just works easiest that way. We feel like we’ve had a full summer and can get down to business.
So we started this year on Tuesday after the long holiday weekend. We were ready. I felt the boys were taking their learning seriously and just knew that attitude would carry us well into the year, if not through the whole school year. Yeah, wishful thinking, I know.
Our first week was pure joy. Each day we accomplished more than I had expected. It was a short week, we only do school Monday through Thursday anyway and we’d already missed Monday so we had three really good school days. The first week was a success. And I went into the weekend thinking about how to build on our momentum.
Then I got a phone call. On Sunday afternoon, I was informed that my grandfather had fallen and I was the only one able to drop what I was doing and head to Florida to take charge. So that’s what I did. I dropped everything, including our school schedule, and spent the next two days driving from Iowa to Florida. I took one adult son to help with the driving and my youngest to keep him company while I spent unpredictable hours at the hospital. The two of them would be fine together.
I brought school work for my student to do on the trip and left instructions for my other high school student who would be staying home because of his part-time job. I tried to imagine that our perfect start to the school year would continue seamlessly over this hump in the road. Of course, that was more of that wishful thinking. While they made an attempt to do some of their work, very little was actually accomplished.
So, what do you do when your well-laid plans for school don’t go as smoothly as you would like? Well, after twenty-two years, I can say that it happens every year. Our very first year included my mother’s death from cancer. After that, there were babies being born, job changes, illness, surgeries, vacations, houseguests, financial setbacks and a cross-country move. You name it and we’ve homeschooled through it and around it.
I used to panic that my boys wouldn’t be well educated because of all the interruptions. How could we possibly do a good job with all the distractions? But year after year I dealt with the issues as they came and we seemed to do just fine. I remember thinking that we’d just had a bad day and things simply had to get better. Then there were times when we had a bad week or month. A couple of years I realized that we’d just had a bad year and that was all I could say.
I watched my boys and realized that even with long stretches that seemed to me like wasted time, or marginally productive at best, they kept learning anyway. Sometimes, the most valuable learning took place because of the other issues we were dealing with.
There are several things that I learned through these times. Things that have molded how I view our homeschool efforts and have helped me to relax.
Homeschooling is much more than book learning. We always hear that homeschooling is a lifestyle. This truth is never clearer than when we are going through something that upsets the regular flow of our school day. We learn to adapt and flow with life, using every opportunity to allow learning to happen along the way. Each experience teaches life lessons you can never find in a book. The book learning has to happen at some point, in some way, but it isn’t the most important. Building character and life skills is so much more valuable over the course of a lifetime. On our recent Florida trip, my high school son learned a lot about making sacrifices for others and about life and death. He learned patience and had the opportunity to learn some priceless life lessons from his final conversation with his 96-year-old great-grandfather. I’m so glad he wasn’t home reading a textbook.
Students can overcome all sorts of obstacles if they are motivated to learn. The thing that has helped us the most is that I’ve made it a priority to teach my boys how to learn on their own. They don’t need to be spoon-fed, so they can learn large chunks of information in a short time all on their own when they put their minds to it. When we have setbacks of weeks or months when things aren’t going as planned, they find ways to keep learning anyway. I used to think we were so far behind we’d never catch up and then I would remind myself that we aren’t trying to keep up with anyone. We are just moving along at our own pace which is all we should be doing.
You can homeschool anywhere. The idea that we have to be in a schoolroom or at a table or desktop computer for optimal learning to take place is a myth. We have done school in airplanes, in cars, in bed, in the backyard on a blanket, at the park, at the library, at church, in a hotel room, and at other people’s houses while on vacation. Sometimes we use books, sometimes we use laptops and sometimes we just use life.
So when you hit your own detour or delay in your homeschool journey, try to remember that in the grand scheme of things, this is a temporary obstacle. You can recover. You can find ways to continue the learning process in spite of the issues at hand. Remember, homeschooling is a lifestyle and that means it happens while you’re just doing life, no matter what that entails.