When I first began homeschooling our children, I devoured all the homeschool books and blogs I could find. I wanted to know what everyone was doing. How did they approach homeschooling? What did their schedules look like? Why did they use a certain math curriculum? When did they sleep?
I remember printing out entire volumes of Charlotte Mason-esque activities, worksheets, stories, etc. I remember spending hours trying to come up with color-coded schedules that would fit our lifestyle. At the same time, I was also intrigued by John Holt and the more play-based and interest-led home education approach. My oldest child, who was 5 years old when we "officially" (I use that term loosely) started homeschooling, could rarely sit still for more than 6.28 minutes and the twins, age 3, were, well, 3 years old.
We eventually found our groove and it wasn't too far along into our journey when I realized that my three kids, despite being very close in age, all learned differently. I had to balance this with my desire to provide a solid foundation for math and reading. These were my two non-negotiables. However, I also wanted to expose them to a variety of topics and methods.
I spoke with friends who had older children and how they used the same curricula for years and years and never deviated. I went to countless homeschool conference presentations detailing the importance of consistency and repetition. I so wanted this for my kids. I wanted to be the homeschooliest homeschooling family.
What I finally realized is there's no award (or reward) for being the homeschooliest homeschooling family. We now have three teenagers, all high school age. Do we have gaps in their education? You betcha! Does this worry me? To be honest, not as much as I thought it would. As someone who attended public school (grades K-8), private school (grades 9-12), and graduated from a four-year university, I still have gaps in my education. I'm guessing you do too.
4 Things We Haven't Consistently Done In Our Homeschool
I'm sharing four things we haven't done consistently in our homeschool. Why? Because I've wanted to write about this now that my kids are older and I've had ample time for reflection. Please note that we've homeschooled in Virginia and North Carolina. The laws are very homeschool-friendly and we do not have tons of boxes to check or rules to follow. If you're new to homeschooling, be certain to check out our helpful homeschooling guide for parents.
- Spelling: There are approximately eleventy bajillion homeschool spelling programs out there. And everyone in your homeschool group will have opinions on how to teach your kid to spell. Perhaps you were like me, a child who loved spelling tests and was mildly obsessed with her 1980s Speak-n-Spell toy.But then you grow up and decide to homeschool your brood and realize you're responsible for teaching them things like spelling. You peruse the spelling programs and try a few with your super spunky 7-year-old who would rather be playing trucks and running around and not memorizing spelling rules. In fact, you start having heart palpitations when you review all the spelling rules and wonder how you even learned to spell, read, and speak English in the first place. A couple of years go by and you rely less and less on formal spelling programs.You don't have special spelling time during your homeschool days and when your kid has a spelling question, you help them look it up, spell it for them, or teach them to use spell check when they're 9 because they already taught themselves to type. If you haven't guessed already, the "you" is actually me. Spelling was also learned during all their other learning like reading, writing, or spelling games.
- Fine Arts We have always been more of a craft family. And by we, I mean me, back when I was younger and had more energy for homeschooling crafts. Truth is, we've never formally studied fine arts. We've never done a picture study. Wait! We did once back when I was testing the Charlotte Mason waters and it went over like kale chips for Halloween dinner (guilty).I think there is value in learning about art and music. We did a brief unit study on American music back in the day and I have pointed out famous-ish works of art in other less formal ways. My kids were always drawing, painting, building, making up their own music, teaching themselves to create digital music, sew, and more. When my oldest was nine, he joined a theater camp at our church and when he was 12 he was on the stage crew for three children's theater plays in our town. Everything was interest-led and this suited them just fine. If art and art history becomes an interest of theirs in the near future, we will roll with it. If at age 34 they decide to learn everything they can about modern art or classical music, awesome!
- Science: Hold on to your lab beakers, but for most of the elementary school and middle school, we didn't study science in a structured way. We dabbled in various science topics during our Five In A Row book studies and we played around with Mystery Science units and read lots of Usborne books. One year, we participated in a small science co-op.We've made random volcanoes, taken lots of trips to the zoo, watched hours and hours of educational shows, and even had a Magic School Bus subscription kit.And you know what? It was enough.My oldest son, now 16, had a fascination with all things related to the human body from a young age. He checked out every book at the library, found online games, YouTube shows, and then joined an Emergency Medical Technician club in 8th grade. This sparked a passion in him and now he's graduated from an EMT cadet program and seriously considering a career in emergency science. He's handled high school science classes just fine, by the way.
- History/Social Studies: I never liked learning about history until I was in my late 30s. It wasn't until we started homeschooling that my desire to examine history through various lenses and methods really came into play.There have been years where we've used out-of-the-box history programs and there have been other times we've attempted unit studies only to get halfway through them and lose interest. There have been seasons of life where history and social studies were an afterthought because of life circumstances. We've never completed a four-year history cycle.So, what have we tackled? We did a geography club that was lots of fun and helped us meet new people. We did Magic Tree House unit studies and learned about various historical time periods. There are so many creative ways to present history and social study topics, especially in the younger years. For high school, we've chosen more formal classes like World Geography, U.S. Government, U.S. History, and Economics. And this 47-year-old home educator still doesn't know all the history things.
It's Not Our Job to Do It All
By now you might be wondering what we've been doing with our time all these years. Or maybe you're silently fist-pumping because you homeschool in a more eclectic way too. Could we all just agree the best homeschooling methods/books/curricula are the ones that fit your unique family?
Writing about these four things has been refreshing. I love seeing how far we've come over the last ten years because we've created a homeschool experience that fits our family. We're at the tail end of our homeschooling years and I am confident that my kids will continue to carve out paths that suit their unique desires and goals.
Is there something you don't consistently do in your homeschool? Let us know in the comments below.