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Do you like to break the rules? If so, then homeschooling just might be for you.
We homeschoolers are rogues.
That’s right, we are notorious for branching out, for opting out, for doing things differently – for breaking the traditional school rules. Conformity is definitely not our modus operandi, and “homeschooling”, as a concept, is so unique and different from family to family that at times it can be difficult to put home education into any specific category.
Those of us who homeschool think that’s a good thing.
If you’re new to homeschooling, you’re going to have to think differently. Yes, you’re going to have to be willing to break the unwritten “rules of school” and forge your own, often uncharted, path. And although this can be nerve-wracking and downright terrifying at first, it is the key to an effective, individualized, fulfilling homeschool experience.
Sometimes you have to break the rules in order to play the game right.
What rules, you ask?
The rules that may not actually be written down in black-and-white, but that every traditionally-schooled kid knows. The ones written by default when large numbers of students do the same thing. The ones that cater to the largest common denominator rather than the individual – because it’s the only way large-scale, public education can happen. Yes, rules have their place, and school rules have certainly facilitated opportunities for the masses to receive an education.
But when you home educate, and especially when you homeschool a child who has spent time in school, you’ve got to learn the value of breaking some of those rules. Deschooling helps you to learn to break these rules:
Rule #1 – School must happen 7-8 hours per day.
If you’re going to break the school rules, this is one of the best places to start! Academics shouldn’t be done on a timetable, in home education, as much as they should be done according to each child’s individual needs. Some children are able to accomplish their work effectively (and maintain the scope and sequence you determine is appropriate for their abilities) in just a couple of hours. Younger children should spend less time than older ones in focused academic work, and the lack of down time for things such as changing classes or announcements means that more work can be accomplished in less time. Kids don’t need to spend 15 minutes doing extra problems if they already understand the concept, and they don’t have to wait around while the teacher works with others.
The bottom line? Don’t let time rule your home school – let the needs of your children rule the time. And, once you find a schedule that works for you, use that extra time in the day to do something fulfilling or fun, such as extra-curricular activities, service to others, or exercise. More academics done in less time means more opportunities for developing the unique abilities of your child!
Rule #2 – There is an official school curriculum that must be used for every subject, for every student.
Um….no. In fact, I would challenge you to find two homeschooling families who use exactly the same curriculum in exactly the same way for every child. Break this school rule and walk out into curricular freedom!
There are no rules in homeschooling when it comes to curriculum – use whatever you want, for whatever subject. Multiple children can even work in completely different resources for every subject! Breaking this school rule means that homeschoolers can tailor their materials to the precise needs of each child in each learning area. If you love BJUP for Science, but your child really responds well to Saxon Math rather than the BJUP, no problem! Maybe you love the ease of using a multi-subject publisher such as Sonlight for the majority of your academics, but are impressed with the thoroughness of Shurley English – use both! Or perhaps you like the hands-on approach of lapbooks such as Homeschool in the Woods for History, but want more traditional book work for Reading and Math... do whatever works for you! Breaking the “one curriculum” school rule may be one of the best acts of defiance you’ve ever done, and it may be just the think to transform your child’s academic experience.
Rule #3 – Kids learn best by sitting at desks, with a teacher teaching in front of them.
I, ooof….Uh, excuse me as I step over my daughter, who is doing her Math on the floor.
Yeah, this rule is for the birds. Or, more accurately, for public school teachers who must maintain some semblance of order in classrooms with large numbers of children. But we homeschoolers don’t have to live by this one at all. Do school wherever it works best for you and your kids. Sure, some of it might be done at the kitchen table with pencils and kids sitting in chairs. But then it can be accomplished just as effectively (even, GASP, more effectively for some kids) on the couch, lying on the floor, or propped up in bed. When you’ve become a true homeschooling maverick, you might even let your kids do their work while swinging on the swing set (awesome for reviewing memorized information or getting hyperactive kids to listen to literature), relaxing on a picnic blanket in the yard, or even while climbing a tree (multiplication fact review, anyone?). Many active children work better while standing and moving, and sometimes working with headphones on while listening to music can calm attention-wandering minds. My favorite, most effective way of doing literature is lying in bed, snuggled up with my kids under the blankets. Breaking the “must sit at the desk” rule can be one of the best things you ever do to help your kids actually start learning.
Rule #4 – Teachers have to be experts in their subjects for kids to learn effectively.
This is one of the biggest detriments to parents homeschooling – the feeling that they don’t have enough knowledge to adequately teach their kids. Hogwash. Kids’ learning is dependent upon so many different factors, including their ability to attend, their maturity, their intellectual capability, their interest level, their learning environment, their discipline, their learning style, the materials they are using, etc. etc. etc. Even if parents are not experts in certain academic areas, they can put into place so many of the other factors that help kids learn – which, in many cases, far outweighs the acumen of the teacher in helping the child actually retain the information! And for those subjects (especially higher level high school ones) that are truly beyond parents’ ability to teach, there are online courses, community college classes, and homeschool co-ops with plenty of experts!
One of the greatest joys of homeschooling is the ability to learn new things right alongside your child – to grow in knowledge and discovery together. Dedicated homeschooling parents put together the necessary elements for kids to learn effectively (curricula, co-ops, online classes, environment, learning style, etc.), regardless of their own expertise, and they add in many elements that school-based "experts" are not able to provide! Learning is a journey, not a destination. There is no better environment for a child to learn than with the people he loves the most, who are dedicated to making sure he succeeds.
You know the saying, "Rules are made to be broken"? Although that might not be the best motto by which to plan your life, when it comes to homeschooling, it's right on target. Breaking the traditional school rules, when it comes to your kids' schooling, can be one of the best things you ever did to give your child the most effective, individualized education possible. If you're a homeschooling newbie, then hang on for a few more school rules you need to violate, coming soon in Part 2!