Although we homeschool, we don’t really see it as ‘school at home’.
There’s more of a life-learning focus where we honestly see the value of learning in EVERYTHING we do.
Writing a letter to a friend is a chance to practice skills in punctuation and grammar. Cooking up a recipe following step by step instructions can be a practical way to see sequential ordering in action and is even better if the recipe quantities have to be doubled ;-) Waiting for a doctor's appointment to see a sibling and having to prepare an activity bag for themselves is a lesson in self regulation. Listening to books being read aloud is not only invaluable for being exposed to a wonderful diversity of ideas, people and events but gives kiddos an opportunity to practice listening. Siblings fighting or any of us (me included) having bad attitudes gives us a chance to practice conflict resolution skills, to humble ourselves and reconcile with one another. Being ‘bored’ with some spare time is an opportunity for our kids to find something that interests them and gives them a chance to develop passions and interests. Growing and caring for a garden teaches where food comes from, how to be a good steward of the land and gratitude when we reap the harvest.
I didn’t start out homeschooling this way. I was much more structured and was squarely convinced that all my years playing ‘schools’ as a kid would pay off for me. I wanted timetables with every half hour allocated to something between 9 and 3. I was very confident that I would be able to run a ‘tight homeschooling-ship’.
It didn't take me long to realise that my mindset needed to change.
I had to face up to things I'd not really seen before.
I had to recognise that my kids all had different styles of learning and some had strengths and challenges that I'd not been aware of when they were attending school and preschool.
I realised that my own view of learning had been coloured by my traditional-schooling education (which I might add had MANY wonderful things and inspirational teachers throughout it. Please understand that I am not anti-school! I am just all for finding the right fit for children and families for their learning and lifestyle needs).
Re-evaluating my educational values included things like questioning why I thought that my kids would only be doing 'proper' learning if they were using formal curriculum and textbooks.
I thought play was how we filled in time when they were little and when they 'grew up' then we'd do all the serious learning.
I also initially saw things like grocery shopping as cutting in on 'real' learning time and had to turn that mindset around to seeing the value in kids learning how to shop.
And most of all, I had to remember that there is a BIG PICTURE; homeschooling is a not just an educational style but a way of life.
It is a marathon not a short distance race.
It is about connection, relationship, learning through everyday life interactions and experiences.
It is having the chance to know ourselves and give that same opportunity to our children through the time and space that homeschooling affords.
In practical terms in our home over the years, this has meant taking LONG breaks from structured learning times and rhythms.
It has meant going away to grieve with family who have been hurting.
It has meant taking a day, a week, a month out of our regular term rhythms to clean and tidy the house in seasons where we've felt like we were otherwise going to be overwhelmed by clutter and mess!
It has meant letting our expectations go when my back has gone yet again and the most important thing is rest.
It has meant sharing the load and working as a team to get chores and jobs around the house.
It has meant taking a holiday by the beach to be with grandparents when everyone else is still in school and knowing that all our discussions about the places we visit, the play we do and the memories we make are not wasted.
Sometimes it has also meant that we adapt our rhythms when we need to.
During these past 6 months, I've spent more time in my bed than ever because of the autoimmune diseases I am living with.
We have leant more towards read alouds in my bed and watching documentaries together on the lounge.
I have (secret) boards in Pinterest that I add to when I’m lying in bed so that on days when I have had energy to do some more structured or hands on learning, we have a ready-to-go plan.
We have taken a few ‘field trips’ when I’ve been up to it and when Dad has been home from work and able to drive us.
Social interactions have been adapted to include online zoom classes and local play dates.
Our third eldest has completed and passed two online university subjects this year and has now enrolled in a TAFE certificate in his dream-field.
The big picture calms my heart.
It reminds me of why we do what we do.
It helps me to let go of the anxiety I feel on our more ‘chilled‘ days and invites me to remember that learning is for life.
We are more than just ideals.
More than just educational philosophies.
More than all the unrealistic expectations.
We are relating.
We are communicating.
We are involved in community.
We are connecting.
We are encouraging resilience, independence, self-regulation and faith in things unseen.
We are giving and receiving.
We are providing time and space for our kids to develop passions and interests and overcome challenges. We are engaging minds.
We are daring to dream.
We are living and learning and loving by holding fast to the big picture.