Kids’ “Back to School” picture, Fall 2017

If I had to describe our homeschool journey in one word it would be change.

My reason for homeschooling has changed over the years. It started as simply not wanting my mature but impressionable daughter to be the oldest child in her class. I knew she would be bored and would also follow along with what other children—likely less mature, less responsible, and potentially almost a year younger—were doing.

As I entered the homeschool world, learned from other homeschool parents, and explored all of the options and resources available to homeschoolers, my reasons vastly expanded. Now they include providing my children with an individually tailored education, instilling a love of learning, teaching them how to learn, incorporating faith, morals, and practical skills into our daily lessons, spending lots of time with them, being there for all of the important moments and milestones, and maintaining my place as their primary role model.

We are a military family; my husband has been active duty in the Army for almost seventeen years. This lifestyle brings more change and additional reasons to homeschool. I am able to maintain consistency in schooling through moves, and a stable and secure environment during deployments. Homeschooling allows us to take time off when needed, rather than when the school calendar allows, so if dad has time off, we take a break from school to spend time with him (or sometimes he takes over and does his own lessons with the kids). If dad deploys and the children have trouble adjusting, we take as much time as needed to care for their emotions, or we may dive into learning in order to stay busy and pass the time. If we move to a new community, we can take our time to adjust, unpack, and learn about our new area. We may also choose to dive into group homeschool activities in order to make new friends.

As for the “how” of homeschooling, that has also gone through plenty of change. It feels like we have tried almost every method out there, and what we haven’t tried I’ve at least looked into. We have incorporated aspects of many different philosophies into our own homeschooling style. For the last several years, I have leaned heavily toward the classical approach with a good bit of eclectic and delight-directed learning incorporated in the mix. In the last year, we have shifted into a more relaxed approach, while still using some of the classical material that we enjoy. You could say we are almost un-schoolers, but I do still require a little bit of book work. I resonate with the term “life-schooling” as a more accurate description of our homeschool philosophy.

An ideal school day in our house begins with family devotions, a character study, read aloud time, memory work review, and occasionally a family project, experiment, or lesson. Then we move to “table time” where the kids do any computer or book work they have. For my younger kids, this is a short math lesson, handwriting, and a phonics or grammar lesson. Once those are complete, the elementary kids can play, or choose to do an optional lesson or educational game while my older student continues her studies. We try to follow this schedule at least three days a week. Other days are often spent on activities, errands, and fun learning experiences.

Our family service project: Operation Christmas Child

The rest of my kids’ learning happens through play and life experiences. We care for animals, cook, do chores, play, and explore nature. We observe season changes and how they affect the life cycles of various plants and animals. We plant a garden and collect chicken eggs. We order caterpillars and ladybug larvae and observe their life cycles. We read often and discuss topics of interest in depth. We expose our children to many learning opportunities and experiences and follow up with further study on those topics that interest them. One of my kids’ favorite things is what they call “dinner time history” or “dinner time science” where one of them asks a random question, and we discuss it (this usually results in dad giving an informal lesson on the topic).

Now that I have a child moving into junior high, things are changing again. I am figuring out what she needs to do to prepare for high school, and also working with her on being more independent and taking more responsibility for her own work. She has a very clear goal for her future which helps to motivate her. We are currently looking at what she needs to do in high school in order to be accepted into the college program she would like to pursue, and we will create her high school course of study based on that. Then we will make a plan for this school year based on what she needs to be ready for ninth grade. I plan to approach junior high similarly with each child, sitting them down and making a plan of study based on their interests and goals. This will look very different for each child, and not all of my kids will have such a defined goal, but I will include them in the planning, and explain why certain things are necessary so that they can take ownership of their studies.

Exploring life found under a rock with dad

Our curriculum choices vary with each child—which is part of giving them an individual education—so I can’t tell you exactly what we use, but here are a few of our favorite resources:

  • Math-U-See
  • Life of Fred
  • Teaching Textbooks
  • Explode the Code
  • Apologia
  • Institute for Excellence in Writing
  • Classical Conversations
  • SchoolhouseTeachers
  • Homeschool in the Woods
  • Drive Thru History
  • Story of the World
  • Greek ’n’ Stuff

And there are far too many good, living books to list.

My main advice to other homeschoolers is expect change. Don’t become set in your ways; don’t be afraid to chuck the curriculum that isn’t working mid-year, and don’t let your curriculum control you. Remain flexible, and adjust as needed. Each child, each year, each season, and each family is different. There isn’t only one correct way to homeschool.

Copyright 2018, The Old Schoolhouse®. Used with permission. All rights reserved by the Author. Originally appeared in the Fall 2018 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade publication for homeschool moms.