Tuesday, March 11, 2014

What Is Homeschooling?

What Does It Look Like?


Homeschooling is no longer conducted in the shadows, behind closed curtains, with the fear of 'whispers' from the neighbors.  I know there are those who still 'speak out' against homeschooling, buying into the old, and might I point out disproved, myths that can still swirl about regarding homeschooling and more pointedly homeschoolers.  The homeschooling community itself will 'poke fun' at itself by talking about being weird and unsocialized because we know it is, more often than not, untrue.  Either that or we embrace our 'weirdness' as being unique individuals raising free thinkers who will change their world.  Regardless though homeschooling is legal in all 50 states and so we can walk in the sun during school hours without fear of serious, legal retribution.

Now that homeschooling is more and more spoken of in the 'mainstream' media, studies have been done showing the academic and socialization success stories of those who were homeschooled.  There are 1st and 2nd generation homeschoolers who are now homeschooling their children.  The mystery of homeschooling is not much of a mystery anymore. 

Or is it?  

 In every homeschooling group I used to be a member of, real life or on-line (and there are A LOT of online support groups for homeschoolers), or homeschool blogs I read, the conversations and support generally, and most often, circled around such topics as curriculum choices, how to motivate children to learn, children's learning styles, creative 'work' system, hands-on activities, and field trips for 'extended learning'. 

I got caught up in all that too.  As a new homeschooler, 5 year ago, living where I did, and just discovering 'facebook', the only homeschoolers I knew/met were religious homeschoolers.  So I paid attention to curriculum (I didn't want religious dogma or myth in my curriculum as a basis of facts), and 'work systems' for setting up and executing our homeschooling curriculum.  I made the room look like 'school' and set on the path of providing my child with her education myself at home.  The very definition of homeschooling!

Fast forward four and half years and if you were to have peaked behind my curtain I do believe the scene would have looked very similar to when Dorothy finally glimpsed 'the man behind the curtain'.  It looked good, for the most part, but the struggles, failures, and unhappiness were what was real.  I do not lament too much on how things were then because I did not know better.  I was doing the best I knew how at that time.  That is all any of us can do.  However, once we know better we can do better.  Doing better will look different for each family.  Five years later I am convinced of one thing, homeschooling would be better served if it were called something else.  I am not sure what, but other names that spring to mind include:  Living School, Life Learning, and even unschooling.  There are those in the unschooling community who would "Pffft" at what I think unschooling looks like, but that matters not.  Even in the homeschooling community there are always going to be those who think they are doing it 'right' and that their 'right' is what everyone's 'right' is.  Sad, actually, given the fact that homeschooling is supposed to be about providing your children with life experience, living skills, and educational opportunities based out of the home.


That is what homeschooling is.  Plain and simple, right?  Speaking for myself, it is easy to say but hard to know 'how to do', especially at the start.  There are as many books on how to homeschool as there are 'methods'.  There are other branches of the  homeschooling tree that include topics such as learning styles and curriculum choice.  It goes even deeper into subsets:  Unit Studies, lapbooking, notebooking, and more.  They all seem like crucial choices to most in the beginning and for others their entire homeschooling experience.  To a point it is valid to say that these are worth exploring.  A child will do their best work when they are engaged and interested not only in WHAT they are learning but in HOW they are learning it.  A fish seems very stupid if you ask him to learn to fly but shows his genius when he's placed in the stream.  This exploration, or trial and error, is part of the journey not merely 'tools' for the journey.  Learning is happening with all the misses as much as with the hits, both for the parent and the child.  Yet we worry, yes I worry too.  However, I do not think we should worry so much that it cripples us from enjoying the journey of life. 

Therein lies the difference.  Homeschooling is not just a means of educating your child, it is a lifestyle choice.  It is as much who your family is as anything else with which you identify.  You are vegans, gardeners, gamers, documentary watchers, runners, swimmers, dancers, performers, liberals, conservatives, believers, atheists and on and on...homeschooling is that, just like that.  Homeschooling is who you are, a real and natural extension of your philosophy on life, love, family, worship, and values.  That is what homeschooling is and once you embrace that definition you will become as comfortable with having homeschooling be what it is for your family as any other lifestyle choice you make for your life.  When that sense of confidence fills you you will no longer bother with the nay-sayers, critics, or even so-called experts.  You will be living the life you build and teaching your children to do the same.  In that life, when we need to learn something we seek it out and learn it, in the way that works best for us.  That is life-long learning and that is what we all want for our children. 

To find the real support you need I strongly recommend you find a group, even if only online, that welcomes you for who you are and lets you be who you are on your life journey that includes homeschooling.  One of my greatest joys has come in the last six months when I started The Inappropriate Homeschoolers facebook group and it has made a real difference for me and, according to them, the other members.  They are as a part of my journey as homeschooling itself is.


My sincerest thanks to fellow IH group members for allowing me the use of their pictures to show what homeschooling looks like.........LIFE!
~Mari B.


  1. this is why I like the term used in the UK home education...it takes the term schooling right out of it and allows a more free form of education:) at least in my mind:)

  2. Thank you for reminding me what homeschooling is! Sometimes it's too easy to get caught up in the things we "should" be doing.


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