The following post is re-blogged from August 2013. Inevitably, a number of will-be/ would-be homeschoolers ask a series of questions that, in essence, boil down to one looming thought: how do I/we do this? So I reposted these thoughts to encourage you, whereever you are in your journey, of one important thing: learn to become comfortable doing YOU. Be blessed.
Principled. Classical. Eclectic. Charlotte Mason. Unschooled. Inevitably when you encounter a new group of homeschoolers, the question of how you homeschool, i.e., your approach to learning, is a topic that can launch hours of conversation. I for one am always curious–not so much about the chosen methodology, but the process by which a parent arrived at a decision to pursue this approach or that.
Over the years, I have shared much about our own process, and why we have chosen a Charlotte Mason approach to learning. I also love sharing our times over living books, and the intangible joys (and un-imagined frustrations) that have come with our decision to homeschool. I can recall a parent, struggling with buy-in from her daughters, asking me once, “How do you convince them to school your way?” In all the candor that is me, I elaborated on why they weren’t given a choice! You can read more about that here.
The truth is that, just like a home, or a marriage, has its seasons, homeschooling has a season as well, I’m convinced. When we began this journey, there were certain things that were critical to me, including:
1) following a method to the letter
2) joining a group (to combat that dreaded socialization issue)
3) “nailing” the perfect curriculum
I can remember being quite disheartened when I realized that Charlotte Mason’s ideas–in their entirety–were not a good fit for our home and our children’s realities. I was even more befuddled when the kids said honestly that their desire to pack up each week and go to group meetings was waning quickly. After all, in the earliest days, the group gave me confidence and belonging–two things that I desperately needed coming from families of public school educators on either side.
I can remember a season when I thought to add “spice” to our homeschool day. Somehow, sitting around the table, eating good food when we want and laughing and learning wasn’t enough. I thought we’d try emulating other homeschoolers who seemed to have so much fun. So we tried different things, like schooling at the library, or outside. We tried online courses and co-ops. For various reasons, these, too, were failed experiments for us.
So when someone asked me about a primary homeschooling approach, I wrote honestly that our homeschool is “Charlotte Mason-inspired.” After years of fixation with approach and fighting against the ebb and flow of our home, the truth is that (gasp)! we are not Charlotte Mason purists, and that is okay. We aren’t outdoors for hours each day–it’s too hot, and the household is too busy. In addition, we do use a couple of textbooks, whether because of familiarization or a result of cutting costs by using what was handed to us.
I can breathe easily as I discuss what is our homeschool today, and what our homeschool is not. Living books are a standard, but we also pull from a number of other resources that become available to us. However, I would not consider myself an eclectic homeschooler or an unschooler, either; my linear thinking as an engineer by formal education keeps me from being too free-flowing. Of this one thing I am sure: being married to a single homeschool approach can be as binding as it is liberating. Had I focused too much on force-fitting our school into one peg–any peg–we would have missed out on some grand opportunities to be a family and simply enjoy, and how awful that would be because we’ve had some pretty fun times over the years.
So, with our Charlotte Mason-inspired, far from outdoorsy, occasional-textbook-using selves, we press on. This year, we will once again school at the library, on at least one day. This time, I am not attempting to keep up with the homeschooling Joneses, but instead allowing the youngest her input regarding how we might use the time effectively while big brother completes his college class. And we will continue to build our foundation from living books, but we will also use more games and the occasional textbook in order to give her an experience with learning that is markedly different, and uniquely her own. Who knows? We might actually get outside more, since she is the one of our three who most appreciates time in the sun. Most importantly, whatever we do, we will accept this as another year of growth, and we will reflect later on what went well and discard those items that didn’t work, without trepidation or comparisons. We will celebrate home education as it applies to us, and enjoy our unique experience.