Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Homeschooling: how do people do it?

Although my children have not officially reached school age yet, I'm already reading up as to what people do in their homeschool, as well as observing the (few) homeschooling families I know locally. A morning begins, and the family is up; all children are driven off to school, while yours stay home; what do you do

There is the possibility, of course, to purchase ready-made curriculum, such as for example K12 (and doubtless a more extensive Google search can yield more examples of the kind); the page dedicated to homeschoolers says that "Whether you need just one course or a complete, integrated curriculum, K¹² has solutions to meet your homeschooling needs." Translation: put yourself in our hands, and you are safe... which is what many educational experts would have us believe. 

No doubt that having a ready-made curriculum has its advantages - when asked, you can tell that you are doing exactly such-and-such courses; you are working with materials provided by someone who makes it their profession; you have a frame; you can have, essentially, a miniature version of school at home (minus the bullying, peer pressure and time wasted on discipline problems), and that is like soothing balm to the nerves of all who worry about your kids being homeschooled. 

I'm not sure anyone provides curriculum in Hebrew, actually, but there is one homeschooling family I know who have it in a pretty structured way: they get up in the morning, have breakfast and prayer time, and then sit down to their workbooks. I do believe that, in our country where such an educational choice is so rare, it might be for their good, if and when they are examined, to be able to point out exactly what the children have been doing. 

Then there is the opposite side of the homeschooling spectrum: the unschoolers. I, and many others, generally consider John Holt to be the father of this movement. The leading principle says that any learning should be child-led, that no formal lessons are needed at all, and that learning is done best simply through living a rich life, preferably with plenty of time to "stand and stare". 

The advantages here are different - you do what you want (within a framework of principles and healthy daily structure); when you want; any way you want. You aren't subject to school books, curriculum or "you must do three pages of math on Tuesday morning". I confess the idea appeals to me; personally, when I find myself having an interest in something (and I believe no thinking, feeling person can help having a keen interest in something, usually many things), I begin reading about it, researching information about it in any way I can, talking about it to people who might know more than I do... this isn't methodically done - the interest just lurks at the back of my mind, and surfaces at convenient moments. And of course, since all things in this world are connected, learning about something inevitably leads to learning about something else. 

For example, my love for chickens (and just so you know, I am now considered the crazy chicken lady of the neighbourhood!) led me to learn about a whole host of different things, such as poultry diseases, immunology and vaccination, different chicken breeds and the geography of their countries of origin, history (did you know Marco Polo saw Silkies on his travels?), and how to knock a fox on the head with a rubber boot on a Saturday afternoon. It also connected us to many lovely interesting people whom we probably wouldn't have met otherwise.

There are countless people, many of whom have dedicated their whole life to improving the education of others, who feel passionately and strongly enough to say, for instance, that education... awakens the mind and sustains curiosity. Sadly, many school children, even young ones, are exactly the reverse; their mind is asleep, their curiosity all but gone. What serves to awaken the mind? Life; rich life, which doesn't have to follow a single pattern, and can occur in different surroundings. Children who are part of a family, of a community, who are encouraged to develop interests and pursue them, who are free to simply live life, do not really need much to "awaken their mind" - it never lies dormant. I am convinced that even many children who go to schools learn more out of school than in; I see proof of that in how many children come back to school so changed, so grown, so much advanced in different areas at the end of a summer's holidays - much more than a simple interval of two months would make reasonable. 

So... when it comes to education, I guess I am all for freedom. Freedom for everyone to do what they wish, what they think, what they believe would be best for their families. Freedom to take any method, or any combination of methods, and apply it in whatever way they think might work. A person who has a keen mind, who isn't isolated from the world, and who knows how to read, most likely won't end up stupid; so let us relax a little, let go of anxiety, and enjoy the journey. 


Lanita said...

Yes, you have it absolutely correct. I love home educating. I began back in 1985. I have "taught" four children over these years (I am in my last year now). We used to do complete curriculum's, until we discovered the "unschooling" way. We absolutely love it so much more and I feel we learn a whole lot more. And yes I said we, as I have learned so much more "teaching" my children then I ever did in a school setting.

Gothelittle Rose said...

I'm all for freedom. I believe that unschooling 100% takes the right kind of child and parent and is very rare, but I'm not going to be the one who says it isn't working for a particular person.

I use a combination method. If my son wasn't basically led by the nose, he'd never learn any grammar at all and never learn any math that challenges him. However, in other subjects, his natural curiosity takes him a long way. He has his workbooks and a few things tossed in that I believe are necessary or simply very useful, but I have devised a very fluid schedule in which he can finish his daily subjects by lunchtime and have the rest of the day to follow his heart.

My husband caught him staying up after bedtime, reading secretly in his room by a small light that he rigged up with his electronics kit.

sara said...

And as you implied, but did not explicitly state, there is a whole world of possibilities between the extremes of rigidity and complete lack of structure. Most homeschoolers fall somewhere near the middle of the spectrum.

Humble wife said...

When I first began homeschooling I tried to replicate the public school setting 'in case' we had a home inspection. As the years passed I became more comfortable and relaxed the formal setting. We did open with prayer and Bible study. We did have assignments and lessons daily. But we had a looseness about time in case we needed to take a field trip somewhere, or learn about something not on the lesson plan.

We had the fortunate opportunity to live in Germany when we began homeschooling and then living in four US states. This opened up differing perspectives on cultures, cuisines, and even languages. Now we live just north of the US/Mexican border and are still exposed to a second language-well actually three as a German Air Force base is just miles from our front door.

Homeschooling is a tremendous effort that is so worth the time...speaking as one with four graduates!

Anonymous said...

I remember a quote, I believe by Mark Twain, that I am going to print and frame (and maybe even give my kids' school!)

"I have always been careful not to let my schooling interfere with my education."

Profound. And that during the period most homeschoolers prefer to emulate.


Anonymous said...

Hi Anna,
I just wanted to offer my perspective as a former home school student. I was home schooled my entire childhood-- from birth to age eighteen! I think that in the younger years, more freedom to explore nature and enjoy schooling in a relaxed environment is very nice, but when children grow older, I think it's important to find more structure to the schooling regimen. My parents did a fairly good job of this-- I feel that I got a well-rounded education and was prepared for college, but there are areas in which I feel somewhat inadequate. Trying to navigate an advanced math textbook without a teacher who has been trained in advanced math can result in lots of frustration, and even tears. The same an be said for attempting to learn a foreign language or even understand more advanced grammar.

There is also something to be said for exploring schooling options outside the home. For example, can the children take one or two classes a week at a local school or team up with other home schoolers and parents who have education in areas you do not? While my parents are well-educated, they didn't specialize in the subjects they taught me, so I realized later as an adult that I learned some things incorrectly. If you enjoy lifelong learning, this isn't a huge issue, but it is something to consider. In high school, I joined a home school cooperative, and this was a HUGE help in preparing me for college.

My parents went through an un-schooling phase during my education, but I am really glad that they dropped it pretty quickly. It's fun to do experiments or cooking projects, but I think un-schooling works much better as a supplement than as an entire schooling curriculum. It's tempting to think that you can simply absorb science concepts from doing experiments in the kitchen, but I know it would have left my education sorely lacking. The things I remember most I learned through many hours of studying, test-taking, memorizing flash cards, having in-depth discussions, and writing papers. No, it might not be fun in the moment, but learning is hard work!

One word of warning-- when I was growing up, my parents always dismissed arguments that home schoolers are not well-socialized. They did do a good job of socializing me with other home schoolers; however, social anxiety became a very big part of my life as an adult, and I believe this is partially due to home schooling. I grew up surrounded by home schoolers, and my husband was home schooled as well, so I feel that I have a pretty good sense of what the home schooling experience is like. When talking to other home school graduates, many give similar stories, and most of us agree that it is very important for home schooled children to be socialized with non-home schoolers on a regular basis so as not to suffer from social anxiety in group settings.

Sorry for the long comment. When I see a post about home schooling, it's hard for me to pass up!

Anonymous said...


I'm intruiged by all the homeschooling conversations, in the UK it's pretty 'hidden' there are apparently lots of families who homeschool but I don't think it's the norm or that visible. But that depends on what a family is searching for, a religious Catholic family would struggle to find a state-Catholic school which actually teaches 'proper' Catholic lessons as everything is ultimately based around the Government's plan of what all children should learn, which is in the main; secular nonsense.
However, Anna, you live in Israel in an Orthodox Jewish community (I assume, unless I have misunderstood your blog). Therefore, are there not any good Orthodox schools near you for your girls? Homeschooling always seems to me to be the preserve of those who have no religious alternatives, and/or who fear the Government's crazy new ideas for children's 'learning'. Maybe I'm being naive, but Israel seems on the whole to be much more traditional and religious across communities, than the UK.
My comments aren't designed to be judgemental or critical of homeschoolers at all, just interested to know about how things work regarding religious education where you are...

Anonymous said...

I see proof of that in how many children come back to school so changed, so grown, so much advanced in different areas at the end of a summer's holidays - much more than a simple interval of two months would make reasonable.

. . .love that quote up there! :)

Love your blog :)
Have a wonderful school year


Tracey said...

I've homeschooled all 5 of my children. 3 are finished and in college, two left still homeschooling. In all those years I discovered that there are too many options so I stopped shopping around and switching, supplementing and tweaking. picked and stuck with ONE program. It's best to know your goals for your kids, know yourself and your limitations, and find a program and stick with it.

Mrs. Anna T said...


Time is really short right now, but I do have to say I believe that homeschooling is not just a choice for those who have no "good" schools; basically, I believe that schools have inherent faults in *being* schools. No matter how good a school is, its main goal is still to herd children for a large portion of a day, while keeping them in a more-or-less good, complacent temper, and prevent them from injuring each other.

Gothelittle Rose said...

Anon, my first and primary reason for homeschooling my children is because they are borderline ADHD, and I don't want them to end up in a special ed program or being pushed onto medication.

There are good Christian schools in my area, but I can't afford them after paying my taxes to support the public schools where I can't send my kids. Even so, I'm not convinced that they would do as well in that type of school structure, even if the values are Christian.

Basically, religion is not a primary consideration for me.

I am not alone: In the most recent survey of U.S. homeschoolers, only 36% cited religious or moral instruction as their most important reason for homeschooling.

Annie said...

I am so happy to hear you are unschooling too! My older daughter has tried many types of school structures. None fit hr ( and the whole family) so well as unschooling.Even the more open, responsive school she attended that was highly sought after still had the drawbacks you mentioned in your response to anon. In short, it was still a school, with the problems inherent in that.

Anonymous said...


Time is really short right now, but I do have to say I believe that homeschooling is not just a choice for those who have no "good" schools; basically, I believe that schools have inherent faults in *being* schools. No matter how good a school is, its main goal is still to herd children for a large portion of a day, while keeping them in a more-or-less good, complacent temper, and prevent them from injuring each other.

Thank you for replying, despite your time constriants.
I pick up the impression from your comment that you don't like schools, just because they are schools - I don't see what is wrong with what you suggested; ie herding children and keeping them in a good temper, if they are at a religious school while learning their faith and around children from like-minded and religious families and teachers, then surely that's the perfect choice?...(A secular school is a different matter I think though.)...Especially as then you would have more time at home to do your chores and jobs.
Also keeping them to a time table during the day, when they are young and teaching them routine, is just how they will live as adults, in some way or form. By giving children total freedom at a young age, is that not setting them up for disappointment when they are older and married and have to live in the same way day in, day out?

Forgive any tone that might come across as critical here, it's not meant to, just interested. I suppose I don't understand keeping children at home if there are safe, religious schools.

Mrs. Anna T said...

Marie, I really believe you ought to read John Holt's books, "Teach Your Own" and "Instead Of Education". He explains it all so much better than I can, in the short time I have. If you are interested, drop me a line by email and I'll send you the PDF files of the books, or if you like, you can do an online search and find them yourself.

But, to add just a short word of my own, learning at home doesn't mean a total freedom and no routine. It simply means that valuable, precious time isn't wasted on discipline, such as reading out name lists or making children stand in line, or answering the same question 5 times in a row (because 5 children out of 30 weren't paying attention).