The world loves labels. It loves to fit people into tiny boxes. It loves to make people choose one thing and stick with it forever. Me? I’m not a fan of labels. I believe life is more fluid. People change. Situations change.
And that’s why I always hesitate to tell people our “home school style”, or really even that we home school! There is so much “us vs them” when it comes to school choice. You are either pro-home school and anti-public school or vice versa. And if you home school, you must fit into one of the categories.
Well. That’s just not me.
We home school. But since my daughter is only 5 and going into kindergarten and in Texas, kindergarten isn’t even required, it feels a little odd to even call it “home school”. Its just learning. Its the exact same thing we have done since the day she was born. Learn.
I’ll admit, I’m not a fan of the school building model. Lots of kids to one teacher. Planned lessons to fit a group, not an individual. Long days to ensure everyone learns everything. Set schedules that allow for very little flexibility. Yes, there are benefits like learning in a group and having access to good materials, but its just a little too rigid for me.
And maybe that comes from my own history. I was home schooled and never went to school. I remember switching curriculum because it wasn’t a good fit. I remember taking extra days off because the weather was nice and then doing school through the hot days of Texas summer. I remember jumping into topics I was obsessed with and using those to learn the basic subjects. I remember getting extra sleep on days that I needed it.
And so it is with that experience that I want to offer those freedoms to my daughter. I want her to have time to chase her passions and hobbies, without taking away from family time. I want her to learn in a way that best suits her and not what best suits 30 children. I want to learn with her as we explore our great big world.
And that’s why we home school. And if you ask me my type, I’ll tell you that we “lean unschooling” because that’s the best description I can give.
Unschooling may feel like a weird match for a Type A mom like myself. Its so loose and wild and free. And while sometimes that is hard for me to fit into my little boxes, I do it because I feel its the best way for a young child to learn.
True “unschooling” (if there is such a thing) has no curriculum, no schedule, no plan. Ours looks a little more structured. We are using a simple but complete reading program to teach her to read, I have some math flash cards and I do have a “plan” written out – now how well we will stick to that plan is left to be seen!
But we’ll also lean heavily on library books and nature walks. She’ll learn the majority of her math in the kitchen baking brownies or counting school buses on the way to the store (we counted 21 today!) She’ll learn science when she catches a frog then asks if they lay eggs and we do a quick online search to look up the life cycle of a frog. (Bonus if we check out a library book on it!)
She’ll learn history when we read a biography of a president or stories of ancient egypt. She’ll learn civics when its an election year and we talk about the voting process. She’ll learn health when we go to the grocery store and discuss each of the vegetables we’re buying and how they help our bodies.
She’ll learn spelling with the magnet letters on the fridge or when she wants to write a letter to a friend and asks me how to spell each word. She’ll learn about extracurricular things on the many field trips we will take this year with our home school group.
But she will also learn how to sit still when we have “school time” each day. She’ll learn the value of getting up and getting ready for the day when I wake her up at the same time each day. She practices working together as a group when her friends come over to play and they create elaborate games together.
So “Unschool”, “Charlotte Mason”, “Waldorf”, “Montessori”, “Unit Studies”, whatever label you want to apply to home school setups, those labels don’t really work here. We take whatever works in our current situation, and that might change next year, next month, next week. We might do something entirely different when her sister is school age and I imagine we’ll do things more structured as we get to older grades. Some home schooled kids even make the decision to attend high school in public school.
There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to schooling your child. Even as much as I don’t care for the school building model, there are some kids that do well with it, and some kids that don’t learn well from their parents. And of course there are also a variety of private or alternative schools available also. The most important thing is that the child is supported and loved and in an environment that encourages learning.
For us, right now, that is this model. For you, that may be different. And those differences make the world a wonderful place.