Saturday, 25 October 2014

Homeschooling: Making it your own

This post is mostly for myself as a reminder, although I do hope it brings some encouragement to others.  In light of some discussions I've been in recently I am now beginning to feel more confident in our homeschool style/method.  Do you ever struggle to explain homeschooling to others?  Don't quite fit in to one category?  For me it was a matter of just not getting hung up on labels, or what others were doing.

So here are some tips in no particular order.....
TJ decided he was going to build a waterfall


1. Read all about homeschooling (or not if you don't want to be overwhelmed or swayed). Now the trick is not to get overwhelmed.  If you like what you are doing then go with it.  If someone else's method isn't your thing, then put the book down and walk away.  I liked reading about my options because I felt more free to try new things, knowing there were others out there doing it too.

2. Don't compare your self to others.  Og those beautiful blogs that can totally inspire you, can also make you feel like you are doing it all wrong.  Please do remember that the person writing the blog or posting pictures is only presenting a small snipit of their day (the part they want you to see).  They didn't show the piles of laundry in the corner, or write about the fighting kids.  Your family is different from your neighbour.  Each child is different, so of course our way of homeshooling won't look the same.

3. Just do it. Live your life, start somewhere, try something.  If it works, then great and if not then you will learn from it and move on.  Close that Pintrest app and get doing rather than pinning, researching, reading, and stressing.

4. Believe in yourself.  You know your children best.  Everyone will have their opinion and give it to you.  Try to find some people who understand where you are coming from and fill your cup on occasion.  If you need a listening ear I'm here for you!!

5. Trust your children.  They are the ones learning (of course you'll be so surprised at all the new things you will learn on this adventure).  Follow their cues as to how they learn best, how fast or slowly to go.  If they have a particular interest then find time to work that in.  When children are interested and engaged then they can't help but to learn.  They get so excited and want to do more!  Learning how to learn is much more important that the facts and what they are learning.

6. Nurture yourself.  Take time for you.  What feeds your soul?  You can't give out more if you have nothing left to give.  Maybe there is something you'd like to learn, perhaps you have a hobby.  Maybe you just need a break, or social time.  Please don't feel guilty for taking care of your self.  I've fallen into that trap far too often.  But really then everyone is miserable.  You don't need to be a martyr, or selfish either.  There is a balance that needs to happen. Give yourself grace too.  Be patient as you are learning how to be a parent and teacher at each age and stage of the game.

7. There is a season for everything.  Just as nature has seasons, so to does parenting.  It is awfully hard to take those much needed breaks when your children are younger.  But then they don't need to be sitting in school all day at that age.  So get outside and let them play in the leaves/dirt/sand and just breath for a second.  Maybe right now you are carefully following a boxed curriculum to get started on this journey.  Go ahead and do that without needing to explain yourself.  There is a season for all things and they pass all to quickly.

Want the whole background and story of our journey???

MJ and his clock.  He's really into clock mechanics right now


When I first decided to look into homeschooling TJ was just a baby.  I got all excited and Googled homeschool blogs.  I made lap-books and flashcards for my little guy!  I was all set to do school-at-home.  I was a teacher at a private school after all.  Then I read some books and blogs that broadened my idea of what life at home could be.  I read all about the different teaching styles and educational methods out there (there are a lot by the way).  Some really spoke to me and others did not.  The beauty of homeschooling is that there are so many choices, as each of our children and families are so different from one another. I won't go into all the different styles and methods but I'm sure a quick internet search will fill you in.

My problem is that I'm an all or nothing kind of person.  I love to jump into an adventure wholeheartedly, but do tend to give up easily when things get tough or I get bored.  We are still going strong with homeschooling, however the way in which we do it, has changed over time.  I struggle with this, I sometimes feel like I'm giving up, or letting people down, breaking some unwritten rules or something...

The last few years we have been doing Waldorf preschool/kindegarten.  I have taken stories and ideas from a few different sources and brought them together.  The weekly rhythm we had going worked very well for our home daycare and my boys personality.  We had so much fun (you can read all about it on our old blog Raising Our Family).

This summer I had our Waldorf Grade 1 all planned out.  But a week into the fall it felt so forced.  The boys were doing things reluctantly.   I was stressing that we weren't on track, weren't Waldorf enough, maybe they were missing things the other school kids were doing. It felt like I was stuck in a box, someone else's box.
Daddy's helpers

We ran into some major house renos that needed to be done.  Daddy and I were very busy.  The boys played so well and helped us a lot too.  We spent time doing some small projects that they were interested in.  It was lovely, but in the back of my mind I kept feeling like we were supposed to be doing more.  There are no specific requirements here in Ontario, but I felt like I was being judged or had to keep up with others.

Late in the summer I had heard of project-based homeschooling.  A link showed up in my Facebook feed one day.  I was very intrigued and checked it out.  YES!  This is sort of what we were doing through I didn't have a name for it.   I tried to blend the two in a scheduled way.  Mornings for school, afternoons for projects.  Though this may work for many families, I again felt stuck in a box.

So being me, I gave up.  I decided unschooling might work well.  We'd just live each day, I'd try to lay out some interesting materials and we'd go with it.  The boys were still so engaged with their projects and it was clear that they were learning.  I wish I could have had the support, and brave spirit to stick with that too.  I worried too much that we were missing something important.

I felt stuck in the middle.  Like I wasn't really unschooling, and any time I did want to teach my boys something I was breaking those unspoken rules.  We weren't purely Waldorf either and I felt I was betraying all those friends I had made who were.  In my mind I was like some kind of homeschool hypocrte.  Crazy I know but pretty blogs and Facebook groups will do that to you.  I realize that my own blog posts seem to focus more on the boys projects than anything.  Mostly because I'm too busy to take pictures when I'm teaching.  Also their projects are far more interesting.

Well today it hit me.  I wasn't responsible to any one but my own family.  Our goal is to educate our boys in the best way possible for our family and for the boys as individuals.  It is no ones' business what curriculum/method we choose.  In fact no one really minds or is asking me.  It's all in my head!!
TJ on a special hike with mommy.  MJ had a playdate.


 I will not be placed in a box with a label.  

Want to know what we are doing?  Loving life and learning all the time.

Are you seriously interested in the details? ... My boys are so very curious about the world.  They are interested in many things and bring up topics or projects that they would like to work on.  So we do those.  In doing so they are also learning math, reading, writing, science, problem solving and much more.  I know overall what the Ontario Curriculum is for each grade.  I know what the Waldorf Curriculum is for each grade.  I bring these topics to my boys through different means.  What ever we happen to have available at the time that speaks to us (stories, books, outings, songs, computer, games, workbooks). I am well aware of the ins and outs of different methods, rhythms, and philosophies.   Our days are not overly structured.  I do have in mind some things I'd like us to do each day, but if we become engaged in something else, then I don't worry any more.  We do have a few anchor points each week that we look forward to.  Our learning is a mix of child-led and Teacher-led.
Watercolour painting with fall inspiration

If you'd like some labels I'd offer up Waldorf-inspired child-led whole life learners.  So yea it's much easier to drop the labels.  I have decided to take what I know and have researched and just do it!

Wow it's all so much less stressful that way.

Of course it sounds easy but does take a lot of confidence to do so.  Thanks to everyone who supports our family in this adventure.  Those who don't will have to agree to disagree with us.

You all will be seeing amazingly great things from us...

TJ wanted to make some stilts.  As a family we built some adjustable stilts that he is learning on his own to use.