This fall, as public schools struggle with COVID-19, more families than ever before are turning towards homeschooling. From the abundance of stressed-out homeschooling memes circulating the internet, you may feel nervous if you’ve chosen this path for your family. But as someone who was homeschooled for eight years, I can confidently say that you have plenty to look forward to.
My school-year memories aren’t marked with frazzled parents, wine-glasses, or weepy breakdowns. Rather, I remember calm mornings at the dining table, working through the day’s assignments, creating elaborate (and fully-costumed) stories in the backyard with my three siblings after lunch, competing with my older brother in fiction writing and even learning the ins and outs of running a small bookmark-making business.
This isn’t to say that it was a cake-walk. My mom struggled to navigate state record-keeping requirements. We endured our share of awkward social encounters, from harmless peers joking that we were too bookish, to police officers stopping us because we were outside playing instead of in school.
But despite those obstacles, I can still say that homeschooling provides plenty to be excited about. If you’ve chosen homeschooling for the first time this year, here are a few things you can look forward to.
More freedom for your children to pursue and develop their interests
One of the benefits of homeschooling is that your children have more freedom to explore their interests. My mom supplied us with plenty of structure — at one point, we even had desks and a chalkboard! But she also made room for us to pursue our passions, as long as we had first completed the essentials.
For my sister, that meant learning cooking from Martha Stewart’s TV show. I read obsessively and wrote short stories while my younger brother designed time-period military costumes out of cardboard. And when we got older, my older brother led us in an adventure of entrepreneurship. We spent our afternoons designing intricate book-markers and selling them to our neighbors for pocket money.
Something to try: Take half an hour one night to make a list of your children’s interests. How can you incorporate their interests into your learning plan the next week?
An opportunity to explore topics off the beaten path
In addition to focusing on the core subjects, homeschooling provides an opportunity to go off the beaten path. You’re free to explore new topics and perhaps discover new learning styles.
For example, my mom once arranged a “field trip” to our local airport so we could learn more about airplanes and air travel. When I thought I wanted to be a veterinarian, she organized a visit to the one down the street so I could watch him work. I explored how to read a map and problem-solve from several months traveling the country in an RV. One year, my mom used the Little House on the Prairie books and curriculum to guide our learning. This involved creating fun outfits, churning our own butter for Thanksgiving dinner, and discovering plenty about resilience and hard work from Wilder’s fascinating stories.
Something to try: Initiate a family conversation about interesting topics your children would like to study. Perhaps this conversation will inspire some creative projects or field trip ideas!
Flexibility to adapt teaching to the learning style of each child
Every child learns differently. Homeschooling frees parents to create an educational experience that fits the learning style of each child. My parents had clear expectations for our schooling, but they also adjusted those expectations based on our strengths and interests. For example, while I loved books and worksheets, my sister preferred visual learning tools. My mom created lesson plans that fit our unique strengths and interests. She created an environment where we all felt challenged to learn but not pressured to do so in the same way as our siblings.
Something to try: Take note of interesting learning patterns you’ve seen in your children. What might it look like to engage with those patterns next week or next month?
Ultimately, our homeschooling experiences gave my siblings and me the opportunity to explore new topics, discover our interests and develop a love of learning. We discovered the essential principles of time management, personal responsibility and hard work. Perhaps most importantly, we saw how genuine learning is more than going to school and taking classes…it’s a lifelong adventure!