Homeschooling is a thought running through a lot of minds right now. With so many questions (still!) about what traditional schools will look like in a few weeks when they open, many parents are seeking alternatives. We all want what's best for our kids, but what exactly is that right now?!
I'm not here to sell you on homeschooling because I am not a sales person - the pay is terrible. But I thought I'd share a little about our journey to the decision to homeschool & what our homeschool looks like. I'm just hoping it's helpful!
I am an unlikely homeschool mom. But, then again, maybe that's not completely true. Teaching had always been a dream of mine, a game we would play as sisters, a job I saw myself loving forever. When I fell in love with English in high school, I was convinced that I would be happy to do nothing but teach grammar & literature for the rest of my days. I headed off to college & soaked up every little bit of my English education degree. (Well, maybe a few of the classes were not so fun - I'm talking about you, Instructional Technology!) When I finally got the chance to have my own classroom, though, my heart was torn. It just so happened that I became a first-time mom with a brand-new baby just a month before the school year started. When it came time to sign my contract for the next school year, Tyler & I had to make a big decision. We knew that God wanted us to make the sacrifices necessary for me to stay home with our little guy.
When that little baby turned 5 & was ready to head to kindergarten, my husband & I had to make another big decision. Where would he go to school? I wasn't against public schools, having done all of my practicums & student teaching in public schools. But for a variety of reasons, we decided against that. Our church has a school attached to it, but we couldn't afford that on one income. So, it looked like I was going to put my education degree to work in a completely different way - becoming a homeschool mom.
I had been homeschooled for a few years in elementary school, so I wasn't unfamiliar with the way to do things. And with my education background, I was confident I would be up to the task. Then, I started researching curriculum. And I immediately realized that I had no idea where to start!
Luckily, I had a friend who had been homeschooling for a few years already. She took me to a homeschool fair. I thought it would be overwhelming, but it actually was so very helpful. It was at that fair that I heard about Charlotte Mason (yep, in four years of education classes, she never came up) & curriculum that centered on her philosophy. Her emphasis on living books & liberal arts & nature were super interesting to me. So, I started researching & found a kindergarten curriculum to get us started.
When first grade rolled around, I stumbled across (more like God put it in my path for me to stumble across) AmblesideOnline which is a free curriculum that has been curated by veteran homeschoolers. They base as much as possible on books that are in the public domain, so we don't even have to buy all that many books (which is perfect for any minimal homeschoolers out there). I've loved it. Not every book has been a favorite. Some are a real struggle. But the overall richness of the education & support of the community is something that has made it easy & exciting to do.
I'm going to level with you - I have not read every single volume of Ms. Mason's educational tomes, so I am not the person to ask for any in-depth insight into her philosphies. We also do not get to every single thing that she emphasized (sorry, handicrafts!) or every book on the AO list. And our math curriculum is decidedly traditional. BUT we are always trying to add in more (like drawing & nature journaling & folk songs this year).
There are many people doing CM homeschooling a lot better than we are. And I encourage you to look for those bloggers & Instagram accounts if you are interested in learning more. But I would also caution you against trying to do it all at one time or trying to copy someone else's style to a "T" because it will quickly discourage you. Some people have been at this for a lot longer or have a lot more money or a lot more space. Some moms are so artistic & creative. Others look like models & you wonder how they are always dressed so well in their Instagram stories when you haven't even managed to finish a cup of coffee.
I've discovered that I'm OK with not being the perfect CM homeschooler. There are so many other philosophies like Montessori, Waldorf, Classical, Unschooling. I've found that it's good to take a few ideas from here & there. And I also enjoy getting ideas from books like The Brave Learner by Julie Bogart or The Read Aloud Revival by Sarah McKenzie. And I've learned that each year looks different. Schedules change, babies give up morning naps, toddlers want to "do school" with their older siblings. Flexibility has been key. We'll stick with the "-ish" for as long as we need it.
In the US, we are blessed with choices when it comes to our child's education. Even with the global pandemic, we parents have SO MANY choices. Home or classroom, public or private, virtual or in-person, hold them back or hire a tutor. And if you choose, like we have, to homeschool, you have a whole new set of choices - philosophy, curriculum, umbrella groups, co-ops, clubs & classes, testing, portfolio reviews, scheduling, legal protection, etc. It can all be so overwhelming & anxiety-inducing.
I'm here to remind you that God is still in the business of guiding our paths (Psalms 23:3; 119:105; Proverbs 3:6 - and so many others) & giving us wisdom (Proverbs 2:6; James 1:5 - and so many others). We don't have to decide as a reaction against something else or decide in fear & doubt. We can confidently tap into His wisdom & guidance. I look back at those times of decision for our family & see how God was in it all, even though I didn't see it at the time. I am so thankful that He doesn't leave us to muddle through this life alone.
I'm praying for you as you walk through those decisions. I know they're not always easy & straightforward. I pray that as you make those same decisions that you are letting God lead you & that you are sensitive to His guidance. That you are trusting & obeying Him. That you are resting in His promises.
I hope that was helpful to those of you who might be considering wading into the homeschool waters. I hope it gave some peace to homeschooling moms who are trying to do it all. I hope it gave some insight for the sake of understanding the homeschool families you know. I hope it confirmed for some of you who know homeschooling isn't for you & just needed a little boost as you send your kid into the classroom!
Thanks for hanging with me through my little BACK-TO-SCHOOL series. We're all trying to do what's best for our kids. Let's make this year the best yet for their sake!
Enter your email to join the list and be among the first to hear about new shop items, special offers and blog posts.