We haven’t officially started our school year yet in this house. But the local school district has started, and as a result, we’ve had what’s called our “NOT Back to School Party” in our homeschooling group. We get together on the first day of public school and basically celebrate the fact that we’re not tied to that schedule, and that our kids have more freedom than do their public school counterparts.
This year, I happened to get involved in a discussion with some of the other parents regarding curriculum: how long we’ve been homeschooling, what we use, how we use it, what we spend on it, etc.
I’ve been homeschooling for what will be 3 years this coming January. We started mid-school year because the way things happened, I simply did not feel I could finish out the school year with my kids in the environment they were in. In that 3 years, I’ve done it several different ways.
I thought it was just me. As you know, my kids both have ADHD. While I most blame my ex for that affliction, I think it’s safe to say that I, too, am sometimes distracted by shiny objects. lol I tend to be easily distracted, and to find that the organization method I thought would work, doesn’t. I try to make things as easy as possible, only to discover that it leaves me with too many questions and not enough organization. So then I go to the other extreme and try to organize things down to the minutest detail – but then that ends up being too complicated and difficult to live with on a daily basis, so it gets shoved aside.
But after talking with these other parents, I learned that I’m not the only one that does this. Apparently, it’s actually quite common, and even normal, to change things up pretty regularly. Eventually, most families do finally settle on something that works for them, but it usually does take a few years of trial and error before you hit on that sweet spot.
It’s also reassuring to hear the huge variety of ways that families do their homeschooling. In our group alone, we have families that unschool, ones (like us) who are eclectic, and others who spend hundreds (or even thousands, depending on how many children they have) on complete curriculum, or on subject specific ones.
We’ve gone with the eclectic route for a multitude of reasons. One being – it’s cheap. No, really, it is! I don’t pay for a curriculum, so I don’ t have that expense. My expenses are limited to pretty basic supplies: project supplies (construction paper, crayons, markers, paints, etc.), pencils, paper (notebook and printer, as well as a few others), printer ink and that’s about it.
Another reason is that I don’t get locked in to something. If I paid for a curriculum, I’d feel obligated to use it – even if it obviously didn’t work for us. Which would make me no different than the public school – trying to force my kids into a box to learn that clearly doesn’t benefit them. So I avoid putting myself in that situation by not buying a curriculum.
I also like the flexibility of this. As I mentioned with the curriculum, I don’t want to be locked in. By being eclectic, I can cherry pick what we use. I can trash what doesn’t work, and keep using what does. I can pull from multiple resources, putting together lesson plans and work loads for my kids that I would never find in a curriculum, but that will definitely work for them. I can also do things in the order that works best for us. Some skills need to build on others, sure. You have to add before you can multiply, multiply before you can divide, etc. But not everything has to build like that. Showing my kids a video of what happens when you wring out a soaked washcloth in space doesn’t need to build on something else, but if I’m following a specific science curriculum, I’ll feel like I have to show them the video and then get back to the study of light or whatever it is that our curriculum is currently covering. But by being eclectic, I can show them the video, and then we can spend the day exploring the whys and hows of what we watched, and get back to the study of light or whatever it is tomorrow – or next week, even.
Eclecticism also allows us to pull from various other methods. Unschooling isn’t something I see myself being completely comfortable with. But I can draw from it and allow my children to decide what they wish to learn about some things while also directing their studies in those areas that I feel there’s something specific and important that they need to learn. I can use a trip to Legoland to cover an introduction to a short list of different science topics, while also having a fun day – and counting as PE, geography (following the map to get to Legoland, and following the map to find out way around the park), money management (tallying up how much the tickets, the gas, the food, etc. cost and understanding that Mom has X amount of money and because we’ve spent $Y on the trip, we can’t afford to buy________.) and whatever else I can mange to make work.
Public school serves a purpose. It’s good for those who need it, whether because you don’t want to homeschool or can’t. But homeschooling is truly what’s best for my family, mainly because of the variety and the freedom that it allows us. My children learn more now that we have the flexibility to determine that something isn’t working and to change it so that it does work. They learn more because now we know their learning style and I can tailor their lessons to that style so that it actually sticks.
I think this year I’ve also finally hit on that sweet spot, too. It’s well organized, but flexible and easy enough to use that I think I just might be able to stick with it. We’ll see once we start!