Welcome my Tenacious Homeschoolers!
Today, I’m going to be addressing something that I always tell people they don’t need to worry about. Still, people worry about it all the time. I see a lot of comments both on the subject matter on the Facebook groups and on my homeschool pages, and that is, “Which homeschool philosophy should I follow?”
My answer is always the same, “Whichever one fits your family.”
But everybody wants to find out what the most common philosophies are.
When we start, myself included, most people start by doing regular school at home. It means that we pattern ourselves a lot by our own experiences in traditional education and our children’s experience. We use lots of textbooks. We do a lot of testing. It’s our launching pad. Most of us don’t stay there.
In our case, in our family, we always have a classroom. Not necessarily because we’re going to stick with the traditional methods, but because I have a child with ADHD in the moderate to severe range (more severe than moderate) who’s very hyperactive. She functions better at a desk. Now, we often have comfortable chairs in the classroom as well, and we’ve had some fabulous classrooms cause we’ve lived in all kinds of different homes. So, we’ve always adjusted a little bit to her needs because she needs to feel that space, where she feels calmer, or where she can focus. Does what she’s supposed to do. I’m noticing that my five-year-old Bug feels the same way. You know, he needs that space that says, “It’s school time. I need to focus. I need to get started. I have to get my work done, then I can go out and play.”
My two other daughters are not like that, but thankfully they’re very flexible. They understand that their sister and brother need a classroom. So, everybody’s totally cool with it; that’s what works for our family. So that aspect of a traditional textbook-type situation, we’ve retained it because it works for our family.
Now, I’ve seen a lot of debate on Facebook groups about whether “Homeschooling online is really homeschooling.” Yes! It is. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. That’s the beautiful thing about homeschooling. You can do it however it works best for your family. And there are different types of online homeschooling; there’s the kind where the kids go and see a video, and they have to do assignments that they have to turn in. There are kinds of homeschooling online where there’s an actual teacher teaching in real-time. There are online homeschools where you can go at your own pace. There are other ones where you have to follow a specific schedule. And frankly, if you have the money, some really excellent programs that some traditional universities are putting up for homeschoolers, especially when they get to high school. Just absolutely fabulous programs that give your children many opportunities and exposure to different teaching styles.
Now, I have to be honest with you, I’ve explored them, but my kids aren’t starting high school until next year. In fact, I have three starting high school at the same time. The twins, and my beautiful adopted daughter, who is now taller than me. Can you believe this? They’re thirteen at the same time, and yup, that means they’re starting high school at the same time. And they’re going to leave me at the same time. It’s heartbreaking. Good thing I have Bug. But the bottom line is, there are a plethora of many, many online programs to choose from. But back to philosophies!
Thee Moore Foundation. Now, the Moore’s are considered sort of like the grandparents of homeschooling. They were there at the beginning of the movement, and they provide a lot of support for homeschoolers. When they’re young, the kids have a lot more freedom—that doesn’t mean that they’re left to their own devices, but they have a lot more flexibility than they would in a traditional classroom.
Then there’s the Waldorf Homeschooling Program, where subjects are not separated. They’re integrated, and I’ve used part of this system, for example, Narnia. My kids loved Narnia when they were younger. And out of a Narnia book, we would do vocabulary. We would do literature. We would do composition. We would do history because the first two novels are during World War II. So, we would include everything.
There was another book that we used to like that too. The kids really enjoyed it. It was called Counting the Stars. So, we’ve taken a little bit of that program and incorporated it into our homeschooling. But we don’t fully embrace it because not all of it works for us. We just take what does work for us.
Definitely, the Waldorf Homeschooling system emphasizes more experience in the early years than book learning. And if that works for your family, that could be something you could explore or consider.
The Charlotte Mason method is about creating living groups, keeping journals of your explorations and science, and creating poetry. It is what I have found from the parents that do it. They said it’s a more relaxed method. It didn’t work for us because of Andy’s ADHD. She’s always gravitated towards more structure. But just as suggested, we did introduce music, the theater very early on. So, you know, we took a little bit of that method as well.
Unit Studies is also very popular among homeschool families, and there have been times when we do this. More than anything, in science. I don’t like textbooks that teach a little bit of this science and a little bit of that science, and a little bit of that because what I’ve found out was that my kids wouldn’t retain the information as well. So, when we do science, we focus on one thing. That was it. Like birds, or we focus on mammals, or we focus on chemistry, or we focus on astronomy. We really delve into it as much as required and as much as the kids were interested. If they were really interested in the subject, we would explore it in a lot more in-depth. If they were not interested in it, we did what we thought was required for that subject, but then we would move on to the next subject. And the kids really have enjoyed doing science on a unit-type basis.
The thing about Unit Studies is that it also makes it easier to teach kids at different levels. You could be teaching the same unit but expect different levels of progression, have different projects or assignments for the kids based on their grade level (if you choose to do grade-level—some homeschoolers don’t choose to do grade levels).
Classical homeschooling? There’s a fantastic program out there called “Classical Conversation.” I really love some components of Classical Conversation. We’ve done some memory work. It really helped with their grammar. But not everything was for us. They divide homeschooling into three different stages: The grammar stage, the logic stage, and the rhetoric stage. So, they go through this process where the kids memorize, and they start applying things. One of the things that I really like in the brief time that we did the program was that the Classical Conversations community did a lot of public speaking. None of my kids have any type of problem getting in front of an audience and speaking. Now they’re big surly teenagers, but that’s another story.
Unschooling. As you might have learned from in a previous episode. I was unschooled for a couple of years. While I don’t feel that I benefited greatly, I also don’t discount all the experiences that I had, which were generally positive. I just felt like academically, it really held me back. And that’s something that can be confusing about unschooling. Some people feel that unschooling is primarily a child-led homeschool type of system. Then there are some more radical unschoolers like my parents who literally do nothing except whatever the child wants to do. And in my case, it was nothing. I wanted to play. That’s what I wanted to do for two and a half years. I was fortunate, and I did learn many good things from my grandmother, but that was purely by accident, not by design.
I have seen unschooling done very successfully in our communities here in Florida, our homeschool communities. But it’s not something that my family’s comfortable with. So, we certainly have not incorporated any of those elements into our homeschooling approach.
As you might have been able to tell by now, I’m an eclectic homeschooler. Until I found out that there was an actual term for the type of homeschooling that I do, I called myself “The Cannibal.” I would just take a little piece from here and a little piece from over there. I would cannibalize all of these other philosophies or systems. I would take what I thought was best for me, for my family, for my kids. For me, the most important components of homeschooling are: adapt, be willing to improvise, and thrive. The rest is not relevant. It’s just really not relevant. Don’t get caught up in the philosophy.
I love the Montessori system, and I incorporated some Montessori experiences early on in our homeschool journey. But when it didn’t work for my kids anymore, I pitched it. I was not married to it. My commitment is to my children, not to philosophy. I wished somebody would have told me that at the beginning, because at the beginning I definitely wanted to do school at home. People were like, “If that’s what you’re comfortable with, that’s what you should do. You should just go with it and create the school at your home.”
There were two problems. One is I overbought into the system, both curriculum, furniture, time, energy. But you know what? Down the line, it didn’t even work. So, back to what I said, adapt, improvise, and thrive. Bring into your homeschool philosophy what works for you and your family at that time, and always be willing to explore other ideas. Be ready to know that just because something worked right for a family doesn’t mean that it’s going to work great for yours. Don’t get caught up in this thing where people go, “This is the best program ever. This is the way to do it. This is what you should be doing.” The bottom line is that it might now work for your kids and might not work for your family.
Be flexible. I really wished somebody would’ve told me that. I feel like that first year when I was homeschooling, I was too rigid. I really thought there was only one way my kids were going to learn—if we did things the way I had been taught, the traditional way. But I’ve been successful exploring Classical Conversation, the Montessori Method, the Waldorf method. At different stages, different things have worked for us.
Keep in mind, more than anything else, that theory is one thing, and practice is another. And this brings me to one of the best quotes I’ve ever heard, which was, “I knew I was a great parent until God gave me three children.”
We all think that we know how to do things until we are actually doing them. And remember to be kind to yourself and to be kind to your children. You are learning and exploring as much as they are.
So, theory is one thing, practice is another. Whatever works for your family, whatever helps your children advance and excel (and by excel, I mean, meet their goals and be happy), that’s what you go with. That’s what this is all about.
More than anything I would say to you, relax. Just relax. Breathe. You’ve got this. You’ve totally got this! The most difficult part about homeschooling is getting out of your own way. If you relax, you’ll accomplish that, and before you know it, you’ll be an old pro helping someone else in their homeschool journey.
Hey, if you know somebody else who might need some help in their homeschool journey, please share my podcast. Let them know that they can find us on our blog or on YouTube. We can all use some help in this crazy journey that is homeschooling.
Just remember, life can be overwhelming. Homeschooling doesn’t have to be. Join us in our sometimes challenging, always exciting homeschool journey by subscribing to our podcast, blog, or YouTube channel. For links and resources, please visit our website. Till next time! Enjoy your kiddos!