Homeschooling: It's Not What You Think

It’s almost inevitable.  I reveal to a fellow mom that we homeschool, and 9 times out of 10 they say, “Oh . . . I could never do that” or “I couldn’t be around my kids all day” or “I’d never have the patience.”  Typically, I smile and shrug.  Sometimes I give the headline synopsis, “Homeschooling really isn’t what you think it is, so it’s not all that bad.”  They smile and shift the topic to something else.

Internally, I sigh a little and wish I could show them a snapshot of our days.  Of course, it’s hard for them to imagine because they have no frame of reference.  To a homeschool newbie, we say homeschool and they picture 9-4, sitting in cute little desks in front of a dry erase board, suffering through lectures and workbooks and tests and art projects.

When I say homeschool, I picture the following (which just happens to be our typical day).

I am woken by my 4-year-old crawling into my bed with a big smile and a one-word question, “snuggles?”

After quality snuggle time, Chimp heads upstairs to wake up his older brother, while I get his sister off on the public school bus.

I make my coffee and breakfast while helping Chimp make his own breakfast.  Cub wanders bleary-eyed downstairs, looks at his notebook which contains his daily list of chores, learning tasks, and scheduled activities, like play practice.  He then sets about working on his chores.

At some point I say, “Ok.  15 minutes ‘til Together Time, gather everything you need.”

Then, my absolute favorite part of every homeschool day.  Together Time!  The person whose together time it is, opens our day with a prayer, then we meditate together, learn a new song together, and I read a chapter or two while the kiddos engage in some sort of quiet play (legos, sorting Magic cards, just sitting, matchbox cars, superheroes, coloring, so long as it’s quiet and not hurting anyone, I don’t care!).  Somedays, in the middle of the really good read aloud books, my kids will chant, “Keep reading!  Keep reading!  Keep reading!”  And so . . . I do!  We might break for a coffee and hot chocolate refill, but we generally read until we want to stop. 

After a quick pickup of the toys, one of us leads our last Together Time activity.  Each of us has a day when we choose a 15-20 minute (sometimes longer) activity that doesn’t involve screens and has some sort of learning or creativity or physical action involved.  It is pure delight to see what my kids come up with.  We’ve wrestled, played Hangman complete with prizes, played various tabletop games, cooked, danced, colored, had scavenger hunts, oh so much goodness! 

After together time I alternate some one-on-one time with the boys and their individualized learning tasks.  I insist on a curriculum for Math, but other than that, I talk to each boy about what they want to learn, and I gather the stuff that will help them learn that.  History generally involves documentaries, reading, fun projects.  Science is all about experimentation.  Japanese is completely independent thanks to good software.  Flute practice sometimes involves playing duet with mom playing piano.  Life skills include meal planning, cooking, cleaning, shopping, budgeting, being included in daily life.  Writing is a combination of handwriting practice (by Cub’s request) and some coaching and revising of original work, as well as time for simple free writing.  PreK is games and projects of Chimp’s choosing – we continue to be on a concoction-making cooking extravaganza lately!

During lunch, we take turns spinning the globe, landing on a random country, and youtubing traditional and modern music from that country.

After lunch is quiet time and/or wrap up of learning or chores.

And so, you can see, that it looks nothing like “school”.  We are generally draped lazily over our living room furniture, sitting on our porch, or running around.  The actual instruction time required of me is less than an hour a day.  It is relaxed.  It is relationship-centered.  It is learning and engagement rich.  And I love it.

So, when someone tells me they could never homeschool, I picture the smiles and giggles and common jokes that we share daily.  I picture the kids cuddled up under blankets as they meditate with me.  I picture the hugs spontaneously shared between siblings as their relationship grows deeper and deeper.  I picture the moments of shared learning as I become student and my kids teach me, and when we’re learning something new together.  I picture Chimp with his chocolate smudged cheeks as he proudly presents his self-inspired concoction of marshmallows, chocolate frosting, and graham crackers.  I picture the shine of enlightenment as a new topic clicks into place in my boy’s brain.  I picture the hour long conversation my oldest and I had that began with a book, traveled through theology, history, sexism, racism, activism, politics, evolution, tolerance, and ended with a hug.  So, fair enough if you think you could never do that . . . I could never imagine my life without it.