This question has changed the last couple of years. It used to be – “What are you using for math?” or “What company do you order from?” “Do you have a used homeschool book store in your town?” Now my number one question asked is – “What program do you go through to homeschool?” The answer they are expecting is K12 or Oregon Connections. Maybe an accredited program through ABeka or such.
You know that moment in the conversation when you’ve replied wrong? I can see their eyes shift to disinterest when I reply that we use an eclectic approach, using the best product we can find to fit a goal. They are looking for a School at Home program. If we are in a message or email – the conversation immediately stops. “Thank You” is the last line. If we are in person, defensiveness turns on. “That works for you and your boys because you are good at homeschooling. I could never do that. I need the program or my student won’t do the work.” Or a variation of that stream of thought.
I really don’t want my student to continue in a public school setting.
I need K12 so that it will be free.
I need an umbrella school for accountability.
I need to not be personally involved because I have to work.
I need my student to be completely self directed.
I need to not be involved at all because I don’t know what I’m doing.
Those are all valid needs and important decision guiding reasons. Taking your child out of public school is a massive emotional financial decision. It doesn’t only effect your student, but his peers, your in laws, your parents, their cousins, your local school staff. Everyone seems to take it personal when you homeschool. Folks want a reason – they want to know who or what was at fault and why you want to go to such extreme measures instead of just joining the system like everyone else.
So when I answer – I love the freedom of homeschooling. I love being with my boys and their friends every day. I don’t mind driving an older car and living off of one income. My American Dream right now is to raise to boys. They have so many interests and passions that they don’t want to spend time in a school building all day long.
Those personal passions drive our goal planning. And not one company or packaged curriculum matches up.
My boys are at different learning levels. They get excited about different periods of history throughout the year. Their curiosity drives them around many topics in science. They investigate different cultures and countries based on what they’ve read or seen on videos. They find need to hone a skill based on their hobbies and opportunities in town. They have never ceased to ask questions as if they were toddlers asking why all day long. I’ve never answered – Not Now, we have to do ABC Company Curriculum and then, maybe Saturday, if you have time, you can look it up. My answer has always been, “I don’t know, Let’s Look it Up.”
We also use Goal boards. We just created one this month to help us map out the end of winter and spring. Using a large 22”x18” poster board we write out several words, It is meant to look forward. Be intentional. Jon’s may have words like Surfing, Wrestling, Friends, Learn, Music, and Trips. Then he does a balloon type of an exercise of pin pointing what he is lacking, and what he wants to do about it.
When they were younger, we’d jump in and study those subjects. Now, as the boys are older, the topics are not longer on the discovery level, but on advancing in study of a familiar topic. As I see documentaries, books, programs, etc – I’ll hook him up. We’ll let folks know in the community by asking questions around town, and then following leads. We’ve met quite a few amazing mentors that way. Spending an hour in a garage, craft shop or on a couch or beach bench chatting.
We have subject goals, especially now in High School. Each Subject has a yearly goal and we work a little bit each day reaching it. We have online and hard copy resources to help us both learn. I have seen and experienced that a solid transcript is valuable. Building this documentation each week/month/year really has helped other opportunities.
So what program are we on? We aren’t. It is an independent learning plan. For each of my sons, now, with college in mind. Pretty sure we’d never do Algebra 1 or US History from a book if we were real unschoolers. Ha.
Long are the days that folks asked – what style of homeschooler are you? I’d still start with Relaxed Charlotte Mason, Notebooking, Unschooler/Delight Directed, Project Driven. Always looking to learn through life experiences and living books – and living people. Goal oriented yet flexible. Ready to change direction in the day based on what the Lord puts in our path. Prayerful over every day, with a huge portion of prayer on the weekends when I lesson plan.
Many of the products I review here – we continue to incorporate into our learning. The Crew is really responding to only giving us products that we will want to use, that fit a goal, as we volunteer to use it 3-4 days a week. Some products, we continue to buy for the next year, like from Excellence in Writing, Math U See, Notgrass, Doorposts, The 101 Series, etc. I have a room full of curriculum that needs a serious cleaning out.
My hope, is that when folks think that there is a need or desire to pull away from government funded public education – that they will come to find out that stepping out of the brick and mortar isn’t all there is to homeschooling. Having Uncle Sam mail you a ton of curriculum with a strict guide on how and when it should be completed, in my opinion, for 99% of the folks I’ve met – is much worse, educational wise. Sometimes kids need a semester break, and k12 is great for that. Especially if you are in high school and need the credits to continue.
However, if you are Pre-K through 8th grade – and want a different life experience for your child, enough to pull them out of the main stream, I wish courage on you. To really honestly pull out. To rethink how learning can look in your home with your specific set of circumstances. Think outside of the box for your short and long term learning goals. Yes, browse the ‘what your child needs to know’ books, but don’t use them as educational law.
Encouraging your child to be a life long self directed learner – is pure gold. Have a question? Look it up. Still yearning for more? Go further/deeper. Don’t understand the book? Find someone actually doing it. Research how others have done it. Look to other countries to see how they look at it differently, or the same. Play with music and languages and art every day. Move your body. Find an organized sport, or develop skills on your own or with a personal coach. Many folks would love to mentor kids, if they knew who really wanted their help. Walk into situations with Joy and Trusting folks more than fear and anxiety led interactions. In fact – try as hard as you can to toss out fear and anxiety.
Freedom. That’s our High School Homeschool Program.