I spoke with newbie homeschooling mums this week, and they had three main questions about home education:
1. What do you do for curriculum?
2. Aren’t you overwhelmed or worried that you’re not teaching your children enough?
3. Is homeschooling teenagers hard?
We spoke for a couple of hours. Here’s a brief overview, in case you have these questions too:
1. What do you do for curriculum?
I trust that my children will learn what they need to, when they need to.
I do this by following their interests. Or more correctly, by letting them follow their own natural rhythms and approaches to life. Notice I said life, not learning, because learning is life. And vice versa.
My children are interested and engaged in their subjects because they are their subjects. They’ve chosen them.
That’s all a curriculum is—a set of subjects. It’s best if children choose their own. That way the learning is relevant to them, their life and their interests.
Formal school curriculum centres on academics. The subject list is pretty narrow and doesn’t cover everything a person actually needs to know in life. Who can say what any particular individual needs to learn in his or her own life anyway? We’re all different and have different tendencies, aptitudes and paths. Each individual is the best qualified to say what he or she needs to know. All they need is to be given space and support to learn.
The most thorough curriculum is a well-rounded life. All the best subjects crop up in life: joy, health, love, integrity, practical skills, creativity, language, spatial and numeric reasoning, art, history, philosophy, geography, and many more.
So, the way we do curriculum is to choose our own subjects, and engage with them fully.
Nitty gritty curriculum concerns.
The mums I spoke with wanted to know the nitty gritty of how I cover the traditional subject areas that are taught in schools. The truth is, I don’t try to. In Australia though, I’m assessed on my homeschooling annually, and I have to prove that I do cover mainstream curriculum areas. We’ve passed our review visits with flying colours so far. Phew.
I wrote the list of subjects, and under each explained how our daily lives and the children’s self-chosen activities give the learning outcomes that the government feel are required.
Take maths. We cook, shop and budget. Right now, we’re planning and designing our off-grid home. Earlier in the year, we made an itinerary for a family holiday with friends. We use times tables, measurement, estimation, time, addition, subtraction and division in daily life. We deal with auto-immune disease and every one of us uses maths hourly, as a matter of life or death for my firstborn child. My children also use an online maths program, and varied workbooks from time to time.
Keep notes of your daily life. You’ll be surprised how many subjects your children are engaged in.
As a school free mama, you don’t really have to do curriculum. Your children will have their own subjects they want to explore. Know where they’re at, help when they ask, offer opportunity for further exploration of their chosen subjects—I’ll write some more in-depth posts about curriculum soon, but that’s the short and accurate answer.
Remember, school is pretty new to the human experience. Learning isn’t. You don’t have to require a human to learn. It’s what we do.
2. Aren’t you overwhelmed?
I was. When I tried to follow everyone else’s idea of how to homeschool. When I tried to choose between methods of home education.
This was particularly overwhelming for me because my children had previously been schooled. My two children left school when they were in years 4 and 6. With any homeschool method we tried to follow, there was catching up to do. Gah!
I was one stressed mama trying to fit myself and my children into everyone else’s ideals. It gave me a good insight into how my children might have felt in school.
I let go of that particular overwhelm by saying no. “No, we don’t follow anyone else’s idea of school free life. We have our own: we’re still finding it at the moment. We’ll let you know.”
Well, we’re not letting people know. We don’t classify. We don’t want to—it’s too overwhelming. We’re not homeschool, unschool, Montessori, Natural Learning or Charlotte Mason. We’re us. Us is a far less exhausting thing to be.
Yes, I’m overwhelmed sometimes. Isn’t everyone?
But overwhelm usually flares up when I let go of trusting my children, and revert back to old habits of adding up their progress and trying to control their learning.
How do I limit overwhelm?
Here’s the thought that curbs overwhelm for me – and it relates back to the question about curriculum:
I’m not presenting my children with a pile of useless facts or busy work. By choosing to relax and let them go with their own flow, I’m allowing them to develop a deep, lifelong, love of learning. I’m allowing them to question status-quo, to know their own minds, and to have self-accountability.
That’s a pretty good skill set for life.
Please don’t think this means I relax all day and leave my children to it. Not at all. My youngest child wanted to learn to sew, so last week we took sewing workshops. Together. My oldest child’s interest piqued, so he took the classes too. We’re now sewing together with our new skill sets, at home.
The week before, we went to a day-long workshop to code robots, because we saw the activity advertised and thought it looked interesting.
My firstborn child watched a music show on telly and wanted to learn ukulele. She did, and she is. I taught her the basics. Youtube taught her the rest. She’s now better than I am at playing ukulele, and I’ve been learning a while. Let me tell you, she has a work ethic with that thing. She practises meticulously.
Yes, I’m busy sometimes.
I don’t leave my children alone. I’m with them 24/7 and I engage with them lots.
When we’re not busy or doing things that look like learning, we take down time. And I remind myself that’s okay. More than okay. Natural.
When overwhelm encroaches, I remind myself to relax.
My children are in their lives, not a learning race. There’s no need for me to do mama Olympics, either.
3. Is homeschooling teenagers hard?
No. My teenager is a beautiful human being. He’s autonomous, respectful and doesn’t ask to be entertained 24/7.
The things he needs help with can be a little more challenging than when he was younger.
But honestly, being mama was more difficult then, when he was in school. His character changed from the person I knew him to be. My happy, inspired, vibrant firstborn became sullen and uninspired.
Now, he isn’t schooled. He doesn’t bring negativity or disinterest home from a classroom.
He’s still witty, beautifully cynical, offbeat and affectionate. There’s no institution to teach him not to be.
I love being around this young person, and getting to know him as he grows into a young man. What a privilege. I couldn’t bear to hand this privilege over to an institution. Homeschooling my teen is awesome.
From one newbie school free mama, to another…
I’ve only been homeschooling a few years, so I’m still a newbie too.
If you’ve been asking questions about curriculum, overwhelm, and homeschooling older kids, I hope this post has helped you in some way.
Relax, you’re doing fine.
The feature image used in this post is by Pexels on pixabay. The chalk board photographs are from pixabay too, from geralt and Tero Vesalainen.