I spoke with newbie homeschooling mums this week, and they had three main questions about homeschooling:
- What do you do for curriculum?
- Aren’t you overwhelmed or worried that you’re not teaching your children enough?
- Is homeschooling teenagers hard?
Truth is, I’m a newbie too. We’ve only been school-free for a few years.
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. That’s what we’re all on the planet for. Life. Learning is a natural by-product.
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 a word that was made up by a university, in the 17th century. Hardly a be all and end all
Formal school sets children’s agenda for them. 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 that my children choose their own daily activities, and engage with them fully. Or not. As they wish.
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, we’re assessed on our homeschooling annually. I have to prove that I do cover mainstream curriculum areas. Ridiculous, right? We’re legally assessed by the institution we’ve legally chosen not to be a part of.
We’ve passed our review visits with flying colours so far. Phew.
The first year, I wrote the list of the curriculum subjects we have to follow in our state. Under each, I explained how our daily lives and the children’s self-chosen activities give the learning outcomes that the government feel are required.
Maths, for example. We cook, shop and budget. During 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. If my son adds up wrong, his body goes wrong. My children also use an online maths program, and Life of Fred, from time to time.
I listed everything, under every curriculum heading, and presented it to our assessor. Wallah! Pass.
We’ve changed tact now. When the reviews come around and the assessors visit, we show them what we’ve made, read, done, drawn or written. We’ve passed. Maybe they’re just thankful not to have to endure my enormous, ten-paged list, again?
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, facilitate them in their daily quests. People learn. It’s what they do. It’s what childhood, adulthood, and old age are all about.
Remember, school is pretty new to the human experience. Learning isn’t. You don’t have to require a human to learn. It’s a pretty ridiculous thing to try and regulate or measure, when you think about it.
2. Aren’t you overwhelmed?
And I was especially overwhelmed when I tried to follow everyone else’s idea of how to live school-free. When I tried to choose between the different approaches to homeschooling.
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; even unschooling, which is what we’re about, 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.”
We’re not letting people know though, actually. We don’t classify. We don’t want to—it’s too overwhelming. We’re not homeschool, Montessori, Natural Learning or Charlotte Mason. We’re us. Us is a far less exhausting thing to be.
Yes, I’m overwhelmed. 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 Deal with Overwhelm?
By self-talk. Reminding myself of this:
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.
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. (Aka: I know how to drive a Thomas the Tank Engine toy train set.
But honestly, being mama was more difficult then, when he was younger and in school. His character changed from the person I knew him to be. My happy, inspired, vibrant firstborn became sullen and uninspired. Withdrawn.
Nowadays he doesn’t have to 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… relax. You’re on your path.
Like I said, I’ve only been homeschooling a few years, so I’m still a newbie too. I hope my humble thoughts help you in some small way.
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.