Homeschooling has been on the rise this past year due firstly to the uncertainty caused because of a worldwide pandemic, and the things parents are seeing happening in classrooms during remote learning. The government run schools are overstepping their roles with the rise of "woke" culture. Changing the setting of instruction from the classroom to the kitchen table doesn’t mean the method of learning changes necessarily.
Whether due to indecision, insecurities, exhaustion, or just being unaware, there are still many obstacles to true freedom in homeschooling. These obstacles aren't the legal kind, the financial aspect, or even the question of who is qualified to teach their own children. (Spoiler: Everyone is qualified.) The obstacles that cause the most stumbles for homeschoolers are commonly centered on what homeschool parents need to unlearn.
Writer and futurist Alvin Toffler once famously said that “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” This incredibly profound insight is, quite fittingly, most accurate when applied to the field of home education.
to truly embrace and enjoy the freedom homeschooling offers,
to learn the optimal methods, and
to give our kids a superior education
We must be willing to unlearn the standards and expectations many of us were taught in the public school setting. We must being willing to brave the unknown.
1. Unlearn Teaching Methods
The most common mistakes that many homeschoolers make when they first start out is to attempt to replicate school at home with brightly-colored posters, student desks, or standing in front of a chalkboard, etc. We assume that homeschooling is just doing the same things that schools did just at home.
The reason this approach never works though, is because it assumes brick and mortar schools have it right to begin with. If they were doing it right, why are we homeschooling in the first place? The notion that students can only learn when seated at a desk, that a strict schedule must be followed, that a child needs a classroom or workbook or orator before them in order to learn is what we as parents need to unlearn.
Remembering that public schools were created to teach a specific set of standards to the largest amount of children possible, Regardless of the children's abilities, learning speed, or learning type. One begins to see how much of the way public school is carried out is due to the need to control the thoughts and bodies of the masses. At home, however anything goes.
Children don’t always need someone to teach them their lessons. They can learn from their books, from documentaries, from digging in the mud themselves.
Homeschoolers don’t always have to school at home. They can attend classes, tour museums, join groups, take lessons, or devote an entire semester to studying the compost pile in the backyard.
Curriculum doesn’t always have to be finished or even completed as outlined. Public schools do it all the time.
School can happen at all hours of the day or months of the year.
Your different aged kids can learn several subjects all together. Saving you time and your sanity.
2. Unlearn Timelines and Standards
When starting to think about your child’s educational career, it's easier to follow a familiar timeline. Preschool begins around the age of 3 or 4, and graduation is usually accomplished once your student has completed 13 years of schooling around age 18. While, there are those homeschooled prodigies who can graduate at age 14 or the unschoolers who don’t really begin any formal lessons until a child reaches double digits. Really though, the entire timeline we've always know is completely arbitrary.
Parents especially homeschooling parents are frequently found voicing their concerns over their child supposedly falling behind. The question however, that really needs answering is, what exactly are they in danger of falling behind. Who are these people that came up with these standards and the speed of which they are supposed to learn. I've never met them and I know they've never met my kid. So how could they possibly know how my child learns, how fast, or when will be best.
Public schools, are designed to be as one-size-fits-all as possible because of this they have strict timelines. They have deadlines and graduation dates set in stone; subjects or themes that must be learned by a specific date or else. The timeline that begins at 4 and ends at 18 is designed to announce completion, but not necessarily comprehension. There is no time to dive deep into a preferred topic, and if your child has any learning disabilities forget it, they are pulled behind the ship in their life jacket just trying not to drown.
This is where the benefit of homeschooling really comes into play. If your child loves learning or is a quick study you can homeschool year round, and complete more than one years worth of curriculum a year. However. if your child needs more time, there is no rule or consequence that states your child must be completely finished learning by the time they turn 18. If it takes two years to complete algebra 1, that’s fine. If graduation happens at 19, 20, or any other age, that’s totally fine.
The goal of education is supposed to be comprehension, not completion to meet a deadline.
There are several countries and culture that encourage a gap year between high school and college. Universities are always dotted with multi generational aged students returning to pursue their passions. The age at which your child begins or ends schooling is completely irrelevant, and the sooner you unlearn the timeline society has taught you, the freer you will find yourself to view schooling as an opportunity to grow, not a deadline to meet.
3. Unlearn What You’ve Learned
At some point in your homeschool journey, you’ll come face to face with something you thought you knew. Whether it’s an historic fact that is now perceived differently or a math hack you never learned, you will find yourself at a crossroads, deciding how to move on. These are opportunities to research and learn which fact is correct, and maybe discover a better way to do a old problem. To effectively educate you must be prepared to humble yourself and recognize that there is still more for you to learn… and just maybe things for you to unlearn.
Maybe you painstakingly selected a homeschool curriculum that you were passionate about, felt connected to, and thought was going to work perfectly for your kids. Only to discover 6 weeks in its awful and the root of all arguments in your household. Maybe the tension in your home is becoming unbearable because diagramming sentences is just not clicking and it’s taking weeks instead of days and neither of you see the benefit anymore. Maybe the history text you chose is so dry and boring none of you can hardly keep your eyes open. It's ok to throw it out and try something new. Use the experience as a learning tool for future choices.
Learning alongside your student forms bonds and connections much deeper than academic knowledge. Being open to learn, adapt, unlearn, and re-learn makes for an immersive educational environment, and honestly teaches you some pretty neat things along the way. I know I've learned so many things especially in math I wish I'd know.
Remember: You’re not homeschooling so that you can regurgitate everything you know, If you are like me it's likely there is a lot of things you've forgotten. You’re homeschooling so that your child can learn in the best way possible for them. So that means you’ll need to learn, too.
Homeschooling is not an all-or-nothing endeavor, a mantle you pick up and carry to the end without once pausing for breath. A homeschool journey is almost like the ocean, something where the tides are constantly changing.
If something isn’t working, you don’t have to do it.
If something is taking a little longer, slow the pace.
If something is rocking the foundation of what you thought learning was supposed to be, put the work into rebuilding it anew.
When you feel you are failing, take a step back and look at the bigger picture. You are doing better than you think
So lay down your education, unlearn, and start learning with your kids.
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