Confession: Even within the homeschooling community, there can be different “factions” – and some butting heads as a result.
You’d think just the fact that we homeschool would set us apart from what appears to be EVERYONE else, but oh no – from here it’s just a whole new world of soccer-mom style Hunger Games, unless you know how to get along with every one.
Beyond Bible-thumpers (or not), vaccine-haters (or not), special-needers (or not), we also have different schools of thought as to what “homeschooling should look like”. These go deeper than personal parenting styles or opinion – it’s practically our philosophy for learning!
Don’t let it scare you too much – I will help you understand where these different moms are coming from, using myself as an example of how I fail at these miserably.
1. The “unschooler”: It’s easy to think of an “unschooler” as a mom who refuses to do school work with her kids. The end result is this mental image of a kid watching TV all day while mom sips a glass of wine, while other homeschooling moms are like, “Aren’t you going to have little Johnny LEARN SOMETHING!!” The reality is, unschooling is super successful but super difficult to do. It’s passing on a textbook in exchange of real-life application of that subject, like when I have my kids prepare a recipe to work on fractions and chemistry INSTEAD of doing them on Khan Academy. You literally have to make an opportunity out of EVERYTHING and constantly inspire research, trial and error, and curiosity. As hard as I try, I’m not above throwing a workbook at my kid and having him do a few pages so I can peruse Facebook for fifteen minutes (a.k.a. take a nap).
2. The Charlotte Mason Schooler: Charlotte Mason was a brilliant educator of her time and I think every homeschooling mom should read a few of her books. She always held the premise that children could surpass any educational expectation if properly nourished. She advocated for reading, and read alouds. Not Dr. Seuss, no, but The Odyssey or Hamlet – she did not believe in “age appropriate” reading, but rather that language development and imagination could have any child comprehend literary classics. She was also big on imagination, public speaking, and nature. I have decided I want to be Charlotte Mason when I grow up! However with three children in different stages I am not as involved as this requires.
3. The Public School Equivalent Schooler: These are the moms that do public school curriculum at home. They basically work through workbooks, text books, and pre-set boxed materials from page 1 until it ends. They feel they have to prove their homeschooling worth by having their children meet or surpass their peers in public school. I started off this way because I didn’t know any better, and now I continue this way because my OCD does NOT allow me to reach the end of the year and leave a textbook unfinished. That drives me nuts!
4. The Pinteresty Schooler: You know the moms who have a craft or a science project for everything? Uuuuugh… I can’t even…
5. The Unit Study Schooler: These moms simply their lives by working on one subject at a time – and employing all other learning materials around that subject. For example, as we are participating in the Idita-READ and learning about the Iditarod, we may read books on the subject, paint Alaska inspired art, trim the dog’s nails, calculate average speed for mushers, and write opinion pieces for our favorite musher. Thus, for the whole week, we’re doing everything around this theme as long as it captures the kid’s attention; math, writing, reading, science, and history. This is where I’ve been leaning more lately, mainly because I haven’t planned a lesson in weeks and I’m just running with it.
All this to say, no homeschooling mom is perfect! We’re all crazy over our kids – there’s no competition! So the best way to approach these fierce moms as they do homeschooling life (and it seems odd to you) is to appreciate that there is in fact a method to their madness. It’s a beautiful thing to be able to pick and choose how we’re going to homeschool based on what is best for each kid and for this season, with the flexibility to adjust as we move along.