Ask any homeschooler what one of the biggest advantages of homeschooling is, and flexibility is sure to have made the cut. To a new or prospective homeschool parent, this notion may seem fanciful but is probably a bit vague, as well. Since it is always my hope to encourage “newbies,” I’ve compiled a list of…
20 Easy Ways to Use That Flexibility to Your Advantage
#1- Combining different age groups for multi-level learning
#2- Combining subject areas
Again, just because schools do things a certain way doesn’t mean it’s the best way. In fact, the idea of separating subjects really doesn’t make much sense at all. Just as we do not separate life into subjects, homeschooling does not have to, either. If your child is reading a biography of Thomas Edison and notebooking through it, that alone would cover science, history, and writing. Combining subjects is one of the biggest time savers you’ll find!
#3- Choosing not to classify activities as particular subjects at all
Taking #2 one step further, many homeschooling parents do not plan their lessons by subject at all. I’m one of them. If you would look in my planner for my elementary and middle school age kids, you won’t see one single heading for science, social studies, art, music, health, etc. Since we combine our activities with unit studies, we simply continue learning about the topic at hand. Does that mean we’re not covering those areas? Not at all. They’re actually covered abundantly. I’m just not stressing myself out over “fitting it all in.”
#4- Choosing what time of day to homeschool
Because school starts first thing in the morning, non-homeschoolers often assume that all homeschoolers do the same. Not so. A good many do, of course, but just as many homeschool throughout the day on a schedule that fits their lifestyles. If your child is a night owl, take advantage of it and let them learn when they are alert. My teenagers often do their work when I’m fast asleep. I have no problem with that as long as they’re getting it done.
#5- Choosing what part of the calendar year to homeschool
Homeschool isn’t confined to the traditional school calendar. As with everything else, it is entirely up to each individual family. In our house alone, we operate on two separate schedules- a year round schedule with my younger kids and a more traditional year with the teens. Click here for a great description of all the possibilities your homeschool year can look like.
#6- The opportunity for impromptu “days off”
Life happens- even for homeschoolers. One of the great things for us, however, is that learning doesn’t have to stop on the occasion that school is postponed for the day. Last week we took the day off so I could run my mom to the doctor. Did it mean they didn’t do anything? Only if you think reading, making paper dolls, painting, and making a board game aren’t educational. 🙂
#7- Unschooling days
Some days just seem to have so many other interesting things going on that nothing in the lesson plan ever gets accomplished. That’s okay, because learning and life are inseparable. If you feel like taking a walk and end up collecting leaves, only to bring them home and glue together a giant tree mural while drinking hot chocolate and baking pumpkin bread, that’s a great example of an unschooling day.
#8- Movie days
Movie days are one of our favorite treats. Every month we take one day off of school to watch the movie version of whatever read-aloud we finished. Last month we read Peter Pan and then watched the Disney version, which is very different from the book, but come on. Who can resist that crocodile? 🙂 Last Monday we watched Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone after finishing the book. What a great way to start the school week!
#9- Park days
Let’s face it, a great many homeschoolers completely avoid parks and playgrounds in the summer and take full advantage of them during the school year. And, yes, park days count as schools days, too!
#10- Choosing a curriculum
Judging by the masses that attend curriculum fairs, this is a big deal in the homeschool community, and rightly so. While traditional schools must use the curriculum chosen for them, homeschooling families can take into account their interests, their learning styles, and their beliefs when making this decision. And better, yet… they can also choose to drop it if it’s not working and move on.
#11- Choosing whether to use a curriculum at all
Using a curriculum is not mandatory when it come to educating at home. Countless families write their own, rely entirely on the library, or simply use whatever life throws at them. Ingenuity is an asset to homeschooling- and to your wallet!
#12- Library days
Library days are yet another great way to add some variety to your homeschool. We visit ours at least once a week, and remember, libraries aren’t just for finding books. They are one of the greatest tools in a homeschooler’s belt.
#13- Choosing where to homeschool
Pinterest boards may be swarming with beautiful photos of homeschool rooms, but I’m going to let you in on a little secret…we don’t all have one, and even if we do, we don’t all use them. Currently, our main homeschool room is our dining room, but even when we did have an actual room set aside for this purpose, we ended up doing almost everything in the dining room, anyway. Besides that, we homeschool in the living room, the kitchen, the backyard, the creek, the bedrooms, the library, the park,…well, you get the picture.
#14- Deciding how long to spend on homeschool activities
Although most homeschoolers consider everything we do a form of learning, we do still usually have certain things we do everyday as our actual “homeschool time.” Don’t be fooled by the six hours a day kids spend in schools- they’re not learning for most of that time, anyway. As such, the vast majority of homeschoolers spend far less than that on their scheduled lessons. Some people may spend as little as an hour or two while others may get close to that 6 hour mark. The point is, only you know what works best for your family.
#15- Following interests
Since most homeschoolers spend much less time on their school work than their peers, it only makes sense that they’ll have much more time to spend following their interests. Additionally, those interests can be easily integrated into their actual homeschool curriculum. It’s a win-win situation.
#16- Following rabbit trails or other “distractions”
As I mentioned before, life happens, but in homeschooling we can take full advantage of that. Last summer we had to postpone our lessons because the kids found a fledgling in the yard. They spent the day researching what to do, watching it, feeding it, and protecting it from the neighbor’s cat. 😉 Don’t get irritated with distractions- embrace them!
#17- Deciding whether to test and give grades
Believe it or not, not all homeschoolers are required to do this. My kids must be tested in 3rd, 5th, and 8th grades for the state. Other than that, the only “tests” we do are weekly spelling tests which we only do because the kids enjoy them. I also don’t give out grades. Other homeschoolers feel differently. Again, this choice is entirely up to us.
#18- Allowing children to develop at their own pace
This is a biggie. Schools have their reasons for expecting all children to be the same, but at home we can grant our kids the gift of letting them flourish at the rate they need to. The only timeline homeschooled children need to worry about is their own.
#19- Counting everyday as a school day
Most states have regulations regarding the days or hours homeschool students must spend “doing school,” and a lot of homeschoolers count their school days to the tee to comply, but really, if your child is awake they’re learning. Everyday is a school day. No counting necessary.
#20- Taking the day off for birthdays
What “holiday” is more important to a child than their own birthday? Forget the lessons for the day and watch some movies, pop some popcorn, and fit in a math lesson while you bake a cake. Homeschooling should be fun!
I’ve really just reached the tip of the iceberg here, but, seeing as this post is already really long, I’ll stop here. Taking advantage of the flexibility that accompanies the homeschool lifestyle is key in enjoying a peaceful and joyful journey.
How do you take advantage of the flexibility that comes with homeschooling?