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
One of the biggest benefits of homeschooling is having the freedom to tailor your child’s education to meet their needs, and, indeed, it is often talked about in homeschooling circles. Yet the idea of doing this may seem a bit abstract to those new to, or thinking about, homeschooling, so today I’m going to discuss how we implement this into our family.
By now most parents have heard about learning styles, such as audio, visual, and kinesthetic learning, and while knowing these styles is certainly useful in planning your homeschool path, I find it’s much easier and less intimidating just to get to know your children, observe how they like to do things, and, most importantly, get their input.
My three teenagers are largely independent in their school activities now, so I take their opinions on how they would like to approach things very seriously. All three of them like to learn in very different ways, so my hope is that these illustrations will paint a clear picture for you on what “tailoring education” actually means in practice.
My oldest daughter is 17 and undertakes life in a very straightforward, no-nonsense way. She likes to do what has to be done quickly and efficiently and doesn’t like to mess around with what she considers to be non-essentials. Because of this, the main framework of her curriculum is textbook-driven. She will be using textbooks/workbooks for grammar, consumer math, psychology, chemistry, and a combination of workbooks and Rosetta Stone for Japanese. Since she will finish the psychology book early because she started it this past year, and since we couldn’t find textbooks she liked for her remaining subjects, she will use a combination of library books and living books that we purchased for the rest. (writing, physics, and quantum physics)
My son is 16, and he is active and very fidgety. Because of this, we’ve come up with a combination of to-the-point textbooks, hands-on activities, visual media, and outdoor exploration for his educational path. He will be using the same grammar book as his older sister because the lessons only take 5-10 minutes a day, which is perfect for a kid like him. For his algebra, we found a no-frills algebra program that is accompanied by online tutorials for every single lesson. Since he is also very visual, the mixture of the videos and the cut-to-the-chase lessons is a great fit for him. He will focus on military history by way of videos/documentaries and historical fiction, and will combine his love of nature and photography by honing his skills in wildlife photography in frequent trips to local creeks and fields. He will supplement this with a science textbook three times a week and hands-on experiments twice a week.
My second oldest daughter is 14. She loves to read, so practically her entire curriculum will be living book-related. She has opted out of using the grammar book that her older siblings have chosen and has instead decided upon a language arts series with a storyline(Please note: The link refers to this series as middle school when it is, in fact, for high school.). Her pre-algebra and algebra books are by the same author and are also literature-based. Although she will be utilizing the library for the brunt of her history and science requirements, the nice thing about her pre-algebra books is that one of them incorporates biology (she’s almost finished with this one) and the other ties in economics, so even if she can’t find anything she likes, these subjects are covered.
As you can see, even without bringing my other children into the equation, my three teens represent vastly different learning preferences from one another. While some people may assume this would be stress-inducing, I actually find so much enjoyment in collaborating with my kids and working out what our new year is going to look like. It is this freedom and flexibility that allows our children to get the learning experience they need and deserve.
So remember, there’s no need to give your kids the Myers-Briggs test to see how you should approach their education. 🙂 All you need to do is get to know them, observe how they do things, and, most importantly, ask them for their opinion. With this simple formula, there’s no telling where your homeschool year may take you!
A common theme among homeschoolers is, “Don’t be a slave to your curriculum!” The translation is: use your curriculum as a resource; you are not obligated to finish every last page. The key to a successful homeschool is flexibility. I’ve been thinking about this the last few days, and I think this theme can be added to labels, as well.
What do I mean by labels? In this case, I’m referring to differentiating between homeschoolers by their method- traditional, classical, eclectic, unschoolers. You get the picture. As with curriculum, this can be useful. Just as so eloquently stated by Sue Elvis on her blog,
“Labels are difficult. When they are used to separate people by excluding them (you’re not like us so you don’t belong), I hate them. But they can be good when they lead us to like-minded people who can support and encourage us. We sometimes need some reassurance we aren’t alone. When we were ‘doing our own thing’, I often felt alone and actually never talked about how we were homeschooling in case we were criticised. So saying all of that, even when we have adopted a certain label, this doesn’t mean we all have to be exactly the same…”
There is a time and a reason for these distinctions, but do not let yourself be bound by them! I think sometimes we can fall into the trap of defining our homeschool by these labels, and in doing so we can outright ban certain methods of learning because they don’t fit in with what those nifty handbooks say about our approach.
“We’re unschoolers, so we don’t ever use textbooks. We won’t even touch them.”
“Use a television show as a learning resource? No, thank you. They wouldn’t do that in school.”
“You want to read what??? But Charlotte Mason said that there’s no value in twaddle!”
Do you see what I’m getting at? I don’t see anything wrong with any of these homeschooling methods. In fact, I’ve probably used most of them. They all have value in their own way. My problem is with the inflexibility that can come from an attempt to follow each and every “rule” defining these man-made categories.
I, myself, have perpetrated this kind of mentality because I was trying to fall neatly within the “unschooling” parameter. But then one day I realized that I was more interested in “following the rules” than I was in what my kids were actually doing.
As Sue commented, it is helpful to designate which group your homeschool most looks like because that is where you’ll find camaraderie and your main source of information for inspiration, but it should not be the only place you search for ideas and friendship. As an unschooler, I read homeschooling blogs of every nature; I truly find ingenuity in each and every kind, and sometimes I take ideas from these blogs and incorporate them into our day.
So, as a self-proclaimed unschooler, and in keeping with the nature of this post, I’m going to confess to some (or all- how much time do you have?) of the un-unschoolish things that go on in our house.
– I require my kids to read everyday at a designated time, so that it gets done.
– I read aloud to the children at a designated time everyday, so that it gets done.
– I choose the read-aloud books based on things that I think might interest my children, but they would never pursue on their own. I also incorporate a lot of historical fiction/non-fiction because my children aren’t big history buffs.
– My children have a math curriculum, which we try to work on everyday.
– I’ve started a family newsletter, for which I’ve asked for a submission from every child.
– I’ve assigned “jobs” for the newsletter, such as: proofreader, senior editor, copy editor, photo editor, layout designer, etc.
Some unschoolers may well gasp at the amount of structure in our day, but that’s okay. We don’t need to all look the same; in fact, I don’t think we would even if we tried to. So when you go about your homeschooling day, remember that these methods aren’t set in stone. Be flexible. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. I promise you, your homeschool will thrive because of it.
Confession time! What do you think about homeschooling labels?