I’ve been asked this question more than once about our family homeschool, and when I think about it, it almost makes me want to giggle. And I might if I didn’t understand exactly where the question comes from. For those naysayers that are simply being less than supportive, I usually give a short and simple answer. But for those that truly want to know, the question is an honest one, and I know it comes from a heart that is actually searching for honest answers.
Before we even dive into what homeschooling is like, I want to say that it is not the same for every homeschooling family and every homeschool family can look different each school year. In fact, I would say that it’s not even the same for any two homeschoolers, because every family, every child, every parent, is incredibly different. And if there are special needs or gifted children involved, it will look even more different. So, doing what’s best for your family is really the only way to succeed. With this in mind, take my words as a basic view, and then when you decide to embark on the journey for yourself, be willing to take whatever side roads and detours you have to in order to make it work.
What Homeschool is NOT Like
We’ve all seen the memes on Facebook that take a topic and show different pictures, with titles for each that read, “This is what my mom thinks I do,” “This is what the public thinks I do,” (substituting other words for “mom” or “public” depending on the topic), and finally, “This is what I really do”. Well, I feel like nothing could be more on point for what it's like to homeschool.
Some people could think homeschooling families simply use homeschooling as an excuse to do nothing all day. They could imagine the kids living their days in pajamas with unkempt hair, barefoot, and not able to form sentences when spoken to by “outsiders” while imagining that their parents own an off-grid homestead stocked with canned goods and firearms. And there may be those that are like that.
But for the most part, that doesn’t at all accurately represent the majority of homeschool students or those who choose home education for them.
Others might portray homeschool as a super-religious practice, with parents and children alike being cult-like in nature. It’s true that some Christian families prefer to separate from the public school setting to teach a Biblical worldview and because the moral decay has become simply unbelievable in the public school systems. As Christians, we cannot support those things we know to be in blatant disregard of those Biblical standards we seek to uphold, lest our children should become indoctrinated with these atrocities.
As Christians, one of our most important jobs as parents is to protect our children and teach them the right way. However, the cultish behavior we are often accused of rarely exists.
As in any segment of society, there will be those that go against the grain to do their own thing but, as a rule, it is patently unfair to portray homeschoolers as those who are uneducated and unaware of the movement seem to think we are.
Homeschooling is also not always “schooling at home”. Homeschool families often find themselves traveling extensively, whether near or far. This is also one of the reasons that the naysayer’s cries about unsocialized homeschool children are null and void. In fact, in my own home, my own daughter was far more the conversationalist, even as an introvert, than I was on many of our outings.
Homeschooled children find extensive avenues for “school” throughout their neighborhood, their community, their state, and their country. Some families travel so much that they have to register their homeschool in their home state. So, thinking that homeschooled children are shut-ins is simply not true.
Different Kinds of Homeschools
To find out what homeschool is really like, you’d have to talk with many of the different kinds of homeschoolers. Whereas there are some very specific homeschool teaching styles, it really boils down to two main classes of homeschool programs: traditional homeschoolers and unschoolers.
Traditional homeschoolers put a great deal of emphasis on specific subjects, career tracks, and electives and prefer to award grades for almost all the work their children do. Unschoolers choose to utilize child-led learning and often pass a child through subjects based on mastery and not a grade scale by grade level, necessarily.
An average homeschool day looks very different for each family, depending on the type of teaching style you use. Some educators keep a strict schedule, work from prepackaged homeschool curriculum sets, use online school and online courses as resources, and use an award system at the end of the day for all accomplished lessons. Other educators allow things to flow from one topic to another, with parents overseeing the mastery level as the children progress.
Some families start early in the day, and others get a later start. Some families homeschool on a schedule that is very much like a public-school schedule, and others homeschool year-round. Special needs families “appear” to be moving too slow, and those with gifted learners may look like they’re moving too fast.
What About Co-ops and Special Interest Groups?
When your homeschooling family takes part in a homeschool co-op or homeschool support group, your days take on another level of depth. In a co-op, there are extended avenues for learning including group classes, field trips, electives, and even sports. Private, special interest groups can do the same thing but are usually smaller and more focused on one subject or activity.
Camps can fall into this category, too, and often give parents a bit of respite while offering the child an opportunity to expand their horizons, learn about other places, and deepen their personal faith. Be sure to talk to other families who have utilized camps, to make sure you’re connecting with the right ones, based on your beliefs and desired outcome.
Things Aren’t Perfect in Any Homeschool
If you’re thinking about homeschooling, be prepared for some things to go awry from time to time. Curriculum choices can be far less than what you expected, you may have planned too much or too little into your “perfect homeschool day”, or you might have things come up at the last minute that throws your day into a complete tailspin. There’s also a chance that your job, extended family commitments, and church activities can quickly lead to an overwhelming feeling. And, believe it or not, there's not even a best homeschool curriculum, so don't expect that you'll find one. (What's best depends on each family!)
Trust that these things do happen, but also, know that you don't have to be governed by them. I think if you go into homeschooling with the understanding that it’s not a fairy tale, you’ll be a lot better off when things unexpectedly happen. The truth is you may not get everything done every day. Especially if your homeschool teaching style includes preplanning lesson plans, printing out resources prior to class, or grading homework. The most important thing to understand when these things happen is that it’s okay. These things happen to all of us, and that’s why it’s so important to seek out support in some form or another.
In Closing, What Does It All Mean?
The big takeaway from this article should be, most of all, that you’re not in this alone. Knowing that your homeschool day looks very different from someone else’s homeschool day doesn’t mean anything more than this: you are doing this for your children, not theirs.
So, of the thousands of homeschool families that are out there right now, many of them are struggling, many of them are figuring out their rhythm, and many are willing to mentor others and help them along. You can find them all at a Great Homeschool Convention near you.
With dozens of amazing speakers, hundreds of informational workshops, and an excellent assortment of curriculum and resource vendors, you’re sure to find out even more about what homeschooling is really like. Plan to attend one near you in 2020. You can find out more, like which cities are host to these conventions, which hotels offer great packages and discounts, and what exciting events you’ll be able to see, by visiting the Great Homeschool Conventions website, HERE.