Our family looks very different to the next, we have different needs and have different interests. I am also not saying that this is for everyone because its not. Nor am I saying that I am anti-education or anti-anyone that sends their kids to school. I am simply say we have chosen the path that is right for us.
I had never heard of home schooling until I met my mother-in-law. I came from your normal everyday family, went to school when I was five and finished at the age of 18 with a 'B' Bursary and went of to complete a Bachelor of Nursing in the three years following high school. (Looking back now and knowing what I know now I would have LOVED to have been homeschooled.) When I met my husband I obviously met my in-laws who were home schooling their kids at the time. Honestly I thought they were nuts. Actually I distinctly remember thinking "Who would ruin their kids education by keeping them at home!" Fast forward to having children of our own and building our own philosophy around children, birth and family life I began to be drawn to the concept. We did however send our first child, then second and third to school. It wasn't until our third child was five and a half that we felt that homeschooling was where we were being led to. After talking with a squillion home school families I gingerly applied for exemptions from the Ministry of Education and began the long wait. They were granted for all three just in time for the beginning of the school year. And so our home school journey officially begun with my children being 9, 7, 5 along with a 3 and 18mth old. I will be honest....all of a sudden it felt incredibly over whelming.
I should note in here that our decision to head this way (for us) seemed like a natural extension of our parenting style. It was NOTHING to do with the school in fact the boys were attending a great local integrated Christian school. This was entirely about our family. When I try to explain this to people I usually end up with "Our family felt so different, functioned better during the school holidays and weekend than we did in the school term".
One of the biggest mistakes I made was trying to bring 'school' into the home. I became the teacher not the mother and I failed miserably. The boys responding unfavorably and I remember feeling really discouraged and like I had failed in the first few weeks. I soon recognised about what I was doing and stopped all traditional school work for a time (this is a term that homeschoolers refer to as de-schooling). My two oldest had been in school long enough to groan at the mention of any bookwork so instead we played games, did activities, baked, cooked, gardened and went on outings. Generally hung out on "purpose" and enjoyed being a family.
So what do we actually do? Thinking about what we do now, a whole 6 years later we have definitely formed our own way of doing things after having change tack a number of times along the way to suit the season we are in and what is going on in our family life. We have had to make allowances for sickness, a surgery, 2 more babies, a job loss, pro-longed unemployment, study and moving in that time. I think those times were both made harder and easier by the fact that we were home schooling but one thing definitely made a difference for our kids was the stability that being at home.
We use a mixture of concepts for our way of home schooling. We use the NZ curriculum for Maths and English, gleaned ideas from the science curriculum. Use unit studies i.e like the moon, caves, earthquakes etc and feather out each topic until the kids lose interest or it starts to go in another direction. For example when we did the moon we did moon poems, what the moon is made up of, moon art, learnt about the man on the moon, dabbled into space and space travel, what part does the moon play in our lives and so on.
|Kids bake goodies and sold them at the gate. I really had to get over the embarrassment factor when they did this. They made over $30 that day!|
We have also often used books as a base to learn from. One that comes to mind was a book called "The Rag Coat" by Lauren Mills. From this we learnt about quilting and had a go at it, looked at coal, coal mining and its history in NZ. We looked at the Appalachian Mountains and its people. We looked at the effects of poverty and how people can help others in the smallest way.
When we started I was petrified about having to teach the kids how to read. Seeing I am not a teacher in the traditional sense but I think we are doing ok with it. I am aware my ten year old is probably on the same level as her 8 year old sister but she is slowing improving. In fact she isn't all the keen on traditional book work and would much rather do art, create, bake and cook and do gymnastics. The library has a great selections of readers for kids so we are never short of books for them to learn from.
|Opportunities for experiences and education present themselves everywhere...even on holiday!|
My 16 year old is just recently stopped home schooling under my supervision and has enrolled with Te Kura which is the national correspondence school. His goal is that next year he will enrol with BCITO (Building and Carpentry Industry Training Organisation) to start his apprenticeship, so for now he is just making sure there are no gaps in his English and Maths. Being schooled at home certainly gives him the time to be available for different work experiences inside traditional school hours. I am not sure yet where my 14 year old will head yet.....for now I think he would be quite happy being a food critic. Where he can make money from eating food and telling people about it. He is such a foodie!
|Winter Art - gotta love Pinterest!|
One of the things that has helped me the most is to know the love languages of each of the kids and also how they learn best. I would be lost at how to reach them if I didn't know these things about each of them, plus it also helps me be a better parent.
My little ones (4 and 2) hang around and do their own thing while we are doing 'school'. I use the word school loosely as learning is happening all the time, all day every day. Yes we have formal book work time but its for such a short period of time. The littlies paint, do play doh, help who ever is baking or just play with their toys. Often one of the big kids will take them for a walk to town if I send them on an errand that's needed to be done. If they are actually bored and getting into things I'll run them a bath!
|Hatching ducklings was one of the coolest thing we have done!|
The biggest concerns that people have it whether or not their kids will be social enough....I just need to say that my kids are VERY social. They are not stuck at home with no friends by any means. they play soccer (my 16 year old plays for the local college team even), they go to youth group, rally, gymnastics, choir etc. They go to movies, the gym with their friends, have sleep overs and go to birthday parties. I don't think they have missed out on much by being schooled at home. They can interact with other cultures, ages and people groups well just by going to church, at the supermarket or just generally coming along with us if we are out and about. I run a not-for-profit community organisation that helps out new mums in need. They have been with me and watch it grow from the small beginnings to where it is now, a very busy and much needed organisation. They have helped cooked meals for mums, delivered meals, and bundles of clothes, helped sort and fold clothes that have been donated and been a part of the organisation of two fundraising fun walks.
Don't underestimate Google or YouTube either....while we need to tread with caution, they are both a world of information and learning. One of my kids taught himself how to skin a rabbit just by watching YouTube clips. He set the tablet up outside and played and paused the video clip as he was skinning the rabbit that he shot. To me thats priceless!
|Sleeping outside under a tarp one summers night - even Dad was there!|
Do I get it right all the time? Definitely not! I have tried to introduce unit studies or concepts of interest and its failed miserably. I could battle with my 12 year old about English nearly every day if I wasn't carefully. My kids still fight with each other and still moan about jobs and things that are less than desirable. We disagree with how much technology they should be allowed and getting my bigger kids out of bed in the mornings is always a challenge. We still have the struggles that most families have to some degree...we are not the Brady Bunch or the family from the Sound of Music. My kids are just normal kids, they act like normal kids and they certainly look like normal kids. They aren't immune to fads either....half of them have a fidget spinner! I do not know everything. I have weaknesses including grammar (if you haven't noticed) but I have made Google, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram and Blogs my friend for inspiration, encouragement and ideas.
|Finding different natural dyes and trying them out...tumeric works best.|
Some of the challenges would be having to be really proactive at making space for me. Being around ones kids 24/7 can be tough some weeks. People asking me what year they are in because I really don't know. It takes me a good few minutes to think about it. Strangers giving me their opinion about the choice I have made. And for us...the prolonged period of unemployment after a sudden job loss. We lived on the benefit and then student loan for nearly four years. But because we held onto our choice to home educate our kids we sacrifice and worked hard to keep our lifestyle in which we successfully made it through. Also moving from the country where we had space (and no neighbors) to living in town and with five neighbors! Its been an adjustment for us all including the lowering of the kids noise and the learning of 'inside voices and outside in town voices'. The adjustment of having very little outside space has been a challenge too.
|Kaitlyn then four wanting to make a 'Bumble bee pie' after reading about one in a book. Fortunately there is such thing as a Bumble Pie|
There is much much more I could write here....but I hope this is enough for you to gain some insight into a home schooling family and 'how it is done' and maybe even some idea about why families choose to do it. Like I said its not for everyone but its for us. I hope this doesn't read like its too glamorous because at times its jolly hard work. Some days I think I need my head read. There is a lot of planning and you have to be open to saying 'yes' more and going where your kids are leading you. I have to make friends with mess and chaos at times because reality is that there is 9 of us living in this house. But I look at my kids and the relationship they have with us and with each other and I know that it is certainly the best decision we have ever made.
This photo is nearly two years old now...we don't even live in this house anymore! Really should get another family portrait done soon.