Shaking the assumptions of the “regular school” paradigm

regularschoolThe following is a post by contributor Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs. Darcy.

Last month the kids and I went to our first homeschool group. I was chatting with the other moms, just getting to know everyone a little better, when the conversation turned to foreign languages.

“Which language are you studying?” I asked.

She took a deep breath. “German, French, Russian, Mandarin, Japanese, Italian, Spanish.”

Her two girls, ages 10 and 6, were studying seven languages. Seven. 

I distinctly remembered the day several years ago, when Will and I debated whether the kids would take German or French. Jack wanted German, Sarah wanted French. Sarah changed her mind, and they’re still learning German. 

It had never occurred to me to do two. Or four. Or seven!

One of my favorite things about homeschooling is the freedom and flexibility to do what’s right for my kids’ learning styles, for their interests, for their passions:

• If one math curriculum isn’t working, we can ditch it and try another.

• If my child’s hand is exhausted from tightly gripping her pencil, we can do the work out loud, or on the white board.

• If my child wants to spend all afternoon writing her own newspaper, we can do that.

• If my child is fidgety, she can play with thinking putty during read-aloud time.

• If my single-minded child has a horrible time with transitions, we can do block scheduling.

• If my child is struggling to grasp an academic concept, we can choose to spend some extra time on it.

school schedule

Shaking assumptions and embracing flexibility

A huge part of our homeschooling journey has been to realize our job as homeschoolers is not to duplicate the “regular” school experience at home. We have the flexibility to do things differently, in order to give our kids a better experience and a customized education.

We’re not tied to any classroom’s “rules,” but it’s been hard for me to shake the assumptions of the school system paradigm. We’ve been homeschooling for nearly four years, but I’m still learning to embrace its inherent flexibility.

I’m not anti-school: there are plenty of things about our homeschool that are pretty much the same as the school we left behind. But I don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to do something worthwhile, and fun, and different, just because it never occurs to me we could do it that way.

My kids won’t be studying 7 languages this year. But we did ditch our math curriculum last month. We’re taking a few days off of “regular” school to focus on the Olympics. And we’re thinking about adding French.

Because we homeschool, and we can do that.

Have you struggled with shaking the “regular school” paradigm? How have you embraced the flexibility of homeschooling?

About Anne Bogel

Anne is a certified bookworm and homeschooling mom to 4 crazy kids. She loves Jane Austen, strong coffee, the social graces and social media. You can find her blogging at Modern Mrs Darcy.


  1. When I began homeschooling five years ago, I completely tried to recreate the school setting- school desks bought at a thrift store, huge chalkboard, educational posters all over the classroom, and, of course, my own children had to raise their hands when they wanted to answer a question. Needless to say, that didn’t work. Now we’re on the opposite end of the spectrum- unschooling. It’s been quite a change, but I see something in my kids that I never saw before. Passion. Even my 14 year old, who still uses textbooks by her own choice, has been inspired because she’s also been pursuing other interests like photography and taking art classes like never before. She even designed her own curriculum for next year- a Sherlock Holmes curriculum. Now how many “regular school” kids can do that?
    Shelly’s latest post: So What If We’re Socially Awkward?

    • Shelly,Would you be willing to share what your daughter has come up with for the Sherlock Holmes Curriculum? Next year my daughter is doing a Dr. Who curriculum (and I use the term curriculum lightly) that we came up with. She loves Sherlock too and I know she’d be interested. Next year will be the first year that we ditch 99% of the traditional school method and try a more relaxed and fun approach.

    • My daughter’s Sherlock Holmes curriculum consists of textbooks for psychology and logic and some living books for body language (kinesics). She’ll be reading the classic Sherlock Holmes for literature and will possibly write her own mystery. Her main science, astronomy through art, is unrelated but something she wanted to do. Her advanced algebra is also unrelated but is required for college. I hope this helps!

      • Heather-Lee says:

        Your daughter might want to look into statistics too, since at least in the newer versions knowing the probability of a given outcome is vital to how Sherlock approaches problems. A solid understanding of statistics is also incredibly valuable in countless careers, and really, in life! What a fun curriculum idea–I know I would have loved it dearly in high school.

  2. For me, shaking the thought of what I’m “supposed” to be doing has been the hardest part homeschooling. Hands down. We are in the middle of year 7 & we absolutely love it. When I’m feeling like my kiddos aren’t doing school like the majority of kids their age (or another hs kid asks my kid about the curriculum we use) & I start to doubt myself, I remind myself that no one loves & cares for the education of my kiddos more than me. Having a schedule helps me too. Reading about how others have done it REALLY has been a life saver. It’s so exciting to see how hs kids that weren’t educated in the “traditional” way go on to college and/or have successful lives. It’s what I love about homeschooling- unique, individualized learning. Thanks so much for this article. I needed it!

    • I’ve learned so much from watching how others are doing it, too. Love what you said about no one caring for your kiddos (or for their education) more than you–and I love that as homeschoolers, the way we educate can reflect that.

      Year 7, huh? Keep up the good work!

    • THIS! I’m struggling so much with just letting it go. My oldest will graduate next year and she has had so many challenges on her school journey. We pulled her out as soon as we finalized our adoption when she was 9. She was about to fail the 2nd grade. I spent years trying to “catch her up” and it made us all so miserable. I’ve backed off some, but I still had this idea in my head of what she was supposed to be learning. She hates, hates, hates math. It just has never clicked with her. She loves to learn. She writes stories all day long. She draws people and characters for all of her books and gives them personalities. She reads whatever she can get her hands on. She asks all sorts of questions just wanting more information. She will graduate in 2016 and has not even started Algebra. I felt like such a failure. God showed me last year though that her passion, her heart is her writing and we should totally focus on that. Yes, she is still working through her math book and she will get just as far as she gets. She is doing Apologia Marine Biology because she loves Marine Biology. She is doing history and literature together focusing on reading books from the time period and watching movies/documentaries. Mostly though she will be focusing on writing and grammar and researching how to get a book published. She will spend time emailing authors and setting up interviews with some local talent. It’s also helping me to look at my other kids and see gifts, talents, abilities that need to be focused on. I keep trying to go back to the rigorous school schedule I’d always envisioned for my highschoolers, because I get so scared. I don’t want to be that homeschooling family! The one that everyone talks about when they say, “Oh well I knew a homeschooler and they just could not even function in the world and it was so horrible!” I know we won’t be, but I’m terrified. I just have to trust that God has truly put us on this new path. I know our day is so much better and my people are enjoying learning which is what I always wanted. Our theme for this year with my younger kids is more books, more nature. Trying to focus on reading great books together and exploring the world around us. I keep telling everyone I can about this because I’m hoping it will actually click with me and I’ll actually believe that we are doing the right thing. Kind of a fake it til you make it deal. 🙂

      • Sounds like you have some major victories to celebrate, Julie. To have a child who loves learning and has found her passions at a young age is no small feat! Your daughter sounds a bit like my own, who is 11 now.

        It’s okay to have weaknesses–that usually just shows us what isn’t really supposed to be a part of our mission in this world. Yet if your daughter decides to pursue college or further learning and needs math to do so, she’ll have the internal motivation to be able to get where she needs to be. You’re doing great, mama!

      • I am also terrified to be”that family” that has children that don’t have what the world and society says they should have on the resume so to speak. My c
        hildren learn in so many ways and places, and can do some things like make change that some graduates can’t. But there are other places we are “behind” and I worry. I know this is where my kids belong.but what if I fail, what if I don’t make them learn enough or do enough….. Always a struggle for me…..

  3. It’s always math that gets me in a tail spin. I often find that the opinions and comments of others get to me more than they should. It’s rude for them to do that and most of the time their children are in the traditional school setting. I’m not anti-school either but I sure am tired of meeting anti-homeschooling people.

  4. This is a HUGE struggle for me as I always went to regular school and was a school teacher for many years before having kids!
    This year is going better on that respect for me. My kids have never gone to school, so they have no idea.
    I decided on a six week on, one week off schedule which has worked really well. It’s funny though because we started school on Labor Day. We were off last week and then had school on Presidents Day. 🙂 We leave Fridays open for projects and any make up work we need.
    I love this way of life, even more so when I relax and let myself enjoy it!

  5. I really needed this post today! Phew! Preconceived notions put to rest for now – again. 🙂 Thanks again!

  6. I’m still learning this. It’s taking me awhile and lots of reading and changing my brain to rethink school completely. It isn’t just school at home, it’s a completely different system altogether.

    Also…I love that you’re thinking about French. 😉
    Johanna’s latest post: Get outside! (And maybe find a secret garden)

  7. Of course my original decision to homeschool was based on a calling. However, my one word answer for why we homeschool is “freedom”. I could, and probably will write a complete blog post around freedom in relationship to homeschooling. But it has become my favorite reason to homeschool (of course always remembering Who called me to this “freedom” in the first place : )
    Machelle’s latest post: Looking Beyond the Surface: 100 Day Blog Challenge

  8. This is perfectly timed for me. I have been hating homeschooling lately because when I started it I had visions of freedom and flexibility but now I just feel bogged down and trapped in by all my own plans and curriculum choices. My son dilly-dallies all day while I try to motivate him, entertain my toddler and work from home. Thanks for the reminder that homeschool doesn’t really have to mean traditional school at home.

  9. When I started homeschooling 5 years ago, I had the whole school room set up with a schedule and ALL the courses you could think of (after all I was raised by teachers and I HAD to do it their way). As the years have passed by we have pared down our schooling and most days we are in the sewing room. We have changed our curriculum to workbooks (Landmark Freedom Baptist Press) that follows a week by week lesson plan that simplifies it for me. I LOVE our new schedule. If my 8 year old wants to do math on the floor, I’m okay with that. He is learning so much and although he is very very active – I have found that he is so smart and soaks EVERYTHING in. If we finish at 10:30 (we start at 7:45) – I’m fine with that, too because then they move on to piano and chores and playing games with each other and thus they extend their education. Homeschooling is not for the faint of heart but it is the most rewarding job in the world (well in my opinion!).

  10. 7 languages? I can’t even imagine that kids can learn that many at one time. It’ll probably backfire on her

  11. This is a great reminder, Anne. I love the flexibility of homeschooling. We are studying Ancient Greece right now. And we’ve gone a little off road, veering from the curriculum suggestions and just tackling interest things.

    Though the freedom and flexibility is great, I find I can easily get caught in the trap of comparison, “Oh wow! Her family is studying languages? Maybe I should, too.” It’s a slippery slope.
    Kelly’s latest post: Notes From a Blue Bike and Door Number Three

  12. Seven languages! I’m not homeschooling yet, my little girl is only a baby, but I too have been trying to decide between French and German, after this I think I may go for both, because like you say, we can do that!
    Jessica’s latest post: {January Gratitudes}

    • In that case, here’s a tip:

      It’s free and it has both French and German (and a few other languages, too). We’re doing Rosetta Stone German, but as we add languages (or rather, IF we add languages, but I think we will) I’ll be utilizing this free resource. It has amazing reviews and you can’t beat the price. 🙂
      Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy’s latest post: Slow design for a fast age

  13. Iveth Major says:

    Oh how I love the flexibilty of HS.
    We study Geography, Science, History & Math in Spanish. HS has allowed my childrent to be totally fluent in 2 languages. My 8th. year old loves languages, so she get to also do Latin. Also, what i consider her thitd languge: Music 😉 She can play the piano anytime and attend her 2 lessons a week early in the afternoon. My middle girl the same, but she does it with violin. They also get to REST – Yes! Nap. 8 & 6 years old nap along with baby boy soon to be 2.

  14. Yeah, well MY kids are learning EIGHT languages and my two year old is reading Dostoevsky. Beat THAT.
    I kid, obviously. My daughter is loving Calvin and Hobbes right now (in English) and between that and The Magic Tree House series, I’m pretty sure she’s learning everything a six year old needs to know.
    Sarah @ Little Bus on the Prairie’s latest post: Manual Labor – Noah’s Update

    • Bwahaha! I think you’re doing great. 🙂 And I mean with The Magic Tree House and Calvin and Hobbes, NOT with a Dostoevsky-reading two-year-old! (I was barely ready for Crime and Punishment in high school!)
      Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy’s latest post: Slow design for a fast age

    • My 5 and 6.5 year-old have been doing math and writing every day all winter…but spring is in the air and we are making a homestead on 40 acres of a Montana mountainside, so copywork and Life of Fred are going to become more sporadic as gardening and farming and building projects became the curriculum for the not-snowing months. Hopefully, we’ll be able to get our house up this summer, so we don’t have to move to town again next winter)

  15. We’re loving the flexibility of homeschooling too.

    & wow, 7 languages. That’s quite impressive. We’re doing 3, english, arabic and somali.

    XO, Umm Safiya in Denmark

  16. I use to be a rigid box curriculum and schedule person. Over the years and many home school confrences I’ve learned that there is life outside the text book. There are living books that make the things if the text books come to life. There is real life experiences that make the things that would be I’m the text book seem like there really is a purpose. I’velearned some days we need to take a break and focus on cleaning skills, social skills, baking skills (rather than trying to cram school in and get ready for an event. I’ve learned that some days just sitting around and playing with my kids is what is needed. I’ve learned that the best way to learn business math is to have them start a business and the best way to learn history is to read it, watch it, act it. I’ve learned that sometimes life is the best school a child could have, and to go with the flow rather than fight the currents. I’m so glad that God has slowly changed my views of school. The only thing I regret us all the years I didn’t with my daughter in tears over rigid curriculum. I remember when the light bulb clicked for me. My daughter was struggling with fractions and it was around a holiday. Not knowing that it would help we took a few days of to bake. I had her double recipes and cut recipes, when we went back to the book she knew fractions inside and out. I accidentally taught my daughter in a fun way that clicked with her. I love how schooling.

  17. YES! Just last week I talked with my husband/er the principal and I realized I missed doing some things with my kids. I was feeling bound to stick with certain things. All of a sudden it’s like I realized I was homeschooling and thought, “Let’s just do those things. We can change mid-course.” What a relief, cause I wasn’t reading to my kids as much as I wanted to…now we’re starting our day with this. It’s not much, but we’re building up our capacity for aloud reading times.
    Also, I wanted to play with them more – and then I realized…I can! We went to the zoo, and instead of just learning about which ones are carnivores etc and which ones are reptiles, we’re making masks of our favorite ones and learning additional things all week about them.
    None of that is part of a curriculum, and we’re still getting our French, CC, First Language Lessons and Saxon completed, but we’re reading more and having more fun together. Mission accomplished…and I learned a good lesson:
    If I get to this spot again and sense the need to switch it up, I’ll pay attention and do it as soon as possible! 🙂

  18. Would love to chat more with other homeschool moms I’m in mass and have so many questions and honestly need guidance Tia please email me if u can chat a bit

  19. Hannah Reid says:

    Wonderful article!

  20. I have a feeling that I will be like you and struggle to let go of the “regular school” mentality. I am glad for bloggers like you, who will help remind me!

  21. I have a question if there are any homeschool moms here who have grown children in the workforce: how are they faring with a 9-5 job? I am ALL FOR homeschooling, but I once had an employer tell me she could always tell a former homeschooled employee, because they have a hard time putting in a full day’s work/lost interest after lunchtime. I’ve worried about that ever since. Flexibility, I think, will be an asset in he new workplace economy, but let’s face it, for now, many or most jobs still revolve around an 8-hour workday.

    • Hi there, I had to delurk just to comment on this! How many homeschooled employees could this person have had? This feels like stereotyping to me, like the person that hears one bad homeschooling story and then assumes we are all bad. I know lots of hard working young adults that homeschooled (one just scored a fabulous engineering job) and I know lots of publicly schooled people that aren’t all that ambitious.

  22. This is timely for me. I’ve been working on letting go of the expectations (most of which I create myself) around here as well. I think when you know that you are solely responsible for your children’s education, it can create a real worry of “missing something.” I have to work hard at trusting in the long term goals rather than the day to day check lists.

  23. I have been homeschooling for 30 years and can’t imagine educating my children any other way. I still have 2 teens of my 7 kids still at home but this year I added my 3 grandsons 12, 4, 2. Even after all this time I got a bit panicky about how to teach such a wide variety of ages. But then I remembered the only thing I need to teach them is to love learning. It always takes a bit to get into the year but it finally settles down into fun. We are learning ASL, partly from necessity, because I’m losing my hearing and partly because it’s fun! I started them all off with the basics, provided them a website for lessons and dictionaries and off they went! Even the two yo signs nearly everything. They finger spell their spelling words. Sometimes we have ASL days where it’s the only language they can use. Wow does it get funny! Our deaf friends are thrilled that the kids can sign to them how excited they are to learn. I choose homeschool hands down every time! Have you ever seen the revolutionary war done in three stooges style? They will never forget the fun or the facts about that time, and they picked it out!

  24. I’m coming to this late but I really enjoyed the post and comments tonight. We’re gearing up for another homeschool year and I’ve been pondering how to combine challenge with enjoyment. I don’t have all my answers yet but reading tonight certainly helped. Thanks for such a positive and supportive website!

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