Written by contributor Amida of Journey into Unschooling
So you’re thinking about homeschooling. Here are a few basic items you need to get started:
- A designated school room, where you gather to teach the kids their lessons every day.
- A schedule, obviously, so you know which topics to cover every day.
- A curriculum, so you know what to teach them every day.
- A degree, preferably in education, so you are qualified to teach them every day.
Got everything? Good. Let’s get started…
This seems to be the general idea of what goes on in our house daily. I probably thought the same when I first researched homeschooling, and while it may hold true for some, this type of environment and structure doesn’t work for us.
Since I get asked a lot about our personal experience, mostly on the hows and whys, I thought I’d share some of the most common homeschooling stereotypes I’ve come across along with my rebuttals.
1. You must know XYZ since you homeschool.
Contrary to this popular misconception, I don’t know everything. Just because I teach my kids doesn’t mean I remember every detail of every subject that I had learned from Kindergarten through college. I don’t think anybody does. The good news is, you don’t need to!
While the primary years are a piece of cake to me, my high schooler’s subjects, admittedly, do pose a challenge. Just because I got an A one semester in Advanced Algebra in 12th grade doesn’t mean I remember how to factor quadratic equations or solve distance-rate word problems.
In these instances, I just pop open the computer and re-learn it along with my son. This internet thing is really amazing.
2. You must be really organized.
In theory, I know exactly how to be organized — place everything within clearly labeled folders, within clearly labeled binders, within clearly labeled containers, within an equally clearly labeled closet or shelf. In practice, however, you will find piles of worksheets here, half a project there, and the whereabouts of some important paperwork completely oblivious to me.
We spend an insane amount of time looking for pencils. It is common for me to uncover long forgotten activity books while cleaning. I wish I could be better organized and just get my act together. But it isn’t how my brain functions, and apparently, my children have inherited this trait.
3. You must have a lot of patience/Your kids must be really disciplined.
My children are angels — when they are not bickering or irritable or fighting over whose turn it is to do the laundry. We are human, not robots.
We have emotions and react to good days and bad ones, just like everyone else. But we generally like each other and get along.
4. Do you follow a curriculum? How do you know what to teach them?
I don’t follow any curriculum, although I find the notion romantic. It would be so easy to use an all inclusive game plan, in which all the subjects are beautifully intertwined and the lessons and activities build upon one another.
The reality though, is that I am not that disciplined. Or organized (see #2). Or patient (see #3). I cannot sit for 3-4 hours a day, five days a week, doing school. I make plans on occasion, but I don’t expect to follow them for too long.
Photo by Crunchy Footsteps
5. Are there organized homeschool activities? Do your kids see other people? Do they play with kids their age?
Ah, the infamous Socialization Question! Why is it that homeschool kids have to hang out with homeschool kids in “organized homeschool activities?” This notion boggles me.
Sure, we hang out with other homeschoolers and raid the playground during school hours, but that’s not our only outlet. In almost all my children’s extracurricular activities, they are the only ones schooled at home. We don’t discriminate.
6. Do your kids get recess?
I had a really long dental appointment, in which the dentist was grilling me on all things homeschool. One of the questions he asked was whether my kids get recess, which I found amusing. I said, “no”, because I didn’t want to get into it (it’s really hard to talk with dental instruments in your mouth).
Truthfully, though, if you take “recess” to mean a break from schoolwork, I guess they get way more of it than their schoolroom counterparts. There’s breakfast, lunch, computer breaks, chore breaks, reading breaks, bathroom breaks, and just plain need-a-break breaks… We have lots and lots of recess. It’s amazing we get any schooling done.
7. Do your kids get homework? How are they graded?
I’m always telling my kids to do their homework, but it’s probably not what you think. They don’t have “school work” in the morning and then assigned “homework” afterwards. I pretty much call everything they are working on alone homework.
As far as grades, I don’t need them. We look over assignments and correct the mistakes. I have a good idea what they excel at and what they need work on.
8. What about testing?
My children participate in annual state-mandated tests. I don’t argue over the pros and cons of standardized testing and we don’t make a big deal out of it.
They do practice tests and then take the real thing.
9. What about high school? College?
I used to be very anxious about how my children would adjust from homeschooling to going to high school or college. I had visions of my kids, lost in a sea of teenagers and young adults, unable to cope or find the bathroom. Of course, this is all unfounded.
I imagine it’s like any child starting their first day of school, except that a 13-year-old would have a better capacity to find his way than the 3 or 5-year-old (and don’t really want you around holding their hands anyways).
We took baby steps so that by the time my teenager hit high school, he embraced his independence. As for actual high school coursework, we started with online college courses, weekend seminars, summer courses at college, concurrent enrollment at college, as well as internships and loads of volunteer experience. So far, this has worked great for us.
10. You must be a great teacher.
Another comment I often get from people is that, just because I homeschool my kids, I can take on their kids or check their homework. No, thank you. While I may be “a great teacher” to my own kids, I have no desire to teach anyone else. I couldn’t handle the responsibility.
So there you have it — a quick glimpse into how we operate. Keep in mind, though, that homeschooling is very individualized (isn’t that the point?) so I don’t know about the homeschooler down the block or in the next state or country.
Your legal requirements and family dynamics may differ greatly from ours, as do your methods, backgrounds, and ambitions. You may even have a jar full of #2 pencils at your disposal.
What are the top homeschooling stereotypes you’ve come across?