Written by Jamie Martin, editor of Simple Homeschool and founder of Steady Mom
I wished I hadn’t shown up that day. But God knew better.
The late summer sun spun rainbows through the window of my minivan, as I sat in the parking lot of a church–journal and pen in hand. I had just attended my second homeschooling conference, and was completely freaked out.
Without knowing it, I had registered for a conference on unschooling–a term I had never heard before that day.
I wasn’t sure I ever wanted to hear it again.
What do you mean, children don’t need to be taught? How will they learn otherwise?
So before heading home, I took deep breaths and tried to make sense of this new information. Tried to rationalize it away with ink and words on paper.
If only I could go back and tell myself what I know now.
Baby Step #1: Considering Homeschooling
I just assumed that homeschooling meant doing “school” at home – worksheets, lessons, tests, recess, and so on. It didn’t sound that appealing, to be honest. I felt like I’d already served my time in school, and didn’t really want to be sentenced to another term without parole, if you know what I mean.
But something seemed unnatural about sending my kids away for seven hours each day. They still seemed so…little. Surely, as their mama, I knew what was best for them. Or did I?
I felt I owed it to them to research all the school options open to us before sending them on the yellow bus that stops a few doors down. That meant checking out homeschooling, too.
So I read books, talked to homeschooling friends, and spent time online. One day I discovered a radical lady whose educational thoughts began to shape my own.
Baby Step #2: Charlotte Mason
When I first found out about her, Charlotte Mason’s insights on learning seemed so out of the box.
Young kids need short lessons, exposure to a wide variety of subjects, plenty of time in nature, living books, and art and music study? Now this sounded more like the education I would have enjoyed as a kid.
I studied books like A Charlotte Mason Companion and When Children Love to Learn. Being the Type A parent I was, I planned out decades of ideas for future curriculum (My kids were still in preschool by the way!).
Photo by Kevin Hutchinson
Baby Step #3: Leadership Education
Over time, however, I noticed just how much my kids were learning through play and read-alouds. I began to wonder, especially after that nutty conference, if maybe these unschooling folks were on to something?
But no, no, no. I wasn’t that confident…or crazy.
It was less structured than Charlotte Mason, but more structured than unschooling.
The phases of learning were exactly what I was looking for.
Baby Step #4: Interest-Led Learning
For a while, that is. Then one day the magic of the blogosphere led me to Jena (so many of you love her words like I do!).
Her children were almost grown, she was a certified teacher, and she had chosen interest-led learning for her kids (basically a fancy word for, yes, unschooling).
By this time I had figured out that homeschool did not have to look anything like “school” at home. It was a lifestyle, and each baby step took me further and further away from the traditional stereotype I had started with.
Each baby step made me happier and more confident in my homeschooling decision.
Baby Step #5: Discovering Us
Every time I found a new, intriguing educational philosophy, it helped me devise my own.
Few people fit within the confines of one singular type of learning. Through homeschooling, we piece together what we find and love, and create something new. We merge and blend to discover exactly what works for us.
This is a process that we get to be a part of over our entire career in home education. Just like in other parts of life, we find what we need at the exact time when we need it.
If we live with eyes open, that is.
I wish I could go back to my minivan in summer 2008 – wish I could whisper something in the ear of that unsettled Jamie with pen in hand.
“Jamie,” I would tell her. “Everything’s gonna be okay.”
“So lighten up.”
Have you seen your philosophy of education evolve over time? What does it look like in your home today?