We've never done the "number-of-days-until-the-kids-go-back-to-school" countdown.
We aren't buying school clothes, new book bags, or notebooks.
And we won't be filling backpacks, packing lunches, or hustling kids to the bus stop – not today, not tomorrow, perhaps not ever.
But that's A-OK with us.
Because we love homeschooling. For so many reasons.
And while I know many of my readers are happily waving goodbye to kids getting on the school bus this morning, others are home, digging in with their children during a new season of learning together.
We didn't always know we would homeschool.
We thought about it for years, but didn't jump until the day of Sage's kindergarten registration.
As we headed out the door to the Waldorf school just down the block I got cold feet. I looked at Pete and sputtered, "Let's just homeschool!" Thankfully he agreed.
We turned around, went back inside, and changed our lives forever.
Let's just homeschool.
As though that was a more simple decision then sending them to school.
Let's just be single-handedly in charge of their entire education.
Let's just be together, day in day out, month after month, year after year.
Let's just pretend we know everything about everything and are even qualified for this job.
Let's just fly to the moon before lunchtime. Shall we?
But as it turns out, it was easy. It is easy. And seriously fun. No, not easy in the "I-have-nothing-but-free-time" way, but easy in a way I wasn't expecting.
Easy in the sense that I don't need to know it all and most of what we do comes naturally to all of us.
Day after day, year after year. We're thriving.
And this life is richer and more authentic than anything I ever imagined when we set off down this road.
What does homeschooling look like?
There are many different ways to homeschool.
Our family has chosen a path that is secular, interest-lead, and experiential. We also happen to live on a small homestead so a good deal of our learning is farm-based as well.
Other families choose to follow a curriculum and homeschool in a way that more resembles school. Some also include religion as a core piece of their homeschool.
And that, perhaps, is part of the beauty of homeschooling: each family can find a way to do it that fits their children's learning style and their family's goals, beliefs, and priorities.
As for our family, we are "whole life learners" (or unschoolers or eclectic homeschoolers… there isn't really a name for what we do). We don't "do school" at all unless the kids are hungry for formal lessons on a subject of their choosing.
That means you'll almost never find me acting like a teacher or our kids acting much like students. You won't find us gathered around the table with worksheets and textbooks and serious expressions.
Very little is compulsory. And nearly everything is interest-driven.
We live our life and learn as we go. It's a perfect fit for us.
Is homeschooling for you? Maybe yes, and maybe no. It's not for everyone.
But for my reader friends who are on a similar path (or contemplating taking the leap), this post is for you. Here are ten reasons why I'm thankful to be homeschooling again this year.
1. Learning without limits
We learn about what we want, where we want, when we want.
Filing away on a piece of copper, my 11-year old asked us (at bedtime) if we thought "copper has a low currie point", a magnetic principle I had never even heard of. After he explained currie point he began gathering supplies for his experiment.
Even though it was nearing 10 PM we had no reason to stop him.
If he's on fire to learn, why would we reign him in?
So whether learning is taking place in the morning, the afternoon, or long after bedtime; whether it's happening in the garden, the workshop, the kitchen, or the woods, it's happening. In a beautiful, boundless sort of way.
2. The perfect pace
Children learn best when they learn at their own pace.
When my son could not read at seven I wasn't worried.
I knew that the countries with the highest literacy rates didn't even begin to teach reading until seven and the doorway to literacy was just opening – not closing.
Each child has their own right time to learn that you can't put on a schedule.
So we read together every day – as we had since he was a baby – and by 8 1/2 he was reading with ease. By 10 he was devouring thick, advanced chapter books at around 400 pages per day and today as he nears 12 he won't head into the weekend at ease until he knows he has at least two to three thick (think Tolkien) books at the ready.
He never thought he was slow, behind, or late. He never learned to hate reading becasue it was hard. He just knew when he was ready and jumped in without hesitation.
Learning at each child's pace makes all the difference. There are no tears. No anxiety. No stress. Just a love of learning a new skill to take with them into the world.
3. Freedom from pop culture
You really can't beat the dress code around here.
Homeschoolers are a notoriously low-key bunch when it comes to appearances. Everyone does their own thing and no one bats an eye. It's sort of expected.
With everyone marching to their own beat there is no pressure to be "cool" which I value so much in this era of distorted body image and Photoshop.
So no, we might not have "School Spirit" week but yes, we do have Pajama Day. There is also the occasional head-to-toe camouflage day, 1920's movie star day, gnome day, fairy day, arctic explorer day, and so-much-glitter-everywhere day.
Whatever we're feeling that day, that's who we can become.
And so as homeschoolers who our children are or what they wear is authentic and fueled from finding their true essence, not by what the crowd thinks is hip. And they each have the space to develop their preferences from within – not from without.
4. We're raising rule-breakers
Because obedience is over-rated.
I know what you're thinking. Raising rule-breakers is not a goal of most parents. But when I reflect on my own 40-some years, learning to break the rules was good for my health, my happiness, and my life.
Because I didn't obediently follow the status-quo of our culture. I made different choices than my friends and neighbors on just about everything. I broke the go-to-school-get-a-job-buy-a-car-and-a-house rule and started my own business. I made free-thinking choices around work, marriage, birth, parenting, lifestyle, and education.
I followed my heart.
And I want to give my kids that same gift.
Because breaking some rules now and then can give you the life you've always dreamed of.
And to believe that if something isn't working you should dig in and change it? That's a fine way to set off for adulthood.
Does that mean our home is anarchy?
Not at all. It's surprising peaceful. More so than average I suspect.
Because rules in place here are mindfully applied, and everyone agrees on them. And if a rule isn't working we come together to modify it into something that works for everyone.
How's that for a life-skill to take with you into the world?
5. This will not be on the test
Because there are no tests. Ever. On anything.
No pressure, no stress, no anxiety.
No homework either, just endless hours to get lost in reading, creating, exploring, and learning. And that means we don't waste time preparing for something that will not deepen our understanding.
We learn until we are full with something, then move our passion to another subject.
I can't think of a more peaceful, motivating, or rewarding way to learn.
6. Life-long love of learning
Our educational goal is not to fill our kids with facts. Our goal is to raise passionate learners.
Seekers. Questioners. Inventors. Problem-solvers. Out-of-the-box thinkers. All of which I think the world could use more of in the coming years. Do I need my son to memorize the capitals of every US state? Absolutely not. Do I need to drill him on history when he's pumped about chemistry? Nope. Because that would miss the point entirely.
And so even though I never planned it this way, my eleven year old can teach you how to make cobb walls, how to forge a sword, and how to wire a circuit board. He's building a motorized wooden car (big enough to ride in) and is putting the finishing touches on a DIY robot. He's passionate about chemistry and eager to design inventions.
Meanwhile my seven year old can teach you how to make an herbal poultice for a bee sting, how hand-milking a cow differs from hand-milking a goat, and what lemon balm is good for (medicinally and culinary). She can identify more wildflower and bird species than her trained naturalist mother, can share the names and stories of the major and minor Greek gods and goddesses, and help you bake a perfect batch of gluten-free cupcake. She's also passionate about all things French.
Our children fall in love with concepts, project, or subjects and devour all they can.
Will there be gaps in their knowledge? Sure, for the moment. But learning how to learn is much better than committing facts to short-term memory for the sake of a test. If they know how to learn, no gap is permanent.
7. Life skills
They're learning practical skills that can keep them alive. (Which seems sort of important.)
My children's homeschooling includes developing skills in how to plant, tend, and harvest a garden. How to safely forage. What plants are good medicine and which plants are poison. Also how to care for farm animals, evaluate health problems, and treat sick animals. How to split firewood and preserve food. How to carve, sew, knit, and forge.
How to do real, old-fashioned things with your hands that can actually keep you alive.
We're also learning modern skills that can keep you alive in a more 2014 way. By paying the bills. Like learning how to create and run a small business. How to earn and save money. How to budget, determine cost-of-goods, how to put together a spreadsheet. How to write code.
And how to be happy doing it.
These are good skills to have, with our without a zombie apocalypse or impending global meltdown.
8. This is the real world
All day, everyday.
Our days are spent doing real work in the real world. No busy work, no killing time, no crowd control.
Just learning and working and living, together. So we have time to visit our inventor neighbor to see his latest cedar shingle splitting tool or his DIY apple grinder and press or take a tour of his restored prairie.
And after that the food we harvest and cook from the garden is real. The small business that my children start are real. The robots they build are real.
All of it. Real. Nothing happens here to merely teach a concept.
9. We're together
Family time is central to our days.
Because we are together so often I have had the pleasure to get to know my kids better than I ever imagined. I love the time we spend together and so do our kids.
Because being together full-time is truly our joy.
By frequent almost constant togetherness we've gotten to know each other's needs and nuances in a deeper way. When Lupine and Sage went away with my parents for a weekend my mom reported that, "He knows her so well," when he helped her express a sadness she wasn't sharing with her grandparents so they could find a solution.
We get each other.
Childhood is short. I'm happy we get to spend it together.
10. We're happy!
Truly, deeply happy.
This is what so much of it comes down to. We're happy most of the time. To a person.
We love the freedom that our lifestyle provides, we love the family dynamics that have developed, we love learning – together – day after day. We love the relaxed schedule, the love of learning, the everything.
So no, you won't find me counting down until the first day of school. Because everyday is much like the last in that our family is happily together, learning as we grow.
And I'm so, so glad.
Happy back to homeschool, friends!
Craving more inspiration? You can read more about our homeschooling path here.
This post by Ben Hewett about his family's learning journey is wonderful.
We love SImple Homeschool. It's a fabulous resource for families starting out on their homeschooling journey.