Why Deschooling Was Important For Our Homeschool

I was told by more than one homeschool expert we were supposed to “deschool” after starting our homeschool. To me, this concept was a little scary.
What exactly is deschooling, and what is the point?

What We Learned From Deschooling- Why Deschooling helped our homeschool

At first I found deschooling was a surprisingly difficult process. Everything I knew about education came from traditional schools; the idea that we weren’t supposed to be formally learning anything just felt… wrong. Even though I felt like the general idea of deschooling made sense, I wasn’t entirely sure what I was supposed to discover at the end of it… and perhaps more perplexing… how would we know when “deschooling” was over?

But I told myself to trust “the process” and from June to January, we embarked on what I called “The Longest Summer Ever“. We took trips, visited a few parks and museums, listened to audio books, gazed at stars, took long walks on the beach, and did a little soul searching until we came to a point where we got a little restless.

It was time.

Sometime in October, I really started to understand why deschooling was important.

I also understood why people had a hard time articulating exactly deschooling was so important.

Deschooling allowed me to take a step back and observe our new family dynamic, see they way they learned and what they were interested in.  It is only after school really, truly, isn’t a factor anymore that everyone settles into their more natural tendencies and the family dynamic starts to shift.  After deschooling for a few months, I could really step back and see how to fit a homeschool around my child, rather than a child around my homeschool.  I was pleased that some of my ideas about how I wanted our school to go were confirmed, but I was also a little bit surprised.

Here are deschooling taught us about what we need in our homeschool:

We need fresh air. 

Surprisingly, the boys don’t always agree with me on this, but getting outside has been essential to keeping the peace in the house. I can always tell if we haven’t had enough outdoor time when people get lazy and start bickering.  EVERYONE, even the reluctant ones, feel better once we’re out and about, and that feeling extends long after we get home.  Our homeschool must incorporate plenty of time outside and exploring.

Mornings set the tone.

After trying a few different ways of doing mornings, I realized it was the morning that set the tone for the day. We’re a group that loves to sleep in and stay in our pjs so the temptation is to start late. But I found that if we aren’t up, dressed and fed by at least 9 we never seem to get our day back.

We need a schedule.

I am not a person who naturally falls into a schedule on my own and neither are the kids, so we need to make a conscious effort to implement one.  Nothing strict, but having some kind of schedule adds predictability to our day, which keeps everyone happier.

STEM is everywhere; the humanities resources are harder to find.

There are thousands of resources out there: local events, books, games, toys, and programs, but the humanities are not nearly as emphasized.  I get why STEM is so important, but the humanities are as well. With STEM enrichment resources being so plentiful, we’ll be working extra hard to balance them out with heavy doses of art, history and English.

Unschooling is not for (all of) us.

When I decided to homeschool, I promised myself to be flexible… after all, that’s one of the huge advantages to homeschooling in the first place.  I promised that if something didn’t work, I’d do my best to recognize that and throw it out.

The homeschool I envisioned was more child-led. I wanted the kids to take ownership of their education and run with it. I would be involved of course, but more in the role of supporter than teacher. Finally, my oldest son came up to me and said, “I need you to just tell me what to learn and I’ll learn it.”  Oops.

After I thought about it, I understood why.
Sometimes, when I find myself with a few hours alone, I am absolutely frozen with indecision on what to do, often I waste the time simply because I can’t choose between all the possibilities. The kids felt the same way.  There’s a whole wide world out there with a lot to learn; there are hundreds and thousands of things to discover and it caused the kids to feel like a deer in headlights.

While I still love the idea of a child-led education, we’ve moved to much more of a parent-led education than I expected.  I call it “teacher-led, child-influenced.”

 

Of course, we would have come to these conclusions eventually anyway, but deschooling gave us an unhurried, pressure free opportunity to figure out exactly what we wanted. To my surprise, after deschooling the transition to our more “formal” schooling (which I’ll share more about soon) was surprisingly smooth.

And so our homeschool journey has been a little bit of a winding road; I imagine that it will do quite a bit more winding before we’re through. Now, we’re all feeling refreshed and looking forward to what this school year will bring us.

 

Why I Ditched The Chore Chart — But Not the Chores

Why I ditched the chore chart-- but not the chores

IMG_4919.PNGFor the past couple of years there has been a chore chart on our refrigerator.

I had listed a daily set of chores that each child would be responsible for based on ability. Occasionally I’d get the kids to complete the items on the list, but mostly the chart sat on the fridge and collected dust. When I asked them to do their chores, there was a chorus of complaints; whining and bickering would grate my nerves and cause me to grumble about how lucky they are and how I don’t make them do anything, grumble, grumble, grumble, stomp, stomp.

But not too long ago, I ditched the chart all together and started a new approach.

What appealed to me about a chore chart was that it’s pretty easy.  No questions really: each person has a chore, then they do it and check it off the list. I made it myself so each chore was appropriate for each age and nobody had more than two items a day.

My problem with it was 2 fold:

First, it was easy.
There was absolutely no thinking involved. The kids looked for their item on the chore list and nothing else, and completed their item regardless of whether or not it really needed to be done, or if something else needed more attention. The dishes could be piled high in the sink and on the counter, but if their job was to pick up the toys in the spotless living room, then that’s what they did and be off doing something else, with the dishes still in the sink.

Second, I took away the chance to do something too difficult.
Dividing chores up by age and ability stopped the kids from doing something that was a little too difficult for them.  If there’s such a thing as dumbing down chores, that’s what I had done.  Since then I learned that, with a little patience and practice, Marlowe at 3 can easily put his clothes on hangers and fold his own pants… but his previous chores had been wiping down tables or cabinets (a chore now most often handed to Langston… yes, the 18 month old).

So, we’ve switched up our morning chore routine to reflect what I want the kids to get out of chores rather than to just get things done.

Instead of telling the kids what to do each day, I now ask the kids to make observations themselves. Each day before we do our chores (for us this happens at our morning meeting before homeschool), I ask the boys to take a look around and see what might need to be done (I usually add one or two items that I’ve observed).  Then we create our list of chores for the day and they divide them up amongst themselves.

While I realize I’m a parent, and work all the time, I also do chores at this time so they see me pitch in and know that I am available to help them when necessary.

Now we do chores with much more frequency than we used to (nearly every day) and there’s hardly any grumbling anymore from any of us. Occasionally, I’ll get a heavy sigh or a groan when they sign up for a certain job, but the requirement isn’t to not like chores, just to do them, so I ignore it.

I can’t say our house is much cleaner (by afternoon everything has exploded again), but in my mind, a cleaner home is only a benefit of what chores really are: a chance to learn how to work together for the good of the household.

 

 

Our First Year of Homeschool: Small Changes in Our First 2 Months.

Hello from the beach!

Homeschool on the beach

My mother in law invited us to join her on a short trip to North Myrtle Beach so we hopped in the car on Monday to join her. I thought for sure 70 degrees would be too cold for the kids to get in the water but I was wrong, and the kids spent the afternoon with their pants and shorts rolled up running in and out of the water with the tide.

Our first year of homeschool

Adjusting to our new homeschool life has certainly had it’s challenges but the freedom to do things like this make it worth it.

In the past few weeks we’ve been to Shenandoah, Northern Virginia, Maryland, Jamestown and now South Carolina.

We’re still in that deschooling phase, adjusting to our new way of life. I’ll admit I was occasionally frustrated that after 2 weeks of “deschooling” nobody suddenly woke up saying “I want to learn calculus” or “I can’t wait to go on a 3 hour hike today!”.

When people talk about deschooling, or unschooling for that matter, the narrative always seems to be “we relaxed and now my child is reading above grade level/is a math genius/designed a rocket that actually went to the moon and back”

But we’re not focused on the product, we’re focused on the process. And lately I’ve noticed some little things that are telling me that we’re on the right track.

Max, who hates learning, is asking more questions. “What kind of bug is that?” “Can I listen to that book while we drive?” “Can I take a picture of that?”

Hudson, who used to cry every time he had reading homework, sleeps with a giant stack of books in his bed. He looks at the pictures every night. He’s sounding words out on his own out of curiosity. And he’ll sit and listen to me read until I have no voice left.

Hudson’s speech therapist remarked that he seems like a “totally different kid” that he walks in more relaxed and ready to work.

The kids are asking to collect things. They are keeping themselves more entertained outside. And I even heard the words “I’ve been on the computer enough today” come from my 10 year old.

We haven’t made actual rockets, nobody has discovered a secret hidden genius. But we’re learning, and that’s what our homeschool is all about.

our process learning about homeschool

Our Next Adventure: Homeschooling

Our Next Adventure: Homeschooling

It just doesn’t feel right without a new big thing we’re introducing into our life. Usually it’s babies, but each year I feel like we make a major shift in our lives and this year is no different.

These last few days of school also mark our last days of public school (for at least a year).
This hasn’t been a quick decision by any means; the possibility of homeschool is something we’ve bounced around for years to varying degrees of sincerity. But things have a way of falling together in their own time and this year it became increasingly clear that now is the right time for our family.

I have talked to people about our decision and I thought I’d start with a few answers to a few FAQs about this new adventure.

1. What made you decide to homeschool?
There are about 100 factors as to why we’re making this change that I’m just not going to go into on this post.  But I do want to say this:  Our children have gone to wonderful public schools and worked with fantastic teachers.  I have gotten to know the administration at their current school and they are hard working, wonderful, educated people with their hearts in the right place.  My husband teaches in public schools, and I continue to believe in the value of public schools.  I won’t get into what our decision to homeschool is right now, but I will say what it isn’t: a religious/political/educational statement or criticism on the public school environment, parents who send their children to public schools, or on children who thrive in public schools.

2. Are you going to homeschool forever?
We’re going to take things one year at a time.  If Max or Hudson decides that they want to go back to school, I am certainly not going to stand in their way.  I will also do my best (as we have done on other important personal matters) to try not to steer them in one direction or another when it comes to that issue. For now, we’re focused on 2nd grade and 5th grade.  We’ll get to next year, next year.

3. Are you going to homeschool all of them?
I don’t know.  Right now, the two older boys are my focus as they are actually school aged.  We’ll see what’s best for Marlowe when we get there.  That being said, I would like to send Marlowe to preschool to get a little time with kids his age and allow a little more time for me to focus on the big boys.

4. Are you going to do Montessori/Project Based/Charlotte Mason/School-at-home style/unschooling schooling?
Probably.
I think there is value in many different teaching philosophies and I plan to steal from anything and anyone.  What is most important to me is that my children learn in the way that is best for them and that will be my guide. We may do a little bit of this or a little bit of that; what works is more important to me than following any particular philosophy.

5.Aren’t you worried about socialization?
No.

6. How do you feel about it?
There’s a big fat mix of emotions happening but mostly I find myself wavering between being incredibly excited and incredibly terrified. Mostly now though, I’m excited.

So, over the next 6 months or so we’ll be getting out and about and discovering some new things. We’ll be taking some time to explore our interests, find an everyone-is-at-home rhythm, rediscover our learning styles and develop a homeschool that works best for us.

 

Max and I came up with a working list of things we’d like to see and do in the coming months which we’re calling Operation: See Cool Stuff.    I will try to share as many of our “field trips” on the blog as I can.

For now, we’ve been counting down with anticipation to the end of the school year and the start of our next adventure.

Have you ever thought about homeschooling? Was the decision difficult?