Our homeschool is always changing. My education philosophy can be reduced to two words: whatever works. I believe that's different for every child and every family. I'm learning that it's also different for an individual child and an individual family over time. Our homeschool looks different now than it did a year ago when I wrote the post below. We're still unschooly, in that there's a lot of flexibility and freedom (and fun!) built into our homeschool. But we're not purists. We just do whatever works for whatever we're working on at that particular time. We discuss our options. Try a few things. Discard a few things that don't work. And basically muddle our way through until something clicks. (Or until we give up in frustration and go to the zoo instead...)
I love our life. But it has its anxieties. I'm forever freaking out about math, Nature Boy's nemesis. I worry that some family members think that my son's struggles with writing and math are caused by homeschooling. That if I were a real teacher, he wouldn't still be struggling. In my heart I know that learning disabilities are real. Being at school wouldn't magically solve the challenges that come with them. But I'm also aware that I don't know everything. (Just most things...) And that's where tutors come in! We had great results with a spelling tutor last year and currently, with a math tutor. He's awesome! He's an engineer, but in a very unengineery way, he is able to get all creative with introducing mathematical concepts. He gets how my son learns. It's not formulaic or traditional (duh!), but conceptual and real worldy. (The technical term.) He is excited to work with Nature Boy because we don't follow a traditional curriculum for math. He's not limited to only offering homework help or to one certain way to do math problems, according to what a teacher wants. I think they are both learning from each other.
And now for the original post.
We didn't intend to homeschool.
Our son attended pre-k and kindergarten in public school. I had the typical my baby's going to school all day pangs, but that was the norm, so I dealt with it. Pre-k was fairly smooth, but things started getting bumpy in kindergarten.
One day my little guy came home from school and said, “Mom, would you please homeschool me? School is chaos!” Tears became part of our bedtime routine, crowding out our stories and prayers. I was at a loss. I'd loved school as a child. I couldn't understand what was causing our son so much anxiety.
I started researching homeschooling and began husband negotiations. (He took a little convincing at first.) We agreed to try homeschooling for first grade and then reevaluate. We've never looked back.
Our early homeschooling style was influenced by some of Ruth Beechick's writings. I really liked her simple approach: a relaxed focus on the 3Rs with lots of free time and read-alouds. I followed her guidelines for 1st-3rdgrade (except for the copy work, as my son has dysgraphia). During this time, I noticed how naturally learning was occurring in other areas.
I also noticed that as time went on, my boy wasn't enjoying learning as much. The more we relied on structured curriculum and worksheets, the more frustrated and learning-averse he became. Once again I was confused. The textbook/workbook method of learning worked for me in school, so why wasn't it working for him? (Apparently I considered myself the Standard of Normal.) :D
I learned about unschooling when my son was in 3rd grade. To be honest, the idea freaked me out! My son experienced public school as chaos, but that's what unschooling sounded like to me. Even so, by this time we'd tried everything else. We'd discovered other learning differences (dyslexia and dyscalculia) and I realized that I was going to have to step outside of my comfort zone and be the homeschool mom my son needed--even if it made me go prematurely gray!
It has taken me a few years to really get comfortable with our nontraditional path. The best advice I've ever been given about homeschooling (and parenting!) is this:
God knows the plans He has for our children. He created them to be perfectly suited for what He is calling them to do in their lives. Our job is to help our kids discover what God's purpose for them is, and to aid them in acquiring the knowledge and skills they need to follow their calling.
If we spend all of our time trying to remediate our children's academic "weaknesses", we won't be helping them to develop their strengths. And their strengths are what God is going to use.