(Last Updated on November 24, 2020)
I was asked again recently if homeschooling really works.
For some reason, I’m always caught off guard when I hear this. After all, I see home education work everyday!
My own kids… my homeschooling friends’ kids… students I see at our co-op… they’re all growing and learning and turning into capable young people.
Does it work? Of course it works! It’s been working in one form or another for millennia! Homeschooling is an amazing way to learn!
But only ten short years ago I actually asked the very same question.
Before we started homeschooling, I remember not understanding how you could get a K-12 education in any way other than the 8am-3pm, traditional method I’d experienced growing up. Desks, textbooks, classrooms, twenty or thirty kids… you know… school.
Veteran homeschoolers tried to explain it to me years ago but I wasn’t ready. Public school methods were too engrained in my brain. I just didn’t see how all these wide-eyed, learn-math-while-baking-cookies, homeschool mamas could really be providing a complete and real education.
Well, though it’s taken me a few years, the veil has finally been lifted. Each year our homeschool looks less like traditional school and more like a lifestyle of learning unique to our family. It’s been an amazing journey and I’m so grateful we’ve had the opportunity!
But, even though I now understand how amazing homeschooling is, it’s still hard to explain how it works to people who haven’t tried it.
In this three-part series I’ll be trying to show, using examples from different age-groups, how and why homeschooling works so effectively.
Why Homeschooling Works – A Preschool Example
When my oldest was in preschool, I thought I had to use curricula for his learning to “count” (not true, but I didn’t know that then).
My concern at the time was that we might miss something foundational. Just picking up things here and there in some kind of loosey-goosey, organic way would certainly lead to… dare I say it…. GAPS in his learning. Nooooo!! Not a GAP!!! No child of mine will end up not learning what the letter “V” is or never learning the color orange! No way! No gaps in this house!
Thankfully, I listened to experienced homeschoolers and started focusing more on making the most of natural learning opportunities than on finding the perfect, zero-gap, Pre-K curricula (which, by the way, doesn’t exist).
What do I mean by “natural learning opportunity”? I’m glad you asked!
Here’s an example of a recent learning experience that my three-year-old (sorry, three and a half… she’s always correcting me on that) had a few weeks ago.
I was working on sketching out some landscaping ideas for our backyard when my daughter climbed up onto the chair next to me and asked what I was doing. I explained and she declared she wanted to make a landscape plan, too.
I gave her some blank copies of the plan and she eagerly set to work to produce these (and several others like them):
We chatted while we worked together for over an hour.
We talked about the difference between yellow-green and green-yellow. We noticed our fancy colored pencils don’t have color names so we thought about what they should be called. She sounded out words on the pencil box. We drew rainbows and counted pink pencils. She noticed that some pinks are more purple-y than others and we talked about our favorite shades. We even talked about how the colors made us feel when we looked at them.
I explained how plans are like a bird’s-eye view and then explained what “bird’s-eye view” means. She asked about the plants I was adding to my plan so I showed her some different flower pictures and explained how they grow so we need to leave space around them when we plant them. She explained to me which flowers she was representing in each area of her drawing.
After a long, long, focused drawing time, she asked if she could have a turn on the computer to write an email to grandma. One “natural learning opportunity” ended and another seamlessly began.
In this single example, she got an incredibly rich, organic, one-on-one, child-led educational experience. In official preschool terminology, she worked on:
Character Skills (perseverance and focus), Interpersonal Skills (asking/answering questions in conversation), Colors (way beyond the basic ones), Artistic Expression, Reading (pencil box phonics), Science (plant names and characteristics), Fine Motor Skills (writing and coloring), Spatial Reasoning (reading 2D plans), Math (counting and adding groups of pencils) and more.
So, why does homeschooling work?
- It works because we can make time for experiences like this throughout the day.
- It works because the child is interested which leads to higher retention.
- It works because they’re relaxed and enjoying their work.
- It works because life and learning are already interwoven naturally and homeschooling doesn’t separate the two. The dreaded knowledge gaps aren’t a concern since real life learning trains kids for real life living.
Check out more reasons homeschooling is so effective in the next post in this series: Why Homeschooling Works – A 2nd Grade Example!
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