Sunday, April 7, 2013

Homeschool vs School at Home

I came across this cartoon last week:

Homeschool curriculum companies make the big bucks selling their curriculum. Why? Because we are terrified of our kids "falling behind." Or, because we're not sure "how" to homeschool (so thank goodness for the prepackaged curriculum, otherwise I'd have no idea what to do!). This is the "school at home" mentality.

But homeschooling is NOT "school at home." The purpose of homeschooling is not to bring the classroom into our homes, it's to educate our children.

One of the many reasons we homeschool is because state standards are so rigorous and strict that the main goal is to get students to score so high on tests. So the teachers' main job is to get the students to pass the tests. This is not education.

The biggest advantage of homeschooling is freedom! Freedom from tests, freedom from the state breathing down your kid's neck, freedom from "come on, class, we have to get through this to stay on schedule!" (I heard this a lot in school.)

But many homeschool families to not take advantage of this freedom. They spend hundreds (sometimes thousands) of dollars on curriculum kits, sit their kids down, and instruct them all day. (I'm not 100% down on this. If this is the best way for your child to learn, do it. Some kids require this kind of structure. And that's ok.)

This is what I do when homeschooling my oldest son:
1. I make out a schedule for the week. This is what I plan to teach him in each subject. For example, in math I might prepare some games to help him learn his times tables. Memorization is hard for him, so in school he'd just be left in the dust. At home, we can take as much time as he needs... and we can make it FUN!
2. We explore. We experience new things. This brings up questions from him, and we research the answers. Then we discuss what he's learned.
3. We do not freak out if, by the end of the week, the schedule I made at the beginning of the week is less than half completed. Why? Because he learned. He learned what he was interested in, therefore it had meaning, therefore he'll retain it longer.

We, as a homeschool community must back away from the scope-and-sequence method of teaching and learn what our children are interested in. Think of ways to work the other subjects into what they want to learn. If your child is interested in animal science, create math games using animals. Have them read books about those animals and discuss with you what they learned. Make a spelling/vocabulary list using different animal groups. The possibilities are endless! If we teach what our children are interested in, everything else finds a way to fall into place. :)

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