I forget sometimes that homeschooling can seem “taboo” or strange because I’ve been set on this decision for so long that it’s just the “only” option for our family (in my mind). But every time I share about homeschooling on social media I get an influx of questions about why we will be homeschooling and what led us to this decision.
When I look back, I get a good chuckle because I actually decided I wanted to homeschool before Lilah was even born, without really knowing why, but then after Lilah was born and I started diving deep into the world of attachment parenting and gentle/respectful parenting I finally found my WHY. Homeschooling was calling us and my decision was solidified once I started learning more about parenting and childhood development.
I want to stop here and make it clear that I truly believe that we all have to decide what is best for our unique family. I don’t think school/daycare is bad, and I don’t think homeschooling is the best option for every family. So, my individual choice on this matter is not me passing judgment on the decisions of other families. And it certainly doesn’t invalidate anyone else’s choices. I’m all about parents being able to make EDUCATED decisions in their parenting. After researching a lot and learning a lot my decision to homeschool was affirmed for my family. I also think it’s important to state that this is a very complex topic and this blog post is a quick view into why I’m homeschooling. And lastly, before moving forward I need to address the fact that I’m very privileged to work from home and have the flexibility needed to homeschool. I also have a village of support around me that is making this possible.
So why are we homeschooling? When I think about the modern day school system it seems foreign to me now (even though I attended public school my whole life). The concept of sending children to school for 8 hours a day and keeping them cooped up within walls for most of that day just doesn’t align with our lifestyle. Nature, movement and sunlight ARE so important to our mental and physical health and I want nature to be a big part of our life everyday. I really want nature to be one of Lilah’s biggest teachers and the current education system doesn’t allow for that.
I’m choosing to parent in a child-led way (with loving parental boundaries) and that applies to learning as well. Children aren’t meant to sit still and be quiet for 8 hours a day. They are meant to be loud, make mistakes, get lost looking at a bug on the ground for a long time, play in the mud, be silly whenever they want to etc. While I totally believe that schools are valuable and teachers are AMAZING- there is a lot of red tape that goes along with school. Classrooms are big with lots of children who have different needs, learning styles, and personalities which makes it really hard for every child to be met with the attention they need. In addition to this, schools have strict curriculums which can take away the opportunity for child-led learning at it’s fullest. Ultimately, I want LILAH to be Lilah’s teacher, meaning I want her to follow her interests when it comes to learning (I will, of course, be there leading her and guiding her). Yes, there are life skills we all need to learn- math, reading, writing, science, etc but all of those can be done in a child-led way. For example- Lilah is very interested in dinosaurs, so we could read books about dinosaurs (reading), write stories about dinosaurs (writing *as she gets older), list dinosaurs and what letters they start with (spelling/reading/writing), play with dinosaur figurines and count them (math), make a volcano that explodes on the dinosaurs (science). And the beauty of this approach is that learning feels FUN because her interests are guiding the learning process.
Another part of public school that doesn’t jive with me is homework. Children are out of the home for most of the day at school, and then they are sent home to do more work which takes valuable time away from being with their family. When we think about a child’s greatest need- attachment- we need to understand that being away from their parents for the majority of their day is a A LOT of separation for them. We then take time away from what should be sacred quality time between a child and their caregivers so that they can do homework.
Something else that is so interesting about the current school system is that we are grouping children of the same age together. It’s important to know that before the mid 1800’s, children were in school rooms with children of all different ages. They weren’t surrounded by children all the same age. If we think back even further through human history to when we raised children in villages (like actual villages)- children were raised alongside people of all different ages. The elders guided the younger children and acted like extensions of their parents. The younger children learned from the older children & elders and trusted their guidance. When we group children of the same age in classrooms what can start happening is peer orientation. What this means is they start looking to their peers to guide their actions/behaviors instead of their caregivers. They are all immature (which is natural) and begin to essentially lead each other and mimic each other, which isn’t often a great thing when it comes to the impulsive minds of young children. (If you’d like to learn more about peer orientation, I highly recommend reading the book Hold Onto Your Kids by Dr. Gordon Neufeld). In a classroom where there are usually 20 (+) children to one teacher, there need to be a lot of rules in place in order to keep things orderly. And while I understand just how hard it would be to manage this many children, I think that a lot of these rules stifle creativity and independence which are two things I really want to encourage in Lilah.
Piggybacking off of that concept I want to share an excerpt from Peter Gray’s research article Self-Directed Education- Unschooling & Democratic Schooling, “through all but the most recent 11,000 years or so of our evolutionary history, we were all hunter-gatherers. We can’t go back in time to examine the behavior of our pre-agricultural ancestors, but we can examine the behavior of those groups of people who managed to survive as hunter-gatherers, in geographically isolated parts of the world, into modern times. Although hunter-gatherer cultures vary in many ways from one to another, anthropologists who have studied such cultures consistently report that children’s education, in all of the groups that have been studied to date, is essentially entirely self directed (Gray, 2009). Children and young adolescents in hunter-gatherer bands are free to play and explore in their own chosen ways essentially all day every day. Very little if any serious work ise xpected of them, partly because the adults recognize that self-directed exploration and play are the means by which children acquire and practice the skills needed for successful adulthood and partly because hunter-gathers place high value on free will and believe it is wrong to interfere with another person’s autonomy, including that of a child, except incases of serious danger (Draper, 1976; Gosso, Otta, de Lima, Ribeiro, & Bussab, 2005; Gray,2009). The children learn by observing their elders and incorporating the activities they observe into their play. They play at hunting, tracking, digging up roots, identifying plants and animals, defending against pretend predators, and building huts and other artifacts, and also at the music, dances, and art of their culture, and in the process they become skilled at all these activities. Gradually, as they become adults, their playful activities become productive activities that help to sustain the band (for full documentation, see Gray, 2009).” This is a perfect example of child-led learning with the guidance of peers and elders around a child.
Another thing that is really important to me is that I want to be right alongside Lilah in her learning journey to encourage and support her. While I think teachers are amazing and do such hard work, I remember quite a few teachers that were downright rude and mean to me and my classmates. I didn’t learn much in their classrooms because I couldn’t connect with them. I think about how much time of my life I wasted in those classrooms that I could have spent exploring outside with my mom- learning about things that really excited me and brought me joy. I don’t want to send Lilah to school to have her wings clipped or light dimmed by someone who just doesn’t enjoy their job or isn’t patient with children. I prefer to nurture her curiosity and make learning a safe and exciting place.
Ultimately, it is my belief that Lilah’s learning/life skills will be better served at home with me (and her dad and my mom as part time teachers). I don’t want red tape that tells me when I can take her out of school or how much homework she has or when she needs to do mandatory testing. I want to truly let her be the guide of her learning journey. If we want to drive to the ocean to learn about sea animals that’s an option for us (it’d be a far drive but it is an option)! If we want to go the museum three days in a row so she can learn about something that is fascinating her we can do that! If we want to take the day and go lay by a river while we bird watch we can do that. If we want to go on a camping trip mid week where we learn life skills (cooking outside, surviving outside, etc) we can do that. Life is big and open and I want it to remain that way for her!
I really want to reiterate that these are my personal thoughts and opinions. I don’t judge anyone who sends their children to school because I know that for many families it is their only option. I also know that many families prefer to send their children to school which is 100% their right, and I support all families in whatever choice they make. With that said, I think many families feel like they want to homeschool but they are intimidated to start. So, if this post reaches one family who is on the fence about homeschooling because they really want to do it but are afraid, I hope I can give them courage to dive in.
Some common questions I get about homeschooling…
“But what about socialization?” Attachment is a child’s greatest need- meaning that their relationship to us is the most important. They learn their social skills from us. In the first few years of life they don’t need to be around kids of their same age on a regular basis. What they need is to grow a deep attachment with us- their loving caregivers. As they grow we can foster their socialization by having play dates, taking them to the park, museum, etc. I have a few friends that will be homeschooling as well that we already have playdates with. As they grow those social interactions will continue.
“Will you follow a curriculum?” So, I ultimately would love to do unschooling which means that we wouldn’t follow any set curriculum and learning would be completely child-led. With the way our life is right now (me running a business and single momming) I just don’t know if that is feasible for us at this time. I think we will benefit from some structure so I plan to use a loose curriculum starting at age 4 (I haven’t found one yet in case you’re wondering but have it on my to-do list before the fall).
“How do you deal with outside judgment/comments from family members?” The judgment part is easy- I simply don’t care. I’ve chosen to parent against the grain from very early on so the surprised looks or even downright rude looks don’t phase me. The comments don’t bother me either because I know that I’m parenting MY child and ultimately what anyone else thinks doesn’t matter. In terms of family thoughts/judgment my mom has been very supportive from the beginning. Bruno (Lilah’s dad) was not on board in the beginning of her life but with time he has become very supportive. My dad is the one who has a hard time with this and quite honestly thinks I’m a bit nuts. But, when I talk to him I don’t really get into a conversation about it because my decision is not up for discussion. He can have an opinion but ultimately he doesn’t get to decide how I parent. If I had a family member who started pressuring me about it I would hold a firm boundary that it wasn’t up for discussion. If that boundary wasn’t respected I would evaluate how frequently I wanted to see that family member.
“Do you have any resources on homeschooling?” I highly recommend the following resources:
Leah McDermott of @yournaturallearner is an AMAZING resource on all things homeschooling.
Jenny Taylor of @gentlerespectfulparenting has offered a Homeschooling Summit in the past. It’s not currently available but I HIGHLY recommend keeping an eye out for it as I know she has another one in the works.
@raisinghowells on IG is a great follow for wanderlust and homeschool
@jerricasannes is another great resource for homeschooling and independent play
Honey I’m Homeschooling The Kids is your one stop shop for all things homeschooling
Peter Gray (a psychologist) also has amazing resources/articles on schooling and unschooling. I’ve linked an interview with him here
To end this blog post- I had to share some very wise words from my amazing virtual assistant who homeschools her FIVE CHILDREN– yes… you read that right. My VA is out here helping me run my business while also homeschooling 5 children. She’s a super woman. After reading this blog post she added, “my only suggestion would be to encourage those looking into homeschooling, to find a homeschool community. Whether that is one that is online, or actually meets in person is completely up to the person. I am a part of both in person and online communities and find it every helpful for resources and also for all of the little “how to’s” (like registering for homeschool: varies by state and can get confusing on the many different choices/laws/etc.) They are also great for when kids get older as that is how we plan homeschool dances, sports, p.e. etc. There are so many ways that kids can get all the fun experiences of school these days while still homeschooling.” Lori Ward
Ultimately, we all get to choose how we want to parent and schooling is included in that decision. I’m doing what works best for my family and you get to do what works best for your family!