It happened almost on accident, out of necessity.
1. Life happens. There are always interruptions to schooling. Even if the kids were in public school, they would be out for sick days, holidays, and various vacation days. The past two years I have had two hard pregnancies back to back. (My boys are not even a quite a year apart!) So, we did our best at making progress with school. Hours of bookwork would not have worked for us. A more flexible approach to schooling was a lifesaver. We read lots of books together and had lots of conversation. And I invested in teaching the kids to help me around the house, which has paid off dividends already!! We may not have completed many grade level workbooks, but we have learned to read, memorized Scripture and learned to cook.
2. Having a large family. Because I have many children, all at varying grade levels and ages, it is easier if everyone is learning something together. We can all work on the same Scriptures or listen to the same books being read. This is also why Classical Conversations works for us – we are all learning and reviewing the same facts. I don’t need separate curriculums for art, science, history, geography, music, etc. For more of why we use Classical Conversations, see our reasons.
3. It’s working better than curriculums we purchased. I love books and curriculum and as a former teacher and student, I loved workbooks and school in general. But many things I tried with my children DID NOT WORK. We have had many tears and struggles over reading and writing and spelling and math.
- I think part of our struggle was that I was over zealous to do too much too early. A wise homeschool mom told me that the tears were because I was asking my child to do something she couldn’t do. There is a difference between making them do work that they don’t want to do and asking them to do something that is too hard. Also, I have learned that there is a lot of value in going slower to build up confidence and mastery of a subject.
- Another reason it didn’t work was I was not able to give enough time and energy to a subject because I was too distracted with all the other kids and responsibilities of running a household. Maybe we could have used those other curriculums had I been able to have one on one focused time with each child for long periods of time. But then again, maybe not because of #3
- A third reason is that traditional curriculums and workbooks do not always work well for all learning styles and student personalities. What we are doing now is working because we are able to tailor our schoolwork to fit their individual personalities and learning styles, which in turn, makes real learning happen more readily.
4. Our philosophy of education. Over time my philosophy of education has evolved.
- Just because teaching is happening and workbooks are filled, does not mean that learning and understanding is occurring. I don’t want to fill our days with busy work. Real learning happens more often when the student is engaged – when they ask the questions, when they choose a book or discover something. I think it good for the parent or teacher to frame those discussions and discoveries and not just leave it all to chance.
- Furthermore, real life is not just academics. I did well in public school, but felt like I was lacking in practical life skills. For example, I knew nothing about cooking or gardening. The way we homeschool will hopefully allow our children to have both.
5. It frees up time for other important pursuits. In the last year, for us, that has mostly meant just surviving pregnancy and toddlers, but it has meant a lot more over the years and hopefully for the future.
- art and music
- sports and exercise
- learning skills such as sewing, crocheting
- learning to cook, and run a household
- working on projects (we make lots of homemade gifts at the holidays)
- church activities
- starting a small business
- service to others (cooking a meal for someone, babysitting,construction projects with Dad)
- more time for relationships with others
- involvement in the community
Overall, I enjoy the flexibility that unschooling offers. I don’t have a set curriculum or structure that ties me down, that keeps me from doing important things. Unexpected circumstances cause me less stress, because we are not trying to complete a book by the end of the year. Of course, we do have overarching goals of what I would like to accomplish in a year, but we just make learning and working a way of life day to day, week to week.