As we become a homeschooled family, the question facing us today? How to start homeschooling?

With thousands of school kids across Victoria going on orientations for their 2016 schooling, it hit me today that we have actually begun our journey to become a homeschooled family.

When we made the decision to begin travelling full time, one of the first questions we came up with was about the kid’s education. As a parent, I naturally want to give my kids the best possible education, and whilst I know how valuable travelling the world will be for them, how would I ensure that they learned the fundamentals? Should I homeschool? Could we really become a homeschooled family?

Becoming a homeschooled family.

Let me start this post by saying that there are many definitions of homeschooling – along with many interpretations and names! Home schooling, unschooling and worldschooling are three that have popped up time and time again, and whilst I see us using a combination of all three (and generally referring to them as homeschooling because it’s more widely understood), for the purpose of this article, let me define each.

What is Homeschooling?

Homeschooling (or home schooling) is an alternative way of educating children, in which parents choose to school their children in the home, instead of sending them to a traditional public or private school. This type of education is often quite structured, with parents selecting one of many home school programs, with a structured homeschool schedule.

Where we are from, we do have the option of enrolling our kids with Distance Education, which perfectly fits into a traditional homeschooling structure of classes, curriculum and assessments. It is based on the same curriculum as Victorian schools, but for a family like ours, travelling the world, living in different time zones, an online home school program such as this just couldn’t work. The last thing we want to do is be chained to a desk all day – we want to see the world!

What is Unschooling?

According to Unschooling.com, Unschooling is “a method of homeschooling that puts the desire, drive, motive and responsibility for life – this thing we call learning, or education – in the hands of the learner. Unschooling is what defines a life lived on one’s own terms, whether you’re a child, a teen or an adult”.

Now the idea of handing over the responsibility of learning to my kids sounded very strange to me at first, but when I sat and looked at my children, I realised that it is an incredible way for them to learn. Before children start school, they learn an amazing amount, all without a formally qualified teacher in sight! The English language for one, manners, how to interact with others (kids and adults) and so much more.

The concept that I truly love about unschooling? The undeniable fact that children learn best when they are engaged! If a child is interested in a particular topic, they will simply devour any information they can find – case in point – watch a child who just loves Disney Princesses (yes, I have a 5 year old!). She will watch Frozen over, and over and over again. She will draw Disney Princesses, she will write about Disney Princesses and she will talk and ask questions about Disney Princesses constantly. And in doing so, she learns so much, all based around her favourite topic at that time. My son on the other hand loves gaming and YouTube. He decided he wanted to create a video to upload – well suddenly he’s learned about planning, scripting, camera use and much much more. And were either of these in a room with 25 other kids, all sitting at their desks? No, not at all. It was, in the true sense, unschooling.

What is Worldschooling?

Worldschooling, according to Eli Gerzon is “when the whole world is your school, instead of school being your whole world.” In my opinion worldschooling is schooling at it’s best – getting out into the world and learning from experiences. Finding learning opportunities from the people you encounter in your travels; from the things you see and the things you do.

We have been fortunate enough to travel quite a bit already, and it has always amazed me at how much the kids have learned along the way. This is what makes me confident that worldschooling will work for us.

The best home school curriculum - unschooling in Peru

Worldschooling in Lima, Peru in Dec 2014

 

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Types of Home School Programs

Given the diversity of just the definition of homeschooling, it should be no surprise that the quantity of homeschool programs available is quite extensive as well. The choice will depend on the approach you are taking, be it home based, structured lessons, or complete unschooling. I forsee us employing many different resources during our journey – choosing from the many types of home school programs rather than limiting ourselves to just one.

Homeschooling Online

What a wonderful day and age we live in – the internet is an amazing resource. As a parent teaching my children how to learn, when they ask me something I’m not 100% sure about, I hand them my phone or ipad and they begin googling! 5 years ago I began a cake decorating business – I’d never taken a single formal lesson or class, but with thanks to Mr Google, I found myself with the skills to make cakes that truly impressed! And when I wanted to learn a new technique, Mr Youtube was never far away! And I put all of that down to being someone who was fully engaged, ready to learn, with the tools at my fingertips – isn’t that what unschooling is about?

Beyond these resources there are many, many programs available to help our children learn. From online programs, downloadable software and tablet games We love Reading Eggs for our little 5 year old, and for our 11 year old Khan Academy comes highly recommended.



How does homeschooling work?

If you, like so many, have never looked into homeschooling, this is a very interesting question.

Back when my now 11 year old was starting school, my Hubby and I did a lot of research into different education styles, Montessori being the main one we were interested in. But, the closest Montessori school was about an hour and a half a way which would have meant selling our house and moving away from family and friends… and whilst we LOVED the idea of Montessori, it just wasn’t practical.

The next step from there was looking at homeshooling… but how does homeschooling work? For me, having grown up in a traditional schooling environment, the idea of my child being able to learn without a teacher standing in front of them delivering material was way outside of my comfort zone. How on earth could I teach my child? I’m certainly not a qualified teacher.

The joy of homeschooling is that, for the most part, it can take on whatever form you like (providing you meet local regulations of course!)

Why choose homeschooling?

There are a variety of reasons parents choose to homeschool. For some, the process begins when parents become unhappy with one or more elements of the current school situation, whilst for others, like us, it begins when parents make a conscious decision to change the family dynamic. For us, we will be moving around a lot, so homeschooling will work perfectly.

Once the decision has been made, it is time to understand the legal requirements. This is discussed in more detail further in this post.

Then with legal requirements under control, the transition is made and children begin living their new homeschooled life, in whatever form that may take. For many, this may involve a period of deschooling – giving the child (and parents) a chance to adjust to learning in an unstructured environment – learning to live without the reinforcement of grading and regimented learning. Deschooling seems to be regularly recommended at a rate of 1 month per year of schooling.

Home schooling neither isolates children nor harms their academic growth; it does, however, come close to the true definition of education: the passing down of culture.

How much does homeschooling cost?

Prices vary greatly, again, depending on the path you choose. With access to the internet, the resources available are infinite, some paid and many for free.

Naturally you may want to buy materials for your child; books, paper, pens etc, however this is no different to regular schooling. The costs after that could be very minimal, or quite expensive.

I’m very much the bargain hunter – I love scoping out a sale, or tracking down items that are lightly used, but selling for a fraction of the new cost. So, if I were homeschooling in a traditional sense, half the fun would be keeping costs low – and of course I’d be asking the kids to help – what a fantastic way to learn about money!

From time to time I have no doubt that some investments will be necessary, but again, I will certainly be using the internet to my advantage. If i find something that looks great, but comes with a sizeable price tag, I would most certainly research alternatives. And if all else fails do a google search for a coupon, to help bring the price down!

Do I need a homeschool schedule?

This really depends on the type of schooling that suits your family, and what you are trying to get out of it.

For us, as we travel the world, sitting down and doing “class work”, carrying books and pens (when travelling with only carry on luggage) is just not feasible. We want to experience the world and all it has to offer, and that is why worldschooling suits us perfectly. Of course that’s not to say that there won’t be some down time, where the kids might play their “games” (how many educational games are there available? Can I just say how much I love the fact that minecraft is educational!!!). Plus we will be asking Brody to blog a little on his own – to help him develop his writing, and to have him record the things he’s seen and done – imagine looking back on that 20 years down the track!

For other families online home school programs might be the answer – and there is so many available. A simple Google search will present a limitless supply of options. I’ve heard a lot about Khan Academy as an educational tool – many families in the travel forums I am part of highly recommend it, and from what I’ve seen, I have no doubt it will be a useful tool for our family as well.

And then for others, a more structured homeschool schedule will work wonders. I’m a big planner – I like being organised, I like having a plan. If I were staying put, and schooling from home, I have no doubt this would be the approach I would take… or at least to some extent. I figure that our kids spend about 4.5 hours a day in class – but of that how much is actual learning time. With full respect to teachers (because I know I couldn’t do what they do), teaching a class of 25-30 students must take substantially longer than teaching the same content to 1 or 2 students.

In fact, in an interview with John Taylor Gatto, New York City Teacher of the Year and a 26-year teaching veteran, he stated that “in many classrooms less than one hour out of each school day is spent on “on task” learning”!

So from the reading and research I’ve done, I would probably set myself a homeschool schedule of perhaps a couple of hours in the morning, followed by half an hour or so of reading each night? And knowing me, I would have it completely structured so I know what subject, on which day and at what time!!! To be honest, just thinking about it gives me a headache (only because I would completely over complicate it!!!)

So ultimately, a home school structure is completely up to you and your needs. Just remember what it is you are hoping to achieve. Ask yourself what you want to get out of the experience, and schedule their lessons (or don’t) from there!

Home schooling requirements – is unschooling legal?

This is almost a topic for a post of it’s own. Every country and every state will have it’s own rules and home schooling requirements, and it is so important that you gain a full understanding of this before you begin your journey. Some places require you to complete full lesson plans and curriculum documentation, whilst others require nothing more than filling out a form. Given the complexities of the requirements it is certainly not something that I can advise on, so I would highly recommend detailed research!

Lucky for us, we get off relatively easily – full details for home schooling requirements in Victoria (Aus) are available here for anyone interested.

Homeschooling Pros and Cons

Of course, as with any big decision, there are a million and one reasons to do or not do something – for us, that meant looking into homeschooling pros and cons.

Pros

Educational freedom

“You don’t need to teach me, because I teach myself!” – 7 year old unschooled child

Most home schooled students have the ability to choose what they study, when they study it and for how long. Of course, that’s not to say that all the basics are skipped – just that what is learnt by one child at 7 might be learned by another at 9. It all depends on the individual, their abilities and interests. (Unfortunately though some areas do require a much stricter homeschool program, which reduces the ability for the child to have this level of freedom.)

One of the beautiful things that I’m realising, is that homeschooling helps the child learn how to learn. No longer forced to study a set subject, at a set time, a child is able to explore their interests without a teacher dictating the curriculum. At first I worried about the quality of education that I could give… but as I am starting to realise – I am not teaching my child the subjects… I am teaching my child how to learn, how to discover the information that THEY need to know.

In one of the unschooling groups that I am a part of, this concept was so brilliantly summed up by a 7 year old unschooled child. When questioning his Mum as to why schools still exist if parents don’t have to send their kids to one, his mother suggested one possible reason could be that they don’t feel they are capable of teaching their own kids. His response? “Well that’s just silly, you don’t need to teach me, because I teach myself!”

Physical freedom

After the initial shock of leaving the school system has passed, parents who homeschool say they experience a real sense of freedom. With their lives no longer revolving around school hours, homework, and the school calendar, these families plan off-season vacations, visit parks and museums during the week, and live their lives according to what works for them.

For us, this means travelling the world – seeing and doing new and exciting things that we’ve only ever dreamed of!

Emotional freedom

Sadly, a typical school day can be quite emotionally taxing on our kids. Peer pressure, competition, boredom, and bullies – how do children stand a chance of focusing on their education when dealing with such problems.

As an early teen I coped my share of bullying, and now watching my children experience the same, brings horrible memories flooding back.

Studies have shown that self-esteem plummets in teenage girls – girls who were once confident, outgoing and strong, can become withdrawn, nervous, quiet or unsure. Similar studies of homeschooled girls have shown that self-esteem remains strong and these girls go from strength to strength. Homeschooled kids dress, act and think as they want without worrying about needing to fit in. They live in the real world – away from adolescent peer pressures.

Closer family relationships

In this crazy world, we are always so busy. I regularly look at my kids and feel like I’m missing out on precious time, that I can never get back. The last thing I want to do later in life, is look back and wish I’d taken more time out to spend with them, and that is exactly why we are doing this.

I see my kids act out in horrible ways, just to get my attention… and yet now that life is a little calmer and I am able to spend more time with them, I see their behaviour starting to change, all for the better. I am really looking forward to having a calmer family life, and getting quality time with each of the kids. To really get to know them and their interests.

Well rested kids

Just like adults, children are stronger and better suited to optimal performance at different times of the day. Our family is the perfect example. My husband is a morning person, up early, and at his best first up. Me on the other hand, I am a night person. My most productive time of day is after 8.30pm.

So when our children are forced to get out of bed at 7am, whether they are a morning person or not, we are sending them to school and forcing them to learn at times that may not be best for them. And if not at their best, how can children possibly be getting the most from their learning.

On the other hand, morning people, forced to come home and sit until midnight doing homework, can not possibly be doing their best work either.

As homeschooled children, I look forward to my children learning at times that are best for them!

No homework

With learning time becoming far more effective, there simply isn’t the need for students to complete hours and hours of homework each night after school. I remember when I was a teen, I’d get home from school and start my homework, often working into the night to get it all done! I can guarantee, that is one aspect of schooling that any homeschooled child wouldn’t miss!

Cons

Beginning anything new is going to come with its own set of disadvantages. We are currently in the process of dealing with a few and we haven’t even really started. The downsides of homeschooling, as we see it, are far outweighed by the positive aspects, but nonetheless I’ve listed some below.

Missing school friends

I guess this could link directly to the first concern most people have when homeschooling is mentioned, and that is socialisation.

Now I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of ANY time in life when I spend hours upon hours in a room, with 25 other people, with whom the only thing I have in common is our age. In the real world, we socialise with everyone we meet – be them younger or older – and my kids certainly don’t care either way – they just want to play! As an adult in the workplace, the variety of ages one mixes with is huge… so i would suggest socialisation at school, is not a good example of teaching for the real world.

But when it comes to friends, and missing those that they already have, my two are a little sad. BUT, in this day and age, with Skype and Messenger and every other means of contact, there really is no reason that they shouldn’t be able to keep in touch. Furthermore, I watch both of my kids when we go somewhere – kids attract kids, and it isn’t long before both kids have found new friends, and have lots of fun together. At this point in time, I simply remind my kids of all of the friends they have made (and still have) from past trips and cruises, and whilst they will of course miss the friends they already have, they are excited to meet new ones along the way.

Time restraints

Schooling kids from home is a full time job in itself. Whilst we don’t plan on using schedules and lesson plans, planning for experiences and adventures will no doubt be demanding – but you know what – I love it!!!

Financial restraints

Following on from the previous item, having a parent at home full time educating kids would certainly restrict that parent from the opportunity of going out into the workforce. However, for the entrepreneurial person, creating an online, location independent business, is the perfect opportunity to combine the two roles – educator and income earner! Naturally this will require some juggling, but hey, most parents are pretty good at that!!

Being with the kids 24/7

At this point I have to be completely honest and say I am yet to get my head around this one… I definitely need my own time, on my own! Plus, we always seem to be going through some sort of stage which is turning at least one of our gorgeous kids into horrible little monsters, so at first the thought of not having an escape plan, really stressed me out.

BUT, I have recently discovered something – the more time I spend with my kids, the better they behave. Who would have thought!!!

At the end of the day though, I really want to grow my relationship with my kids – I want to look back on their childhood and be happy that I grabbed every opportunity I could to spend time with them.

At worse – if it’s all too hard, I hear that babysitters are cheap in SE Asia! 😉

The strange reactions from others

Let’s face it, homeschooling is not the norm. To a lot of people it is a strange idea that they know nothing about – it is not something they know or understand and it’s waaaaay outside of their comfort zone.

So when we announced that we were homeschooling we got hit with a barrage of strange comments and questions… BUT at the end of the day, whilst I’ll admit I am a little nervous about starting, I am confident that we are making the right decision for our family – and isn’t that what matters the most?

How to start Homeschooling

For us, homeschooling, or in our case, worldschooling, will simply be about getting out there. Looking at what our kids are doing, what they are interested in and helping them to explore those interests. Whilst unschooling is essentially child-led, I see my role as helping to make opportunities available to help them learn.

Today, I answered my question “how to start homeschooling” – whilst all the kids we know went to their new schools, or into their new grades for a 2016 orientation, I spent the day with my kids. We hung out at home, watched a video, ran a few errands, picked up some groceries… a pretty ordinary day.

Becoming a homeschooled family

Day 1 – Becoming a Homeschooled Family

Before bed I asked my Son if he’d enjoyed his “1st day of school” to which he looked at me strangely and said “but we didn’t do anything”. So, we then sat and listed all the things we’d done during the day, so we could figure out what we’d learned.

  • * We watched a movie and learned about the consequences of being a nice, caring, generous person v’s being greedy, nasty, materialistic (Santa’s Little Helper).
  • * We had an anatomy lesson whilst I visited my Physiotherapist (for treatment after recent surgery).
  • * We watched a show about dogs that are trained for the army – how they are trained, how they help soldiers, and how they form a bond with their owner (Max).
  • * We spent 2 hours at the library reading a variety of books. Brody used the internet to research a book and author that he liked, and then learned how to find them in the library.
  • * We stopped at the supermarket where they helped compare, select and purchase the groceries.

Brody’s reaction to this was hilarious. He was shocked at just how much he’d learned, whilst he felt like he’d not done much more than have fun. And I guess that is exactly the point.

I will finish this post by stating the obvious – I am not an expert in homeschooling, unschooling or worldschooling. I have LOTS to learn and am fortunate enough to live in this day and age, where there is a plethora of information available online.

All I can do is my best. And for our family, right now, our best is taking the opportunity ahead of us and helping the kids to learn all that they can. I have no doubt we will make mistakes, and some days I worry that I will completely muck it all up… but when I sit back and watch them learn, try new things and experience the world around them, I am often rewarded with moments of complete and utter joy when my kids show me things that they’ve taught themselves to do, just because they wanted to.

Our kids are home schooled!

The rewards of becoming a homeschooled family!

Question?

Have you ever considered homeschooling? Are you already homeschooling? Do you know of unschooling blogs that you love to read? Tell us about your experience! Let us know by commenting below!

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