Have you noticed that there are “skins” for everything these days? From cell phones to iPods to Gameboys, even my Windows Media Player allows me to choose from a wide variety of downloadable skins. I recently read in Reader’s Digest about the mom who made a small fortune when she invented Jibbitz, the little buttons to personalize your Crocs. The purpose, of course, is to make your gadget a unique reflection of your own personal style, rather than a cookie-cutter copy of the dozens of other mass-produced gadgets on the market. We like to find ways to express our individuality.
So, why do we so often compare our homeschool to that of the people around us? Why do we so often feel uncomfortable or insecure in our own homeschooling skins?
There are so many styles of homeschooling out there — Charlotte Mason, classical, school-at-home, unschooling — and so many methods — unit studies, workbooks, literature-based. And, often, there is a surprising amount of judgment within the homeschooling community. Those with a more traditional approach think that those with more relaxed approach aren’t giving their kids a quality education. Radical unschoolers have been known to say that, if the parent instigates any type of learning, then you can’t call yourself a real unschooler.
The truth is that we all have a lot to learn from each other. And, there is nothing wrong with blending the elements that appeal to your family to create the perfect fit for your unique family.
When we first began homeschooling, I started with unit studies, which is a much more relaxed beginning than many homeschooling families have, but I was still very structured. As in, to the point that those who “knew me when” still tease me about it today. As I began to meet homeschoolers representing a variety of styles, I began to more fully explore what I wanted for my family. I read books on Charlotte Mason, classical, relaxed schooling, unschooling, and more.
We experimented. At one point, we became so relaxed that an unschooling friend told me that we were on the more structured end of unschooling. I never thought we’d be on the unschooling scale at all, structured end of the spectrum or otherwise!
It honestly took about four years for me to find the style that worked for my family. It probably doesn’t take everyone that long, but, I have read that three years is about average.
So, now that we’ve found our fit, does that mean that my kids happily sit down and do everything that I expect from them each day with nary a complaint? If you read my blog on even a fairly regular basis, you know the answer to that is, “no.”
Does that mean that I never, ever have my moments of doubt or frustration? No.
What it does mean is that I have found the right balance of elements for us. It also means that I am, for the most part, comfortable in my homeschooling skin and very rarely feel the need to attempt to justify or debate it with anyone else. I know that there are people who would look at what we do and say that I need to push my kids a bit more. I also know that there are those who would look at us and say that I need to back off.
More importantly, I know that where we are, right now, is the right place for us. We’re just your average, ordinary, eclectic homeschoolers with a classical bent and a little dash of Charlotte Mason. 😉
My suggestion, to every new homeschooler who asks, is to take some time to read about lots of different styles of homeschooling. Even if you don’t think that a particular style is for your family, you might pick up a few elements that are a good fit. At the very least, you’ll start to develop a picture of how you want your homeshcool to look. Don’t be afraid to experiment a bit to see what works and what doesn’t. Kids are resilient, curious and constantly learning. You’re not going to ruin them in a year and it will be worthwhile time spent finding the niche in which your children learn best.
What is your homeschool skin?
The Unschooling Handbook by Mary Griffith
The Relaxed Home Schooler by Mary Hood
Homeschooling: The Early Years by Linda Dobson
A Charlotte Mason Education by Catherine Levinson
The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer