Homeschool is a Misnomer

posted in: homeschool, unschooling | 0

golden-leaf-557x362I was wandering around online this morning, looking for materials for the coming school year for my son, and I came across a 2014-15 planner for sale that initially looked pretty good. Let me tell you this now – I love to buy planners. The part I struggle with is actually using them, but that’s another post for another day.

As I was scrolling through the pages of the one I had just found, I noticed some photos that the author had included of her own homeschool “classroom.” It looked just like a miniature and more comfortable version of a classroom you would find at just about any public school. There was a bulletin board with a fall theme, a large whiteboard, posters that looked like they came directly from a teacher supply store, regular classroom desks for the students, and even a teacher’s desk. On the desks and bookshelves I could see textbooks and workbooks.  This family was literally going to school at home. I know that there are many families that see homeschooling in that way and they are very successful.

My vision is completely different. In our homeschool, almost nothing resembles a traditional school. There are no desks, no store-bought learning posters, no huge calendar on the wall with cutsie numbers, no workbooks, no textbooks. We do have two computers on the dining room tables (I saw no computers in the classroom photo) and my son will often be seen reading.  That’s about how close our homeschool comes to a traditional school.

Even if I were good at following a prescribed plan, it would be very difficult to do in our homeschool because the things we study rise out of my son’s interests and what he wants to do and learn.  That means that his needs and interests come first and I can only really plan after I have tapped into whatever is holding his interesting and sparking his imagination at the time. Once I know that, then I can plan and guide, but I can’t get too attached because if his interest in a topic goes left and I had been “planning” to go right, I’m the one who needs to change direction. I’m sure I’ll go much deeper into the method we use as the blog develops, but for now just know that it is as unlike traditional schooling as it could possibly be.

I often think that the school part of homeschool is a misnomer.  It should be learn or explore. But the home part is a misnomer, too, because we can do it anywhere. Our study of geography takes us geocaching and our study of science often takes us outside into the world – to a watershed, a wildlife preserve, a museum, or even our local park. Home is our base, and we do spend most of our time at home because of my son’s passion about technology, but the learning can and does happen anywhere.  Once we were out and about searching for some examples of drought resistant plants in the neighborhood and someone said, “So, you’re on a field trip!” I smiled sweetly and continued on our walk, choosing not to engage that particular friend in a discussion about what homeschooling really is for us. That was no “field trip.”  We were simply living and learning, choosing water resistant plants for our yard because California is experiencing a terrible drought. Did my son learn a lot of science during that outing?  Absolutely!  Did he feel like he was in school?  No way.

It seems to me that the freedom of homeschooling is wasted if we make it “school at home.”  Why would we want to do that?


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 Photo credit: Flickr user moominmolly via Creative Commons License