( Homeschool Field Trip Olvera Street and Union Station 2014)
I was one of those students who just did well in school. It wasn't particularly hard for me, I was a Type A personality, extremely organized and very driven. My teachers liked me and for the most part I had a good group of friends.
As you can imagine, nothing could have prepared me for having kids who hated school, resisted the status quo and frankly just learned differently.. As we stepped out of the mainstream and began our education at home, I had no idea that "school" was only a small part of this lifestyle and that I would soon be questioning everything I had ever believed about how we live our lives, how we parent and especially about how we learn.
I have to be honest, in the beginning I made every mistake in the book! Oh my gosh, you would get a kick out of what a mess I made. I really had no idea what I was doing. I bought all the books, talked to anyone who would listen, and spent countless hours researching curriculum. I was in full-on manic mode and spinning out of control. I made lists and lists of books to read, prepared our daily "school" schedule, and planned to get started. I see new homeschooling parents deep in the throes of this phase all the time now and wonder if it must just be a required part of the process.
Can you imagine, that those first few weeks I had all my kids at home, my carefully crafted plan completely blew up in my face? The kids squirmed in their chairs, they refused to do my pretty worksheets and cried that this was so unfair!! The toddler climbed all over the table, the dog was barking and loud, the dishes and laundry were piling up. I might have threatened to send them back to school. I fell into bed that night feeling like a complete failure and wondering how I was ever going to survive this, let alone actually teach my kids. . It was painfully clear...something had to change and it has better be quick.
If one thing was obvious to me as my husband and I discussed in those early days, it was that for our kids - following a schooly mindset was missing the entire point of homeschooling. The kids were miserable and so were we. Worksheets, quizzes, and rote learning were seriously not going to work anyway so we needed a new philosophy- one that met our kids exactly where they are right now and focused on them as an individual.. We needed a way to feel engaged as parents and to have our kids get a fire in their belly to learn. This was going to require an out of the box approach to learning.
We are in our 5th year of homeschooling now and our lives are so different. I really had no idea how much I would love this , how much fun it is to watch my kids bloom! Friends stop me all the time to tell me that they see my kids smiling faces and know that we must be doing something right, something that is working for them. Not only are the kids happy, but so are we. We get to be different and do things in a way that works just perfectly for our family! This is where the beauty of homeschooling lies and where the amazing adventure begins!
You see, we have found that when kids are allowed to pursue their own interests, in a way that engages them, for as long or as deep as they want to learn about that thing - they thrive. We've learned that when kids are not being forced to learn - they are naturally curious and and engaged, When they are given the ability to go deep in the areas they are passionate about, beautiful things start to happen and learning is suddenly fun again, and after all, isn't that how it is supposed to be?