Jan 2, 2017

Us-Schooling Because We Are Us, Not Someone Else

So the month of January is the traditional month of The Virtual Curriculum Fair. Led by Susan at Homeschooling Hearts and Minds, a group of homeschool mommy bloggers get together every year and write posts of encouragement and inspiration in order to, hopefully, get us all over the mid-winter blahs. This week, we are talking about See How We Learn. At the end of the post, I have the list of all the bloggers participating so you can check out what everyone has to say!

Homeschool moms, whether brand spanking new or old timers, all like to compare notes with other homeschool moms. Put even two of them together and the questions start flying:

What curriculum do you use for...?
How do you teach...?
What do you do with your toddler...?
Have you ever used...?
How do you handle housework?
When do you find time to...?

I love these conversations and I feel that we can all gain a lot from gleaning advice and wisdom from others' experience. However, they can also cause a lot of stress and pressure if we aren't careful. Comparing ourselves, our kids, our school, to someone else, anyone else, can leave us feeling inadequate or envious. Or we can try to force ourselves into a method or a lifestyle that just simply won't work for our family, our personality, or our circumstances.

I have listened to a lot of conversations over the years. I have read a lot of blog posts. I have delved deeply into many different methods and philosophies of home education. And I have gathered a lot of useful tips and tricks and helpful information. But I have also run across a ton of ideas and philosophies and ways of doing things that just don't work for us. And that's ok. God created me as an unique individual and gave me four specific individuals to raise and educate. How I do that should not look exactly the same as anybody else.

That is, after all, the beauty of homeschooling. We have to freedom to listen to others, to learn about methods, to explore philosophies and then to take what works for us and discard the rest. We are free to mold our homeschool in the way that gives our kids the optimal learning environment for them specifically.

All that being said, I am going to share with you a few tips and tricks as to how we get things done around here.

A year or so ago, I read a blog post that talked about homeschooling being a Job. It is the work I have been given by God and I should do it well. I should take it as seriously as I would a job that I receive an actual paycheck for doing. I can't tell you how that thought revolutionized our school. We went from me thinking every morning, "Do we HAVE to do school today?" to me thinking, "Let's get started and get this done well!"

The change in my attitude created a change in the kids' attitude. Now, school is an expected thing every day unless we are on a pre-planned break. One morning I was sick and, after getting everyone up, I went to lay down for a minute. My husband told me I should probably skip school that day since I was feeling so badly. But when I went to tell the kids, they had already started working!

So our first step in "getting it done" is to set up a routine that you follow every single day. It can be super complicated and intricate, or it can be as simple as a read aloud and everybody do math. Whatever you need to get done in a day, set it up as a routine and do it every day.

We do our schoolwork at a set time each day, and we work in the morning because that is what works best for us. But back in the day, the two older kids and I worked in the afternoon because that's when the babies took naps. I expect, someday, at least one of my kids will work best in the evening. We aren't morning people, after all. But the important thing is to have a routine that works for your family and to do just do it every day until you no longer have to even think about it any more.

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In addition to our routine, I set up a system that takes all the decision making out of the daily equation for me. The kids have lists of what they need to do every day. I have a list, too. The lists are set up at the beginning of the year and I never think about them again unless they stop working for us. The kids know what they need to do each day. They know when they reach the end of the list that they are done. It sets all of us up for success.

I also give them as much independence as possible. If they have to wait for me to teach them every single lesson, we will not get much done. I am a low-energy person and there are four of them. But I can easily put "read science book" on their list and then have them narrate the reading to me. They are taking responsibility for their learning and I saved myself a lot of energy. Energy that I am going to need to get everybody through their math without losing some sanity.

And finally, my last trick is that we mix a lot of methods in our school.

We follow a lot of Charlotte Mason's philosophy in that we are literature rich and I expect the kids to do the work. They are responsible for engaging their brains, doing the thinking, and making the connections, We keep our lessons short and provide a lot of variety in learning. I expose them as much as I can to poets, artists, authors and composers. I teach character by demonstrating it modeled by real people and literary ones.

But we use a lot of non-CM curriculum. I don't use her philosophy as my "go to" measuring stick for how to teach. We don't do Shakespeare, we don't study Plato, we learn grammar by other methods than copywork and dictation and, frankly, we are really horrible at the art of narration.

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Because of our dabbling in the Montessori method, I give them a lot of "control" over their learning. We discuss goals of their education and methods to get the job done. I let them weigh in on curriculum. They give me input on ways and means of ordering our days. (Although I do retain the final say). I have them do a lot of real life things like cooking and cleaning and taking responsibility for themselves.

But we don't have a "prepared environment". I have never "followed the child". We did not follow the math method. It makes my head swim to think of all the materials I would need to follow Montessori to a T.

We do a form of "unschooling" in the afternoons when they learn whatever and however they choose. One summer the boys did almost nothing but study insects in the form of catching them, building habitats for them, and raising them. Kaytie chooses art and writing in her free time.

But Unschooling as a method is not for us. I don't have the discipline nor the brain power to do it correctly and I am not about to do it badly. I need curriculum, structure, and someone telling me what I need to do next in no uncertain terms.

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We also follow the traditionalists in that we have set school times, a set curriculum, and certain expectations to live up to. We also are not adverse to using a textbook or a worksheet if that is what gets the job done best.

But we don't do grades. We work for mastery. We are also pretty flexible about our textbooks. We comfortably skip a chapter or two. We add hands on stuff when we feel like it. We make our curriculum work for us and conform to our needs instead of letting it rule us.

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We also use Unit Studies and Lap Books and Notebooking although I don't know exactly what method they come from.

We do a ton of our work on the computer and I don't know what method that would fit into at all.

Lately, I have started outsourcing our work... Kaytie and Nate are taking a Spanish class taught by another mom. Kaytie has earned a couple of credits at our co-op. And I have my eye on a high school level science class for next year.

I guess that makes us Eclectic, but I usually just say we are Us-Schoolers. Because we do what works for us. And my best advice is that you should, too.

I invite you to see how my fellow bloggers learn in their homeschools (note: all posts will be live by noon EST, Jan. 2nd):

The Evolution of Our Homeschool by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds
Us-School Because We Are Us, Not Someone Else by Laura @ Four Little Penguins
It's All About the School by Michele @ Family, Faith and Fridays
Setting the Stage- the 2017 Virtual Curriculum Fair! by Lisa N. @ Golden Grasses
New Year, New Goals, New School! by Amanda H @ Hopkins Homeschool
Homeschooling - A Glimpse into How We Do it by Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory
Spotlight on How We Learn in Our Homeschool by Laura @ Day by Day in Our World
Our Unique Eclectic Homeschool  by Jennifer @ A Glimpse of Our Life
How We Learn on the Go by Jacquelin @ A Stable Beginning
Home Education - 10 Ways We Make It Work by Lizzy @ Peaches At Home
Schedules, where would I be without them? by Kim @ Good Sweet Love
Education at Our House by Shecki @ Greatly Blessed
Starting the Day Well by Sarah @ Delivering Grace
Making a Change - Accountability and Responsibility Through Routine by Lori H @ At Home: where life happens
A time to be encouraged is coming.. the Virtual Curriculum Fair by Annette @ A Net in Time
Loving the Moment! by Jen K @ A Peace of Mind
Keeping Our Homeschool Organized by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool
Homeschool Goal Setting – Looking Forward, Looking Back by Kristen @ Sunrise to Sunset
How We Choose Curriculum by Brittney @ Mom's Heart
This Is How We Homeschool by Kym @ Homeschool Coffee Break
How we don't learn in our homeschool & how I don't plan {2017 Virtual Homeschool Curriculum Fair} by Meghan @ Quiet in the Chaos
Learning Our Way by Lisa @ McClanahan 7
Limping Along: Our Semi-Eclectic Approach to Homeschooling by Debra @Footprints in the Butter
2017 Virtual Curriculum Fair: See How We Learn by Dana L @ Luv'N Lambert Life

If you want to join us with your own blog post, add it to the linky:


Next week, we will be talking about Playing With Words.


SarahElisabeth Jones said...

I really like the phrase Us-Schoolers and yes, we are professional home educators and mothers. It definitely is a proper job, I couldn't agree more!

Susan said...

Thank you for sharing how you've taken different ideas and methods and put them together into your own unique way of doing things. I agree that finding what works for your family is one of the beauties of homeschooling.

I had forgotten that you have 2 girls and 2 boys, too. Would you believe that we also have a brown leather sofa? Maybe we are virtual twins. ;)

Annette V said...

oh... but i like that term Us-schoolers... we us-school too. :)

Jennifer Miller said...

Making the curriculum work for us is a homeschooling privilege. Understanding I could do so changed our homeschool when my girls were younger.

Brittney Mom's Heart said...

Yes, I have fallen into that comparison trap. It's hard to overcome in many parts of life, but particularly homeschooling--where there is a lot of pressure and responsibility to do it right, because it's their entire education and future!

Amanda Hopkins said...

I love the thought of homeschooling as a job! It really is. We are trusted to raise these children and that includes schooling them. Changing our mind frame and knowing that we set the day for our homeschool is GREAT advice! While I knew this, it is good to hear again! Thank you!

Lisa McClanahan said...

I think the mother's attitude does change the attitude of everyone else in the family, even dad's.

Michele said...

I love the get it done attitude! Some days that is a challenge, but once we are done, we all feel better and can move on to other things without guilt!

Shecki Grtlyblesd said...

Us-schoolers is a perfect description! :D That's awesome.

Anonymous said...

I love it! Going to use that....Us-Schooling :-)
Good one. <3


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