As if the decision to homeschool isn’t daunting enough, what with thousands of curriculum choices, hundreds of educational philosophies, an overwhelming sense of self-doubt, and the weight of the huge responsibility we are taking on, but we are also faced with the choice of HOW we choose to homeschool.
- Do we mimic school at home with coverage of each subject, grades, and tests?
- Do we let kids learn through life with no curriculum, tests, or subjects?
- Do we join a blended school where part time we homeschool and part time we attend school?
There are so many different ways to homeschool, and no one way is the right way.
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We entered our 3rd year in homeschooling starting in August. Up to this point I have suffered what I can only describe as a manic depressive attitude towards our homeschooling adventure; loving it one minute and despising it the next. As you may remember from my post, “I Hate Homeschooling” I came to realize that as time passed I disliked the adventure less and less. This year proved this to be true. While my first year was spent hating homeschooling 90-95% and my second year dropped to 60-70%, this year has been an all-time low of 10-20% of the time.
What made the difference?
BECOMING A FREE-RANGE HOMESCHOOLER.
(I’m coining this new term as the category that most of us fall under.)
Definition time. Free range is defined as “kept in natural conditions, with freedom of movement.” Of course this definition is mostly applied to livestock, and more specifically chickens. But I think in our case, this term works as well.
When I say Free Range Homeschooler, what I mean is a homeschooler whose style is fluid, learning through a variety of ways including but not limited to life learning, learning-through-play, learning through a curriculum, and even learning through osmosis. Basically, learning in the way that fits best at the time we are learning.
So, what makes for a Free Range Homeschool?
First, everything should be a lesson. When I say everything, I mean EVERYTHING. The grocery store, the gas station, cleaning the house, changing poopy diapers, laying around watching crap-TV (you know, like Fairly Odd Parents and other shows that I am sure reduce my kids’ IQ’s.) We talk about every single thing we do, why we do it, when we do it, where we do it, who else does it, who doesn’t do it, etc.
The best example of this is our lesson on butts about a month ago. Yes, you read that right. BUTTS. My kids are at that wonderful age when you can add the word ‘butt’ to anything and it’s funny. A lot of times they just say ‘butt’ over and over and over and over and over… you get the idea. So one day I made it a lesson.
We started by talking about what comes out of butts and why. Poop and farts also being big topics around the house their attention was pretty much caught. The Husband told the kids all about farts being made up of a gas called methane and how this gas is flammable but should one light their farts on fire it causes spontaneous combustion. We also talked about how methane from cows and other farm animals is a huge contributor to greenhouse gases which are causing global warming. Yep. We really stretched that out.
Later that night we covered more butts (pun intended) and talked about butt songs. We started by watching several music videos on YouTube beginning with Honky Tonk Badonkadonk by Trace Adkins, then Sir Mix A Lot’s Baby Got Back, and last Bubble Butt by Major Lazer (feat. Bruno Mars, 2 Chainz, Tyga, and Mystic)WARNING: THIS LAST VIDEO IS NOT APPROPRIATE FOR MOST AUDIENCES.
Our goal was to cover a wide time frame and different musical genres and compare and contrast them. We were able to talk about the historical evolution (and lack of) regarding the view of the butt. We then tied our discussion into our MLK lesson from the day before by talking about loving ourselves no matter what WE look like and transitioning to loving others no matter what THEY look like.
The kids were enthralled! Even the 2 year old was talking about it days later. I feel like I deserve some kind of homeschooling medal or award for pulling that one out the way I did.
Second, we learn through play. A lot. A Whole Lot.
The kids spend time playing (or rather fighting) together every day as they figure out their role in the family and their relationships with each other. We play outside and explore the outside world touching dirt and trees and leaves and grass and bugs and rocks and… everything. We are serious party-ers, taking pretty much every opportunity to party with friends that comes our way.
For the Littles, learning through play is essential. Play allows them to explore their world, figure out their social environment, develop their personalities. One way I help facilitate this, is we participate in a pre-K co op every Thursday with other kids in the 2-5 age range. The kids are given the chance to learn, and then play with friends. We also visit several different museums weekly where the kids get hands-on opportunities to explore everything from weather and animals to tree houses and dinosaurs.
S needs a little more structured play. For her, we go roller skating, bowling, trampoline parks, and other fun places. Don’t get me wrong, she also still runs around at the park and museums; she still gets her brother and sister involved in games of imagination.
And of course, don’t underestimate the power of playing with games. There are so many games that encourage learning. UNO gives the chance to learn about numbers and colors, while Monopoly allows for financial considerations. Plus, there are a ton of games specifically geared toward educational purposes and goals. Many a homeschool day is started with a game.
Finally, Free Range Homeschooling is allowing your children to follow their interests.
Currently, S is interested in robotics. We have found several books about robotics that have not only taught her about the technical side of robotics, but also provides projects so she can build her own robots. Robotics: DISCOVER THE SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY OF THE FUTURE with 20 PROJECTS by Nomad Press is a fabulous beginning book with simpler projects. A more advanced book that goes into more details about the mechanical side and science of robots and has more complicated projects is: The Robot Book: Build & Control 20 Electric Gizmos, Moving Machines, and Hacked Toys by Bobby Mercer.
Following her interests we have also learned to crochet, sew, and bake. We have learned an absurd amount about real Princesses/Queens throughout time. We have studied inventors including Leonardo Da Vinci. And I am fairly certain that I am all but waiting on the CIA to contact me offering me a position as a spy based on all of the knowledge on spying that I currently possess.
Plus, never ever pass up the opportunity to consult Dr. Google when something comes up. My Little Man is constantly coming up with questions like, “How do you make a metal plate” and “Why are Hamburgers called ‘hamburgers’?” We consult Dr. Google many times a day to answer the random and fleeting interests of the kids.
Ultimately, I think that free range homeschooling works because it allows parent and child to work in ways they work best. It allows freedom to ebb and flow as the day or even hour takes you. If someone is sick, if the weather is nice, if relatives are visiting, if the husband gets an unexpected opportunity for a business trip to somewhere you’ve never been before… where ever life takes you, as a free range homeschooler you can adapt your school accordingly.
Do you think Free Range Homeschooling would work for you?