What Type of Home Schoolers Are We, Anyway?

I was asked this a couple of weeks ago, and I have been pondering it ever since.  I’ve always maintained that I’m a nothing home schooler, not wanting to box myself in and hand other people expectations on a plate.  People have enough expectations as it is.  And really we do tend to do our own thing, walk our own path.

The poet, Robert Frost, wrote a poem called The Road Not Taken.  I love his poetry, full of melancholy thoughtfulness.  This particular one resonates with me deeply.  Life seems to present many, many forks in the road.  And there are choices to be made.  In most cases, the road well trodden is the more appealing to the majority of people.  In fact, I believe many folk aren’t even aware of the fork.  I have had tonnes of people say to me that they would never have even considered not sending their children to school, it is just what one does.

When I was growing up I attended one of the best schools in the country.  Here, the option of taking GCSEs, A levels and going on to do a degree was a given.  It was what was expected of us.  It was only when I went to university and met other students, usually mature students, who had taken a different pathway to obtain their place at university, that I even realised such choices were available.

My nursing degree was a big let down.  I had worked really hard to achieve the grades needed to go (I’m not naturally brainy at all) and was really looking forward to four exciting years of learning.  I was disheartened to find original thought was discouraged (maybe I should have taken philosophy?) and I found myself once again on a treadmill of syllabi and exams.  By this point I was tired of it all.  I wanted to stretch my brain, not my ability to recall fact.  Bizarrely, I’ve always maintained that my true education began the moment I left behind all the educational institutions I had so been looking forward to attending.

University taught me that as students we were a statistic, a number and the higher the better.  So long as we got  a degree, somehow we would be better off, more primed for success in life.  And  this thinking was prevalent in my nearest and dearest.  When I chose to get married to a man with no tertiary education my family and friends were horrified.  I went ahead, naturally following my instincts and, anyway, I knew I wanted a man with a big heart more than a big pocket (the perceived result of a degree).  And we have the happiest of marriages.

My own education took a huge leap when I embarked on home schooling.  I came to realise how superficial my knowledge actually was.  I’d had one of the best educations money could buy, and I’d learnt how to pass any exam with ease.  However, there was lots I’d learnt verbatim because it would be on an exam paper, often without any understanding of what I was learning (chemistry comes to mind).  There wasn’t time to explore the subject deeper; no encouragement to cogitate over all this new knowledge.  Homework was handed in and we moved on.

So where am I going with this?  Just recently I have found myself at  a fork in our educational road and I have been unsettled by what I have found to be my own assumptions and conditioned thoughts towards education and success.  And I wonder how I missed them being there before now.

This week I am going to post some of the workings of my mind.  It will probably be interminably boring for everyone to read (sorry ’bout that), but I want a record of the turning away from one mode of thinking to another.  I’m not sure I have the courage to follow where my over active brain is taking me, because it is taking me into a world previously unknown in its existence to me.  Just what kind of home schooler am I?  More importantly what kind of home schooler do I actually want to be?  And does it even matter?

25 comments

  1. I just looooooooooooove your post, and I relate to many things you said being a nurse with a crafty husband , a very active brain, five kids, whom I have homeschooled I just have a lot to regret not being able to teach them as I felt because of the pressure from the authorities and lacking material in french, I just want to encourage you, you are such a great mom and you are a blessing to all of us out there, I just hope to find a way to help others now that I am finished with my own. Thank you for your honesty , many blessings from over here in Switzerland Much love Myriam

    1. I think it’s terribly important for those who have ‘gone before us’ are around to give help and guidance and I am sure the women who you help are ever so grateful to have your input.
      Thank you so much for your kind thoughts and wishes. Many blessings to you too!

  2. Here’s an analogy for you:
    There are two kids in a grade 4 classroom. Johnny comes from a lower class family…he was never taken to a library…there are very few books in his home. On the other hand Jennifer comes from an upper middle class family…her parents took her to the library frequently and she has tons of books at home. So one day the teacher says that they’re going to have a test at the end of the week on vocabulary. There’s 20 words that will be tested. Right off the bat, Jennifer already knows 18 of the 20 words already and Johnny only knows 4 of them. So it’s now the end of the week and time for the test. Jennifer scores 17/20 and Johnny scores 9/20. Jennifer gets a B and Johnny fails…BUT let’s really look at this…Jennifer actually got dumber (for lack of a better word) because on Monday she knew 18 words and on Friday she got only 17 right. Johnny actually more than doubled his knowledge but still failed the test. Where is the sense in this? Johnny got smarter and Jennifer got dumber…but the marks don’t reflect that!!
    That’s why testing is useless! -in my opinion. Schools teach kids to get a good mark and that’s all that matters!

    1. I agree while heartedly. I aced standardized testing, but cannot recall what I learned. I learned to memorize to pass testing and that knowledge was wasted and lost because I can’t recall it now.

  3. Yes! I was reading the book Legendary Learning this week and reflecting on the same thing! I actually begin homeschooling my kindergarten son today. I’m pulling him out halfway through the year because of many reasons, but the more I learn about it the more I’m sure we made the right decision. It’s funny that I received good grades in school and went on to college and almost finished my degree in criminal justice, but when I look back I can hardly recall anything that I supposedly “learned,” after all I got good grades in it. Yet my husband who dropped out of high school and later got his GED has a vast amount of knowledge that he uses and can recall because he wants to learn about it. I can’t recall a non-fiction book I read that wasn’t required for school just because I wanted to learn, until I started to look into homeschooling. Now I realize how much my children will be missing out on if I don’t homeschool them. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and struggles! It helps us all out and I’m looking forward to the rest.

    1. It’s my pleasure, Angela. It’s so nice to have people who don’t usually leave comments sharing their thoughts so thank you for taking the time to do so.
      I really hope home schooling your son is everything you want it to be and more. One thing is for sure – it will one very special journey!

  4. I agree so much with what you are all saying. It was a great relief for me when I realised that by letting my son take his mind where it wanted to go was not negligent. He is bright, funny, clever and has a joy for learning that is wonderful to see. His excitement when he finds out something that he didn’t know is a joy to behold. I was afraid to take the different road but I know it was the perfect road for us both.

    1. It is truly a blessing to hear of happy stories related to letting the child learn in a way that is natural to them. I’m so glad to hear your son is thriving and loving learning so much. Keep up the fabulous work!

  5. What a wonderful post. I want to read more! I always refer to the ” road not taken” as one of my favorite poems. I think our journey through homeschooling evolves to meet the current need of our children and family. I am always striving for a love of learning and a thirst for knowledge however I can get it. I can’t wait to read your thoughts.
    Blessings, Dawn

    1. ‘evolves to meet the current need of our children and family’ Yes this. This is where we are at right now. The older children have hit an age where they are wanting more say, which is just as well because I want them to have it! I think you do an amazing job juggling everyone’s needs.

  6. I think that sometimes we don’t probe what we’re really thinking or don’t follow through with what we really believe because we’re afraid of what changes that might bring. When I stopped believing in the traditional school model, I stopped believing that things had to be learned in a certain way, but that didn’t mean that those I loved and respected changed the way they felt because of that. That’s where the fear comes in…..Bravo for making an attempt to record the shifts in your thinking. I can’t wait to read the next installment!

    1. It’s been quite special watching your journey with teaching your children. Your posts now are obviously written from a confident and contented mummy, who is very comfortable with the way her home school works. Good for you!

  7. As always, Claire, an excellent post. I always enjoyed history and wanted to learn more, but there were those timelines that had to be memorized and all those other subjects that had be learned and there wasn’t time to stay in a time period long enough to really put myself there. When we started homeschooling we used the traditional curriculum. I felt about it like I did when I was in school. Flit here and flit there. Then, I stumbled upon Charlotte Mason. We are not strict followers, but we do have many of her ideas at work in our homeschool. I don’t think you have to be any kind of homeschooler except the kind that God leads you to be. He knows what is best for your family, and if you are seeking His will in your homeschool, then you are doing exactly what you should be doing. We know our children better than anyone else here on earth, especially the government! (I won’t start on our education system here in the US.)
    I am looking forward to reading your posts on this subject. If it means anything, I think you are amazing.
    I hope you have a lovely day, Claire.

  8. I am on tenterhooks for this weeks posts – your insights are always so valuable Claire, relatable and thought provoking at the same time. Thanks for sharing your journey with us!!

    1. Whilst Gary would giggle about what I am about to say, I don’t really feel that comfortable giving an opinion on something in my blog (Gary would giggle because he would say I am very comfortable with it in real life!), but sometimes writing stuff down and slogging everything out in words is so helpful. I just hope my thoughts don’t offend anyone in the process!

  9. Oh, how true this is. The more I homeschool, the more I realize how very simple it is to learn and teach. The way it is done by the masses is actually the harder way. Why duplicate the way they teach in schools?

    You’ll find the way that is just right for you and your children. Homeschooling gives you that freedom.

    1. ‘The way it is done by the masses is actually the harder way’ Gosh! What a great point Ruth! I had never thought about it like that but you are right. I suppose the reality is the teachers need to be able to find a single method which works for the most amount of people in the shortest amount of time. Really, they have everything against them. And yet there are so many teachers out there who do a sterling job under tricky circumstances.

  10. Interesting! It is funny how much more I am learning about history while homeschooling, than I did while I was in school. In school it was all about memorizing dates and people. I graduated not really remembering any history. Now, I am learning about the interesting stories behind the events and people that makes it all come together. On a side note, my husband has a 2 year college degree and I have a B.S. in Microbiology. We always joke about how he makes a lot more money than I did when I was working. A degree does not always equal more money 🙂

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