3 Ways to Run an “Unschool-ish” Homeschool Without Educational Anarchy
Disclaimer: The opinions presented in this post are completely my own. I have not been paid by any company that I mention below. I am only sharing my experiences and what I currently use in my homeschool.
Homeschooling is a journey, not a destination. Over the past few years, our homeschool has seen so many changes, and everyday it is becoming clearer to us what works and what doesn’t. I have gone from being the “re-create public school at home” parent, to “let’s throw all the curriculum away and follow curiosity” parent- neither of which work with my child. Yes, I find the traditional school model to be problematic in certain ways, but I also see some benefits to it as well. Just like I see flaws in the un-schooling model, while there are aspects of it that are simply brilliant. What I find works best in our homeschool, is somewhere in between the two. It has taken us many years and tears to find the right balance for us, but I believe that we are closer to it now than we have ever been. Below are my humble suggestions for running an “unschool-ish” homeschool without educational anarchy. Un-schoolers out there, please don’ t take offense, continue to do what works for you. This is simply what I find what works for us.
1. Allow your student to read for pleasure, but also assign reading for “enlightenment.”
My son absolutely adores reading. He is particularly fond of comics and graphic novels. More times than I can count, I have caught him up in the wee hours of the night with his face buried in a book- usually of the Big Nate variety. And while I am not such a big fan of Big Nate, or graphic novels in general, for that matter- I encourage him to read whatever he enjoys. After all, the act of reading alone improves concentration, imagination, and helps to improve vocabulary. However, as we all know, there is more to life than Big Nate, and to be truly educated, he must learn to both read and write in a format other than “comic book.” This is why I assign him works by authors such as Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, and Mark Twain.There is certain level of sophistication that he will never be exposed to if I only allow him to read graphic novels and comics all day. And while I wholeheartedly believe that education is all about pulling out a child’s greatness from within, said greatness really doesn’t manifest until they are pushed beyond their comfort zones. So by all means, go to the library with your child, and allow them to borrow and read whatever books their heart desires. However, for every 5 books that they read for pleasure, there should be at least one book that you choose for their enlightenment.
2. Find and stick to a solid math curriculum, while making math connections in everyday life.
If my son were simply allowed to choose what he studies all day, I’m pretty sure math would not be on his roster. It’s definitely his least favorite subject, and I’m okay with that. He doesn’t have to love every subject. However, because he is in a primary grade- he needs a solid foundation to be able to add, subtract, count money, tell time, and so on. I’m all for making math come to life for my child , but before we can get to the fun projects- he has to buckle down and learn those basics. Because of this, I have selected a math curriculum that I feel suits his needs best. We use Go Math, and I really appreciate the pacing of it, and how it constantly cycles back to previously learned concepts to keep his skills sharp. You can choose whatever curriculum you like, just be consistent with it. I think it is important for students to have strong foundations in mathematics, especially in the primary grades. There really is no way to cut corners with this.
To help bring real world application of mathematics concepts , I have recently opened a Greenlight Debit card for my son, and I think it is a great way to teach him about money management- which is arguably the most important math students need to know. We are also in the process of starting a business for him so he can learn and earn at the same time! Let me know if you would like me to post a review of the Greenlight Debit Card.
3. Allow Student to explore interests through taking online courses, i.e “electives” with a live instructor- that way they have freedom of choice, but also accountability. (And you get a break- yay!)
This has been a game-changer. Since the pandemic hit, there have been an abundance of online courses available for children- and it has really opened up a lot of opportunities for students. In my home, we have taken full advantage of this, and my son has been able to take courses in things that interest him- for now, those things are Japanese and coding. For his Japanese class, we use a website called Preply, which is a virtual foreign language school that connects students to instructors for 1 hour class sessions. Right now, my son takes Japanese twice a week, and his teacher is lovely. He really enjoys the class- and it’s awesome that he gets to practice his Japanese with a native speaker. For coding, he uses the WhiteHat Jr. platform, and there he also meets virtually with a tutor twice a week. He’s been able to get his feet wet with learning to code, and I even see him practice coding when he is not in class, which is really great. The online electives have truly upped our homeschooling game, and we are having a great year so far. My son appreciates that he is able to explore his interests, and I like that he has an instructor there to keep him accountable and focused , which wouldn’t be the case if he were casually studying on his own.
As I said before, homeschooling is a journey, and we are all constantly evolving. It's really all about finding and doing what truly works in the end. I'm grateful that we are figuring that out, and I am happy to share what has been working for us. I hope this post has been of some benefit to you. Do you currently homeschool? If so, how is your experience going? What are your thought on un-schooling? I’d love to hear from you! Below I have linked some articles and websites for further information on topics covered.
Benefits of Reading
Online Foreign Language
Money Management for Kids