Taking complete control of your child’s education can be daunting sometimes. Especially if it’s your first year. There’s a panicky feeling that prompts us to ask if we are doing it right, if we will damage our kids, if we are teaching enough.
I recently shared our homeschool schedule on Instagram and was flooded with messages from other homeschool moms, mainly wondering how this could be enough? (For clarification, my “older kids” are 14, “younger kids” are 9 and 12. “Little sister” is the 9-year-old.)
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This is what our school day looks like 2-3 days a week: ? breakfast, chores, and Bible together ? Math ? Older kids: Japanese and Dave Ramsey (both online) Younger kids: reading Youngest kid: copywork and dictation ? Little sister goes to play outside with friends or inside with cats; older kids do Grammar and Latin ? Lunch and free time from 12-1 ? 2 hours of history and geography with everyone ? Mom naps while kids are freeee! The other 2-3 days of the week are for Bible, catechism, read-aloud, and reading. I nap religiously. ? We school year-round. Questions?
We school year round, which means that we don’t have a start or end to a school year. Just like we eat year round, shop year round, and raise kids year round. The kids learn year round. We take breaks from lessons when we need to or want to, like when my husband is off work, or the weather is so beautiful that the kids just need to spend all day outside. We might take the whole month of December off for a thoroughly immersive Christmas season without the added stress of school.
American kids are over-schooled
My quick answer to this question “Am I teaching enough” is always that it doesn’t take 12 years of 7-8 hour days to educate a child. It only takes that long for the public education system to accomplish their goals. Their goals are not necessarily your goals.
But let’s expand on this idea a bit more. As homeschoolers, most of whom grew up in the public school system, we have one mindset: the public school classroom model. So, though we have chosen to give our children a home education, we still tend to copy the old model.
Let me stress: that is the old model. If you left it, why copy it?
When I give talks to groups or on social media, I always remind parents that the way public schools operate is for efficiency. Thousands of children are moved through this institution, and at the expense of taxpayer dollars. The public school must answer to taxpayers, parents, school board members, and the state. Records must be kept and reports must be issued. The process must be streamlined and must accommodate as many students as possible. To accomplish all of this, kids are sorted into groups by age, and teachers are given a scope and sequence for each group of kids.
That’s my polite defense of the system. But there’s more. Over the decades since mass public schooling was put in place, more and more unnecessary requirements have been put on teachers and students. School days and school years got longer. There is heavy emphasis on testing and test scores (which is all tied to education dollars). There is a massive amount of busy-work.
In my childhood I attended public school, private school, and was home educated. I have now been homeschooling my children for 20 years. I learned something a long time ago that every parent should know: a child can get a complete and thorough education in half the time that the public school spends.
It does not take 12 years of 7-hour days to educate a child.
It can, if you want it to, but it’s not really necessary. You have to have the confidence in yourself to make executive decisions about raising your child. You have to be willing to look at the school subjects that we have been taught are necessary and decide if they actually are. That scares a lot of parents, but only because we’ve been conditioned to think we don’t have it in us. Trust me, you can do this.
“Homeschooling doesn’t mean you have to teach everything. It just means that you get to decide what it taught, how it’s taught, and by whom it is taught.” (Jamie Erickson, Homeschool Bravely)
Before the 20th century
Now, I do realize how hard it is to ditch a century-old way of doing things and try something different. After all, just removing your kids from public school can feel pretty scare all on its own! But if you’ve taken that first step, let me assure you that the next steps are just as do-able.
And yes, the classroom model we have today is a century old, but there are many, many centuries before that when Western Civilization educated children very successfully without the public school model.
I wrote a blog post a few years ago called, “I Can Tell You How to Fix Education,” in which I stated:
Before the 20th century, a school’s curriculum consisted of a stack of readers like the McGuffeys, and if they were lucky they had a map and a blackboard. Some even had a few extra books donated to the school by townspeople. Those readers consisted of reading, grammar, and writing lessons all combined with the history of the world and the scientific discoveries up to that point. The student read a long portion of history and then practiced vocabulary, spelling, and punctuation with that history. (Read a sample here.)
This form of education took about 6 years.
When a school was not available due to geographical distances, those same readers were used in the home. Those that finished their local school might advance their learning through a local, private college or through a tutor. They would study more history, philosophy, Latin, Greek, law, or medicine. Many who didn’t attend college advanced their own education by reading every book they could find in their spare time. (Abe Lincoln, anyone?)
Before the 20th century, this simple education method produced world-changers. People like Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Michael Faraday, Samuel Morse, Charles Goodyear, the Wright Brothers, Alexander Graham Bell, Nikolai Tesla and hundreds of others.
Those men were not the result of standardized anything…they were the result of a simple method of learning and exploring, and I guarantee you: they spent plenty of time in hard work and valued their small amount of free time. Time to explore their ideas and experiments. They weren’t held to “grade levels” because there weren’t any grade levels. The McGuffey system allowed every student to learn at their own pace. The student simply progressed from one reader to the next without regard to calendars or class groups.
This old-fashioned system is not outdated. In fact, much of what I described here is what happens in the living rooms and kitchens of homeschoolers everywhere. A small stack of books, progressing at the pace of the student, basic instruction centered around classic works of history and literature, and very little regard for grade levels or education budget — this is what makes learning fun and what makes education successful.
See how I use the early McGuffey readers for a gentle introduction to education here.
How do you choose what to do?
I want you to think about what kind of education a human needs. Pretend you never heard of the public school system and its ways. My favorite analogy for this is American pioneers moving west. If you were leaving your home and your town in the East, there would be very little you could take with you. When you arrive at your final destination in the wilderness, there won’t be a school or a bookstore. There’s no internet, of course.
Your goal is to produce functioning adults. These adults will need to know how to read, write, spell, compute numbers, conduct business, and provide for a family. For every adult, these are the basics. As kids grow, their interests will guide further education.
As I pointed out above, it did not take 12 years of long days to produce adults like this. It took a basic education as the foundation. The people this method produced founded the United States and wrote a Constitution that is mimicked and revered the world over; they ushered in the Industrial Revolution; and they changed our way of life with the technological advancements of the 20th century.
It is not a backwards method. In fact, it’s very straightforward.
Students may or may not need Algebra 2, chemistry, or 4 years of high school English. Shocking, right? Kids don’t have to take a grammar course every year for 12 years. Scandalous! They don’t have to have math for 12 years. Wha?? They don’t have to have a science course every year. How is this possible?
They do need to learn proper grammar, math, science, and history.
But what they get in modern public schools is manufactured curriculum to fill up those long days and long years. It makes the school system and the teachers look very necessary. But if you take the time to look at all the work that kids do in school (and now the nauseating amount of homework they are required to do each evening) you will see that the public school method is no longer efficient. Like all government, it is a wasteful behemoth.
So stop stressing out about measuring up to its standards. Pretend you never heard of the public school system. And please don’t worry that you’re not doing enough.
If you do half of what the public schools do, you are teaching enough.
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