“You are completely crazy for even thinking about home schooling your kids!”
This phrase was something we heard often when discussing the challenges of the ins and outs of covid-era schooling with friends and family. But like anything, if you're being true to yourself, the whispers of your heart are infinitely louder than the words of others.
Homeschooling was just something we knew we needed to do.
Our girls struggled with masking and cohort rules that dictated their friendships. Online learning calls from home became opportunities to hide behind the screen and secretly watch Minecraft videos. We noticed gaps in basic math skills and literacy. The learning momentum had dried up and it was replaced with separation amidst the best efforts of the most incredible teachers at a fabulous community school. The format, inconsistency and unpredictability just weren’t working to engage and inspire our girls.
We made the decision as a family to put fun, freedom and flexibility into learning and decided to homeschool in June of 2021.
The girls were all in from the beginning. We discussed at length how we would work through their fear of losing touch with friends by keeping up their extra-curricular activities. We choose to do fully parent-led homeschooling and was accepted by a Home Education Board who specializes in just that. We spent the first summer researching curriculum and my mind was blown discovering the many varied options and solutions available. We selected curriculum that aligned with both the Alberta Program of Studies for core subjects AND the strengths and skills of each of our learners as individuals. Every day, researching and building our learning plans created momentum that allowed us to start in September 2021 with open minds and hearts.
There are always hiccups, and homeschooling allowed us to face them together.
Shortly after we started our homeschooling, our province adopted mandates and policies that required businesses to change how youth can participate and access extra-curricular activities. As a family, we made some radical and swift changes to how we approached the girls beloved activities to align with our values. There was grief and sadness for the loss and changes. We had the capacity and space as a family to sit with those feelings and feel them all, which we never would have had the opportunity to do had the girls still be in traditional school.
Our journey didn’t stop after the first year.
In September of 2022, our oldest daughter started Grade 7. Here in Alberta, that is the first year of Junior high school. This means a new school, new options, greater independence, and access and exposure to different sports. She knew that we would support her decision 100% if she wanted to return to traditional school. But the week before school started, she made the decision that homeschooling provided her with the flexibility to follow her interests and move at her own pace. Deep down we know she craved slowing down to be a kid a bit longer, without a cellphone, able to play without pressure, and free from expectations to be anything other than herself. Her inner wisdom was something we all supported. And her younger sister whole-heartedly committed to homeschooling again too, so that her big sister wouldn’t be lonely.
Our homeschooling curriculum is as much about academics as it is about growth.
We are now a few months into our second year of home learning and we have adopted a routine that flows each day. Our mornings are slow, with time for sleeping-in and read-alouds. Our topics and projects reflect the energy, inspiration, and mood of the day. Phonics, math and writing are on our daily “feel good” list, and we always go deep down the bunny holes for our social studies and science. We may only do these subjects once or twice a week, but sometimes they can consume an entire day. Working to completion of an assignment or project without interruption is the one thing our girls both love about this style of learning.
Our homeschool board offers Socratic dialog classes which both girls are taking this term. We are doing a deep dive into Narnia and exploring classic horse and dog literature. There’s something about witnessing kids discuss topics in a quest for truth and beauty that gives me great hope for the future.
Looking ahead with optimism and curiosity.
Now that we have a year under our belt, we have a routine that works for us. I anticipate that we will continue to spend long hours bringing our learning outside throughout the winter, and the girls have identified projects they’d like to undertake for some of their key subjects. Both girls have also chosen a list of online classes they’re interested in to support their curiosities. Most of all we are going to continue to play. Sometimes I feel as though I learn just as much as they do when I watch the girls create and make-believe together.
What I’ve learned as a rookie homeschool mom.
I discovered quickly that being homeschooling parent is less about stepping into a stereotypical “teacher” role and standing beside my girls as their witness and guide. Sure, I can answer their calls for help on topics, and I spend daily time helping them discover new things in their core subjects. I even watch a lot of math tutorial videos! But the moment I shed the expectation that I had to "teach" the girls everything changed. Our home life and the overall flow of our family shifted into one of deeper connection and simplicity. Household chores are as important to curriculum as long division, as far as I’m concerned. And the girls have reminded me day after day that it’s not school. It’s learning. And we all love to learn new things, don’t we?
Are you curious about homeschooling?
Do you ever question whether or not you could do it? I’m here to tell you that you can. You will be amazing. And your children will show you what they need.