It's been about a year since we started the homeschooling journey. What a year! It began almost suddenly, out of necessity and the realization that the available public school would not work for Mr. K. In hindsight, that shouldn't have been too surprising. We've always known he was wired a little differently from his age-mates (upon seeing a lobster in a tank for the first time at about 11 months, he signed "fish-bug"), but that didn't become as drastically obvious until he was thrown into a class with 23 others. But this is not the post for a detailing our problems with "the system". This is the post about how this first year of homeschooling has been eye-opening and how we are finding our way through.
My usual instict, before I start any new thing, is to research the heck out of it. Then at somepoint my gut says, "ok, you know all you need to know for now, jump in and come back and fill in the gaps later when you find out what they are." Because we pulled Mr. K out of public school fairly quickly, I could not do as much research as I might otherwise about homeschooling methods and local resources. No matter. The internet swooped in to save the day. I found a couple message boards and online communities to ask questions and find a place to start.
The first thing I discovered, is that just like public school or anywhere else, making friends and finding your community can be hard. We don't fit in with the conservative Christian homeschooling community, which, like in most places, is the majority around here. It did take a little while, but I'm hooked in now with a secular network of open-minded, diverse homeschoolers in our region and made some good friends who we have much in common with.
The second thing I discovered, is that OMG homeschooling can be big business! There are dozens of books on methods, a million different types of curricula, piles and piles of available enrichment materials, and vast websites exhorting you to why one particular thing is better than all the others. Many people have very strong opinions about the "right" way to homeschool, and many of those people are very articulate and well-reasoned, and it is easy to lose the forest through the trees and forget what works for your kids and family, and the reasons why you chose to homeschool in the first place.
The third thing I discovered, and that I hope to continue to re-discover and re-evaluate in the coming months and years, is that my children are by nature curious, eager to learn, and a joy to be around. I knew this before, I did, when they were both toddlers and then pre-school age. When both kids were small I found a used copy of "The Unschooling Handbook" and read it, embracing many of the ideas within as the way we'd raise the kids when they were tiny and into the school years. Then I lost this knowledge when Mr. K started having trouble in the kindergarten, reacting to his increasing behavior problems with additonal strictness and more rules, just the way the public school did. This was the wrong approach--what really needed was more room, more time to learn according to his clock, not according to an educationally basic but rigid schedule with mandatory "circle time" that was torture for his wiggly self. He needed to learn in his hands-on, bookish, accelerated way and be treated respectfully, treated more like the man he will someday be...what's that old line: I am raising adults, not children. Something like that.
A last thing I discovered is that the types of methods and curricula that work best for us are open-ended and highly adaptable. Extensive scriptedness is DOA. Anything that talks down to a child's intelligence will be given at minimum an eyebrow and likely the boot. Work that exists in a vaccuum from other things we are studying or from our lives will be quickly viewed as busywork, so any of the "skills" such as writing that may come slower need to be done in a relaxed and loving manner and integrated with other interesting studies. The kids are pretty self-motivated for their ages, and interesting projects and work that can be child-driven is wonderful, but I need to stay rightthere for guidance and support. On our "this works" list for us right now is MBTP, BFSU, Brave Writer/The Writer's Jungle, and Math Mammoth. For now, we have turned out to be eclectic but Charlotte Mason-y homeschoolers with strong respect for both Unschooling and Classical schools of thought. Most of our learning comes from good books and hands-on activities, and wonders never cease, the kids actually seem to enjoy working together, most of the time.
If I had to predict the future (and of course I can't) I think that the kids may get more Unschooly as they age and can take more responsibility for their own learning. Someday, they may even want to return to public school. We'll cross that bridge when it comes. I don't know exactly where we are headed, but this last year has been endlessly interesting and rewarding, and I look forward to seeing where we go next.