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September 17, 2020

Homeschooling: now that it’s Up to Us, what do we Teach?

 

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Editor’s note: read the full series here

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“Why didn’t they teach me these things in school?”

This is a question I’ve asked myself every time tax season comes around, any time I’ve had to keep a home functional, or any time I’ve attempted to create a workable budget.

I was good at school, not great but good. I always did my work, got good grades, and followed the rules.

And yet, here I was as an adult, feeling like an utter failure at everything I attempted. I mean, I had some great accomplishments throughout my life, but I still never felt good enough because I judged my accomplishments in comparison to others like I was taught in school.

Feeling like my education had failed me, I decided to homeschool my girls. I had so many things I wanted them to learn, so much I wanted them to experience, and I wanted to give them creative freedom of their lives. So, naturally, I packed their first curriculum with not only every academic subject recommended by the state but also with every other area of study imaginable that I felt would create this well-rounded individual I so desired to raise.

I was eager at first, ready for the challenge, but as their little faces stared at me lost, bewildered, tired, and just wanting to play, I realized that if I imitated the school curriculum and, on top of that, added new subjects, I was on the road to fail them just like the system had failed me.

I had to unlearn my ideas of what a curriculum was and take a deeper look at how each subject or area of study shows up in everyday life.

Now, many years later, I coach parents going into homeschooling on how to create a curriculum that flows easily within their lifestyle, choose subjects that apply to their current life experiences, and that allow for growth instead of memorizing data.

Curriculum is the most frequently asked question when it comes to homeschooling. It is the first thing parents think will get rid of the all-encompassing fear that their child will fall behind. Well first, let me say…

“Behind what?”

This idea of falling behind was created by a system for when children did not adapt to the strict regulations, expectations, and way of learning of those who’d created said system. It says nothing about the child. Each child is unique and learns in different ways, and a system that has been created as a blanket to reach everyone does not always work. In real life, there is no falling behind. There is trial and error with no specific timelines.

After this realization, we can start to create a curriculum that suits your lifestyle. It is the nurturing of curiosity and in choosing the organic areas of exploration that helps us build a curriculum that won’t feel tedious or forced. Math can be frustrating for a child if they must sit at a desk for hours just practicing random math equations, but when wrapped up in real life, a trip to the grocery store can become an organic math lesson.

Budgeting has been one of the most effective ways I have taught my girls math.

One example of this is their coffee shop allowance. They get a monthly gift card with a nominal amount. They then get to figure out how much they get to spend each time we go, what would be the most economical, what they prefer to be frugal on and what they wouldn’t mind splurging on.

These are all real-life math scenarios. In addition to their coffee card, they create small businesses, create a budgeting plan using percentages and fractions, save for our trips, and calculate a spending schedule when we are on the road.

With this style of learning, we start off each semester with a brainstorming session during which we discuss how we want to approach each subject and learning opportunity. We also discuss the areas they feel they excel at and areas that they want to improve. When they were little, I would propose a few projects for them to choose from. As they grow, my input has become more of a light guidance, and now that they are teens, I am more of a consultant. They plan their curriculum and adjust as they go.

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