Recently I had the opportunity to visit other homes of families who homeschool on a house tour, seeing glimpses into how each interpreted and implemented various methods of homeschooling.
The first home we visited utilized the methods of Charlotte Mason. The main floor of their home sits high among the trees and when looking out most windows, you can see lots of soothing green. She showed us all around her home. The children did some studies in their rooms and some studies were done as a group in other areas of the house. The highly energetic teaching Mom said she got her kids outside as much as possible, usually in the mornings, taking them to different parks around our community. Her purpose was two fold: she used it for exercise and for nature walks, something Charlotte Mason highly endorsed. She frequently used nature / field guides to help them learn what was growing and living around them on their various journeys. She said by adding this to their daily routine it was seeming to help all feel better and have a more focused and efficient school day. Their large ranch home contained various locations of learning and exploration, including loaded bookshelves of a wide range of various topics. She showed us specific art studies she used from Simply Charlotte Mason. She said her favorite store was McKays for all those wonderful used books. My personal favorites in her home was a spot near the front door where I saw nature treasures laying casually on a side table; an art easel set up in the kitchen for her wonderfully artistic student and the mindful converting of a large closet into a quiet and focused learning area that over looked the woods behind their home.
The second home we visited was outside of town on a quiet country road. She said she did science experiments and cooking projects at her large kitchen island. She had some large comfy couches in the den for reading and family time together. At the end of the den is a large nook/seating area where she did a lot of the desk type work at a table her father built for them. Beside it, she had a large tri-fold board that she had covered and decorated to coordinate with the lessons she was teaching, and near that, a bookshelf that held their work boxes and her teaching curriculum that she used in that room. She said her kids learn all around their home. Her boys build things frequently out of various toys, reenacting things they’ve experienced as a family. She said she has curriculum stored and books placed around the home and she too, doesn’t do all her homeschooling in one specific room.
Not far from the second home, we went on to our third home, a mother of a middles schooler and high schooler. She Shared with us that in her early years, she “set-up school” at the end of her dining room only to take it down 6 months later. (Ironically, I had done that too.) Her kids did most of their schooling in their rooms. The remaining part was primarily done at the kitchen table. Her oldest is doing dual enrollment. In her basement, she has several bookshelves full of wonderful resources for her kids to use, especially for doing book reports and research papers. She had a lot of support to offer to the Moms of older children. Even as a mom of two young children, hearing her experiences reminded me to keep the end in sight and make a focus for the “big picture” one hopes to accomplish by homeschooling.
At our fourth home, one that I was especially curious to see, was an unschooling family. Let me say, I was totally un-informed in what that term meant! Their interpretation of homeschooling the unschooling way was very refreshing and brought a different twist on classic school learning. Unschooling in their home was more viable than I had heard of or understood. Her home gave me more ideas of how to diversify my kids learning. It showed lots of creativity on the part of the parents! The parents said their aim wasn’t to copy a public school model that had shown itself unsuccessful, but rather they showed various ways they “teach their children at home.” The Mom said she cooked with her kids frequently in the kitchen; they had some indoor and outdoor pets to help teach responsibility; they did some gardening too. They did reading lessons (using Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons) on the couch; she has begun teaching some of them sewing; and my favorite item she displayed was the marker board in the kitchen where she simply stated the weeks goal or gave a focus for the week. The theme that week was displaying how they learn around the home and preparing their home for the Tour of Homes. They had a nice size work table for creating beautiful craft projects; their daughter had done some awesome writing activities in a notebook that she kept her writing treasures in. The kids rooms had a large closet full of lots of games for learning and play. I was quite impressed with the overall comfortable feel of the home. That she didn’t have a formal area for learning, but as Charlotte Mason would say, it had become their way of life. I loved that!
There was opportunity to go to a fifth home, but I had to head back to my house as my youngest was with me and she was almost asleep when we approached the fourth. I know the Mom of the fifth has numbers of children and she practices classical education with Classical Conversations. I am sure I would have gleaned from her as well!
The overall consensus of the visiting these homes was very impactful! I learned to RELAX: Schooling doesn’t have to be a formal affair. I don’t have to have one specific dedicated area to do “School.” HAVE FUN: Make learning fun by doing what your family enjoys-whether it be getting outside, learning on the couch, cooking in the kitchen, or working all over your home, which ties in my third point: MAKE IT RELEVANT: By looking at the big picture of what you want to accomplish in your homeschooling adventure, you can set reasonable goals. This is very important to me to let this point sink in. I don’t have to set up a “classroom” in my small home. By setting up simple areas of learning, my kids can glean a lot on their own through play and imagination which is very important at these young ages.
Before this tour of homes, I had taken down my “School at Home” and simply have an area for arts and crafts in its place. Since the tour, I am getting the kids more involved in cooking and am trying to think of ways to help them become even more independent learners. It is all a slow process for me. One that I am having to learn as I go. I love being with my kids on this journey! I am curious to see where it may lead! My the Lord continue to bless us on this journey!