5 Confessions of an Imperfect Homeschool Blogger

When I first started blogging, I used my blog as a platform to share with friends and family our adventures in homeschooling. We were the first family in my social circle to make the decision to homeschool and our decision was not without criticism.

I wanted to show those that doubted just how wonderful our homeschool journey was and how much the children were prospering. Like many, I wanted to be uplifting – not a whiner or complainer. I wanted to be inspirational. This meant that I posted often the fun projects the kids would undertake or when something cool or exciting was happening. It also meant that the content on this blog was pretty upbeat and focused on mostly uncontroversial topics.

Over time, as I evolved from a hobby blogger to a professional homeschool blogger my approach became more focused. While this is all good, I find myself struggling to stay caught up with the rapid changes of FTC regulations, engage in social media, create pinnable images, and develop good SEO while simultaneously navigating our own homeschool and family life.homeschool teen giving a presentation with text - confessions of an imperfect homeschoolerI haven’t been posting very often recently and this is mostly due to a changing season in our homeschool journey. As the kids have gotten older, I am less involved in their learning. They have become more independent and less reliant on me for planning activities and outings. As a result, I find I have less to share.

So, it’s confession time. Here are my five confessions as an imperfect homeschool blogger.

Our Imperfect Homeschool

1. We have fallen off the bandwagon, or at least changed our approach

I have hinted at our changing educational style in an earlier post, Our Relaxed Homeschool. We have always had a gentle approach to education. In recent years, I have become more hands-off. When we moved back to Oregon we lived with my in-laws for a few months. This was a huge distraction. It is hard to stay focused on algebra when Judge Judy is reprimanding a plaintiff.

Additionally, to offset the change in my husband’s income (one of the sacrifices we made to move back home), I began to take on more work outside the home. I began substitute teaching and home tutoring. I also began work with VIPKID. Along with my volunteer obligations (Scouts and swim team previously), I am strained. I have to admit, I let school slide into a bare minimum.

I have essentially thrown out Charlotte Mason’s principles which were so successful with my daughter. I have now adopted an unschooling approach to my son’s education. I’m still grappling though with whether to continue with a relaxed approach or adopt more of a schedule. I fear he takes advantage of me and spends more time playing Minecraft (yet I know it is educational too) than learning.

For a several reasons, we also chose to partner with an umbrella school. There were just too many positives to not give it a try. I haven’t talked about this much yet but I will.

I know there are seasons for everything and that children are individuals. But it does make it hard to have material for a homeschool blog when we aren’t doing more than Odysseyware, Life of Fred math, piano lessons, and occasional nature studies.

2. I don’t fit into my local homeschool group

In the previous two communities in which we lived (Bend, Oregon and Redding, California), we connected with a great community of like-minded homeschoolers. We were not a part of Classical Conversations, though a thriving CC community existed in each, but we had a circle of homeschoolers with children of varying ages with whom we were able to enjoy the benefits of an informal co-op which included activities like STEM Club, book club, Writer’s Workshop, and Roots & Shoots.

Here, I really am a misfit. Most of the homeschool families in this area are involved in a very exclusive homeschool co-op (they require participants to sign a specific faith statement) or utilize an online charter school (K12 or Connections Academy). My style of homeschool education looks more like radical unschooling in contrast to the homeschoolers around me.

homeschool teen playing Minecraft with text - confessions of an imperfect homeschooler3. My son does not like to read

He has never enjoyed reading – I know this is in part due to his nystagmus. There are books he has read over and over again (thank you, Roland Smith!) but it is very difficult to get him to read much of anything. I could write an entire post about my son’s distaste for reading. In fact, I probably should. Perhaps it would help me to come to terms with it.

I know it is okay not to love reading  but I also harbor a fear that I have failed him. Fortunately, he has always enjoyed listening to audio books. However, he presently listens to speed cubing and tech reviews, Minecraft gaming videos, and air crash investigations on YouTube rather than literature.

4. Teens are fickle

In the summer of 2016, my daughter was passionate about potentially beginning her own Boba Tea business. She spent many hours researching recipes, designing a logo, and developing a business plan. Most impressive was her willingness to undertake a market research poll of our local community at the farmer’s market. Through her efforts, she made the realization that starting a Boba Tea business would distract from her ultimate goal of becoming an engineer and the schooling required to achieve it.

The following summer, she became intrigued with tiny houses. Her new goal was to build a tiny house prior to graduating high school in an effort to reduce her own carbon footprint and save money on living expenses while in college. She again spent many hours researching and designing her home (you should see her Pinterest board). Ultimately, she opted to put this project on hold for as artist, she also dreams of a large studio space.

Youthful vigor and enthusiasm is wonderful. Channeling it and following through with their visions is an entirely different ball game. Their interests and passions change. While this is certainly a great life lesson, it makes it difficult to blog about their successes.

5. My daughter wants to skip high school and just get to college

My daughter began dual enrollment courses in the fall of 2016. She started out with just one math course but has gradually increased her course load. She is now taking a full load of courses at the community college and is loving every minute. I will be sharing more of this experience on the iHomeschool Network blog soon.

Both of my children have always had a passion for learning. This passion and enthusiasm is still there, but it is reserved for the things they are truly passionate about, not the things I select for them or that the state deems required. While meeting with a college advisor from the four year university where she wishes to transfer she exclaimed,

“I want to do pro-school now! I wish I could just jump past high school.”

Whether we are engaged in an lively family discussion about current events, meandering about the ruins of an ancient temple, or sequestered in our little corner of the house with our mobile device and tuning out the outside world, I know we are learning. Above all, I believe instilling a love of learning and a curiosity about the world is the most important thing. And that is exactly what we are doing.

After all, we are just like you — imperfect homeschoolers. And I, I am an imperfect homeschool blogger.

 

A Charlotte Mason Lifestyle

We first began homeschooling nine years ago.  My daughter had just turned five years old and upon making the choice to veer away from the norm and to follow my heart, I did a lot of reading – researching education theory and homeschooling methods. In all honesty, I learned more about education and how children best learn in the first few years of homeschooling than I did in all my teacher training.  And in that time, I discovered Charlotte Mason.

Charlotte Mason was a British educator who invested her life to improving the quality of education in England at the turn of the twentieth century. She wrote volumes and held a firm belief that the child is a person and we must educate that whole person, not just his mind. A Charlotte Mason education is three-pronged: in her words,

Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life.

This really resonated with me and it has been my mantra ever since.  I even use it in my email signature. Recently, I have been giving a lot of thought to Charlotte’s teachings. Specifically, what Charlotte did not say:

  • “Education is meeting the requirements of the Common Core.”
  • “Education is mastering Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic.”
  • “Education is what someone does to you by teaching important information through tests and grades.”

Charlotte tells us to take our eyes off “end points” and to focus on creating a rich life through shaping the atmosphere through discipline and through life itself. I so love Charlotte’s vision that I recently sat down to reflect on how we have embraced Charlotte’s teachings in our homeschool.

The Charlotte Mason Lifestyle @EvaVarga.netEducation is an Atmosphere

By “Atmosphere,” Charlotte meant the surroundings in which the child grows up. A child absorbs a lot from his home environment. Charlotte believed that the ideas that rule your life as the parent make up one-third of your child’s education.

In our home we strive to model life-long learning, cultivating an environment that puts education and self-improvement above other pursuits (like television). We have a wall of resources – a library of living books, reference materials, and curriculum. We read both for leisure and for self-improvement. We take part in book discussions with friends.

While traveling, we visit historical sites and museums and incorporate our homeschool studies into our holiday excursions. You can read about our travels on our family travel blog, Well Traveled Family.

My husband and I participate in professional development opportunities regularly. One of the courses that I have most enjoyed is Turning Leaners Into Leaders: Empowering Youth Through Service in Education that is offered FREE this summer through Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots.

I also coordinate learning opportunities for the local homeschool community to ensure that my children have a variety of learning opportunities. The activities my children have most enjoyed include:

In addition to fuel for our brains, we take our physical health seriously. The kids participate in swim team year round, attending practice 3-4 days a week with coaches and peers who are passionate about swim, who set goals, and work hard to achieve them.  Though competition is a part of this experience, we don’t schedule our life around swim meets. Our goal is a healthy lifestyle, not college scholarship.

The Charlotte Mason Lifestyle @EvaVarga.net

Education is a Discipline

By “Discipline,” Charlotte meant the discipline of good habits—and specifically habits of character. Cultivating good habits in your child’s life make up another third of his education.

Lessons aren’t always fun and games. Rote drill and practice are important – particularly in subjects like math, music, and foreign language. We thereby have weekly lessons all year long to keep these skills sharp.

I try to maintain continuity when it comes to our other lessons. The unschooled within me often wins, however and we have a very relaxed approach. I trust that they will learn the skills they need for success – regardless of how many facts they can recite.

Contributing to family obligations is another key to character development. We utilize a rotating chore assignment and everyone is expected to pull their own weight. Establishing a chore routine takes time and practice. We still have kinks to work out ourselves!

Our regular family meetings help to assure we are on the same page and serve as a venue for airing grievances.

The Charlotte Mason Lifestyle @EvaVarga.netEducation is a Life

The other third of education, “Life,” applies to academics. Charlotte believed that we should give children living thoughts and ideas, not just dry facts. So all of her methods for teaching the various school subjects are built around that concept.

In the end, it is important to focus on ensuring that people feel heard, loved, and that their dreams can be achieved. Listening to the hearts of my children and allowing them to pursue their passions not only makes learning enjoyable, but allows them the freedom to be innovative. I elaborate on this in my previous post, Independent Study Projects.

With Charlotte as our guide, we allow homeschool to ebb and flow—some weeks making a “course of study” a priority in a systematic way, other weeks learning as we go guided by our curiosity and enthusiasm.

We allow all of life to serve as our classroom—our recent conversation about the state’s decision to ration water in light of the drought is equally important as the math lesson that had been planned.

If you can let go of your need to match the state’s expectations, your own school memories, the pressure of your very academic classical homeschool community, or the stringent requirements of some important university … you can surf the waves of learning as they roll onto your shores.