Eclectic Homeschooling: Use What Works For Your Family!
“I can’t do this!”
“I think my head is going to explode with the amount of information that I am trying to process.”
“What in the world possessed me when I thought that I could take on this ginormous task of homeschooling my kids?!?”
These were the panic-stricken thoughts that coursed through my brain (which did not explode by the way) about two weeks into our homeschooling experience. At least, I think it was two weeks…my memory could be a bit fuzzy due to the fear-driven frenzy I worked myself into.
If these statements mirror some of your own self-talk during any moment of your homeschooling adventures, I encourage you to read on to discover what I did to switch gears and rescue our homeschool from its impending state of doom (or, at least, return to public school).
I hope you will be as pleased as punch like I was to realize that it only took a change in my own perspective and letting go of unrealistic expectations to help us find our homeschool groove.
To Choose Or Not To Choose…That Is The Question!
After a few deep calming breaths and sip or two of decaf tea (I was pregnant with boy #4 at the time), this homeschool soccer mom took a realistic look at what was happening with my family and me. Sure, we took the plunge into homeschooling at the very last minute (like two days before we had to declare). Yes, we had like negative time to research our options. Overwhelmed, Coach and I enrolled our two older school-age boys in cyber school. Our experience and final decision: not our style at all!
I used that time to research homeschooling methods. Whoa! Mind-blown! I had zero experience with homeschooling, never met a homeschooler nor read any materials. I naively went into this research thinking, “Piece of cake! I’ll find a few books and we’ll be at it lickety-split!”
Um, no. Complete overwhelm. Like staring at the computer screen, blinking very slowly to try to make sense of all the information before me.
Homeschool methods? Curriculum choices? Spiral math? Say what?!?!? You mean, as homeschoolers, we have a choice in what our kids learn?
I had to do a few of those Lamaze breaths that they teach you in natural labor classes (remember I was pregnant).
Oh my stars! How in the world was I expected to make such a major decision like picking the perfect homeschool method for my kids without taking a college credit course on it or read through a volume of homeschool encyclopedias?
I knew that I would need to narrow down the list of homeschool methods or I would continue to sit with a blank stare. A few of my requirements included:
- Method must work for all of my kids.
- Reusable materials to keep cost down.
- Not expensive
- Fun and cheery.
- Serious and demanding. (Can you tell I had pregnancy brain?)
I look back at my requirements and chuckle. I know some amazing women who have been able to make specific homeschool methods work for their family (Want to know who? Scroll down and click on Homeschool Choices for iHomeschool Network’s linkup). For me and my family, one choice was just not going to cut it.
In my usual style, I found positives in every homeschool method. I loved Charlotte Mason‘s living books and atmosphere. Classical homeschool method appealed because I liked the rigor and demand. Unschooling seemed foreign yet intriguing. I had never heard of lapbooks, unit studies, or year round homeschooling.
Finally, I made a choice of homeschool method ! Or so I thought…
Enthusiastic Start, Quick Reality Check
After much research and discussion with Coach, I decided to go all in with Mater Amabilis, a free Catholic Charlotte Mason curriculum. Boy, was I pumped up! I got to planning and sorting out what our ideal homeschool day would look like.
On our first day of “real” homeschool, I jumped out of bed like a kid on Christmas morning. I was ready to rock this day! The boys took in my maniacal grin with their usual shrugs (I have a tendency to get a wee bit excited about things).
As the boys took a seat around our dining room table a.k.a. where the homeschool magic happens, I cracked open my homeschool planner with trembling fingers. We were going to do this! And we did…sort of.
The boys held in there for the first few hours. As the day progressed, our enthusiasm tapered. When we were still doing school work when Coach came home, I was ready to burst into tears.
What had happened to my picture-perfect homeschool day? What went wrong?
I realized that I had overplanned (my Type A/overzealous nature) and would need to make some adjustments. We pressed on for a few days and the weariness continued. The boys balked when I brought out books and pencils. Again, time for adjustments!
At the end of two weeks, I was ready to throw in the towel. Homeschooling was obviously not for me. I did not have what it takes to teach my boys at home.
Dejected, I decided that we would take a break while I figured out what to do.
And then, something miraculous happened…
Eclectic Homeschooling: Use What Works For Your Family!
I let the boys play and frolic about as I sat dumbfounded about what to do with our homeschool. Chin in hands, I remember watching them play a board game. My ears perked up as I heard Captain reading the instructions to Professor while Smiley built a block tower.
Moving to the floor, I wanted to get closer to the action. My boys were learning through their interactions. When Professor brought over a book to read aloud together, I almost wept with joy.
I hadn’t ruined my boys learning experience. I just needed to relax and find out what would work best for each one!
We read that book and several more. The boys and I laughed and talked about the stories. Captain took out Legos and built “structures” (the term my boys have given to random Lego creations) and we read. Professor sat in my lap, wanting to read more and more. Smiley happily banged his wood blocks.
At the time, I had no idea that this sweet scene could be described as homeschool. To me, it was how our family ticks and enjoys learning time together.
(Before I proceed, I must note that Mater Amabilis is an amazing curriculum! I have revisited it several times for book suggestions and information. I just took on too much at one time with no background on Charlotte Mason approach. Also, my two older boys were coming from public school-quite different from Charlotte Mason!)
With some trial and error, we have found what overall works for our homeschool (not every day is perfect!). Relaxed, eclectic homeschooling is our best fit.
Relaxed, Eclectic Homeschooling: What Is it?
For our homeschool, we have a flexible approach to our day. Rather than let a schedule dictate our day, we operate better with a routine-that has flexibility built in.
Eclectic homeschooling (for us) is the combination of different homeschool methods and resources with a flexible routine.
Our homeschool day is often strewn with read alouds, collaborative learning, and discussion. Math is done on an individual level (with help from mom) but other subjects are combined as much as possible.
Hands-on projects and activities compliment or entail a lesson. Spontaneous explorations in our yard or local area occur when opportunities interests arise.
If one of my boys wants to use worksheets or workbooks, that’s cool. If notebooking pages seem like a good fit for a subject, we go for it. If one of my boys wants to read a comic book or make salt dough maps, we talk about how we could make that work for our homeschool and their education.
We start every day with homeschool morning gathering. This special time has evolved as our boys get older. After morning gathering, the older boys start math while I work on reading with Bear or puzzles with Xman.
To an outsider, our homeschool would like a bee’s nest with lots of buzzing, noise, and movement. A fly on the wall might wonder how anything can get done.
To us, it just works. Not one day looks like another-and that’s okey dokey for our homeschool.
Relaxed, Eclectic Homeschooling: That’s A Thing?
As much as I embraced our new homeschool approach, I would get the occasional twinges of guilt. Was I really doing enough? Would my boys be able to thrive as adults?
My concerns were dispelled when I found an amazing group of virtual homeschool friends. After doing live broadcasts on Periscope for a while, I started a Facebook group called Rock Your Homeschool! based on these scopes. These great gals have helped me recognize that it is okay-even beneficial-to “do my thing” in our homeschool.
The #1 positive influence on my acceptance of our homeschool style is Julie Bogart, creator of Brave Writer. When I first watched her scopes, I was entranced. This woman was speaking my language-my homeschool language! Pixie dust, juicy conversations, and poetry teatime! She encouraged meeting your child where they are and making connections.
I have learned to take chances and be brave. An outside of the box type of thinker anyways, I discovered that I could apply that unique approach to teaching my boys and feel good about it. My boys and I could have learning fun and explore all sorts of interests.
Do not feel that you have to cram their learning into a cookie cutter. You may get crumbs.
Learn about the different homeschool methods and take a sample of each. Try a lapbook or unit study. Find a read aloud to enjoy and discuss. Embrace what works and toss out what doesn’t.
Don’t feel boxed in. Free yourself and your homeschool. You are a homeschooler with freedoms and flexibility. Use them wisely and you will not fail. (Ooh! That sounded so Star Wars-like!)
What is your homeschool method (if you have one) and how is it working for you?
For more amazing information on Homeschool Choices, click on the image below. You will be transported to a world filled with homeschoolers like you who are sharing their experiences from the heart.
Hello Amy! You had me at “Oh my stars!” I have only known one other person besides myself who says that, and she’s the reason I say it! As I kept reading, I felt like we could be eclectic homeschooling soul sisters! I have done something different with my kids every single year I’ve homeschooled them (from day one). I started with Hooked on Phonics and a Montessori. Then a book I can’t remember the name of to teach reading to my 5 year old. Then Charlotte Mason, a little bit, but that was a dud with my kids. Everything in between, cobbled and put together, only to be abandoned midway through for a different approach. I wish I had read your advice when I started out – to take time to chill and learn about all the options and methods. Granted it was 11 years ago when I started, and there were not nearly as many resources as there are now!
The new homeschooler that happens upon your blog will be blessed to find your honesty and sound advice, as well as your authenticity. Thanks for blogging!