All posts by Sheila

Sometimes it ain’t easy–but it’s worth it!

This moment July 2013There are those days when homeschooling feels incredibly more difficult than sending my child to public school. Often, well-meaning neighbors, friends, and even family question our reasons for homeschooling. “Isn’t he missing out?” they ask. My reply comes across with a tone of slight defiance, “Missing out on what? School food, bullying, fifteen hours a week on the bus or a standardized education system developed to ignore creativity and individuality?” He’s not missing much.

It’s true, he might be missing daily interaction with peers, but let’s be honest. Not all of that interaction is positive. “But wait,” you’re thinking “the world isn’t perfect, and our children need to learn how to get along with others!” Yes, I agree. But I also think that learning to get along with others can be facilitated at the grocery store, the playground, church, vacation bible school and most of all in the home.

It would, indeed, be easier to send him off at 6:20 am when the bus swings around and picks him up and then drops him in the late afternoon around 4:20 pm. That’s a long day for a young child. What is that teaching them? How much actual instruction time is my child gleaning from this day?

Eight years ago it never crossed my mind that I might be teaching my child math, language, science, art and real-life skills from my dining room table. It seemed perfectly normal that I should send my child to school. Everyone else is doing it, right?

Consider this quote:

The most erroneous assumption is to the effect that the aim of public education is to fill the young of the species with knowledge and awaken their intelligence, and so make them fit to discharge the duties of citizenship in an enlightened and independent manner. Nothing could be further from the truth. The aim of public education is not to spread enlightenment at all; it is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality. That is its aim in the United States, whatever the pretensions of politicians, pedagogues and other such mountebanks, and that is its aim everywhere else.― H.L. Mencken

Wait, what is this? Is this saying that public education exists only to make “drones” out of our children? I’m not sure. I know it might be difficult, but I encourage each of us to respectfully question all we have been taught.

It might seem counterproductive to question long-held beliefs – as it might seem rebellious or defiant – but if we approach this questioning with authentic curiosity and genuine care we might create thinkers in our children as opposed to followers. Of course, some might argue that not all are leaders: that is true. But I do strongly believe it is our duty to install in to our children the ability to make decisions on their own eventually and in order to do that they must be able to weigh the pros and cons.

Homeschooling gives us the freedom to research different curricula, styles and levels of academic study. It also gives us the enormous responsibility of instilling so much more than academics in our children.

Where are you at in your homeschooling journey?


Do What You Can and Let The Rest Go

I am so excited to be introducing new voices to Lessons from the Homestead. I know that I have benefited from a multitude of counselors where homeschooling is concerned, and wanted to offer that for you here.

This post was written by Sheila, the farmhousewife of Hope Farms. Sheila is an unschooling, goat-milking, egg-basket-carrying mother of one wide-open boy; wife to Captain Strong-Arms; and an avid student of life. Studying entropy and measuring its worth is a common thread between homesteading and homeschooling. Now in their second year of schooling their son at home, Sheila and Captain Strong-Arms are learning to balance the farm, the schoolwork, and attending farmers’ markets.

I hope that you will give Sheila a warm Lessons from the Homestead welcome and visit her blog at Hope Farms. Subscribing wouldn’t hurt either. 😉

063Contrary to popular belief, success is not a straight, ascending line to the top of all things wonderful. It is indeed more akin to a butterfly – flitting to and fro, up and down, left to right – in no particular order and sometimes very little direction.

Homeschooling is a lot like the aforementioned success. In our home it seems we have not had many straight line successes in regards to homeschooling. Or any other items on an agenda, for that matter. I call it un-schooling. Some might imagine no school work at all with incomplete chaos and a rebellion against all things authoritative. I prefer to think of it as cultivating creativity with a solid foundation of the basics; math, language arts, and a huge helping of real life.

What makes up a good portion of our “classroom” is the farm. Being less than four acres we don’t have a large operation but rather a small-timey yet labor intensive and symbiotic agricultural plot. The house itself serves as a learning tool in that learning to sort clothing, put dishes away, and facilitating responsibility of  indoor animals (read: guinea pig) are more than just functional chores: they are setting the stage for how our child might choose to live when on his own as an adult.

It is easy to get caught up in the daily challenges of running a small farm and sometimes schoolwork is not a schedule to keep, but rather a flexible part of the day. It is extremely important, I believe, to determine your child’s strengths and needs and base a curriculum around those. That said: do what I say, not as I have done.

Last year we did not follow any particular curriculum. This year, as our child will be in the 2nd grade, I would like to find one that fits my son’s needs and our family’s personality.

Meanwhile, the eggs must be gathered, the goat and cow must be milked, all of the animals fed and watered. The garden, in all of its glory, will not preserve the bountiful harvest by itself.

In all we do, as a farm, as a family, we are learning. Today I saw a quote – without an author – that resounded with me deeply. It said, “Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards.” So many of us, whether we homeschool or not, can relate to this.

Knowing that experience is gained the hard way–homeschooling doesn’t have to be perfect. It can be flawed. Inconsistent, even, and still – our children will be learning.

Here’s where I’m going to start:

  • Do what I can, to the best of my ability, and let the rest go.
  • Develop a curriculum that fits the strengths and needs of my child.
  • Build a homeschooling schedule we can adhere to, not something that just looks good on paper.
  • Write about the challenges and triumphs.

What about you? Where are you starting in your planning for the upcoming year?