Homeschool isn’t “school”. Homeschoolers are not bound to use the same techniques, ideas, schedules, or the same anything that schools use. Though we often have “requirements” to meet that are established by the state, the homeschool situation is generally far more open to the direct needs of the student and teacher. At least, it can be.
This freedom should be taken full advantage of. It can be used to do two very important things. 1) To allow the student and teacher to express creative control over the educational process. 2) To enhance the student’s own creativity and creative works. These two creative functions overlap and become one in many ways, as you’ll see.
You all know what school is about; rigid schedules, homework, activities oriented toward group rather than individual needs, grades, tests, all the rest of the “standard” trappings that have murdered education for over 100 years. I’ve written a lot about the problems of such methods, all of them tied to the “critical” and “teacher-oriented” approach to education that owns our schools today. We won’t get much into that here. But as homeschoolers, you can turn each of these rotten tools on their head to make education actually responsive to your needs and those of your student.
Let’s discuss scheduling. You may well be obligated to deliver so many days of school to your student. (Usually in the U.S., it’s 180 days.) Further, there may be an hour per day requirement. Fine. But when in the day you do those hours are up to you as homeschoolers! Does your student work and think best getting up late, and studying from noon-five pm? I’d let him do it. Some people, myself included, work best later at night. While a school could never accommodate such a “non-standard” schedule, a homeschool situation most certainly can. Wouldn’t it be a good idea to allow the student to study at the time of day when he will do his very best work? Don’t we want his best work? If allowing the student to work during unusual hours, even hours that change from day to day, gets us his best work, then isn’t that worth developing scheduling flexibility?
More on scheduling. We are accustomed to thinking of the school day as being broken into subjects, each with about the same amount of time devoted to it. After all, that’s how schools are organized. But you’re working with a homeschool situation and are not obligated to follow the herd. So, let’s say that your student suddenly develops a real passion for a particular subject. Let’s call it “creative writing”. He starts writing a play or a novel, and has a fire to do it now. Isn’t an important goal of education to help the student discover his real interests in life, those areas or activities which he will later make use of to build a life, a career? Once we discover the student’s interests, isn’t our next job as educators to do everything in our power to help the student develop his skills and understandings in those areas of interest? And don’t we all learn best when we’re passionate about the things we’re learning about?
When the fire’s hot, the anvil should be struck. When a student develops a passion for a subject, then he should be encouraged to focus on it even to the temporary exclusion of other subjects – perhaps all other subjects. There’s no guarantee that, if the student is restricted from diving in, if he is not encouraged to experience his new-found passion while it’s fresh and wondrous, that the student will remain interested for long. In fact, it’s pretty likely that he will not, once discouraged from jumping in with both feet. After all, you, his parent or teacher, are the people that the student looks up to. If you don’t think his interests are important enough to set other activities aside so as to be pursued, after a while neither will he.
Obviously, a school with 30 or more students per classroom just can’t exhibit this sort of elasticity in scheduling. You can. You’re a homeschooler. You can suspend study of other subjects for a reasonable amount of time so that the student may dive in, and so he sees that you truly support his interests. You could even make a “deal” with the student. Let him work exclusively on his new novel for two weeks, or a month, or whatever is needed. Then he must do his other subjects exclusively for a month or whatever is needed and “catch up” – if catching up to some imaginary target that has little to do with the student’s life and interests is deemed important.
What do we want for our children? One thing certainly would be for them to discover and pursue their “calling”, whatever it may be. How much happier the life driven by a love of one’s work, than a life darkened and weighed down by the drudgery of work we detest. Can a little thing like creative scheduling take us a great step toward providing our children a greater chance at a happy life? You bet it can!
As you probably know, I am an advocate for homeschooling. It’s my belief that homeschooling potentially provides a student with a vastly superior education than schooling in any form. This is backed up by a lot of numbers and research. I’ve taught for public and private schools, at the University level, as a private instructor in thousands of workshops, and as a homeschool dad running a homeschool group. Homeschooling by far works best for most students- and most families.
But I understand that many parents do not believe they can effectively homeschool. They’ve been told that they “don’t have degrees,” and that they “aren’t qualified.” This is all nonsense, of course. You’re legally not required to have any kind of a degree to homeschool your kids anywhere in the U.S. A lot of people who have degrees and who call themselves “professional teachers” are simply awful, and even destructive at what they do. A lot of parents…hundreds that I know of…have homeschooled their kids right into universities and careers.
In a serious effort to make homeschooling easier to do, and more commonly successful in terms of education received, I’ve authored my own curriculum. It took some 15,000 hours to write, over more than a decade of work, and is intended to replace the need for schooling a student from age 5-Adult Continuing Education. The curriculum is called Steps (or “CTT”). It has been used by over 20,000 students worldwide over the past 10 years. Hundreds of “success stories” attest to how well CTT works.
CTT courses are written in a way that gradually allows the student to take over his own education. Each course itself largely does the teaching, relieving mom and dad of that duty unless they wish to use our daily lesson plans in various subjects as springboards for family discussion and discovery – as many families do, every day. The parent has the job of making certain the student is working and has what they need to study. (And you’ll need to find a good math program for homeschooling as we don’t provide one. There are many.)
Below are links to our site discussing each level of curriculum, and every subject at that level that we offer. (You can start any level at any time. We don’t have “semesters” that start at a certain time, and each course stands alone well.) You’ll find free videos describing how every subject and each level works. You’ll discover free samples of every course we offer. Our site offers many other services and surprises, including numerous free courses you can download and try out.
Starter is for ages 5-6, and for preliterate students of any age. It focuses on starting to develop literacy skills, while teaching about various subjects. Starter includes full two-year programs in Reading, History, Science, Creative Writing, and Living Your Life, courses that develop life and study skills for the youngest students. Every lesson plan at the Starter level works to develop literacy.
Elementary is for ages 7-8, and for students who are developing literacy. It includes two-year programs in Reading and Spelling, History, Science, Creative Writing (which also teaches the parts of language at this level), and Living Your Life courses which develop life and study skills in preparation for more advanced studies to come.
Lower School (ages 9-10) offers two-year programs in Study Essentials, Reading and Spelling, History, Science, Creative Writing, P.E. Electives, and in various arts such as Animation, Music Theory, and Acting. At this level, students must read fairly well, and studies are progressively turned over to the student.
Upper School (ages 11-High School, and Adult Continuing Education) provides programs in Study Essentials, Reading and Spelling, History, Science, Creative Writing, Current Events, Literature Guides, P.E. Electives, and in arts such as Animation, Acting, Music Theory, and Music History.
For parents who wish to teach at home, but are intimidated at the thought, and for parents who just wish to improve the homeschool experience, we offer a ten course homeschool program for homeschool teachers, as well as several books about education and homeschooling today.
We want you and your children to win with homeschooling!