By Danielle Tate, Contributing Writer
When my best friend came for a visit we discussed the idea of us traveling to their house for visit in the coming months. I said, “Well, school will be starting soon,” and to my surprise my husband reminded me, “They homeschool, we can go any time.” My friend agreed and it was then that I realized the biggest benefit of homeschooling: Flexibility.
When I first began contemplating the idea of homeschool, I envisioned Monday through Friday 8am to 3pm with detailed lesson plans and a rigid schedule. But as I explore the various homeschool philosophies and talk to other moms I have realized the freedom and flexibility in being a homeschool mom.
Don’t get me wrong, homeschool is a serious business for moms, they aren’t just playing school. They can, however, be creative and flexible with their schooling schedule. In fact, not too long ago one of my friends said as much as she loves and needs to be detailed with her weekly school schedule, she allows days and even weeks every once and a while for catch up. Why? Because her family needs that time to stay sane and keep homeschool fun.
Homeschooling Off the Normal Schedule
What can it look like to homeschool off the normal schedule? What exactly is the normal schedule?
Here’s the secret: You define your normal.
I asked around some of my Facebook communities and on my page and the response I got to school schedules was amazing. Here’s a sampling of the responses from readers and fellow bloggers:
• Monday through Friday with a set times
• Unschooling – not much of a schedule, learning based on the day’s activities and the child’s interests with lots of time to explore things that pique their attention
• Schooling in the afternoon and early evening
• Schooling in the morning and then later in the day, after mom gets home from work
• Schooling around Dad’s work schedule
Perhaps the most intriguing example of flexibility is road-schooling. Christy from The Simple Homemaker is the matriarch of an amazing road-schooling family. I am continually impressed by both their life-on-the-road journey and how she handles school. Partly because I see us road-schooling somewhat in the future. Here’s what Christy had to say about being flexible:
“With seven kids ranging from potty training to college prep, and with our “road-school” on wheels year round, we have no choice but to remain flexible in our schooling. If we stuck to a strict school schedule instead of jumping headlong into the priceless lessons life hands us some (or most) days, our children would miss vital learning which they could never receive from a book, but which is very applicable to life. By remaining flexible and not sticking dogmatically to what the modern world has deemed “school hours,” we create lifelong students who enjoy learning and adaptable adults who can confidently shout “Here am I! Send me!” when the Lord calls them to something bigger than our family music mission.”
~ Christy Bagaso, The Simple Homemaker (emphasis mine)
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As you can see, one of the biggest secrets homeschooling holds is the flexibility to maintain a schedule that meets your family’s needs. Many states have homeschool laws that must be obeyed but within those parameters there is still great flexibility. For example, in Pennsylvania you must school 180 days or 900 hours (990 for high school) but within those parameters you can choose the days and times. For us, this means I can school mostly the days my husband works (which is a rotating 4-day schedule) and fill in with necessary days he is off to meet state requirements.
Much like Christy, I believe lessons learned in the here and now, turning the ordinary into teachable moments is key to being successful as a homeschooling family. This means camping trips aren’t just a chance to get away from television and internet, they’re an ecological study, an astronomy lesson and even a physics lesson. And a walk along the creek can hold extraordinary possibilities.
Why I’m Leaning Toward Charlotte Mason
This brings me to Charlotte Mason. We are an on-the-go family. We love to be outside and we love to travel. As I change my mindset about homeschooling I see the beauty and value this brings to our son’s learning experience. I think this is why I lean toward CM style. I want our son to excel academically but I also want him to grow as a person and learn from his world.
What is the Charlotte Mason Method? Charlotte Mason (1842-1923) believed that since children are people we need to educate the whole person, not just cram facts into their mind. The Charlotte Mason approach to education is a three-fold approach:
“Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life.” ~ Charlotte Mason
The focused and intentional studies incorporated in Charlotte Mason-style schooling speak to the teacher/trainer in me. Yet I see such value in the student-led time where children can focus on the hobbies and studies that interest them. We only have one child but I can see how a family with multiple children can love this style. People talk about each child being an individual and the Charlotte Mason Style style gives great grace to this fact and incorporates the individual interests of the students.
Starting the homeschooling process is a journey – a learning experience for both parent and child. I’ve learned so much in the past year of practicing for homeschool and I know there’s much more to learn. The flexibility and freedom to learn outside the boxed classroom are an exciting aspect for me. I think Charlotte Mason is the perfect compliment to our lives.
Have you ever used the Charlotte Mason style approach? And tell me, what is your homeschool schedule like?
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