A Different Kind of Homeschool

The upcoming 2020-2021 school year marks our fifth year of homeschooling, and it’s been a phenomenal ride! My own history as a high school English teacher in the public school system is partly why I chose to homeschool my children from the very beginning. I have a deep respect for teachers, administrators, librarians, coaches, and anyone who dedicates their time and energy to educating children–it is a noble profession!

Only one of these adults does not have a teaching degree…and I married him!

After my father’s time in the Air Force, he became a public school teacher; he was even one of my high school teachers! My mother went from working in the cafeteria, to the library, to being a teacher’s aide, and then finally on to becoming a phenomenal kindergarten teacher until she retired last year. My brother taught middle school math and is now the district technology director. My sister-in-law is also a certified teacher, and any student who ever enters her classroom will be blessed because of her! Please understand I am not against public school, private school, charter schools, or hybrid schools. Who knows, maybe one day we’ll be part of a more formal academic endeavor?! But for now, five years into this amazing journey, I’ve never once regretted our family’s fearless foray into home education.

Conquering the world in matching sweaters!

Our first three years we were involved in a Classical Conversations co-op, and had a wonderful experience! I met lovely families and have formed a close circle of friends who I greatly admire. As we entered our fourth year of homeschool, I just didn’t have peace about rejoining our local CC community. I had a sneaking suspicion the Air Force would keep me busier than usual with my new promotion and new position. After prayer and discussion with my husband, we made the tough decision to take a break for the boys’ second grade and kindergarten years. God’s grace is so overwhelming! He knew long before I did that I’d be away for almost a month of training for First Sergeant Academy. He definitely knew long before I did that the coronavirus would remove me from my homeschooling mama role.

New rank. New position. New level of crazy!

Instead of rushing out the door each Monday for co-op, we had an extra day every week to spend together. Extra time. Extra cuddles. Extra memories. As I type this many miles away from my family, in the midst of my coronavirus response deployment, I am incredibly grateful for each “extra” we had. While this school year did NOT go according to plan, it far exceeded my original hopes and expectations. (We plan to rejoin our CC community this fall.) We spent two weeks in Abu Dhabi before COVID19 shut down the world, and those experiences will stay with us the rest of our lives! All through the fall and early winter seasons, the boys went to theatre class, karate lessons, and countless field trips. When life altered course mid-winter, we had to get creative. Daddy became the primary caretaker and homeschooler…and he’s nailing it! The routine, schedule, and lessons look different, but the boys are still learning so much. We may not have cracked a math textbook, but Asher has opened his own business (which involved quite a bit of practical math) and Keane continues to be obsessed with skip-counting, flashcards, and math games. In stepping back from formal lessons, we’ve let their passions bloom and imaginations blossom. The results have been astounding! Now that I’ve seen firsthand what a blessing this interrupted schedule has been, I’ve decided to intentionally interrupt our homeschool flow for the 2020-2021 academic year.

Abu Dhabi was the best field trip in the history of field trips!

I asked the boys what they wanted to learn. What they wanted to accomplish. What their personal goals were. And that’s how I’m planning their “curriculum” for first and third grade! Asher is passionate about becoming a survivalist and wants to continue growing his Wild Treasure Salves business. He’s learning to identify plants and herbs, their medicinal properties, and how to make home remedies with all natural ingredients. His third grade year will center around survival school, an epic survival campout, and continuing to forage for beneficial plants and herbs.

Foraging chickweed for his homemade herbal salves

Keane is passionate about learning to cook and create art. His first grade year will be focused on recipes, cooking, baking, and opening his own pop-up restaurant–decorated with his own artistic creations. He will create and hand-write the menus, grocery shop (and pay for) the ingredients, learn to cook a full meal, and make proper change for his customers.Needless to say, I couldn’t have come up with those phenomenal ideas on my own. When you step back and allow your children to take charge of their own education, you may be surprised at the results. I’m still reeling!

Dinner tastes better when you make it yourself!

In honor of their passion projects, school supplies will look a little different his year…

Non-traditional school supplies! Parental supervision required.

The boys will be documenting their progress via notebooking (handwriting) and narration (composition and presentation) on their YouTube channel. Morning Time and Poetry Tea Time have always been our most beloved aspects of homeschool, so those definitely aren’t going anywhere. Math will be practical and hands-on, Life of Fred read-alouds, Bedtime Math with Daddy, and boardgames as a family. Yes, I have a real math curriculum. Sure, it’s fine. However, we’re not married to it. Math learned and applied in real-life sticks in ways that math lessons from textbooks and workbooks never will. I also plan to loosen up on my views of screentime. I plan on exploring Khan Academy with the boys one or two days a week, and allowing them twenty minutes of Reading Eggs and Math Seeds while I work individually with the other brother. So when Keane and I have one-on-one reading time, Asher will set a twenty minute timer for the educational app. Then, they’ll switch! 

That one time the Air Force changed our plans…again.

After reading The Five Hour School Week by Kaleena Amuchastegui, I realized how many educational hacks I’ve been ignoring. By optimizing our academic endeavors prior to lunch, the boys will end up with about four hours each day to pursue their passion projects. In The Brave Learner, Julie Bogart put something into words that I didn’t fully realize I had already been doing: Classical Education in the fall, Unit Studies in the winter, Unschooling in the spring, and ramped-up read-alouds in the summer. Come June, we dive head-first into our local library’s summer reading program. Even Mommy participates! (And yes, audiobooks totally count.)

Camel riding in the UAE

Upon finishing Ainsley Arment’s The Call of the Wild + Free, I fully embrace the fact that I’m not designed to fit into a traditional model. My sons are so uniquely multifaceted that it would be a disservice to choose a one-size-fits-all path for them. My job as their mother is not to chisel them into the perfect sculptures of my imagining, but to give them all of the tools and knowledge so they can craft a masterpiece of their own lives! Through God’s grace and His gift of wisdom, I have no doubt this journey will continue to be beautiful!

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