Homeschooling. It can be such a difficult decision to make for your family.
Is it right for your child?
Is it right for you?
How will you know if your kids are learning?
The questions are endless. It can be so stressful.
I’ve been there. I’ve been in the throes of homeschool decision-making.
I obsessed over whether or not I was making the right decision.
Instead of sleeping, I was up at night thinking about homeschooling. Pinterest? Yes, please! I pinned every.single.resource that I could find (sound familiar?).
Why did I finally make the decision to homeschool? What was the straw that broke the camel’s back?
Common Core education.
For me, it had nothing to do with school rankings. Our local schools actually rank among the highest in our state.
It really was not that I feared for my kids’ safety in school (though that’s high on my list).
What drove my final decision to homeschool is the fact that I am opposed to Common Core education.
As a former teacher, I am familiar with Common Core education and I knew that I wanted to educate my kids differently.
First, a quick crash course in Common Core education.
What is Common Core Education?
Depending on what state you live in, Common Core education varies. The majority of states follow the Common Core Curriculum. Common Core Curriculum is a group of standards that designate what children, in Kindergarten through 12th grade, should know by the time they graduate from high school. The Common Core applies to English/Language Arts and Math. Most states have adopted the Common Core Curriculum, but there are states who have opted out.
The states that opted out of Common Core Curriculum have their own common core standards in place. These may be called different things, but they follow the same idea that every student will learn the same thing. The standards are designated throughout subjects and pertain to each grade level.
Common Core education is measured by standardized tests. Students who do not meet the requirements for the standardized tests may have to repeat their grade level or be required to attend summer school.
The Problem with Common Core Education
Until I had children of my own, I did not realize how far and wide learning can creep, if you encourage it in the right way.
I did not realize the impact it can make when you educate the “whole child”.
Common Core education does not teach to the whole child. Common core focuses on academic subjects that are included on standardized tests. The standards take precedence over important creative and physical outlets such as art, music, P.E. and unstructured outside time.
Common Core education is a cookie cutter approach that suggests that there is one way to teach kids, by rigid standards. Each child is so vastly different that it is a disservice to think that general standards will cover what kids need (and want) to learn.
What We Do In Our Homeschool
Because I am firmly against Common Core education, or any representation of it, in our homeschool, I don’t force certain learning methods or curriculum. I also do not lesson plan.
We take on an unschooling approach. This does not mean that we are unorganized or unintentional. I make sure that I am thoughtful and purposeful so I can support my kids’ interests and help them discover answers to questions they have.
Staying organized includes keeping track of what my children are interested in. If they ask a question, I jot it down so we can find the answer to what they want to know. Without some sort of tracking, I think that unschooling would be a disaster.
Since my kids have a vested interest in what they are learning, they are naturally becoming life-long learners who will constantly seek to know and understand the world around them.
Because they are seeking out information about their genuine interests, the chances that they will soak up the information and make connections between a variety of topics is highly likely. Allowing our kids to pursue their passions and interests encourages curiosity in subject areas that otherwise, may never be found.
Common Core education does not allow for child-led learning, because the standards are already chosen. The learning that will take place is already pre-set and does not hinge on what children might want to learn, it’s purely what a group of adults have decided they will learn.
Unlimited Outside Time
In our homeschool, there is no limit on what my kids can do. We do not set a schedule that designates subjects or even activities that they must adhere to. If they want to spend the day outside playing, that is what we do. Are they learning? Absolutely!
When we are outside, my kids count planes flying overhead, draw pictures of something they have found on a nature walk, and then they might read about a bird they are curious about. We can make up songs that go along with what we have seen and done during the day. The options are endless.
I’m so grateful that my kids have the opportunity to connect deeply with nature and use it throughout their learning. This is something that isn’t even mentioned in Common Core education.
My kids are young (6 and 3.5 years old), and it’s more than okay that their daily focus is playing. That is something that Common Core education forgets about: The importance of play. It has been proven time and again that play is imperative for proper development. Playing is learning!
Make- believe playing literally helps to form the brain and helps kids make connections with the world around them. Sadly, in most kindergarten (and even preschool) classrooms, play is not the focus, it’s purely academics.
A lot of the time, I observe my kids while they are playing. I don’t tell them what to do, or how to do it. I will make helpful suggestions from time to time, but nothing that kills their spirited attempts at creating something magical. When I do jump in to play, I make sure that they take the lead.
Bottom line, we have a lot of fun!
Our homeschool is made up of a lot of games. This might be something simple like “Simon Says”, or it might be a board game, or maybe even a game that we have made up.
Do the games have to be educational? Not always. Though we do have our favorites that are math games, I believe that kids can learn a lot from playing games, in general.
They can learn how to take turns, how to share, how to solve problems, how to communicate effectively and so much more, just from playing games. Even just moving a game piece a certain number of spaces, though, encourages counting. Unconventional learning can be found in the most fun places!
Our home is very literature rich. From reading aloud to writing grocery lists, to reading the decorative wall signs in our house, our kids love literacy because they are immersed in it.
Research shows that reading to your kids will help substantially with vocabulary and literacy. Not only that but when kids see their parents reading, they want to copy it. I don’t walk around with my nose in a chapter book all day long (though it’s fine if you do!), but my kids do see me reading and writing on a daily basis.
My kids choose what books they want me to read and rarely do I put a cap on how many books I will read to them (unless it is SUPER late at night, or if we have someplace to be at a certain time).
When my daughter asks me how to spell something, I help her. She keeps several journals and loves to write and draw in them. This is not something I force, it is just something she enjoys.
While Common Core education does focus on reading, it is a test-based reading that is difficult to transfer over to pleasurable reading. Because standardized tests are written specifically for the purpose of test-taking, a lot of material being read in classrooms is test-based. That doesn’t make reading magical for most kids, it makes it boring.
This is one of the biggest reasons I homeschool. Reading should be pleasurable, not dreadful. I want my kids to choose what they want to read, and I want them to see the doors that can open when they are avid readers.
I never want the spark in my children’s eyes to go out. I never want their love of learning to cease.
I want them to come up with ideas and questions, seek out answers without hesitation and take on the world with open arms.
When you fuel a child’s passion, he will develop an untamed curiosity that digs deeper than any Common Core standard could ever go.
This is why I homeschool.
Katrina is a chaotically organized unschool mama who blogs at Rule This Roost. She loves all things nerdy, including a lot of non-fiction reading and working on her side-hustle with classical music playing in the background.
This article is part of the I Homeschool Because . . . series. Click here to read other articles in this series, download the free eBook, You Can Do It, Too: 25 homeschool families share their stories, and enter a giveaway from Kiwi Crate valued at more than $200.