Homeschooling On the Homestead: Tips for a Fun & Relaxed Style of Learning

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Homeschooling your children can be a fun, rewarding, and educational experience for the whole family. Here are some helpful tips for homesteaders and others embracing the homeschooling model…

In recent years, many modern homesteaders have embraced homeschooling as a way to raise their children with a respect for hard work and self-sufficiency that many parents find lacking in public schools. Others who are really, really off the grid may not have access to many public schooling opportunities.

For my family, my parents partly didn’t like the atmosphere at our only accessible really rural public school, and partly were concerned for my health, as I was almost constantly sick throughout the school year during the first 3 years I attended (kindergarten and 1st grade and 2nd grades), as were most of the other kids in my elementary school class.

Through our own choice – and wanting to gain more social skills – my sisters and I each returned to public school around the 6th and 7th grades, respectively. But our childhood years were spent enjoying a freedom that most children can only imagine – especially in today’s restrictive environment of regimented classroom schedules, structured sports activities, and loads and loads of homework.

I ran across this exciting article about “unschooling” the other day, and realized that this is more like what my experience was as a homeschooled kid, whereas some of my friends who were homeschooled had a much more structured “curriculum.”

Of course, I grew up before the age of the internet, so my studying was done out of actual school textbooks (some from the public library, others my parents found at garage sales or thrift stores), but most subjects were very easy for me, and as I loved to read, most of my schoolwork was a breeze, and quickly done and out of the way for the day in a very short period of time (except for math, which remained my nemesis until my senior year in high school, when suddenly it started to “click” for me).

After completing our schoolwork, my sisters and I were free to go about the real learning, which involved climbing trees, building things, swimming, harvesting vegetables and selling them at the farmer’s market, reading, feeding and tending to the livestock (mainly chickens and goats), picking and canning fruit, baking and cooking, and all the other homestead chores, lessons, and tasks that made up our daily lives. While we never heard of “unschooling,” this is essentially what our schooling resembled.

I love what Danielle at Weed Em and Reap says about unschooling:

Because we can’t predict the future and we can’t predict what the economy or technology will be in 10-15 years, I think it’s best to prepare our children to be fast learners, with the ability to teach themselves ANYTHING.

If you know how to teach yourself, you are prepared for any future job. If you only know how to learn from a teacher and a perfectly laid out curriculum, then you’ll always need that in order to learn.

I’ve heard some skeptics say that unschooled children won’t know how to follow rules or finish assignments on deadlines but that’s simply not true. Children have an innate desire to please and be noticed for their work. This continues into adulthood and is what makes us proud of our achievements. Unschooled children have just as much desire to follow rules and stick to deadlines when the time calls for it.

If I ever have kids, I have serious reservations about sending them to public school. Finding a school environment that suits how I want my kids to learn (and how most kids actually like to learn) seems like a daunting challenge. I haven’t decided if I would homeschool my kids or not, but if I do, it would have to be using this more relaxed model such as Danielle describes here:

Initially when we started to homeschool, we chose unschooling. I loved the idea of child-led learning, mostly because my son was such an avid science buff and at a young age could sit through hours of lectures or documentaries about the biology & history of different species of animals. He would get in trouble in school for reading a science book about endangered animals when the assignment was to read the Magic Treehouse series, which he was incredibly bored with. His love of learning and his ability to absorb information and memorize it was contagious for the whole family, so you can see why unschooling really worked for us in the beginning years. It was a great detox from sitting in school and being told what to learn. The kids had the freedom to learn whatever they wanted, and they ran with it. We spent time exploring, researching, experimenting, and doing what 8 & 10 year olds love best — experiencing life. We also were able to put home & farm projects into learning — so it was a win-win on all sides.

As children get older, they may need more structure in their learning process. I love how Danielle’s family was able to adapt and change their schooling method as their needs changed:

As they got older, however, we noticed some gaps in their schooling. Their writing was below what you’d expect at that age. Initially it didn’t concern me because I held fast to the unschooling belief that they would eventually learn it. But, what convinced me to try an English curriculum was the creativity behind a certain method that taught writing in an incredibly fun way. This method was EVERYTHING to us. In the span of a few months, they went from barely being able to write a grammatically-correct paragraph, to full stories, rich with creativity and the flow of a high school paper. This showed me that there can be a good balance for us easy-going families. And today we have a mix of child-led learning & homeschooling curricula that we love.

For those who want to learn more about this relaxed, fun, and effective method of homeschooling, you can check out the full article here at WeedEmAndReap.com.


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