In my travels and locally, in person, by telephone and often electronically, I am so fortunate in that I am able to meet homeschooling families from all over the continent and, every once in a while, somewhere else around the globe, too. One of the things that I love most about my work is the chance to connect with families and hear how different people approach what is ultimately the very same task — the education of their children.
I am fascinated to hear how other homeschoolers take advantage of individual situations and nearby resources. And even after homeschooling for a couple of decades myself, I love to hear how others approach certain learning tasks and generally attack all of the different duties and challenges in their lives.
The variety of families I meet is endless. And if you ever thought there was a typical homeschool family or that homeschoolers were basically all alike, it’s high time to think that one again.
Every family that I meet and every parent that I talk to (sometimes a grandparent even) tells a different story of why homeschooling works for them, and how they do the things they do.
Over the years, I have talked to families who homeschool just a subset of their children in between stops in a car, as they shuttle the remaining children back and forth to brick-and-mortar schools. This practice is actually more common than you might think because not all families homeschool all of their children — sometimes it’s just a few.
I have seen families homeschooling on beaches with workbooks and art supplies inside rolling coolers, families homeschooling at picnic areas while sitting on blankets and enjoying the sunshine, and families at camp sites with materials scattered all over the place amidst leaves and collections of pine cones. I have watched families homeschooling at tables in libraries or on the floor in between the stacks, and families homeschooling on benches in museums and in the long halls of art galleries.
I have met quite a few families that homeschool in RVs while traveling the nation, stopping anywhere they like, living and learning all along the way. Some have blogged about it and at least has written a book about the experience.
Several years ago, I met some families that homeschooled on sailboats. Then a couple of years ago, I met two families that schooled on tennis courts in between matches. Last year, I bumped into a family that homeschooled primarily in hotel rooms. And there is also the one that regularly completed schoolwork in a stable. Not to mention the family that carted their school books onto a motocross track three times every week. And I’ll never forget the family that homeschooled on buses in between performances all the way up and down the coast.
And, of course, there are all of the other families I know who homeschool at kitchen counters, at dining room tables, and in converted bedrooms, lofts and garages.
I marvel at the families that homeschool non-traditionally — that is, not necessarily in a home setting – and I applaud them for allowing homeschooling to follow them along on jobs, to sports, with hobbies and elsewhere. And I understand very well the families that school inside the home, as I am familiar with that particular practice myself. I sometimes visualize different families side by side, doing things so differently but in many ways still really the same.
Like many homeschoolers, when I began homeschooling years ago, I started with a fairly traditional school-at-home approach. As a college professor for so many years, this was the model I was familiar with, and the one that I attempted to duplicate in my own home. I was eager and confident, ready to do whatever it took to accomplish everything that was covered in government classrooms, plus a whole lot more. I began the same way that many modern homeschoolers still do — by starting a little school for my kids in my home.
But as the years passed and more children were added to our homeschool, I moved away from that model, adopting a much more eclectic approach that better matched my students’ needs and our lifestyle. Just by living and working together, I learned more about myself and my children, thus adapting their schooling to whatever worked well for us, both academically and otherwise. Our entire school operation shrank into just one classroom. And then the classroom dissolved into the other areas of our home. Until finally those areas didn’t look very different from any other parts of our home, because the confluence of life and school had occurred, and the line separating the two had sufficiently blurred that it was hardly visible any more.
Though I could not see it initially, I now easily understand how homeschooling can occur just about anywhere. And while you couldn’t have convinced me back when I first started, after years of doing it and meeting families that are different from us, I now know without a doubt that successful homeschooling can occur under any set different of circumstances — because I have seen it and experienced it for myself.
And over time and with experience, I have incorporated non-traditional concepts into our homeschooling, too, because I know for sure that schooling indoors isn’t the only way to get great results. I have learned that some days are just too beautiful to stay inside, and that math problems solved outside on a sunny porch are just the same as math problems solved indoors while looking out a sunny window. I have learned that swinging from a rope into a river and swimming back to shore is just as intense a workout as sit-ups performed on a livingroom floor — sometimes even better when enjoyed with giggles and added gusto. And I have realized that listening to foreign languages and classical music in a moving vehicle can be just as effective as listening to foreign languages and classical music at a kitchen counter, and that it can even be a welcome change from the usual daily routine, too.
And though you’ll probably never find my family homeschooling in any unusual locations, like some of the families that I meet, I don’t mind when we get a little crazy and do something totally out-of-the-ordinary. Because I know that it works, and that it’s going to be okay, perhaps even really, really good.
Nobody ever said that homeschooling has to take place primarily at home. Homeschool can happen, no matter where you are. Keep this in mind as you plan your own year. Let an openness to the concept and the confidence that it won’t hurt — and might even enhance – be your guide as you plan activities for your homeschool family. As other families have shown me, and perhaps this post may convince you, school is where you are.