What exactly is “relaxed homeschooling”? Before I answer that, I will give you a tiny bit of background. I am saving the major details for another post for another day about why we chose to home school, but here’s a tidbit. Our decision to homeschool took a few years to come to and religion had zero factor in it. I think an assumption most people make about homeschoolers is that we are all wildly religious and refuse to teach our kids about evolution. To be honest, that may have been the case even a couple of decades ago. This is not so much the case these days. The number of secular homeschoolers in America is increasing quite rapidly. Homeschooling has changed greatly over the last decade or so (read more here).
Anyway, back to the story. We went the traditional brick and mortar route with our two oldest in the beginning. They both went to pre-school, then Kindergarten, and continued on through until a couple of years ago to a regular school. There was bullying, there was favoritism by teachers, and a general feeling of unhappiness from both of the children. I thought an informal, kind of hippy/crunchy private school would be better. There were no desks. Reading time was done lounging on bean bags. At first it seemed great, but then the cracks in the program became more and more obvious. It wasn’t so fantastic after all. It was more of the same wrapped in zero fashion sense and Birkenstocks with socks, but cost an arm and a leg. One thing led to another, and I was so frustrated with depending on other people to educate my children that I just took the leap. I could see that the love of learning had been zapped out of them. They griped and complained every school morning. Carmen had so much anxiety about going that it started to manifest physically. One morning Gabriel literally started hyperventilating when we pulled up. School had become a situation that they couldn’t wait to get through. They despised it. How would they ever cultivate a love of knowledge and be lifelong students of information if they already hated it and they weren’t even out of elementary school yet?
Initially when I pulled them out of regular school, I was absolutely overwhelmed and terrified of homeschooling. I did not have the confidence in myself to teach them. I enrolled them in an online public school thinking that would be better. It was not. At all. Again, it was the same old crap of hours and hours of sitting to learn about things they had zero interest in. As soon as they took the test, the information went out of their heads. While being at home helped with the issues of bullying and being totally dependent on someone else teaching them since I was present each school day, it was not for us. Children don’t want to sit still. It’s not natural for them. They need to explore, move their bodies, and it’s human nature to gobble up information that you are interested in. They weren’t enjoying life and I could tell.
There are a lot of different types of homeschool styles. I was going to be the most organized and regimented homeschool Mom that the world had ever seen! The fall that we started I ran to Target and bought a day planner. I sat for hours and planned out exactly what we would do at each hour of each day. I think we followed that schedule for the first week and then I scrapped it. We are all night owls. My husband is in the bar business, and we also own a wine and craft cocktail bar together. We have never really had a normal 9-5 schedule with bankers hours. And rest is so crucial to everyone but especially children who are still developing. We sleep in. Sometimes we stay up really late and sleep in really late. Guess what? We still get our studies done in a fraction of the time other children sit at school all day. I didn’t know it at the time, but we had officially become relaxed homeschoolers.
Gabriel hanging out with his pup, Pippin, and reading
I think there’s a good bit of wiggle room as far as a concrete definition of “relaxed homeschooling”. The beauty of it is that it’s open to interpretation and each family can make up their own rules, to an extent. For us, it means we just go day by day. Most days, they complete a few pages in workbooks and then do Spanish and Math lessons online on Khan Academy’s free site. We also read together. I always have hot chocolate on hand and we all sip it our of our favorite mugs while we take turns reading paragraphs. They love to snuggle on the couch in their onesies while we read. We travel a good bit and take a lot of local field trips. I’d like to incorporate a lot more international travel in the very near future. We can do that since we have open schedules! There’s no waiting for summer break or spring break to take trips.
Carmen in Paris with my Mom
This school year, I bought them each grade appropriate workbooks and books that interested them to read independently. I never ever say no to books. I will buy them as many as they want. In the fall they each completed their studies of our state’s history, Spanish workbook, life cycle of plants, handwriting workbooks, and of course the daily math and spanish online that I mentioned above. Currently, as far as workbooks they are finishing up their geography and then we will move to the grammar workbook. We have been intensely focused on Spanish because we are going there in 2019. I want them to be able to interact with the locals in Spanish. Plus, it’s their heritage (Colombian) on their father’s side. We have been doing a lot of flash cards and watching Spanish movies. Gabriel is very interested in history so he focuses a lot on that during his “me time” and Carmen is obsessed with the history of fashion/costume design. They can both tell you cool facts about their individual interests. For example, did you know people used to wear powdered wigs to prevent lice from jumping from one head to another? Disgusting, yes. Interesting and something I did not know? Yes. They didn’t even teach me that at my fancy super expensive fashion school in my History of Fashion class! Gabriel can tell you more about the Cuban Missile Crisis than most adults I know. On the flip side, there are days where we don’t do anything except watch documentaries on Netflix. I let them decide the topic as long as it’s educational. No, creepy pasta stories on YouTube absolutely do not count (we recently had that conversation). However, when the kids around us are out of school for snow days or whatever, we are still learning.
Carmen in one of her many period costumes that she always wears around the house
We have never been happier than we are now. The children are no longer stressed out. They are more willing to help around the house. They fight with each other less. Way more smiles, way less conflict and drama. When it’s time to sit down and get to work, there is no longer dismay. They WANT to do it! None of us have been sick due to viruses or bacteria at all in a very long time, whereas if they were piled into a tiny classroom with their peers they would have been. I know they are getting the proper nutrition each day. This is especially important for us all due to our autoimmune issues and dietary restrictions. They are more active than ever. On top of everything else, they have proven to me that homeschooling was indeed an excellent decision for our family. Their love of learning has returned and with gusto too.
I am so glad I got over my fear of homeschooling. It has turned out to be one of the best decisions we have ever made for our family. At the end of the day, as a parent or educator you have to realize that each child is different. We don’t all learn the same way. We don’t all NEED to learn about the same things. Of course, basic skills like addition and subtraction are important and we cover those. The sooner that America as a whole realizes this, the better off we will be. Currently our children are testing lower than other developed and industrialized countries. You don’t have to agree with me, but I truly believe our educational system is failing us (you can read more about this here and here). Learning is not a one size fits all standard regimen. Each child is unique, and relaxed homeschooling facilitates advancement and an intense love of learning that seems to be disappearing in the conventional school setting. Every family is also unique and has different needs. I am fortunate enough to be able to do the work I do (this blog and managing social media pertaining to it, and coordinating events and the wine program at our wine bar) from home when I have time. Homeschooling is not for everyone either. I have friends that would not excel or like this lifestyle, and it has nothing to do with intelligence. This is the right choice for us, and I am so glad homeschooling is a part of our lives now.