Monday, October 18, 2010

Embracing our Differences

Homeschoolers are a diverse lot.  And we’re growing more diverse every day.  Each parent brings to the homeschool classroom a variety of gifts, talents, life experiences, personal qualities, and practical challenges.  And our children, like us, bring a vast array of spiritual, emotional, and academic strengths and weaknesses to the table each morning when we commence our school days.  These factors are at the heart of what makes each family unique and of how we create our homeschooling experience.

As members of this diverse community, we are often very aware of our differences, and yet, not surprisingly, we are unified behind a single purpose.  Within the framework of the greater purpose, we are individually driven by a variety of “secondary” motivations. But, we’re all working toward a single goal—to equip our children to live, serve, and work in the world into which they one day be thrust.

So why do so many of us have such a difficult time accepting the homeschooling approaches and methods others have chosen for their own families?

A couple of years ago I wrote a blog post that touched on this issue.  In it, I asked the question Who Am I?, and in response to that question, admitted a bit of insecurity concerning my own homeschool choices.  But I also mounted a defense of the methods that I utilized during my (up to that point) 16 years of homeschooling experience.

Some time ago, as I browsed the homeschool blogosphere, I read a statement that got under my skin.  It was a blanket statement of opinion that drew a line in the sand between traditional and non-traditional homeschoolers.  The statement that first drew my attention was this:
“Many of us tried to reproduce the school atmosphere and teaching methods at home.  There is no need or value in doing that.” (emphasis mine.)
I beg to differ.  I agree that there is not a need to do it that way.  However, I disagree that there is no value in doing it that way.

My daughters are a testament to the intrinsic value of this approach.  I have homeschooled for 18+ years.  If I had to classify myself, I would call myself a “traditional” homeschooler.  We like desks.  We like textbooks and workbooks and other traditional learning methods. We like following (for the most part) a traditional school calendar.  And I can tell you from personal experience that the “school-at-home” approach has great value—for us.

All three girls are now high school graduates.  Each one has transitioned to the “post-homeschool” world with great success.  The approach that we utilized provided a learning environment that built into my daughters the tools that have helped them to thrive in their young adult years—a love of learning, strong study skills, discipline, and academic independence.  Because it’s what I’m most comfortable with, I hope this approach will also work for my 6-year old son, but if it doesn’t, we’ll adjust.  That’s the beauty of homeschooling.

I have purposely not linked directly to the blog I’ve quoted.  My purpose is NOT to criticize its author or to pick a fight with non-traditional homeschoolers.  Their methods have value—for them.  Non-traditional methods are a perfect fit for many families.  But some of those methods just don’t work for me or my children.  And by the same token, most non-traditional homeschoolers would not feel comfortable using the methods that I have utilized.  And that’s okay.

As members of a large and diverse community, we need to embrace the differences and learn to focus on our common goal.  In doing so, we give each other a little bit more freedom to make homeschooling decisions without fear of criticism or judgment.  We need to be careful not to allow our belief and confidence in our own personal preferences scare new homeschoolers away from approaches that might be a perfect fit for them and their children.  A successful and rewarding homeschool experience isn’t likely to be found in any one particular method or approach.  The reward comes from finding out what works best for you!!


  1. I am unschooling today. It’s difficult for me to do. It’s difficult for me to do because I am more of a traditional homeschooler where subject selection/lesson structure is concerned. Today, my oldest is exhausted from a weekend of Boy Scout camping. I’m allowing him to take a nap after we returned from our 8:00 a.m. PE class. The younger two decided, on their own, to color paper hearts which they drew and cut out of scrap paper. How can I stop them from this spontaneous, student-driven art class? It has taken me a long time to relax as a homeschooler to allow activities like this to take place. I keep reminding myself that this type of flexibility is one of the reason why we homeschool. But, it still isn't easy. I envy those homeschoolers who can be this flexible every day.

  2. I come in somewhere between unschooling and traditional book-learning, I think. I would never dare to criticize someone else's approach, considering my own lack of expertise in anything. I know that a lot of people are really down on unschoolers, and a lot of other people are really down on desks and chairs, but I've found a need for both approaches at different times. I'll never understand why some people have to make a religion out of their own methods, but that's what they seem to do! It truly doesn't matter, as long as what you're doing is moving the child from ignorance to understanding.

  3. LOL...I love the way you said that, Cindy...moving the child from ignorance to understanding! We all have one goal...I wish that one goal unified us more. Instead of focusing on the goal, many of us seem determined to focus on the method! Thanks for stopping by!

  4. That last line says it all. I try to stress it to every homeschooler I meet. :o)

    I want to apologize for not answering your email. I had a freak computer mishap and lost about a week's worth of emails. Needless to say, I might not be the right person to ask about technical issues! I'm glad to be on the team. You have a great blog here!

    Peace and Laughter!

  5. Thanks, Cristina! Don't worry about not responding! I know all about computer woes! I just had my email hacked last weekend. What a pain!! I'm still trying to make sure that my whole "online life" is secure!

    Thanks for joining us here on THA!! I appreciate your humor!