Tuesday, July 5, 2011

We Do It Our Way: Embracing Our Homeschool Style

Are you struggling in your homeschool? Maybe you're trying to put the square peg in the round hole...

I have finally come to grips with the fact that we are, indeed, unschoolers.  However, I have a passion for forms. I love charts, planning pages and the like, but truth be told, I end up either using them for a while then fizzling out or not using them at all. I have been pondering on whether or not I can truly consider myself to be an "unschooler" if I am using forms and charts and planning pages. 

Why not?

Unschooling is not the absence of schooling. It is allowing your child the freedom to learn whatever captures their interest. Bats. Crystals. Snakes. Underwater basket weaving. All of these things have educational merits. You can teach math with bats (Suzy had 5 bats fly into her hair and 3 got stuck. How many bats are in Suzy's hair?), geometry with crystals, and physical education with underwater basket weaving (and snakes, if you find yourself needing to run away from some...). Actually, these things are more caught than taught. My kids prefer to learn by doing rather than by sitting and cranking out worksheets. They learn by seeing, feeling, hearing, moving and asking questions. I love that!

So, how do you keep records while unschooling? What about lesson plans? 

Daily Lesson Plan:  wake up, live life, learn something along the way

Yet, there does need to be some structure. Children also need discipline...left to their own devices, they are inherently foolish.

Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of correction will drive it far from him.   Proverbs 22:15 (NKJV)

Intelligent children listen to their parents; foolish children do their own thing.Proverbs 13:1 (The Message)

Intelligent unschooling parents, then, will be watchful for what interests their children and be mindful to guide their studies.  Just as guardrails on a road are not meant to restrict our driving fun but to keep us from danger so we can arrive at our destination safely, guidelines and discipline in the homeschool keep our children from their own inherent foolishness and keep them on the road to responsible, intelligent adulthood. And as parents, we need to be responsible...as homeschooling parents, we need to be responsible and accountable.

Our state does not require labor intensive record-keeping. Thank God for that! We are only required to keep an attendance record. However, I do believe it is foolish to not keep any records at all of what your children are learning simply because the state does not require it. Many well-meaning (and some not so well-meaning) but uninformed social service agents would view that as evidence of educational neglect. So, in the event of any questioning about your homeschool and whether you are actually teaching your children, you can alleviate any fears by showing that your children are, indeed, learning at the level in which they are capable. 

So, what about those forms and charts and planning pages that I love to love, only to end up hating to use? How can I use them to keep us as disciplined as we need to be and as accountable as I should be?

The trick is to find forms, charts and planning pages that work with our family's style. That satisfy my need for writing things down, without confining me to someone else's idea of proper record keeping.  After searching through tons of documents online...some really great forms and planning pages...I've come to realize that the trick, then, is to make my own...which, it just so happens, is one of my favorite hobbies. 

And so, I have decided to make all of my own record keeping forms. I'll test-run them over the next few weeks...as learning doesn't end here because the public school system says school is out. It's more relaxed, more fun, but there is still learning going on.

Today, I created my first PDF of a form I think will finally suit my style. It's a Daily Learning Log sheet, with ample space to write in what we did and to check off the subject areas that are covered. I can easily see at a glance if we have balanced learning going on or are neglecting other areas and can adjust accordingly.

Visit my page on Homeschool Launch to download this Daily Learning Log (there is one with subjects already included, and one blank for your own personalization). I plan to incorporate this sheet in my DIY Homeschool Planner for the coming year.  You can also find a TON of great forms for just about anything you need for your homeschool and homekeeping there.

Of course, this form may not suit your needs at all. That's ok...just find out what does. Then use it. You'll be a lot less frustrated and be much more successful at making learning fun, exciting and enticing for your children. How else can we raise up life-long learners?

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