How to homeschool SUCCESSFULLY

This winter holidays marks one year of homeschooling for us. We have had so much fun, tried so many new things and I’ve learnt a thing or two as a homeschool mama along the way. 

1. Prioritise your child over your philosophy 
There are some inspired ideas out there in the homeschool world. I was blown away by the number of different home education models there were to choose from. You’ve got Charlotte Mason, Montessori, Steiner/Waldorf, Classical, Unschooling and Natural Learning, Eclectic, Reggio and other Enquiry-Based models, Project-Based Learning, Unit Studies…and seriously, that list is not even complete! And they all sound amazing. 
You can fall in love with a method on paper and discover it just does not work for your kid. Or for you! Maybe you like one aspect and not another. But guess what? You CAN change models.  You can pick and mix like this is the lolly counter at the cinema.


Don’t let yourself become so married to a philosophy that you struggle through when it isn’t making your child happy,  or you dread the thought of delivering another day’s lessons. Change tracks. Even if it’s mid-term and you’ve just had your yearly plan approved by the power’s that be. Take the week off, regroup and come back with something new. 
I also think it’s really important not to let ourselves be talked into a method by its champions. Some bloggers and ‘experts’ have a way of making you think their way is not just the best way, but the only way. It’s very easy to let yourself be sucked in by their…let’s say enthusiasm. 


No one knows you and your child like you do. If you love what you are doing, go with it. If a particular method just doesn’t speak to you, forget about it. If you want to swap and swap back, or take a little of this and a little of that, do it!

2. Don’t underestimate the importance of community

There will probably come a time (or two) when you think, ‘I can’t take another day of this. I want to give up’. I know some truly AH-MAZING women who are rockin’ this homeschool biz like it’s nobody’s business. They inspire me on  daily basis. And even they have admitted to their moments. 
Some days (weeks…dare I say months???) it can all feel too hard and the pull of public school can be pretty powerful. Do NOT underestimate the power of your homeschooling community to see you through.


These parents will get you. They will be there to share war stories, to inspire you, to give you suggestions, to bounce ideas off. They will be your shoulder to cry on and your biggest cheer squad. These wise women will celebrate your triumphs right there alongside you.


I couldn’t imagine how I would have made it through the last year without the friendships I have made within the homeschool community. If you get nothing else accomplished in your homeschool year, make sure you find yourself (and your children) a community to be part of. 
3. Believe in yourself

Believe in yourself but don’t take yourself too seriously. Society wants us all to be pretty much the same. It’s comfortable for everyone that way.Homeschooling is just a little different and doing something different takes guts. You need to believe in what you are doing and in your ability to do it. 
That doesn’t mean you need to be perfect. Perfection doesn’t exist. Everyone makes mistakes,  has a few terrible ideas and their fair share of grumpy days. It makes us human. 
Laugh at yourself. Like yourself. Care for yourself. Your children are watching and learning from you. Teach them that confidence and self-belief come from within. Teach them to try new things, to learn from mistakes, to fall down then get right back up and keep going. Teach them self-respect by respecting yourself. Teach them to fight for what they believe in. 
Not everyone is going to agree with your decision to homeschool, or with the unique way you decide to go about it. That’s ok. So long as you believe in yourself and in the choice you have made for your family. You’ve got this mama!

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An Holistic Approach to Education

This is Part One of a series of posts discussing holistic homeschooling.

Let me start by saying that this post feels a good deal heavier than what I normally write. I promise to return to my regular back to basics style next post. But quite a few people have expressed an interest in the approach to education we take in our home, especially as we have moved on from unschooling– at my son’s own instigation I should add. I felt that I couldn’t adequately explain our approach without a little background knowledge so please bear with me. (I promise not to hold it against you if you skip this post and come back next week ;-))

So here goes…

Traditional education- at least in the sense that it exists in the modern Western world- is focused on academics. What can we learn? How can we test it?  Someone, somewhere sat down and decided that one particular body of information was so vitally important that it was to be institutionally imparted to each person. Occasionally another someone shakes it up a little but the gist remains the same. This is regardless of the individual’s unique personality, interests, goals, background,  community and values.

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We each have our own unique view of the world and our place within it

And a lot of this information really is important and useful. I don’t know about you,  but I do find a use for reading, writing, algebra, geometry and so on in most days. If not most days, at least most weeks. So a focus on the 3Rs is important.

But it is not the only learning of value. What about the 3Hs – head, heart and hands? This is where holistic education differs from traditional education. As Satish Kumar points out in this video, we are not just a vessel for our minds. We are also our emotions, our actions and perhaps most importantly,  we are our relationships.

We are the relationship between our mind, our emotions, our body, and our spirit. That fundamental ‘thing’ that makes us ourselves, whether we attach a religious meaning to it or not. We are the relationship between ourselves and our families, our homes and our communities. We exist as the relationship between ourselves and our food, our clothes, our pets, our world.

Holistic education seeks to develop each aspect of the child, as well as their relationships with the world around them. It isn’t enough to teach them the biology of how a plant grows. They need to experience it and learn with their hands and their hearts as well.

Along with recognising the relationship between people and the environment, we also need to recognise the relationships between subjects. Maths doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It is intrinsically linked to science for example. It is a part of our everyday lives. The same holds true for the other subjects, so it doesn’t make sense to treat them as stand alone entities. Bringing learning to our children should take a transdisciplinary approach. Forget half an hour of English followed by an hour of maths drill and problems. This reductionist approach removes meaning from learning and learning becomes a chore rather than a joy.

This isn’t some wishy-washy hippy approach to education, although given what I just wrote you could be forgiven for at first thinking that 😉 Instead , holistic education is a realisation that we aren’t just educating our children to pass a test.

We are educating our children to be their best selves. We want them to enter adulthood with an understanding of themselves and their relationship to the world around them. We want them to be confident in their interactions, mindful of their impact, passionate for their future. We want children who are well-rounded individuals capable of great compassion and thoughtful influence. We want them to be not only capable of making a living, but of really living. We want our children to be able to take care of themselves and of others. We want more for them than just proficiency in the 3Rs.

Holistic education, with its focus on the WHOLE CHILD, provides such an education. This education may take the form of Montessori Education, Waldorf Method or Reggio Emilia Approach. Perhaps it’s enquiry-based learning or project-based learning  It may be a combination of approaches, or look entirely different. Especially in the homeschool there is a lot of room for individuality in this approach.

Regardless of the method it is implemented by, holistic education is always “a philosophy of education based on the premise that each person find identity, meaning, and purpose in life through connections to the community, to the natural world, and to humanitarian values such as compassion and peace.  Holistic education aims to call forth from people an intrinsic reverence for life and a passionate love of learning.”  (Ron Miller). In a nutshell,  we are talking about a whole child, systems approach compared to the reductionist, compartmentalist vision of the world we are usually exposed to.

This is a big topic and I’ve only scratched the surface here. For more info, I suggest reading these pages and definitely check out the video I linked to above.
An intro to the theory
What is holistic education
Methods for implementing holistic education

In Part Two of this series, I will give you a look into the practical side of holistic education, and show you how it is evolving in our home.

See you soon x

Unlearning

Unschooling is as much about parents as it is children. For most of us this is a completely new way of life and learning. In truth, for the parent it is often more about unlearning.  Here is what I personally need to unlearn.

I need to unlearn the idea that children need to be taught. They don’t. They need to be supported in their learning. Learning can not be stopped, it comes as naturally as breathing,  but it does need a champion who will honour, encourage and facilitate it.

I need to unlearn the idea that successful learning is measured in pre-determined outcomes. A test won’t tell me what you have learnt, only highlight what you have forgotten in this moment. It can’t tell me what those hours of play helped you discover, or show me your passions, or tell me everything you uncovered about flying.

I need to unlearn the concept that learning is linear. Set facts do NOT need to be taught in a certain order at a certain age. Who decided that Ancient Egypt should be studied in grade three and that all prep students should learn about ocean life in the midnight zone? Why can’t you discover algebra and fractions before you memorised your time tables? If it is useful or meaningful to you, you won’t miss out. Everyone has gaps in their education, we can all fill them when we want to or need to.

I need to unlearn the idea that there is only one right way to learn. Learning doesn’t come just from textbooks and worksheets. Screens aren’t all bad. Joining a sports team isn’t more important and valuable than hours spent outdoors with your cousins and friends.

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Learning through play

I need to unlearn the notion that only an expert can understand my child’s needs as a person and as a learner. And I say learner and not student quite deliberately. No teacher has the time to understand his quirks, to give him the freedom to satisfy his sensory needs, to allow him to discover the world in his own way and on his own timetable. A loving parent is naturally more invested in a child than even the best teacher.

I need to unlearn the bizarre concept that socialisation can only properly occur when a child spends 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, 40 weeks of the year in a room with other children of the same age. I know that there is more benefit to spending time in mixed age groups, of having your extended family be the epicentre of your world, of learning about the community by actively participating in the everyday life of your community… Rather than try to become socialised in a strictly regimented fashion, with bums on seats, mouths closed and eyes to the front.

Our ideas around education are the result of our own upbringing and are often rooted in a fear of failing our children. It isn’t always easy to step outside the norm, to let go of what we have been conditioned to believe, to try something new. Yes, for me as a parent unschooling is most definitely a journey of unlearning.