“I have home educated my children from birth, so over a decade now. I helped guide them from nursing to standing to talking and we haven’t stopped since. I know the world is crazy right now and it’s caused a lot of people to reevaluate the education system. If that’s you, here’s my perspective, for what it’s worth.
Does the thought of a less structured approach to learning intrigue you or scare you? Do you wonder why anyone would ditch the standard approach to learning and embrace daily uncertainty? Because I am preparing them for life, not a test.
How many subjects can you speak on, with bold confidence and unwavering authority? Math, science, history, social studies, literature, music, or art?
How many careers could you maintain?
Do you remember what sets your soul on fire or is it hell to wake up to your alarm clock each morning?
These are some of the questions we considered as we’ve created a lifestyle of learning versus a structured curriculum-based education for our kids.
Do you want some unpopular honesty? I don’t believe college is the main goal. I don’t think college is for everyone. I don’t think a test can properly survey a person’s ability to thrive. Our kids could fail every state-mandated test and I would not question their intellect for a moment. Memorization can be measured. Retention, determination, and living knowledge cannot.
Proof you say? There are plenty who have paved this path before me. I cannot attest to the success of a grown child as ours are not yet grown, but I have no doubts our girls will be able to succeed in anything they choose to pursue. How can I be so sure? Because they are afforded the most important luxury of the modern world… time. Their days are not spent memorizing facts for a test they will be pressured to pass. Their days are spent living!
My biggest fear of walking into homeschooling was teaching our daughters how to read. It seemed so overwhelming. Maybe you don’t share my terror at the idea of explaining the English language but it ran deep. I talked to so many friends who were teachers and homeschool moms. I scoured blogs and websites and reviews and finally landed on Hooked On Phonics. Or so I thought. We made it about halfway through the kindergarten box when each lesson started ending in tears. Our daughter wasn’t happy either. Just kidding, we both cried.
One day, on a whim, I opened up to a mom at our homeschool enrichment center, a place where the girls were taking ballet, music, and map-reading classes. What she said forever changed our lives. ‘Pack it away. Seriously, continue reading, go to the library but put the lessons away for at least 6 months and see what happens.’ I think my jaw physically dropped at this suggestion but I was desperate. I went home that day and physically removed the HOP box from our cabinet of learning materials. What happened next is the real shocker. Almost exactly 6 months later, she started reading, fluently, on her own and without another lesson! I think I cried over reading for the last time but this time it was happy tears. Okay, that’s a lie, I’m an avid reader and more than once, I’ve cried over a good book but I digress. Did she read later than kids in public school? Yes. Does it matter? I say no. She LOVES reading, I call that a win!
Now, having the wisdom of our first experience, I decided not to push reading with our second daughter. When she was 6, she asked for a lesson and so I pulled out our old Hooked On Phonics box. (Why did I even keep it? Maybe just to remember to tell you this story.) We got through page two before frustration replaced excitement. But I’m older and wiser so this time, we put it away without tears. We continued to visit the library weekly, I read to her, her sister reads to her. She loves to write letters as she asks how to spell every single word… until she didn’t. Our 7-year-old has started reading without ever having finished lesson 1 in our HOP set. How can that be? Because to live is to learn.
But this concept doesn’t end with a reading lesson.
‘How can you truly prepare your children for life in the real world without a college degree. How can you prepare them for college? How can you gauge their math skills, reading levels, spelling capabilities?’ I’m a self-described quote-a-holic and so many are flooding my mind right now but perhaps the most pressing is this, ‘If babies were placed into government ‘infant’ schools from birth, the same government that has convinced the masses that children need public schooling to learn reading, writing, and arithmetic they would soon have the public believing that no baby ever learned to walk or talk without their assistance.’ (Author unknown) This piggybacks off of, ‘Once upon a time, all children were homeschooled. They were not sent away from home each day to a place just for children but lived, learned, worked, and played in the real world, alongside adults and children of all ages.’ (Rachel Gathercole)
It’s my belief that home education, heavy in ‘unschooling,’ prepares our children for the real world more than any classroom ever could. School, public or private, isn’t even close. Where else, outside of school, are you condensed to space with only peers, people your exact age, give or take a year? In the real world, we engage with people from multiple generations. This is how we interact, it’s natural, it’s how we learn and lead. My children are learning to communicate with all ages and in real-life scenarios. But it’s so much more than a number. It’s legitimate life skills. We are learning to manage a household, a checkbook, how to clean and cook. We are literally living life together and they are watching, helping, and growing along the way.
As eclectic homeschoolers/unschoolers, we are able to dive into their passions and equip them with the information needed to refine that fire. Our aspiring marine biologist is combing the shore while watching pods of dolphins nudge their calves up for air. She is able to take marine biology camps and speak with marine biologists and volunteers at sea turtle rehabilitation centers. We are able to visit places that truly make history come alive. As a public schooler, I remember very little of the information I was taught. What I do remember is what I was interested in. I remember the friends and fights and lunchroom antics. Funny enough, the school says, ‘You are not here to socialize!’ and we would often get in trouble for such (some of us more than others). Often, when someone debates the validity of homeschooling they bring up, ‘Well how will they socialize?’ Ironic, huh?! Our kids socialize the same way as adults do… naturally, at parks, playgrounds, museums, campgrounds, sports leagues, interest-based classes, the beach, a restaurant, shall I continue?
In what world could you sit an adult in a lecture hall and expect them to stay fully engaged for 8 hours while you teach information they have no interest in? No talking, ask permission to use the bathroom, bathroom access denied, no snacks in class, raise your hand, don’t pass notes, no chewing gum… and then after 8 hours of that, how many of those adults could pass the test? We naturally gravitate towards things that hold our interest and avoid the things that don’t. Building on that, instead of wasting our kids’ childhood forcing memorized facts that will never serve them in
life, we spend time discussing things of substance, things they have an interest in, and things of great faith. Instead of asking for permission to do something as natural as using the bathroom, we discuss and practice what respect looks like in the real world, how to earn it, and give it alongside grace and forgiveness when we don’t.
We realize certain ‘subjects’ are key to life but also believe they should not be separated from living.
We know math is important but to what level? Honestly, outside of simple math (and I was GOOD at math), I’ve yet to use it. We know many college degrees will require more complex knowledge of math and simply put, we would rather let them enjoy childhood and study hard for what they want when they know what that is. We have handled writing and spelling the same as reading. They are fundamental skills, no doubt, but why must they be mastered by the third grade? Our oldest has a knack for writing and a special way with words but her spelling was atrocious for quite some time. It’s improved dramatically, naturally from the continued effort but in time it will improve more.
Actually, what if it doesn’t? What if she is always a bad speller? Is that our worst-case scenario? That will be okay too because aside from ‘book smarts,’ there is so much more to raising a human. I truly believe, with my whole heart, if my kids can’t spell well or solve for x,y, and z but they love God, are kind and compassionate humans that are always willing to help those in need, if they love unconditionally and boldly, are brave and confident in who they are and the strength that lies within them, if they are self-motivated to find answers and never stop learning, if this is the women they are to become — I will have succeeded as their mother and educator.
To live is to learn, you cannot possibly separate the two as long as you are living.
*There is literally no way for me to possibly show all of the experiences that have contributed to our lifestyle of learning. We are in a unique season of life without roots or a specific place to call home which has diversified our experiences but even before transitioning into a nomadic lifestyle we found plenty of opportunities right where we were.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Raquel McCloud, 31, of North Carolina. Follow her family journey on Instagram here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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