favourite elements of homeschooling

I thought no one would want to read about my homeschooling, but it turned out I was wrong. I myself have been energised by contemplating the subject.

I said yesterday that unschooling was detrimental to us. I stand by that, but as always it's complex. I love the concept of unschooling - not so much for younger children, as I believe they benefit from a strong foundation - but certainly for older ones. On the other hand, I've always had various doubts and in the end it just didn't suit us. I'm sure it's perfect for many people though.

This is what did suit us ...

Dinosaur footsteps. There's so much fun and deep learning to be had from tranforming facts into action. I'll always remember cutting up strips of newspaper and using them to measure the height of a T-rex and the length of its stride. Not only was it greatly enjoyable, but it really impressed us with the reality of sizes. I'll also remember the green volcano, the comet smashing into dirt, making paint from grass & flowers, and the flying eggs.

Friends, fun, field trips. Back in the old days, homeschoolers were forever gadding about in groups to visit fire stations, businesses, and interesting people. I don't see this happening so much any more, at least not in my part of the world. The community seems to have formed sub-groups around religion, sport, or existing friendships. It can be hard to learn of them, let alone join in with them. I see this as an inevitable part of a community's evolution, like-minded people naturally clustering, but I miss the big, cheerful, highly diverse groups. I miss group picnics for no better reason than that it's a sunny day. I miss talking religion and politics with vastly different believers, and watching teenagers set up games for younger children, and everyone playing cricket together, and rambling in and out of each other's days. Socialisation, when available with such richness, is far better than what is possible at public school. But when it's not available, or dependent on certain things, homeschooling can be very lonely. In recent years I've known a number of people who returned their children to school because they just couldn't find a way in to the social scene.

The blackboard. This may be a symbol of the public classroom, but it's also a wonderful way to present work visually and encourage engagement.

The history timeline & the long hallway. When we moved into a house with a long hallway, the first thing we did was set up a history timeline. Then we felt like real homeschoolers! I can not rave enough about the timeline. I think everyone should have one. Yes, even if they don't homeschool! What a wonderful, fabulous thing it was. Years later, when we moved to a little cottage temporarily, we had to store it away, and we longed for a new house so we could put it up again. But when we finally got there ... no hallway ... and the timeline was put quietly to its forever bed. I still miss it.

The Little House unit study. Some books are perfect for unit studies, and Laura Ingalls Wilder's series certainly is. We spent an entire year on this unit, helped greatly by receiving a pile of Melissa Wiley's books as well. It was wonderful fun - but it was also the swansong of unit studies. In the end, all that one-theme learning was just too much.

Speaking of Melissa Wiley. Various homeschooling weblogs inspired and encouraged me over the years, but my favourite has always been Here In The Bonny Glen, partly for its effervescence, and partly because it was lovely to see another family having as much fun with rabbit trails as we did. (If I was to give a name to our most common learning style, it would be Rabbit Trail Learning.) The best thing about Here In The Bonny Glen? It's still active!

Lesley Austin. In addition to inspiring me with her beautiful and gentle lifestyle, which included homeschooling, Lesley used to offer free printables which I used extensively for years in our homeschool. Infact, I still have some lying around to this day.

Tea and cake. We used to have lessons at the table in the morning sunshine, accompanied by cups of tea and sometimes little cakes. Atmosphere is a major component of school; infact, I would say atmosphere is pivotal to the development of a child's character and their ability to learn. I wanted very much to create a beautiful atmosphere. Waldorf was just right for a younger child, but as time went on I found my old-fashioned inclinations better expressed what I wanted for my family.

Picnic baskets. Starting every spring, after morning lesson time, we would take ourselves off for long walks and picnics. With our doglet, we wandered meadows, pathways, rivershores, parks, woods, hills, beaches. We took with us a lovely wicker basket filled with sandwiches and homebaked cake, lemonade, cookies, paper and pencils. Coming home, the basket was filled instead with wildflowers and interesting leaves. There is so much natural beauty to be found even in suburbia. Only our current neighbourhood lacks it, and I feel the loss. A lovely home and a lovely outdoors environment fill a child with the certainty that this is a beautiful, benevolent world. Afternoon rambles may not have seemed educational but I think they provide some of the best learning that can be done. Not everything is about intellect. The spirit must be educated too.

Living books. Discovering Charlotte Mason's theories on reading only confirmed for me the goodness of what I had already been doing: using whole books instead of textbooks. It's so simply obvious, I can't understand why anyone would have to be advised to do it. One of our favourites was The Story of Salt. We had such fun learning from that book. Unfortunately, it's more time-consuming to learn from whole books through high school and further, especially when you are doing many other things also.

Groups. Craft group ... writing group ... excuses for bringing your friends into your home every week and having a great time together. A mother doesn't need to be particularly skilled at teaching anything. Put a whole bunch of materials on your dining table, give the children some ideas of things they can make, and then wander away. Memories of lovely, laughing children in the sunlight around my table will warm me forever.

I have so much enjoyed reminiscing about our elementary years. If you would like me to write more about homeschooling, do let me know. Otherwise I shall continue my wayward ponderings as usual. I hope you are having a beautiful day.


  1. What a wonderful post! I loved yesterday's, too. Thank you for the very kind words about Bonny Glen. "Effervescence" made my day, truly. :)

    That dinosaur tracks idea is genius. I just may have to give that a try with Huck and Rilla--can't you see them eating it up? :)

    Your picnic basket description gave me such a pang of nostalgia for the days when Alice (of Cottage Blessings) and I used to meet with snacks and books at a beautiful garden halfway between our homes. Our girls were so very tiny then. I moved away when Jane was only six! Hard to believe it was that long ago--and yet Jane and Alice's oldest are still fast friends, texting every day. :) :) :)

    1. I always ... well, envied is too strong a word ... admired your friendship with Alice, I thought you both were so lucky to have kindred spirit homeschooling friends. Amazing to think it's been so long ago! And that the girls are still friends, how wonderful! :-)

      Be prepared to do a lot of cutting of newspaper strips if you do the dinosaur thing. But it is worth it! You can make coprolites too, and freeze a toy dinosaur in ice to be smashed out with hammer and chisel, and you can replicate a herbivore's teeth by grinding leaves up with stones., and you can make paper mache dinosaur masks and claws and tails, and ... oh my goodness there is so much fun you can have with dinosaurs!

  2. I've been doing homeschool completely alone since we started. It's simply because of where we live. We are so very isolated. We are trying to move back to a place where I hope we can live and learn with others. I love your comments and can smile and agree with ever so much of what you've written.

    1. I feel for you. We've had times of isolation too. They make it hard to feel confident that you're doing the right thing by your family. But it is worth it.

  3. Hats off to all those doing a marvellous job of homeschooling.

  4. Honestly, I am always so happy when any of the 'old gang' writes about homeschooling, about e days and doings, whether present or past! Even though a lot of us are still blogging, homeschooling nitty gritty posts don't come up so often .... I suppose that's why, in part, i write up lessonlog posts regularly. I like the record for myself too, of course!