Indispensable Resources for Homeschoolers

After yesterday’s heavy duty post I figured I’d keep this one light and fluffy for yas (yes, I have adapted to the island—I just said “yas”). I’ve had a couple of people recently inquire about where to begin as far as homeschooling goes.

I don’t have a set pattern or formula for how we go about homeschooling here. There’s a lot of life-learning involved, a lot of my standing back and refraining from overdoing the nudging as I do not want to kill any desire or passion the kids have to learn in the process. Each child is also unique, so the strengths and weaknesses of each vary enormously.

If you need to recreate a classroom atmosphere in order to feel secure about your children’s education, stop reading right now. This post is not for you. If you are trying to overcome that mentality, then keep reading; perhaps I can be of assistance.

Resource #1:

Your backyard.

Or, if you don’t have one of these, a nearby park or relatively natural area. A beach, maybe. How about we just say NATURE…

We are a lucky bunch. We live in a rural community in eastern PEI with a few acres behind us, a stream, a mini vineyard (which technically now belongs to the neighbours but I’ll still be tending it), the ocean about 10 minutes away, a bay 5 minutes way, a few bald eagle nests in every direction, raccoons, foxes, toads, frogs, medicinal plants, edible plants, mushrooms… It is amazing what a child can learn with a few books and the freedom to explore their surroundings. I know that in this day and age it is uncommon to hear a parent encourage their children to play with knives, but aside from a few knicks, our kids have done so much with their pocket knives. They have built shelters, carved artwork, you name it. They use their knives to create paths through the woods so that they can explore even further. It is wonderful. So let them explore, let them learn. Nature is their best teacher.

And give them a pocket knife.

Resource #2:

The Internet.

Be safe, check their sites, see where they go. Set limits but don’t be… anal retentive about it. You might be surprised at what will inspire and encourage them to do things you have been hoping for years that they would do. I remember cringing at the thought of what might happen if I allowed my son to have his own laptop. He paid for it himself, by the way, which is another resource I will mention in a sec. It’s important to be open with them but to also make them understand the boundaries of where they can go online and why. Get a filter if you have to. I don’t want to shelter my children as they grow up, but I do want to step in and protect them when it is necessary. That is simply part of being a parent.

Google can be one of your greatest resources as far as your children’s education goes. I can not count the amount of times I have said: Google it! when bombarded with questions that I couldn’t answer. The child in question would disappear and return about half an hour later spewing out everything they had just read. It is interesting for me as well; I love to learn new things. Then we can discuss…

Some things are fluffy and fun for them. Like Facebook games. But again, some of those require thought and strategy, so I am cool with them. There is a constant stream of Scrabble games going on via Facebook in our house. It’s hilarious. I am the worst for taking my turn but I think it’s great that my husband becomes so enthralled in beating all of the kids. That last part just sounded bad — I mean beating them at Scrabble!

Resource #3:

LIfe, life, LIFE!!! (and this part includes my son’s laptop, by the way…)

Take them to the grocery store with you. Take them to the post office with you. Take them to the hardware store with you. Let them watch you work. Let them watch you cook. Teach them to cook (this part is hard for me as I need my space in the kitchen—bit by bit I am letting my older kids come in and do their thing, like this morning when my 12yo made eggs for her & her brother). Teach them to take care of things. Let them do chores and pull their load in the family. This is something we seem to have given up on as families have become smaller, the focus has centred more on academic achievement and involvement in extra-curricular activities, and parents have begun to do more and more for their children until a much later age than ever before.

Teach them to be part of a family unit not only by taking from it, but by contributing to it. Teach them life skills that will be used on a daily basis when they are independent adults. It is fine and dandy to be able to pass tests and write wonderful papers on various subjects, but if you can’t boil water or balance a bank account then you will face problems later on in life… My generation is filled with some serious academic achievers who are so disconnected from a practical and natural life that we actually have to take classes about pregnancy, childbirth, homemaking and parenting because we are completely unprepared for what once came naturally to human beings. I was guilty of this disconnection as well for years. This is partly why I am an advocate for homeschooling and even unschooling: we need to keep our children connected to REAL life and give them practical skills that will ALWAYS be of use to them. The rest they can learn as needed. It would take a teenager less than a year to learn all that he would need to be at “Grade Level” were he to spend only three short hours per day on this goal. So… I am not worried about my children in that respect.

Kids need to learn how to make and save money as well. It is unkind to hand them everything and not not make them work for it, as they will develop a sense of entitlement that will hinder them in adulthood. Have you ever noticed that in a family the child that is given the most feels like they have been hard done by and later expects the most form others? We are responsible for our own happiness, achievements, and what we do with our lives. We must pass sense of personal responsibility on to our children. It is, in my opinion, a form of child abuse to overindulge our children. It handicaps them for life. 

When our kids want (as opposed to need) something, they work to earn the money it will take to pay for it. We have noticed that they take much better care of the items they have purchased themselves than they do of the things that are simply handed to them. I struggle with this as it is in my nature to want to give them everything! But it is so good for them to have a sense of pride regarding what they do and have. My son and daughter have both bought laptops and various other tiems this way.

We are currently saving for a trip to the Yukon. Here’s what we are doing so that the kids are contributing to them trip as well:

I make our family three meals a day. In the afternoons and in the evenings, we have a snack. Sometimes we do in the morning but it’s not always necessary. If the snack in question is not satisfying for some of them or they simply want to hog out all evening, they actually pay for food ($0.50 for a piece of bread & PB, the same for a banana or apple or orange…) and it goes into a jar and subsequently into the Yukon Fund. So far the kids have saved over $1200 this way. They love the idea that they will be eating at restaurants, going to museums, etc., because of their own work and contributions. Some people think this is awful of us; that’s their opinion, they are entitled to it. They can raise their children their own way. But I believe we are teaching them and preparing them for life through life.

Resource #4:

The Library.

I don’t really need to expand on that one. I mean, what can’t you learn about at the library? And if you’re lucky, you have a really awesome librarian like we do in Montague…

Resource #5:

I know someone is reading this and waiting for me to list a few books. Just to make you feel better, I’ll make this a 3-in-1 and do that for you. 😉

1. Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto

2. Unschooling Rules: 50 Perspectives and Insights from Homeschoolers and Unschoolers on Deconstructing Schools and Reconstructing Education by Clark Aldrich

3. The Teenage Liberation Handbook: How to Quit School and Get a Real Life and Education by Grace Llewellyn

Read. Enjoy. Feel reassured when you have doubts. Reflect. Share with others.

One thought on “Indispensable Resources for Homeschoolers

  1. Love this post – makes me wish we had a real backyard. At least there’s some grass…
    Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that you have some great suggestions! I haven’t read any books on unschooling, but we’re kind of casual already. We focus heavily on math, reading, and writing, but we have a lot of fun taking our time learning music, typing, programming, etc. We’re in no rush because I know we have plenty of time to “get it all in.”

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