My homeschool graduate just completed his first semester away at college. As we enjoy his winter break, there is one thing I want you to know above all else. Homeschooling actually works.
If you are new to our family, please let me give you a little bit of background.
Homeschooling In The Early Years
We began homeschooling when my oldest was in third grade for a variety of reasons, most of which had to do with school not working well for his individual needs, talents and diagnoses.
I started our very first day replicating school exactly. I had a schedule that mimicked a traditional classroom. I had worksheets printed out for every subject. I even had a bell that I rang when it was time to begin.
Needless to say, recreating the very same learning environment that was not working in the first place did not go well. Our first year homeschooling was a disaster, mostly because I refused to give up on the idea of what school should be.
Call it inspiration. Call it desperation. Eventually, I began to let go of the tight grip I had on school as I knew it, and instead leaned into learning in the ways that worked best for my boys.
(If you would like more info about our early years homeschooling click HERE.)
Homeschooling With Interests and Strengths
Over the years, our approach landed somewhere between interest-led, strength based and child-led learning. In our family this meant tons of hands-on learning, games, field trips, library books for days and, honestly, a ton of guilt and stress for me.
The learning was simple. Believing that this homeschool thing was actually going to work out and that I was not going to completely fail my children was much more difficult.
(If you would like more info about our approach to homeschooling, click HERE.)
Homeschooling In the High School Years
The worry only intensified when my oldest entered his high school years. In fact, for a brief period, I actually reverted back to my old ways and tried to create a high school program at home that look suspiciously like the traditional high school down the street.
Once again, my son quickly showed me that it wasn’t right for him. Not just in his resistance to the textbooks and worksheets, but in his overall engagement and level of learning.
But finding a way to satisfy high school requirements and transcripts while maintaining our focus on interest-led learning felt precarious. Truthfully, it was terrifying, like jumping off a cliff and hoping the parachute will open.
Again, desperation fueled my commitment to focusing on strengths in our learning, no matter how weird it looked some days.
(You can read more about homeschooling high school HERE.)
I took comfort in knowing that my son did not have plans to attend a four year college. I am ashamed to say, thought it meant that I was covered in case I missed anything or didn’t push him enough.
Until the summer before his senior year when he expressed his desire to attend a four year college.
When The Homeschooler Goes To College
Despite my best attempts to dissuade him (looking back, I am not proud of this, but it’s true) my son was committed to making it work.
He determined the schools he wanted to apply to. He figured out their transcript requirements and how to complete the application process as a homeschooler.
He not only got into his first choice. He was offered a full scholarship.
I share this not to imply that somehow college is the end result that proves homeschooling really works. Again, let me remind you, college was never my measure of success.
I share this because at the end of the day, homeschooling my son did exactly what I hoped it would do.
My son is an independent, creative thinker. He is excellent at advocating for himself and thinking outside the box. He knows himself and what needs. He is confident and capable.
Homeschooling Actually Works
As I mentioned, my son is back home now for a month in between semesters. I adore having him back home and am already a little sad knowing he will be gone in just a couple of weeks. Surprisingly, our days on break look a lot like they did when we homeschooled.
We’ve played some board games.
We’ve watched a ton of videos on YouTube about all kinds of interests, including history, music and computer science.
He’s hung out with his local friends and his younger brother, playing video games and watching movies.
He’s reading all the books he got for Christmas and making plans to hit the bookstore one more time before he leaves for the spring.
He’s happy. He’s confident. He’s always learning.
Homeschooling worked for this child. I see it working in my youngest is well.
Whether you homeschool the way we do or not, my guess is it is probably working for yours as well. It is so hard to see it when you are in the messy middle of it all, but I want you to know, it matters.
Individualizing learning to suit the learner independent from the constraints of a classroom. Creating a learning environment that exists as a part of family life and relationships. Looking back I realize I shouldn’t be surprised at all.
Homeschooling actually works.
Shawna Wingert is a former training and development professional turned education specialist, and has homeschooled her two children for the last ten years.Shawna has written four books about homeschooling unique learners and has been featured in homeschooling discussions on Today.com, The Mighty, Simple Homeschool, My Little Poppies and Raising Lifelong Leaners.
You can find her online here at DifferentByDesignLearning.com.