How homeschooling really works

This is a guest post from Kate Fridkis, whose family did homeschooling when she was growing up. She blogs about body image at Eat the Damn Cake and she blogs about homeschooling at Skipping School.

When you’re homeschooled and interested in something, you don’t go to your mom and say, “Mom, teach me more about this.” You try to figure out how you can gain more exposure to that thing. You might ask your parent/s for advice on where to start. And then you go out into the world and learn some more.

If you want to be a poet, you contact the most famous living poet in your area, and you ask if you can hang out with him/her. You join poetry workshops and groups and you sign up to compete in poetry slams. You send your poetry out to magazines and competitions. You start a poetry club. By the way, by this time, you are learning a lot more than poetry. You are learning how to organize people, compete in a public arena, and manage what is beginning to resemble a small business.

When you learn naturally, on your own, it’s hard to cut the world up into subjects. If no one tells you that this particular thing is called science, and in science you learn biology, beginning with the parts of the cell, and then you learn about genes, and eventually you get to chemistry, then you might find yourself doing science by accident, for fun. Just because you want to.

Which no one ever believes, because people think that kids are lazy.

“If I left my kids alone,” they always say, “They’d just play video games all day.”

They would definitely do that some days. Because video games are fun. But if they were homeschooled, they wouldn’t have learned that work and play are two totally different things that you’re supposed to do at different times. And the part where you’re supposed to be learning is over on the work end of the spectrum, while the video games are all the way on the other side, under a big sign that reads “play.” Work is an activity that you can be bad at. You might fail at any moment. You know it’s work because it’s required, and because your progress is always being measured. Play is when you can relax and be yourself.

It’s sometimes hard for people who went to school to imagine living in a world where work and play are the exact same thing. But guess what? That’s this world. And for kids who grow up out of school, learning is the same as being alive.

You don’t exactly need a teacher for that.

8 replies
  1. Valerie
    Valerie says:

    I was homeschooled from second thru ninth grade, and as a college graduate in my mid-twenties, I truly appreciate how homeschooling really does work. One of the greatest lessons is that I learned how to teach myself, and always seek opportunities to learn more.

  2. Zellie
    Zellie says:

    I enjoy your homeschooling posts very much. Your insight is great and your humor and style are fun. You remind me so much of our own life as homeschoolers.

  3. TyKes Mom
    TyKes Mom says:

    I love this article. I have recently begun unschooling my children and I love not breaking things up into subjects. They learn so much on their own and ENJOY it. They don’t recognize that learning science is boring. They recognize that playing with vinegar and baking soda is fun. Yet, they learn all the same things (and more) that they would in a classroom.

  4. Sarah Fowler
    Sarah Fowler says:

    Agreed! This is one of the biggest things I stress with parents who ask about homeschooling. I was homeschooled my K-12 and graduated from college in 2008. I can’t imagine sending my kids to a place where they’re forced to sit still for 8 hours and do everything at someone else’s pace.

  5. Will King
    Will King says:

    One thing missing in the mix is the “Online School” – my daughter is 16, has gone to a mix of public and private schools – She loves the friends and social part of school, but frankly, as she puts it; “Why do I have to sit in honors classes learning things I already mastered in the 8th grade? Why do I have burnt out stoners in my honors classes? Why do I have to do the homework if I have already mastered the subject?”
    An opportunity to live with a friend of mine in Athens forced me to find an alternative for here – Schooling in Greece would be far too expensive, and my friend has a career of her own, one that would not allow her to spend the time to homeschool my child.
    Online schooling gave me the best solution – my daughter is being educated by certified teachers, but at her pace, in an environment that offers her the opportunity to pursue experiences, rather than simply education!!
    Online schooling also reduced the time cost, as her education is personalized, and needs only limited supervision to make it work (more time is spent facilitating the experiences, really!)
    I’m happy with the program, and my daughter is doing better overseas than she was in school here!

  6. Amy
    Amy says:

    Thanks for this article! I’ve been homeschooling for (13 years because my oldest is 18? Or 18 years because I played with him purposefully and read aloud to him when he was a newborn?)

    My kids chose to go to public high schools so far- they wanted the experience. But they do complain constantly about the same things Will King wrote above– why are there stoners in the advanced classes? Why is Advanced Chemistry left as a study hall with a babysitting substitute for over a week when the teacher quits– rather than using an online tool to keep the class learning? What purpose does the homework do? Why must they move on when everyone fails a test?

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