I’d always wanted to homeschool. My oldest and I started doing some planned, play-based learning using the Bloom & Root Early Years Vol. 1 curriculum when he was two. Admittedly, I was striving for structure as I struggled with my mental illness, but didn’t recognize that at the time.
In 2021, I had the worst manic episode of my life. And, feeling like I was woefully incompetent, enrolled my five year old in kindergarten. My visions of gentle hours with my four -year-old and a solid education for my five-year-old devolved into a crushing sadness.
I wasn’t going to be living my goals.
We were going to be living a very regimented life for the first time in his existence.
And he wasn’t going to have the flexibility and play that I feel is best for young children.
He started school on a Thursday as part of a gradual start system. I sobbed Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. My husband and I spoke in circles trying to decide if this was the right direction for our family. At 11 am on Monday, I spoke with my therapist. We talked facts, not emotions. After our call, I drafted our Notification of Intent for the school district.
I’m going to be discussing why homeschooling is the right choice for OUR family. I’d imagine that many people reading this are choosing homeschooling as well. But please understand that this feels like a calling for me. Our reasons might not be the same as yours.
And, most importantly, I’m not judging those of you who don’t decide to home educate your children.
This isn’t the lifestyle for everyone, and it isn’t accessible to everyone either. We’re capable of living a single income life.
I’m writing this because there is a huge segment of the homeschooling community who are doing so for religious reasons.
Today, there are more than 1.7 million homeschooled kids in the U.S., roughly double the number of those at the turn of 21st century. Religious families, nearly exclusively Christians, make up more than two-thirds of them, and religious curricula and social groups dominate the community.
This often leaves secular families seeking our secular curriculum and resources, which can be hard to come by. Of the 5+ homeschool groups and co-ops within an hour of us (in Central Ohio), I’ve found one secular group. And I’m the only actual non-believer in the group.
Once, a child in the group began talking to my son about God. He turned to me, looked me in the eyes, and asked, “What is god?”
I intend to discuss religion with him in the near future, obviously. But right now religion isn’t a part of our life. And, frankly, I don’t really know how to talk to him about these varying beliefs until he’s a bit older. Until then, I’m hoping my mom doesn’t start asking him about the meaning of Christmas.
Anyways, back to the point. Here are the reasons that we homeschool, as a secular family.
Flexibility in schedule
Flexibility is such a huge reason for us, and it’s sort of an umbrella term. Flexibility means I can join my husband on his business trips, while the kids soak up weeks of bonfires, fishing, swimming pools, and ice cream with grandparents.
Flexibility means attending events that excite us. We had more fieldtrips in September than I had throughout elementary school. We attended homeschool days at farms. We fed bison on the back of a tractor wagon in a safari. We do weekly nature school with friends where the kids learn about animals, go on a hike, then spend half an hour or so playing tag or digging in a sandbox.
Flexibility means more than a 20 minute recess break.
Flexibility means no 7 am rushing out the door. Or spending 2 hours a day doing drop off and pickup.
Flexibility in work
Flexibility means that we can drop schoolwork when my son isn’t up to it. Like this week. Everything other than food chains as been a flop. And when he wanted to draw several food chains, I gave him a few sheets of paper and let him at it. That evolved into making valentines day cards where he drew intricate pictures and worked on some handwriting.
Math and narration didn’t pan out. But nature study did.
Flexibility means dropping curriculums entirely when they don’t work for us. Three days ago a box full of math manipulatives and a teacher guide showed up for us at the post office. We’d been dabbling in Kindergarten Math with Confidence, but the use of a ten-frame stressed him out. So we kicked that curriculum to the curb.
Flexibility means play and life learning
Flexibility, finally, means free play. Movement. My kids spend time building with Legos many hours a day. They’re absolutely obsessed with two Pokémon books, which they look through, before taking off to play Ash and his various Pokémon. In the spring, they run around blowing bubbles, hike at the state park, splash in the lake, and help clean out the chicken coop. They’re learning academics, and learning about life.
Ultimately, I want the homeschool life style. I want my kids here with me. I want them chasing what they enjoy. I want them spending time with friends in mixed age groups, instead of being grouped into same-age peers.
I like the way our family looks with homeschool. I don’t need religion for that.