Embracing our Differences…

Homeschoolers are a diverse lot.  And we’re growing more diverse every day.  Each parent brings to the homeschool classroom a variety of gifts, talents, life experiences, personal qualities, and practical challenges.  And our children, like us, bring a vast array of spiritual, emotional, and academic strengths and weaknesses to the table each morning when we commence our school days.  These factors are at the heart of what makes each family unique and of how we create our homeschooling experience.

As members of this diverse community, we are often very aware of our differences, and yet, not surprisingly, we are unified behind a single purpose.  Within the framework of the greater purpose, we are individually driven by a variety of “secondary” motivations. But, we’re all working toward a single goal—to equip our children to live, serve, and work in the world into which they one day be thrust.

So why do so many of us have such a difficult time accepting the homeschooling approaches and methods others have chosen for their own families?

A couple of years ago I wrote a blog post that touched on this issue.  In it, I asked the question Who Am I?, and in response to that question, admitted a bit of insecurity concerning my own homeschool choices.  But I also mounted a defense of the methods that I utilized during my (up to that point) 16 years of homeschooling experience.

Last week as I was browsing the homeschool blogosphere, I read a statement that got under my skin.  It was a blanket statement of opinion that drew a line in the sand between traditional and non-traditional homeschoolers.  The statement that first drew my attention was this:

“Many of us tried to reproduce the school atmosphere and teaching methods at home.  There is no need or value in doing that.” (emphasis mine.)

I beg to differ.  I agree that there is not a need to do it that way.  However, I disagree that there is no value in doing it that way.

My daughters are a testament to the intrinsic value of this approach.  I have homeschooled for 18+ years.  If I had to classify myself, I would call myself a “traditional” homeschooler.  We like desks.  We like textbooks and workbooks and other traditional learning methods. We like following (for the most part) a traditional school calendar.  And I can tell you from personal experience that the “school-at-home” approach has great value—for us.

Jimmy doing school

Workbook--a staple of "school-at-home"

All three girls are all now high school graduates.  Each one has transitioned to the “post-homeschool” world with great success.  The approach that we utilized provided a learning environment that built into my daughters the tools that have helped them to thrive in their young adult years—a love of learning, strong study skills, discipline, and academic independence.  Because it’s what I’m most comfortable with, I hope this approach will also work for my 6-year old son, but if it doesn’t, we’ll adjust.  That’s the beauty of homeschooling.

I have purposely not linked directly to the blog I’ve quoted.  My purpose is NOT to criticize its author or to pick a fight with non-traditional homeschoolers.  Their methods have value—for them.  Non-traditional methods are a perfect fit for many families.  But some of those methods just don’t work for me or my children.  And by the same token, most non-traditional homeschoolers would not feel comfortable using the methods that I have utilized.  And that’s okay.

As members of a large and diverse community, we need to embrace the differences and learn to focus on our common goal.  In doing so, we give each other a little bit more freedom to make homeschooling decisions without fear of criticism or judgment.  We need to be careful not to allow our belief and confidence in our own personal preferences scare new homeschoolers away from approaches that might be a perfect fit for them and their children.  A successful and rewarding homeschool experience isn’t likely to be found in any one particular method or approach.  The reward comes from finding out what works best for you!!


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7 responses

  1. Great post! I so agree with you! I think general statements like that miss the point on homeschooling. For us, we mix the traditional with the perhaps not-so-traditional. But it changes…from kid to kid, from year to year, subject to subject. We do what works for us and what best teaches each child. That’s the beauty of homeschooling–being able to utilize the method that not only works best for your family, but also best for each child.

  2. Inherent in the freedom to homeschool is the freedom to teach our children in the manner that is best suited for them. As homeschoolers drag society kicking and screaming into accepting homeschooling as a viable educational option, many homeschoolers must be dragged kicking and screaming into accepting the fact that there is not one best method to teach children. Professional educators give lip service to the idea that children learn differently. Some children are tactile learners. Some learn by reading. Some by listening. Others by doing. There is an entire theory of brain compatible learning. In practical application, it is very difficult to teach to every child’s preferred method of learning in a classroom setting. Thanks to smaller class sizes, homeschoolers don’t have that problem. There is a contingent of homeschoolers who are so anti-brick-and-mortar schools (private or public) that they eschew any method of home instruction that remotely approaches that of an institutional setting. Adopting that view does not necessarily keep the best interests of the child in clear focus. As we move forward, homeschoolers must diligently work to keep homeschooling open as a viable educational option for their children as well as educate both homeschoolers and non-homeschoolers in the wide variety of effective educational choices available.

    • Been pondering your reply for days, Arby….particularly this part of it:

      “In practical application, it is very difficult to teach to every child’s preferred method of learning in a classroom setting. Thanks to smaller class sizes, homeschoolers don’t have that problem. There is a contingent of homeschoolers who are so anti-brick-and-mortar schools (private or public) that they eschew any method of home instruction that remotely approaches that of an institutional setting. Adopting that view does not necessarily keep the best interests of the child in clear focus.”

      Your reply puts words to some of what I was thinking about as I wrote the original post. The anti school-at-home sentiment seems to me to be a knee-jerk (albeit somewhat well-deserved) reaction to everything that’s wrong with traditional classroom education. Unfortunately, it misses the point. Traditional methods work. They just have limited effectiveness in the traditional classroom setting for some children. Some children THRIVE with traditional learning techniques and to throw the baby out with the bath water may hurt those kids!

      We need to be careful not to overreact to what’s bad in one system by creating a new system with its own brand of narrow-mindedness.

  3. Amen, Linda! And I say that as I may be guilty of uttering blanket statements such as that, especially in my early years of home schooling. This post is a great reminder of the beauty of home schooling…in that the choices you make are for YOUR family and can be as unique and diverse as you are.

    ~Kellie

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