I think eclectic is the best one word description that I can give when reflecting back on over 20 years of homeschooling. I have seen so many changes in our own family in the homeschooling world at large over the years.
Our family started homeschooling in August of 1992. The Florida homeschool law was only 4 years old so while I don’t consider my family a pioneer it has still be a long journey. Over the years we have added children to our family and our homeschool life as others have grown up and moved on. The first year I homeschooled I had a third grader and a toddler. Now I have one middle schooler and one high schooler.
When we started homeschooling unless we were going to a homeschool activity we tried to stay home during school hours and I actually had my son wear a white polo shirt and blue slacks if we did go out so it looked like a school uniform. And the only activities during the day were sponsored by our local homeschool group. Now, if you go out during school hours everyone assumes you homeschool and lots of different places offer classes and workshops for homeschoolers.
When I started homeschooling the first year it looked very traditional and then we moved to literature based curriculum. I loved using lots of real books but as some of my children got older and their unique learning challenges became apparent some changes needed to be made in what we used and how we used it. There was no online learning when we started homeschooling, in fact, there really wasn’t even any internet at all. This past year we have gotten to take advantage of several different types of online programs and those have turned out to be such a blessing to our family.
Another big change in the homeschool world is working and homeschooling. When I started homeschooling there were two moms who worked. One was a widow and the other was a nurse who worked a couple of weekends a month to keep active in her field. Now many homeschool moms including me either work home based business or work outside the home. I know for me this was a big shift in both my thought process on homeschooling and in how I would plan for homeschooling. By taking advantage of an online planning tool that allows my children to check on their assignments and several online classes it has been easier to balance work and homeschooling.
Fellowship has also changed over the years. When I started, in real life relationships through a local group were the only way to really connect with other homeschool families. Many activities were centered around your local group. Now, homeschoolers have the ability to connect and share with others all over the world.
When I first started homeschooling almost all of the print media seemed to paint the picture of homeschooling perfections. Families were large, they always got along, they could live off the land, they sewed their own matching outfits, baked their own bread, and their schooling was never a struggle. This was so far from my reality at the time. I started homeschooling because my 9 year old child was angry and discouraged. Over the years I had a child who couldn’t learn to read no matter what we tried until we had two years of eye therapy. I don’t sew and my husband was the one who did learn to bake bread. But we didn’t fit the perfect picture. What I love now is that homeschooling is presented in a much more balanced and realistic way.
The most valuable thing I’ve learned is to be flexible, stick to what works, but don’t be afraid to embrace change. There is no one right way of doing things; not only is every family different, but every child is different and there are different seasons in life. So I think eclectic sums up my homeschool life and I look forward to the changes ahead as I move toward the finish line.
Karen Mathre – Wife and the mother of 5. Homeschooler since 1992. Taught children with learning challenges. Relief worker mom. Air Force mom. Dealt with the loss of a child. A preschool staff person. You can find Karen blogging at Harbor Lights.