Skeleton Schooling

There are many different “methods” or schools of thought when it comes to teaching our children. Different schools, teachers and parents will be drawn toward the various methods, and do their best to implement them for their students. Some of the popular ones out there are Charlotte Mason, Montessori, Classical, and even Unschooling, and they all have their strengths and weaknesses. Personally I fall into the “eclectic” camp. I’ve read up on all these ways of teaching, but I cannot fully jive with any of them. Thankfully, I do not need to. For my boys I have taken what I believe will work best for them from these various schools of thought, and put together my own way of schooling. I thought this Halloween season would be a fun time to mention it because I like to refer to it as “Skeleton Schooling.”

I do not like complicated things. I also I’m not a giant fan of being told what is the “right” way to do something. So I have taken what I have learned from reading, and my own homeschooled background, and formed a way to go about my boys’ education that is simple, yet I believe strong. I focus on what I believe are the most absolute basics, and most important focuses for their current stages. These are the things I believe are the most necessary and valuable for holding up everything else they will learn for the rest of their lives. I view these things as the “bones” of their education as students and human beings. There are various parts to education, and all are important for a strong, healthy, intelligent person, but it all starts with a good framework; a skeleton if you will.

I am an avid learner; a true student at heart, and I adore learning about new things. There are SO many things I could add to our homeschool; so many subjects we could cover that I think would be very interesting. Even with how much I love to learn though, I know that for us, too many subjects and activities would easily upset our equilibrium. I may be a forever student at heart, but I am also easily overwhelmed. Knowing this about myself, I cannot make our homeschool too much. Especially not in these early years. These years where my children are young (preschool and second(ish) grade) I want to just focus on the skeleton subjects, so that as they grow we are able to add on some of the other wonderful areas of learning without one or all of us crumbling under the pressure. That doesn’t mean we don’t ever do more than the basics. I just mean that I don’t let anything else weigh our homeschooling down. If we feel like studying something, or an opportunity for learning presents itself, then we will totally jump on it. This happens all the time because life is full of its own unscheduled learning. At this time focusing on just a skeleton of subjects allows us plenty of time for the extras without the stress of needing to get through a list of “must learn” subjects.

I enjoy the homeschool community I have found on Instagram. There are so many wonderful parents on there giving their kids full and beautiful educations, but a lot of what I see would be too much for me to handle at this time. Also, I am aware that not all of these parents are doing all of the things. One mom over there is doing all the hikes, and makes the most gorgeous nature journals with her kids. Another mom over there just made a fabulous King Tut mask with her kids as they study Ancient Egypt. This mom does the prettiest handcrafts, and yet still another parent is over there baking all the yummy breads. These things are all good. They are all things I would love to do with my boys, and probably will do at some point during the time I have them in my home. I will not be doing all these things at one time though, and for the most part, other parents are not doing all these things every week either. Remember that.

What is comes down to is being free to make our homeschool work well for my children and myself. I want my boys to be smart, capable and kind, and so I will focus on what I need to do to help them grow as such. This just won’t happen in my home if I try to do all the things. I will be quickly overwhelmed and thus so will my children. So for now I will focus on the “skeleton” of their education. We will do the things that will give them an incredible structure for the rest of their lives to grow on. With a strong foundation or skeleton they will be able to more easily add on subjects as the grow and learn them well.

To form my skeletal school structure (that was an accidental alliteration, but I like it, so there we go) I think about my beliefs and my children individually, and put together a plan based on those things. For our current “skeleton school” I focus on various forms of reading, math, and talking about Jesus. Yes, we do a lot more than these things, but these are the skeleton; the things I know we must excel at in order to have the strongest frame for everything else in life. There are many other subjects that I place high value in learning. Things like handwriting, writing skills, and learning about the world and the stories of the people we share this world with. We do these things regularly, but they are secondary in my system. Focusing on the skeleton keeps the pressure at a minimum for us all, and allows us the freedom to enjoy our learning journey together.

Why I Homeschool

Like many homeschooling parents, the reasons I have for choosing to homeschool my children are many and varied. I care that I am the one choosing what they learn and when. I like that I know my children are safe at home, and I’m not having to worry about them being bullied or some such awfulness. I like that I can teach them about my beliefs, that Christ can be a part of the conversation, and the wonder of His creation can be a part of their education. These are all significant reasons for why I homeschool, but ultimately I think most of my biggest “whys” for choosing to homeschool are summed up in one word. Time.

Homeschooling my children will give us all more time. It gives my whole family more freedom with time because we are not being held to a public school schedule. We can do things when and how we see fit because our schedule is our own to make and change. There is no rush out of the door in the morning, we can plan to do things whenever we please, and we don’t have to work family time around weekends and holidays. Our time is ours alone and it’s free.

Homeschooling also gives me more time with my kids to enjoy them as they grow. Both my boys are still young, but already I’m shocked with how old they are. Childhood is fleeting. I cannot imagine sending my kids away for six plus hours a day. That adds up to so much time that I wouldn’t be with them; so much of their childhoods I would miss. Instead, I get to be there for nearly all of it, and I get to be the one teaching them, witnessing their every accomplishment, and storing away all the memories with them in my heart to cherish for the rest of my life. This gift of time during their childhoods is probably one of the greatest gifts I will ever be be given.

Choosing to homeschool gives my kids more time to just be kids. They will have definite book learning time, but so much learning happens apart from structured study times. Learning takes place in the everyday aspects of life. They have time to play and discover and enjoy their freedom and childhoods themselves. As parents we only have so many years with children in our homes, but children also only have those few years to be kids. Childhood is short for both parents and children, and I want them to enjoy this time as much as I myself want to enjoy this time with them.

Last be certainly not least, homeschooling gives them the time they need to grow and learn at their own pace, where they won’t be held back or sped up according to the crowd they are placed in. My kids are able to learn and grow as they need both emotionally and academically. I am better able to protect my boys from things that they are not emotionally ready for, and am with them to help ease their way into some of the more emotional aspects of life. They won’t have to grow up too soon based on what they are exposed to outside of my home. I know some might think this is being too protective, but I think that’s ridiculous. It is not my goal to raise emotionally tough kids, but to raise emotionally strong and understanding kids, and to me there is a big difference.

Academically this time is theirs. There are no other kids they need to keep up with or slow down for. There is no busy work or projects to waste their time on. My boys are able to become interested in something and give it all the focus and time they want because there aren’t any set rules of having to cover this or that topic by a certain date, or do this or that subject at this time of day. I may make some plans for subjects I want to get done in a day, but these are basically just core subjects, and I’m not too bothered missing them every now and then to let the boys continue it a self given project that they are absorb in. For example, the other day my oldest got enthralled by the idea of making a Minecraft Dungeons mobs handbook. He planned it all out and spent hours pasting cut out pictures in a book. Little was he aware that he was learning. He did so much handwriting while labeling the characters and now knows how to spell the word “new” because he wrote it so many times. I obviously knew this was fabulous handwriting practice that I didn’t have to nag him to do, and he did pages of it! I quickly shelved any plans I’d had for lessons that day (though I was pleased that math practice had happened before the idea for this book was sparked). More important and lasting learning will take place in the tasks they set for themselves than the things I will plan for them. We are in no hurry. We’ll always get to the things I feel are important to learn, but I also don’t have to cut short what their minds and imaginations are entrenched in just to hold my own schedule.

These are all examples of the extra freedom of time my family has been given with the choice we’ve made to homeschool. I was homeschooled, and always knew I wanted to homeschool my own kids one day. As a kid myself, and later as a young adult, I didn’t understand how large the gift of time would be for my family though. Once I became a mom I better grasped how fleeting time was, and how quickly my babies were growing. With each stage passed, and each outgrown article of clothing I cull from their dresser drawers, I am remind that my time with them is short. Every day I am grateful for this extra time I’ve been given. So very grateful.

A page from Nathan’s Minecraft project