Until last September, I wondered what it would be like to go to public school. Before that, I had been homeschooled, and now that I’m in public school I’d like to share a little bit about homeschool. I’ve heard many questions about it, such as: “What’s it like being homeschooled?” “Do you have homework?” and “Is it fun?” My standard replies to the last two questions have always been, “It’s all homework!” and “Yes.” But that leaves a lot unexplained.
There are many different ways to homeschool. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages, and most have some similarities to public school. Some homeschoolers go to a co-op, where they meet regularly with other homeschoolers and/or teachers to learn and do activities. Some do what’s called “unschooling,” where instead of using a curriculum they study subjects according to their interests. Others follow a curriculum, which provides a schedule and materials such as books, workbooks, DVDs, and other supplies.
My family used a homeschool curriculum, although we didn’t follow the schedule exactly and often supplemented it with various resources. Our main schoolwork involved lots of books. We read historical fiction, historical nonfiction, biographies, poetry, children’s encyclopedias, collections of stories. I loved reading, and would sometimes read for hours a day, not just schoolbooks, but whatever I could find. One of my favorite pastimes was reading ahead in whatever books my mom was reading to us. She read aloud to my siblings and me a lot, especially when we were younger. If we were particularly engrossed in a book, when she stopped reading we would beg, “Read more! Read more!” This, I think, is one very big difference from public school. As far as I knew, we didn’t use textbooks, except for maybe a couple of science books. I’m pretty sure I thought of a textbook was a big, heavy, boring book, and almost none of our books were boring. Which was a good thing, because most of our schoolwork involved books.
When we (especially my sister and me) were little, we did math in workbooks, which we didn’t like. Still, we did learn all the basic math skills that we would need later. When I got older, maybe in sixth grade, I started using a computer-based program, which I continued using through eighth grade. I liked this because it allowed me to work at my own pace.
For Science, we read books, watched videos of science experiments (in our earlier years), and did the experiments. The experiments in our curriculum were often supplemented with our own. Science was one subject that just seemed to happen randomly sometimes. There were learning opportunities all over.
We did handwriting too, which I disliked when I was younger. Interestingly, though, I eventually wanted to learn cursive, which I did, using some worksheets that my mom printed for my sister and me (our idea). When I got older, I practiced penmanship, and eventually tried calligraphy.
Most of our English work involved books, both assigned books and books we read for fun. We learned basic grammar, but it never seemed to be our focus. I remember learning that “a noun is the name of a person, place, thing, or idea.” Writing usually happened by itself. There were writing assignments, but most of my sister’s and my own writing practice came from books we wrote and/or illustrated just for fun. Later, we typed stories/books on the computer. At one point we learned how to type from a computer program that we received as a Christmas gift.
When I was six or seven, I started learning French. At first I did flashcards on the computer and listened to CDs of French words and phrases. I learned how to count to ten and say yes and no, please and thank you, hello and goodbye, among other things. Later, I used a computer program to learn more words and phrases, although I never really learned French grammar. My sister and I used Duolingo as well, which was fun because we could learn a little of lots of different languages. (I mostly focused on French, but also enjoyed learning some words in other languages.) There were many other learning opportunities too--watching movies in French or with French subtitles, reading in French, talking to people who spoke French.
Art was ever-present. It wasn’t assigned, but it was impossible to avoid. We drew pictures, painted, and did countless crafts and projects, often making large messes in the process. As my sister and I got older, we experimented with crochet, sewing, embroidery, and needle felting, among many other things.
Homeschool provides a lot of flexibility. We could “skip” school one day and do extra work the next, or go on a trip and bring school work with us. We could start our school year whenever we wanted. (I always looked forward to beginning a new school year and we often started in August.) We also had freedom in what we chose to study, and to learn from everyday life. For many people, homeschool helps develop a love of learning. I know it did for me.
Still, public school had always fascinated my sister and I. We didn’t want to actually go to public school, but we sometimes thought it might be fun. We played “school” with our stuffed animals. We wrote stories about kids who went to school. On occasion we even packed lunches and pretended to “go to school”.
As for homework--it was almost nonexistent. Everything was homework and nothing was homework. (There were times when my sister and I created homework for each other, but that was just for fun. Yes, you read that right.)
And is homeschool fun? I have to say that it depends. I didn’t love every minute of it. Still, I more or less enjoyed it. I loved the independence, especially when I was older, being able to work ahead in some areas and go more slowly in others. The freedom and flexibility are significant advantages. But there are disadvantages to homeschool too. Most homeschoolers don’t get to see friends every day. They don’t have as many opportunities to participate in clubs and sports. There are things that public school provides that homeschool doesn’t.
I don’t regret having been homeschooled. I am thankful that my parents made that decision. And now I’m glad to be going to WHS. I’ve been asked which is better, homeschool or public school. My answer is that it depends. There’s no one right answer for everyone, and there can’t be, because everyone is different. As for my own journey, I wouldn’t change a thing.