Updated: Aug 27, 2018
School is in for just about everyone now. Including us. Actually, we've been at it since the beginning of July. Why? because I had it all together, all planned out... or at least I thought I did. I get why one of the most common things I hear from people when I tell them we road school is "oh I could never do that, it seems to stressful"...I totally get it. I'm not sugar coating anything, it can be really hard and really stressful at times however, it can be the most rewarding thing in parenthood. When your child can point out the window and say "Mom, look! Spanish Moss! It's in the same class as a pineapple!" At which point I lean over at Tony and beam "Yep, I taught them that." Then I smile and pat myself on the back.
But if I am being honest with not only myself, but others when asked how it is, it would be; your first year of homeschool is hard. Like, really hard. Let me clarify though, I didn't pick any particular homeschool method. I didn't want strictly classical, or a K12 program. (Not that there is nothing wrong with either of those). I knew from the beginning that I wanted an eclectic method. I could pick and choose what we would learn and when because I felt that would work for our traveling lifestyle. I'm pleased to say it does work for us really well... as of a couple of weeks ago...
So what happened? Well, that was the stressful epiphany of it all so far. It happened somewhere between Kentucky and Tennessee. Sitting down at the table trying to push through exhaustion and boredom of the lesson I had planned for my girls. Their focus was fading faster and faster by the millisecond. I was getting stressed because I just wanted to be done with it. We were sitting there for what felt like hours reading from textbooks when the final meltdown happened. Someone started complaining and I just snapped. I yelled, I cried...I just melted. All I kept thinking was "I thought this was supposed to be fun!" "Why is it so hard?!" That's when Tony came in and thankfully took over the situation and I went to my room to calm down and started crying again.
What was I doing wrong?
I planned this curriculum for months, spent all of my time and money on textbooks I thought they would need. Buying the best series, formats, and curriculum. I wrote schedules for schedules. I had everything planned and I was ready... to fail apparently. I sat on my bed feeling fully defeated. Not only feeling defeated as a teacher but as a mom. Why was I so stressed out? Why were my kids bored? What the hell happened? Whatever it was, I knew it wasn't working and I just felt lost and scared. What if I just wasn't good at homeschool? Did we have to quit our adventures and go back to public school?
That night, I sat in my room nursing a cold, feeling like crap emotionally and physically. I decided to turn the guilt, from being so harsh and getting stressed out earlier, into a new leaf. What I was doing wasn't working, so what? Why force it? Did it cost me a lot of money? Yes quite a bit. Did it consume all my time? Honestly, more time than I would like to admit. But I realized that not every style is going to work for my kids. They don't like to sit for hours and read from textbooks, they like things mixed up. They like to take what we call "Brain Breaks" or periodic breaks from school to have a snack, play outside, or just sit alone quietly and think other thoughts. It may take more time but it works for us. Not only did I have to pitch all my curriculum, but also my mindset. See, I forgot one, if not the, most important element of homeschool...
No one knows my girls better than me... How could I screw them up if I know what works for them?
It became clear to me. I needed to stop worrying about how much information I was cramming into their brains, out of fear that people would judge us if it wasn't the norm, and figure out how they absorb what I'm teaching them in the best way. We're in our first year, so we needed to go through trials of your first year homeschooling and finding our "groove" as I like to call it. I just needed a new groove. I needed our curriculum to be fun, not just for them but for me. I didn't want it to be like public school because that's what I was trying to get away from and instead, it's exactly what I created. (duh, Mel) So I grabbed my computer and started researching different methods...again. Then after an hour of searching online, I stumbled across a random quiz. What Kind Of Homeschool Method Are You? I chuckled under my breath and began sorting through the questions, not thinking much about it. Then the results, Unit Study Curriculum. I never heard of Unit Study curriculum.
To google I went. Looking up what unit studies are and how you do them. Within a couple of hours I was hooked. It sounded right up our alley. If you're wondering, the definition is: Unit Studies typically encompass all of the scholastic subjects through the study of one topic. So you pick one topic, let's say Bees, and you do a week or two covering your basic curriculum (reading geography, science, etc.) within that unit study (Ex: parts of a bee, all about honey, life cycles of a bee, where bees live best, etc.) The idea itself had me giddy with excitement. this meant crafts and research and outside the box education I was looking for.
Fast foreward a couple weeks to today as we have our first unit study under our belt. What are my thoughts? Well, there's definite pros and cons. Here are some of mine:
- It's fun for creative families. Parents and kids who love to craft, and color, create projects, make lap books.
- It's an unstructured learning environment. Meaning, you can't necessarily just pull out some pages from a workbook and lay them down on the table to do.
- It's family hands on. Your kids can help you pick the studies, that way, you know that it can work because it's based off of their interests.
- It can be about anything. Legos, Trees, Bugs, Aliens, Unicorns, Oceans, Mermaids, Fruit, whatever.
- It's a lot of work for the parent...a lot. There's research, planning on the fly, and finding coordinating curriculum to fit within you unit study. So if you don't have time to plan every night or over the weekend then it might not be the best option.
- For us being on the road full time, library access is pretty limited so finding resources to build the curriculum can be limited or needs the Internet, and a lot of printer ink.
Our first unit study was Louisiana. Since we were going to be there for 9 days, I figured staying somewhere that long, should be recognized. The girls loved it. We studied crawfish, trees of Louisiana, Mardi Gras, alligators, we went on field trips to New Orleans, Acadian Culture Center, and the swamp. We started making lap books. What are lap books? I know, I never heard of them until a couple of weeks ago. Lapbooks or Lapbooking is simply a hands-on method of teaching students about any topic! They can include drawings, writings, timelines, pictures, graphs, and any other information that fits your topic.
Now I may have over done it again with the unit as a whole (or at least according to Tony who is always looking out for me). But hey, I'm still learning. We all are. Not just my girls, but myself as well. Learning to get over the fear of failing my kids, and learning to trust myself because I'm their mom, and that's something to be proud of. Knowing who they are, what they like, what they don't. Homeschooling is a process especially in your first year, but we're getting there and so far loving our new unit study learning.
xo - the Hippie
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