Sometimes people think we are weird. Or, they think our kids don't ever do school. Nothing could be further from the truth! (Well, we are a little weird.) Our children are being educated in our home and most of the time it doesn't look like school.
When the weather is nice the younger children take their spelling tests outside on the driveway with sidewalk chalk. This beats pencil and paper any day.
Our family plays a lot of board games and many are educational. Why, yes, we count these as "school". The kids are learning!
We make many crafts at our house, some big and some small. Every single one is a school project. Painting, gluing, cutting, drawing = art class!
My husband leads our family devotion each evening. We study one book of the Bible at a time, chapter by chapter. This is part of the children's school. It matters not what time of day it is. This is their Bible class.
When the boys help with yard work (us or a neighbor) I do not consider that skipping school. I can make a whole list of things they are learning during that time. Topping the list would be service and Christian character. I've heard of government schools counting a trip to the bowling alley or pizza restaurant, or amusement park, as a school day. If those trips count as one of the 180 days, you better believe some hard work counts!
Election years provide great opportunities for learning. We've even been known to do "school" on occasion while watching TV. The kids have learned quite a bit about the election process, perhaps more than most. I recently did a government unit study with them and they weren't the only ones who learned a lot.
One of the best teachers is the family budget. It makes for a great learning tool for the older children. Oh sure, we have to put in our time with the Algebra and Geometry text books but we've also had our kids work on a budget, pay bills, and balance the checkbook. We've used the big white board for figuring out exactly what is coming in and what must go out. The kids have benefited greatly.
Just as the family budget has been a teacher for the older kids, playing store is a fantastic teacher for the younger kids. Do I count playing store with my first grader as school? You bet! She's writing numbers when she makes price tags, adding when she gives me my total, and counting money when she gives me my change. Why buy a math workbook to teach those things? A few hours of playing store and she's covered the equivalent of an entire workbook.
Memorizing scripture is a huge part of our school also. Right now our oldest son is memorizing the book of James. Each week my husband gives all of the children verses to memorize. Two of our children also participate in AWANA and memorize several bible verses each week. Regardless of the time of day when we are doing scripture memory work, that is school.
All of our kids love to read. For a special treat I have allowed them to spend an entire school day reading. Reading is learning! (By the way, we are very particular about what the kids read.) A good book is a classroom all by itself.
I try to turn any traveling we do into school. Our family has had the privilege of accompanying Dad on business trips from time to time. Before we go I do some research on museums and historical sites in the area. I check books out of the library and we read about these things before we go and after we get back. A couple of years ago we were able to travel with Dad to Birmingham, Alabama. I decided to do a unit study on The Civil Rights Movement before we left and we spent several hours at the Civil Rights Museum while we were there. We also read books about Martin Luther King, Jr. and visited the 16th Street Baptist Church. That one trip was the equivalent of several weeks of school. No, the kids weren't seated in desks in a traditional classroom setting but they learned a whole lot. We've visited The Smithsonian Museums, Monticello, The Washington Monument, Colonial Williamsburg, The Jamestown Settlement, The Lincoln Memorial, and many other places.
Writing letters to grandparents, thank you notes for gifts, and grocery lists takes care of a lot of what would be busy work. Why have children write in workbooks writing C-A-T and D-O-G when you can have them help with writing down the grocery list. This gives them lots of writing and spelling practice and helps Mom too!
All questions lead to school. When a child asks how to spell something we have them look it up in the dictionary. When they ask a question about where something is we have them look at a map. Watching the World Cup led to learning a lot of geography for our boys. When something in the newspaper sparks a discussion someone (or everyone) gets a report assignment. Visits to the zoo and aquarium are always followed with research reports. Visits to the beach lead to shell books and marine life studies.
Pets and pests can be part of schooling too. When the boys killed some snakes once, we studied all about them. When our cat had kittens many years ago we learned quite a bit about reproduction. One home we lived in was near a pond and we ended up with TONS of tadpoles one spring. We made posters on the life cycle of a frog.
The daily happenings of life have provided wonderful schooling opportunities. Broken bones have led to unit studies. Certain food discussions have led to health studies. Diseases and illnesses have led to interesting studies as well. We once studied penicillin.
I always use holidays for school - Presidents Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, St. Patrick's Day, Chinese New Year, Columbus Day - all of these dates on the calendar result in library books, crafts, special activities and learning!
My philosophy is simple - when the kids are learning, they are "doing school". As a home school mom I am not required to teach from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. The children do not have to sit in desks or work in workbooks (although we do at times). When there is a vigorous game of basketball going on in the driveway, or the older boys go on their daily run that's P.E. When my 7 year old works in the kitchen and she has to double, or triple ingredients, that's math. Our oldest boy is a history buff. He reads every history book he can get his hands on. He knows more about world history than his father and I combined. All of that reading he does is school. There are many ways to learn and sometimes the best ways are not what people are used to. I try not to concern myself with what others think. My husband and I are products of government schools and all of our children are much farther along in every subject than we were at any of their ages. Character is most important to us and that is what we have concentrated on the most. Have we produced perfect children? NO. Far from it! We have, however, been able to help them shape their worldview, used the Bible as our primary textbook, enjoyed quality family learning time, helped guide them in choosing friends, established strong bonds between siblings and much more. Of course I am not saying that these things cannot be done apart from homeschooling. I am saying that homeschooling has allowed us to do these things.
My best advice to homeschool moms is always this - DO NOT try to replicate a public school classroom in your home. That is not what home schooling is about. Home schooling need not look like school at all.