Pit Stops and Roadside Attractions: Embracing the Detours on Your Homeschooling Journey

Remember the days when we used actual, physical maps to plot and plan road trips? Our homeschool journey started out like that; only when we started, we went with what was familiar. Basically we planned a trip across the country, and would only take the interstates…

We started out using boxed curriculum —there is nothing wrong with boxed curriculum— because that was familiar. I chose a curriculum that was the closest thing to an affordable version of the curriculum my children were using at the private school they attended.

We were doing school at home.

About half way through our 2nd year of homeschooling it hit me, this wasn’t working… I hated it… not homeschooling, but how we approached it. I wanted everything to feel natural, I wanted everything to be relaxed; I wanted homeschooling to be fun… But it wasn’t…

I started looking into other curricula, seeing what I thought seemed best for each child. I started planning an alternate route, one that would take us off the “interstate” into the great unknown, one that would make it possible to “visit roadside attractions”.

There was trial and error… Some things worked, some didn’t. Some worked great for one child but not the other…

Our journey had truly begun.

There were forks in the road, dead ends, twist and turns, and detours… By the way, sometimes you learn more on a detour than on the planned route…

Sometimes there is a need to stay someplace longer than we had planned, and sometimes we don’t stay as long at others.

Some of the greatest moments in our homeschool were not planned at all.

But maybe you need a more structured homeschool. That. Is. OK. Part of the appeal of homeschooling is flexibility and the ability to customize.

There is no “right” and “wrong” way to homeschool.

You may see a homeschool with the most amazing school room, one with desks and a huge chalk board, and all sorts of charts hanging on the wall… it looks like a classroom, but in a house…

And you can’t help but compare it to yours… and you sigh… I was like that, at first I insisted that the kids did all their work at their desks like they did at school…

About that half mark through that 2nd year they could do their work at their desk, or at the kitchen table…

Now they can do their work at their desks, the kitchen table, the couch (with a TV tray to serve as a hard surface to write on), a “time machine”, the floor, on the porch… My 14 year old sometimes likes to do her work in her room…
In my previous blog post, Charlotte Died, Rachael Cried, I shared the three missions of our homeschool:

1. To nurture my children’s faith in Jesus Christ, and to help them grow in Him.
2. To instill a lifelong love of reading.
3. To instill a lifelong love of learning.
2 and 3 are in that order, because once someone learns to read, there is nothing that they cannot learn if they have the desire to learn it.

And what we were doing that first year and ½ wasn’t doing any of that.

Then I learned about Charlotte Mason, and her writings changed my homeschool life.

What she wrote reconciled  the feelings I was having about education and what it should be.

The world is a classroom and is full of educational opportunities.

I agree with the Charlotte Mason method, and implement quite a bit into our homeschool. We use unit studies, classic curriculum (From the New England Primer and the Blue Back Speller to McGuffey Readers and Ray’s Arithmetics), and we use newer curriculum from different publishers, as well as books, books, and more books.

–Our homeschool is very much reading based–

Some of the curriculum we use is actually Charlotte Mason friendly, something I don’t necessarily look for when buying curriculum, but it is something that can be a deciding factor if comparing curriculum.

Honestly, though, I usually find out after the fact that the curriculum I have purchased, or plan to purchase is Charlotte Mason friendly.

Charlotte Mason isn’t the end all be all of homeschooling, but I do think any who is homeschooling or considering homeschooling (or opposed to homeschooling) should read what she wrote. All six volumes of her writings are free on Ambleside Online.

Even if you don’t embrace her methods, what she wrote will make you rethink everything you thought you knew about education, and/or confirm your doubts about the way children are educated in public and most private schools today.

No matter the method and style of homeschooling you choose, remember what works for you this year may not work next year, and what works for one child may not work for another, and that is OK.

My biggest piece of advice (other than reading Charlotte Mason’s writings) is this: Be flexible.

If it doesn’t work, try something else.

I often joke about what my first year homeschooling self would think of my homeschooling self now… She would probably think I fell off the “crazy train”.

Honestly, I look back at my first year homeschooling self and cringe… I was more concerned about “doing it right”, than the journey.

The ride isn’t always smooth, I am an individual homeschooling four individuals.

But, isn’t that what makes a journey memorable?

The good, the bad, the ugly, all make for great memories and stories to tell later. And in the end, you always get to where you need to be. Maybe not where you were headed, but where you were meant to go.

Follow your heart, you’ve got this!