When I first started this homeschooling journey back in 2007, I was pretty well convinced that homeschooling was all about freedom. Freedom in the sense that kids should be let to run free, spending all day doing what kids love to do. The learning would come naturally and everything would be ah-ma-zing.
Y’all, the idea of that life—that level of freedom—was downright intoxicating to think about. My creative, might-have-been-a-hippie-in-a-past-life side kicked in and I was ready to rock.
I mean, whenever it worked out. You know. No rush.
And so that’s what we did, and to make a long story short, our free and easy unstructured learning went over about as well as a brick on a marshmallow. See, even though I do truly believe there are children who can thrive in an environment of free and easy, unscheduled, unstructured strewn about learning, there was one thing I forgot to take into consideration about my own children.
Some kids like schedules. Some kids like organization. Some kids thrive in the middle of structure. To some kids, knowing what comes next (and what comes after that) is the security blanket they want to wrap up in. You see, scheduling and order and to-do lists are not things that suddenly become attractive when we grow up. It’s part of our personality from early on. It’s part of what makes us tick.
Parents who love free and easy, who also have children who love free and easy, sometimes mistakenly assume that all children love free and easy—because free and easy is the epitome of childhood and innocence and magic, right? Parents with children who love free and easy can also sometimes mistakenly assume that children who don’t love free and easy have parents who are over-the-top, type A, plan e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g out—down to the millisecond—and have thereby caused their children to feel that anything different is unsafe and wrong.
Okay, you guys. No. Just, no.
On the homeschooling side of the tracks, we say we celebrate how very different families and children and learning can be. We say that, but sometimes our actions don’t line up. We sometimes try to fix people’s situations because we think they are broken. We try to suggest and modify and improve what another family is doing because we don’t think they’ve realized what they could be doing.
Sometimes it is worth suggesting and modifying and fixing. As humans, we’re all experiencing and improving and figuring things out and it’s worth sharing that with others when the time is right. But it’s also worth pointing out that sometimes when a mama has a homeschooling schedule at her house, she’s not looking for someone to ask if she’s heard about how free and relaxed this homeschool learning thing can actually be. It might mean she’s making learning relaxing for her order seeking child who just wants to know what time math is going to be because he likes to have a plan for his day.
My kids are heavily involved in planning the direction of our learning, the way our homeschool runs, and our daily schedule. In fact, last year (at 11 and 12), they came to me with a new schedule of how they thought the day should run and asked if we could possibly implement it. (Which of course, we did.)
But here’s the crazy thing—guess what they both think is best about homeschooling? The freedom. The freedom, you guys! Even though they are kids who really want a schedule and want to have things planned out, they still think homeschooling equates to massive amounts of freedom in what they learn, how they learn, and when they learn—they just also happen to want to have it planned out so they know what’s coming next and can frame their day.
There are so many ways to define freedom as a homeschooler. We shouldn’t necessarily jump to the assumption that freedom means spending all day doing whatever, whenever, learning without structure or boundaries or paper or rules. Instead, freedom in homeschooling should actually refer to each kid learning how and when and what they want. That’s all! We need to be aware that the freedom some kids are craving might look pretty structured to those on the outside.
Whatever freedom means to you, your children, or your household, I hope you’re able to find it as a homeschooling family.