Be honest, when you picture homeschooling, a scene from Little House on The Prairie may come to mind. Modern homeschooling however, does not include petticoats and chalkboards or math sessions in between plowing the field or canning preserves. Today, in this 21st century digital culture, homeschooling certainly embodies personalized intimate learning engagements, but it also connects student-kids to a world view and a learning environment that extends beyond their living room. And city folk do it too!
A Cultured Community
Traditionally, homeschooling was a popular option for families with specific religious or cultural practices that failed to mesh with public or even private school programs. Today, the homeschooling community is vast and diverse and the options can be tailored to fit city families as well as suburban or expat ones. The Tiger Mom approach originated in Asian cultures where a hyper-focused attention to academics, rout learning, high grades and a highly-disciplined study practice was/is the norm. Yet, this competitive approach has traveled crossed the seas, beyond ethnic and cultural boundaries, and into posh neighborhoods where excellence comes only with persistent honing of one’s educational craft. Today more than 2 million children around the U.S. are homeschooled, a number that is 75% higher than it was in 1999 - more than 10% of that population is African-American, 12% Hispanic/Latin and 3% Asian. In a practical sense - the homeschooling community is now a cultured one.
Homeschool beyond the home
If the homeschooling community has expanded, the learning environment has expanded as well. Unschooling, the internship and project-based learning program best suited for high school students is largely facilitated outside of the home. Be it through apprenticeships or collaborations with organizations and area school service projects, the living room is rarely used for teaching or learning. Even for students who school primarily from a “home-based” space, the modern approach maximizes available resources and creatively designates learning corners (much like in a classroom/school) and/or uses public facilities and spaces for specific learning engagements.
No Frauline Maria
While many homeschoolers and Tiger Moms often farm-out the nitty-gritty of teaching and learning to distance learning programs, virtual schools, independent study platforms and/or tutors, just as many take on the mission personally. For former educators, homeschooling may be easier in theory, but there are numerous challenges that come with the territory - most teachers prefer not to teach their own kids. Either way, the allure of homeschooling conjures up images of frolicking in fields, mastering languages through song, decoding geometric principles through choreographed dance, learning through play. All possible teaching and learning strategies aside, the daily grind of homeschooling more aptly resembles a school house cooperative than The Sound of Music.
The Student-child and the Teacher-parent
Student-driven learning is often confused with willy-nilly schedules. Creating a successful homeschooling/unschooling/tutoring timetable may at times be a work in progress. After observing how your child eases from high energy activities to independent quiet study, you might tweak the line-up a bit. Remember, learning is fluid and a process; not an end result. You may also want to consider how you manage your non-teaching time and your involvement with each learning session. Also, consider how you will set clear roles and boundaries in this unique relationship. What essential agreements will you have and how will they be enforced. As parents we may be full-time teachers, but as teachers we are not always a parent.
What were your preconceptions about homeschooling? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below.
Photos © Terry Richardson