by Jessica Frierson, August 2021
If I were to sum up the essence of homeschooling in one word, it would be flexibility. Every aspect of the homeschool can benefit from the flexibility it offers. The scheduling of both your school year and school day, the selection of materials used, the subjects taught, and the teaching method vary as greatly from one family to another as the dynamics of each family vary from the other.
As I have written about previously, you can adjust your school calendar to suit your family’s preferences. Some options are a year-round schedule, a program that follows a more traditional timetable, or a customized plan. In addition, you can tailor the structure of the homeschool day to fit the needs of each child. Over the years, we have planned our school week in various ways. When I only had small children, we did school Monday through Thursday. I used Friday for catching up on housework and washing diapers. Later, when I had both teens and babies (and everything in between!), Fridays were for sports and outside activities, while Mondays became the day for self-directed studies. My older ones took turns playing with a toddler, and I paid bills, checked schoolwork from the previous week, and planned the menu for the week.
For one family I know, the father works night shifts. The mother schedules park-time, 4-H club, library trips, and music lessons for the hours when Dad is trying to sleep in the mornings. Afternoons are family-time and the beginning of their school day. The flexibility of homeschool allows their family to spend more time together by planning their school day around their specific needs.
A great deal of time is occupied in a conventional classroom on such activities as lining up, getting everyone’s attention, or walking to the lunchroom. The teacher must accommodate the needs of all of her students. When the superfluous fillers are stripped away as they are in the homeschool, most families find that far less time is needed for school. Depending on the child’s age, my children are finished with their textbook learning within two hours for the younger ones and up to five hours for my high-schoolers. The remainder of their day can be spent on creative play, the pursuit of hobbies, or reading for pleasure.
Without the constraints of teaching to an end-of-grade test, we can move along in each of my children’s subjects at a pace that is best suited for them. They may be in a seventh grade math book, an eighth grade reader, and a science class with mixed ages. They can take the necessary time to work on a concept to fully comprehend it and skip ahead when the material is redundant. The need for sticking with grade levels is eliminated. As the administrator of my homeschool, I can customize the courses my children take in whatever manner I believe is best for them. I also determine what the standards will be for each child to graduate. In short, a homeschool education is a completely personalized educational program.
There is a seemingly endless supply of homeschool resources and curricula available, including many that are free. Depending on the needs and desires of the teaching parent, you can purchase a full curriculum from one publisher that includes everything from student textbooks to lesson plans, or you can pick and choose individual books for each subject from different publishers. Many families choose to not use any curriculum at all, utilizing online resources or the public library. In addition, if you try one way and change your mind, you have the flexibility to ditch it and go in another direction. I have not made it through very many school years without making at least one curriculum change somewhere along the way. My children gain confidence by knowing that if one approach we’ve taken to a subject isn’t working well for them, we will find another one that does. This ability to adjust has helped them acquire skills they may have otherwise been intimidated or too discouraged to pursue.
There are many aspects of homeschooling that make it both successful and enjoyable. The flexibility it gives sold me on the idea of it when I was a high school junior. Years later, it was a summation of the reasons I gave my husband for homeschooling our children. After twenty-one years of teaching my children, it remains the spark that fires me up at the approach of each new school season.