The longer I homeschool, the further I seem to stray from the mainstream ideas of education. I have attempted to teach at home twice before (with my older children) and both times I panicked and sent my children back to mainstream government primary schools. I was scared I wasn't doing it properly and that my children would fail to learn.
There are definitely difficulties when deciding on educating at home. You tend to think very deeply about what your children's needs are, what their futures might be, etc. When children attend mainstream, parents often don't doubt their choices because that's just what everyone does and society views it as the 'best way' to educate our children. So, without another thought,we send our children off in the mornings, relaxed in the knowledge that we are doing what we need to for them, and pick them up again in the afternoon.
It's amazing how we happily take part in this system with little thought, yet when keeping our children home we are assuaged with doubts and guilt because we are not educating them in the same way as everyone else. When I originally took the kids out of school, I tried to emulate what happened in the conventional system. My idea was that we would do formal lessons but for a shorter time than at school. I figured it would be interesting for the children because they could help guide the topics we studied. On top of this, I tried to immerse them in our lifestyle of being connected to our food, energy usage, skill learning and attempting to reduce our environmental impact. Ultimately, this would be perfect. A conventional education as well as learning about their place in nature and our family values.
I have been alternating between ignoring, and actively arguing against, my gut instincts which were.... to let them play and follow their own interests. I found myself wanting this more and more but kept thinking it was irresponsible, lazy, selfish (and a thousand other negative self labels) of me. I was plagued by questions like, "How will they learn anything?", "Will they resent me later for not having taught them in the same manner as their peers?", "What if they want to go to University but don't know enough?", "What if they can't get a job?"
Now I want to change the way the children spend their days and immerse them in play and following their interests. I believe they will learn so much by thinking for themselves, problem solving during play, work and craft and by meeting a diverse range of people. Today I have watched them playing and they are not idle! They are incredibly animated as they go about their chosen activity with no adult input. Buddy and Pumpkin have created a water slide for toys with a puddle at the bottom. They have also experimented with rolling a barrel down a hill. That looked like fun! At only seven and eight years they can move a heavy hay bale through a tight space with no adult help. It took them ages to work it out but, through experimentation and co-operation, they have learnt to work together to move the bail and guide it in the direction they want it to go. No one showed them but they figured it out.
I know some people will read this post and doubt the sensibility of our choices around our children's education and future. All I ask is that you take into account that no education style is perfect for all children, that we are not doing this without thought and, just like everyone else, we are doing what we feel is best for our children. I'm happy for you to watch with interest but I hope that you won't be quick to judge. We will continue to assess their progress and can change our minds if we feel we need to.