One of the greatest joys of homeschooling my children has been the freedom to seize the moment and go on an adventure, and to learn in unconventional ways. It is surprising a child with a personalized field trip when my husband had a work trip to Washington, D.C., and we could travel with him and then see the sites. It is watching the Winter Olympics and talking about the countries represented, and the history of Olympic competition. It is taking a break to focus on a character issue, or to play outside in the snow.

My daughters, Kyrie (15) and Everleigh (12) outside Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthplace in Atlanta.

When my son started high school, I felt like we merged onto the superhighway from a country road. In addition to the new challenge of documenting everything, the pressure to keep up and not stray outside the lines felt like a dark cloud descending on our sunny lives.

Four years later, I still struggle from time to time with keeping a balance between rigor and spontaneity. Too often, I give in to the grind and begin to lose my joy. When someone gets sick, or something takes longer to learn than I expected, I feel overwhelmed. In the drudgery of winter, I look toward summer break and want to sprint for it.

Education should be about more than punching a clock and checking the boxes on a transcript so we can move on to the next group of boxes. Yet, there ARE requirements to fulfill, things to learn, and time is more of a factor in the high school years.

How do I teach with real time constraints, and requirements to be fulfilled without being imprisoned to demands? What does spontaneity look like in an academically rigorous setting?

  • It takes time for questions. This sometimes means we don’t finish what I planned, because often, I don’t know the answers. We take time to stop and fully investigate the questions I didn’t anticipate. Sometimes, we must suspend a class for someone to go to work or to an extracurricular activity.
  • It focuses on what’s most important. I am thankful that I bought an answer guide from an online school for a text my son used his freshman year.  When I was thumbing through the answer guide, I noticed two key things: 1) There weren’t answers to ALL the questions in the book, because not everything was assigned. 2) The online school skipped an entire unit (the second one in the book). I had been wondering how we would ever get through this book in a year, and when I perused the skipped unit, I discovered it was fluffy, redundant, and unnecessary. I don’t always do this well, because it takes more work from me on the front end to really know what I’m teaching.  
  • It takes time to plan breaks from the routine of a prescribed curriculum. While rarer, we still schedule field trips, take a break, and travel. When my husband had a weekend conference in Cincinnati, we skipped school on Friday and went with him. School was a visit to the Underground Railroad Museum. At the end of the day, I had to drag my kids out of the museum where they were still reading on modern-day slavery and the organizations and methods used to fight it today.  What’s a missed math class or one less grammar lesson compared to that?

 A huge reason we decided to homeschool is that my husband and I don’t like the factory atmosphere in mainstream education. We didn’t want the one-size-fits-all approach, nor the hopelessness we see in many students who find the drudgery exhausting.  Work should be hard, but it is also rewarding. Work is not a curse, but a blessing. Making room for innovation in our day-to-day helps us remember that and keep the beauty of homeschooling in view—even in the high school years.