by Melonie Kennedy
A growing number of homeschooling families are members of the preparedness community and vice versa. Some families choose home education and are introduced to emergency preparedness and homesteading concepts by others in their local homeschool groups and co-ops; some are already involved in prepping and decide homeschooling is the best option for protecting their children during a time of school shootings and political upheaval.
As well, many families who love their public or private schools are very interested in resources for teaching children prior to their school years, during school cancellations, or in a neighborhood one-room schoolhouse post-collapse. Whether you’ve considered dipping your toe into homeschooling or just want to know more about how homeschooling works, there are plenty of great resources out there if you’re willing to look.
#1) We all homeschool to some extent
First of all, it’s important to understand that every involved parent is actually homeschooling part-time, whether they realize it or not. Offering support of your children’s passions and interests, stocking your shelves with great literature, heading out on family field trips, and involving children of all ages in the work of the homestead are key factors in “life schooling”.
There’s so much to learn if your family practices a back to basics lifestyle, and there are always ways to integrate each family member’s talents and innate skills as both an educational experience and something that serves the whole family. The young child planting beans beside you today may be the one whose farm supports an entire community twenty years from now. The mechanically inclined child (you know, the one who is always taking apart the lawn mower) is the one to involve in research about solar and wind power to make your homestead energy-secure.
Watching for these interests and talents doesn’t just help us understand our children’s learning styles, which is vital for choosing a method of homeschooling. It also helps us find ways to empower each child as they contribute to the family’s preparedness efforts and as they find their way into adulthood and the job market. These habits help lots of families, regardless of children’s school attendance.
#2) There’s no “right” way to homeschool
Secondly, when examining home education, please understand that there is no one “right way” to homeschool. Every family – and every child – is different, so even two families who use the same curriculum from the same publisher will have days that are unique. Just a few methods of homeschooling include:
- Traditional textbook method, which could just mean a pre-packaged curriculum for each child, completed on the couch with a flexible schedule, or a dedicated school space and firmly set schedule and a parent teaching lessons at a whiteboard while the children work at their desks.
- Unit studies, where the entire family can join together to study all subjects via a focus on a specific topic, theme, or book/series. These studies can last a few weeks or an entire school year. One example of this is the Prepare and Pray curriculum, which is based on a study of The Swiss Family Robinson and is meant specifically for families who wish to learn survival skills while studying other cultures, learning about farm animals, and reading great literature.
- Waldorf (or Waldorf-inspired) programs, which incorporate the teachings of Rudolf Steiner into both education and lifestyle. Families who practice permaculture, biodynamics, and handcrafts, and wish to focus less on formal lessons at a young age, as well as those who eschew media such as television and smartphones for littles, may be interested in Waldorf resources.
- Delight-directed learning, or unschooling, often appeals to homesteaders because it creates lots of space for the pursuit of individual interests and the routines of daily life. Pure unschooling would mean letting children pick up skills as they need or want to know them, but many unschoolers, including myself, do not hesitate to bring in a few more formal lessons in certain subjects, especially math for the higher grades. (Daisy unschooled her daughter, too.)
- Classical, or Trivium, method – This method focuses on the great books of Western civilization, learning logic and critical thinking skills, and classical languages such as Greek and Latin.
- The Principle Approach appeals to those looking for a Biblically-based method that focuses on the divine hand of God in American history.
- The eclectic method, where parents pick and choose between a variety of resources, lessons, field trips, and more to make each subject best work for their children’s learning styles.
Visit your local library to gather more information about educational methods, both specific to homeschooling and used more generally throughout schools of all types; there are so many philosophies to choose from! A helpful text to request at the library or your local bookshop is Homeschooling Methods: Seasoned Advice on Learning Styles (Suarez, 2006).
You may also want to try to attend a local homeschooling convention so you can listen to lectures and peruse booths with publishers who run the full gamut of methods out there. If you choose to homeschool, you may find that your family doesn’t fit in one specific method, or that you need to change methods every now and then to find the best fit. Don’t sweat it if that happens – just call yourself an eclectic homeschooler and keep going!
#3) Check your local laws.
Third, if you are looking to begin homeschooling long term, as opposed to as a supplement in an emergency, be sure to check into the laws for your area. Homeschooling is legal in both the United States and Canada, but it is important to note that if you live outside of North America, homeschooling may not be legal in your country. Several cases from Germany provide a perfect example of how homeschooling can create legal troubles for families who buck the standard education system.
A valuable resource for those in the United States is the Home School Legal Defense Association. They offer basic breakdowns of each state’s legislation and contacts at the state level for more in-depth information. Always make contact with state- and county-level advocacy and support groups; try as they might, national groups may not be as up-to-date on legislation that will affect homeschoolers as locally focused groups will be.
#4) Parents can be ready to homeschool after a long-term disaster.
If you are pleased with the education your child is receiving in a classroom setting, remember that in the case of a collapse, their education could be left up to you.
Here are a few tips.
- Electronic devices are wonderful tools, but nothing beats paper. Thanks to archival programs such as Project Gutenberg, owners of Kindles and other devices have access to an amazing library of public works. However, you can’t go wrong by investing in your own print copies of reference books and the finest literature for all ages. No EMP is going to delete the complete works of Shakespeare or Alas, Babylon from your bookshelf.
- Make sure you have several good dictionaries (for grade schoolers up to collegiate learners), a non-electronic math program, and plenty of paper and pencils in your emergency supplies.
- Communicate with your children’s teachers and keep up to speed on what they are learning. That way you’ll know where to pick up (or where to leave off) if a large-scale disaster strikes. Diagramming sentences or building toy tipis may have to wait if your family is focused on purifying water, starting a fire, or learning geometry through targeting that big buck in the woods.
#5) Homeschooling can be an excellent supplement to conventional education.
Lastly, if your only interest in home education is to try to bring resources into your home for supplementation, remember these tips:
- Remember that homeschool lessons do not take the same amount of time that “real school” does. Professional teachers are dealing with so much in a day, such as larger classes than even the largest homeschooling family, and administrators who decide what and how they can teach. They also have to make accommodations for lunch, recess, defined class periods, planning days, seasonal breaks, and more. My own children have been able to dive into a subject and keep going if they are incredibly interested in it; on the flip side, they disagree with my belief that there’s no such thing as a snow day at our house.
- Your family is not required to sit at the table for eight hours straight to do school – our current average, with a sixth grader and a high school junior, is two hours of time together at the table (plus tons of free reading and experimenting time).
- As you go about your day on the homestead, consider children’s chores and how they would be categorized as subjects at school. For example, the care and keeping of chickens is occupational education (making sure each animal is healthy and well and treating an injured bird falls under farming and veterinary science); science (understanding spread of disease and biosecurity, as well as nutrition and reproduction); and math (counting the gathered eggs and using them in recipes). This kind of pondering will help you see the many ways children learn at your side, right there on your homestead – where they may or may not get snow days.
- Don’t forget that entertainment can be educational. Consider grabbing some interesting documentaries at the library or watching a survival reality series like Homestead Rescue or Survivorman together for family movie night. You could even make a weekend of binge-watching a fictional series like Jericho and discussing what the characters did right and wrong, and how your family should respond in a similar situation. My family calls this sort of thing “edutainment” – educational entertainment.
- Never underestimate the educational benefits of community events, day camps, and museum outreach programs! One of my daughters has gone through First Aid/CPR/AED certification as well as Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training with me, which led to her interest in working in the medical field after high school. My other daughter is an ardent fiber fan who knits, spins, and knows how to wrangle sheep; if there’s a fiber festival, she’s probably there! My son is working toward his first HAM radio license and is learning everything he can about alternative energy production, which falls right in line with his passions as a future engineer.
- We’ve tried to invest our time, money, and energy in introducing all of the kids to useful skills through attendance at historical reenactments, mountain man brigade encampments, wilderness camps, and classes at folk schools. Preparedness fairs and homesteading festivals offer a wide variety of classes, lectures, and vendors who will gladly share their wisdom with kids of all ages. The wonderful thing about these sort of events is that they are usually scheduled around the traditional public school calendar. Since they take place on weekends and during the standard summer vacation periods, most families have a better chance of attending and taking advantage of the learning opportunities available.
You don’t have to homeschool full time to find incredible resources that will open up a world of adventure, entertainment, and education for your whole family – just keep your eyes peeled and you’ll find plenty of ways to incorporate the concepts of home education to benefit your family.
How do you teach your kids?
If you are a parent, how did you educate your kids outside of the typical classroom? Share your ideas in the comments below.
About the Author: Melonie Kennedy is a military wife who has homeschooled across the country and around the world since 1999. You can visit her online at http://www.MelonieK.com.