Instead of conforming to school-at-home, find out how home education can equip your children to excel and stand out from the crowd!
Most parents today have never been home educated and so we equate education with schooling and if we choose home education, we try to replicate school at home.

Unlocked Learning at Home

Usually, the first thing that brave new homeschoolers ask is, “What is the best curriculum?” and they find out where to buy a distance-education school system that they can use at home: a prescribed curriculum, textbooks, online lessons in place of the teacher, worksheets and assignments, tests and exams – just like school.

They’re locked into a belief that education requires passing grade by grade through a structured system and, at this early stage, they usually need the familiarity of a school-at-home programme to give them a sense of security!

Then the hard work and stress begins: keeping the little curriculum slaves on track with their stipulated tasks and tests and helping the strugglers to keep up with the workload and deadlines.

But if we think about it, all of us, at some point in our schooling asked questions like:

  • Why do I have to learn this?
  • Why can’t I be free?
  • Why can’t I learn something I am interested in?

If not school-at-home, what else could home education be?

In a nutshell, you can allow your children to learn the way you wish you’d been educated! You can unlock learning and give them freedom to pursue their delights and you can still provide a top-quality education to equip them for success as adults.

There is no need to stick to the same system that the school uses. The law does not require it and your children can get a recognised school-leaving certificate at the end, without replicating school at home for 12 years. Your children don’t have to conform.

In the primary grades especially, you can avoid tests and exams and all the things you hated about school. Instead you can do the things you LOVED about learning at school, after school or as an adult. Your children can learn at their own pace, rather than follow the dictates of a prescriptive curriculum provider.

This freedom is one of the key ingredients for happy homeschooling!

Why would you choose such an unconventional education?

Home educated boy sanding woodwork with an electric sander

Forward-thinking educators and many home educators have recognised that the traditional school system is outdated. It only develops a narrow set of skills and many people’s talents and strengths do not get discovered, let alone acknowledged and developed. It also fails to equip students adequately for the demands of the workplace of the current century.

It’s a system in which testing and measuring is prioritized. The needs of the system trump the needs of the individual and most kids feel disengaged, bored and restless. 

“If the goal of learning is to score well on a test, then we’ve lost sight of the real reason for learning.” ~Jeannie Fulbright

What should our children learn?

Besides the basics of reading, writing and maths, we need to “light the fire” to spark a love for learning and then develop the character traits that children need to succeed in their studies, their work and in their relationships.

Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire. ~ William Butler Yeats

Instead of conditioning children to find the right answer, we need to teach them to accept a struggle, to be creative and to find multiple solutions.

If the purpose of education is to raise up a generation that will not simply repeat what others have done, but do new things, then we must pioneer new educational paths for our children.

In the information age, factual knowledge is no longer the wealth of the learned. Memorised trivia is virtually obsolete as the internet has made it freely available everywhere.

21st century kids need new skills: the discernment to sift and search accurately, to think critically, to evaluate information and to develop the competencies that are required for success in the modern economy: skills like problem-solving, collaboration, communication, innovation and calculated risk-taking etc. 

Most of these skills can’t be learned from traditional school textbooks (or the online equivalents). They require a different kind of education.

Children need a modernised learning adventure that includes reading (and viewing) widely, discussing and debating, working on meaningful projects, entrepreneurship, trying new things, risking failure and persevering – all in large doses. 

“What matters most in the modern economy is not what you know, but what you can do with what you know.” ~ Tony Wagner

Homeschooled children in South Africa doing art and crafts

How do we provide this kind of education?

Eclectic homeschooling is a term widely used to describe a mix-and-match approach to create a customised learning experience for your family. Here are eight ingredients to add to your educational mixture:

1. Choose ‘weird’ subjects

There are world-class resources created specifically for home educating families on every subject you can think of…but traditional school subjects are not all there is for our children to learn. They can take unconventional courses such as electronics, falconry, animation, videography, knife-making, playing the harp, logical thinking or anything they can dream of. 

2. Empower your children to make decisions

Our home educated children can have a say in actively shaping their own education. Instead of being conditioned to be docile and submissive, our children can take initiative and become adventurous. As they grow up, they can wrestle with decisions about what to spend their time on, instead of passively following the dictates of a one-size-fits-all curriculum in a system that offers them very few choices.

3. Uncover the treasures inside your children

You can help your children to discover what they are GOOD at, instead of just hammering them to improve on the subjects that schools test. Develop their strong points. Also give them plenty of time to be bored and see what they come up with! Boredom is the mother of creativity.

4. Learn from reading about people and their problems

Read aloud together and also encourage reading alone. Reading develops concentration and facilitates self-motivated learning. Instead of a diet consisting only of textbooks, give your family a buffet of other options. Reading stories and biographies not only helps children develop their imaginations and advances their language skills but reading together also gives a family a shared understanding of people, relationships, problems and how the world works. 

5. Give them work to develop confidence and competence

Children should do meaningful work and chores at home, to learn discipline in life, to learn to take responsibility and to discover that other people can rely on and trust them to be part of a team. As they mature, they can offer their services to the wider community by volunteering, starting a small business or taking a job.

6. Help them find meaning and purpose

Besides knowing how their homes and the world works, our kids need to know what makes them ‘tick’. Instead of subjecting them to constant assessments and testing, we should help our children to discover activities that engage and inspire them  – things that give them challenges to overcome, problems to solve and dreams to aspire to. These can be sports, business ventures, cultural activities, community issues, charity work or anything they consider important and worthwhile!

7. Build their network of support

We might not be able to teach them everything they want to know ourselves, but we can find the resources our children need. As they mature, we can help them to build an ecosystem of skilled and inspirational people like friends, grandparents, tutors or coaches who can mentor, motivate and challenge them to develop and grow in their areas of interest be that sports, hobbies or academics. 

8. Help them to stand out

We need to help our children to discover what they love, what they care about and what they can do. We should encourage them to push boundaries, to explore, to question and to test the answers they receive.

Albert Einstein is attributed with saying: “The one who follows the crowd will usually get no further than the crowd. The one who walks alone, is likely to find himself in places no one has ever been.”

Our goal should be to help our children discover and develop talents and skills which set them apart – things they are so good at and so invested in that they stand out from the crowd and add value to the businesses or communities they serve. The school system is designed for conformity. Home education is ideal for individuality. Only you can tailor your children’s education to suit each individual, but the question is, “Will you?

Read more about the difference between School-at-Home versus Eclectic Homeschooling